Committee Receives Core Petition

"Students for Core Reform" (SCR) last week presented a letter signed by more than 4,000 undergraduates requesting that departmental courses count for Core credit to the Core Review Committee.

But committee members have met the report with a lukewarm response.

The 4,044 students who signed the petition represent 66% of Harvard undergraduates, according to George T. Chang '97, the founder of "Students for Core Reform."

"There's a lot of problems with the Core," Chang said. "[Its restrictiveness] is one of the most blatant and the one that affects students' lives the most."

The Core Review Committee, who will publish a review of the Core in the spring, will consider the petition in addition to the letters and input from other parts of the University, said Pforzheimer University Professor Sidney M. Verba '53, the chair of the committee.


"I am happy to receive [the petition]," Verba said. "I understand it expresses a concern. I don't dismiss this as just [people] signing anything."

But Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences John E. Dowling '57, a fellow committee member, disagreed.

"Petitions aren't terribly helpful," said Dowling, who is also the master of Leverett House. "You can get people to sign anything."

Instead, Dowling said he prefers the recent report by the Undergraduate Council, which he described as "superb, very helpful and very useful."

"Petitions depend upon how a question is worded," he said. "This [petition] has not been thought through. That's the problem."

But SCR members said this interpretation of their project is incorrect.

"This is more a letter than a petition," said Natalka R. Roshak '98, a SCR member. "It's not the type of petition people were signing without knowing what's going on. It's an issue that's close to home. [When we were petitioning,] people were saying, 'finally there's a group effort to get something I am interested in.'"

The signatures are result of two weeks of petioning in house dining halls and Annenberg Hall organized by SCR.

"We had 15 to 20 tablers and we spent about two or three nights in each dining hall," said Chang.

While counting departmental courses is popular among students, such a proposal would pose a number of challenges for the College, committee members said.

The committee must ask "if this is the kind of undergraduate education requirements [the College] should have," said Justin C. Label '97, one of two undergraduates serving on the committee.

"You have to be careful how you create department offerings not to dissolve the Core," he said.

Regardless, SCA members said they hope the Core Review Committee will take into account the opinions of a large number of students.

"I don't think they can ignore a letter signed by 4,044 students," said Chang

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