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Road to Core Reform Paved With Division

News Analysis

By David A. Fahrenthold and Chana R. Schoenberger

Although Core reform legislation may receive official approval as early as late May, debate by the Faculty over what changes should be implemented still dominate discussions, revealing the widespread disagreements that exist over the issue.

Professors and administrators say that some version of the Core Review Committee's proposals will come before the Faculty as legislation, most likely at a Faculty meeting May 20.

But because many Faculty members have specific objections to the proposal--which would reduce the number of Core requirements from eight to seven and add a quantitative reasoning course requirement--the eventual shape and final acceptance date of the approved legislation are hard to predict.

"I personally would love to have the issue brought to a vote and settled this May," said Pforzheimer University Professor Sidney Verba '53, who has chaired the Core Review Committee through its year and a half of investigation.

"Whether we can or not depends on the timing and the reactions we get," he said.

Verba's committee presented a "Working Paper" with its recommendations to the Faculty Council last month.

However, no formal legislation has been proposed and further discussions have been planned for the May 6 Faculty meeting.

"The Core Review Committee is going to take advice from the Faculty meetings and talking to the Faculty Council, and get together a set of proposals for discussion at the next Faculty meeting," said Mallinckrodt Professor of Applied Physics William Paul.

Paul, a member of the Faculty Council, said that the Council would then have to consider any proposed legislation before sending it on to the Faculty.

Rejection in the Faculty Council would not necessarily kill the legislation; although the chances of it passing would be less likely because legislation bound for the Faculty must either have a Council recommendation or a two-thirds majority of the Faculty.

Paul echoed the sentiments of several other members of the Faculty in expressing doubts that the legislative modification process will be completed before the end of the academic year.

"It doesn't seem like there's very much time to [pass the legislation]," he said.

Because Verba believes that his views represent the majority of Faculty opinion, he said, it is likely that any legislation will be enacted with relatively minor amendments.

"I'm optimistic that we could get Faculty support for [Core legislation]," Verba said.

But according to Council member William H. Bossert, Arnold professor of science, the legislation's chance of obtaining a majority on the Council without further revisions is slim.

Bossert--who said he strongly opposed the idea of a Core Curriculum from the start--said he thinks more than half of his fellow Council members would vote against the committee's recommendations.

In fact, Faculty opinion appears highly polarized on the issue of Core reform, with several vocal professors espousing extreme positions, while the remainder are unsure of what the wisest course of action of action would be.

No clear majority has emerged behind any one alternative, nor does Verba's report seem to marshal enough support to clear the Faculty unscathed.

However, Verba's venerable reputation and the great deal of effort his committee has put into the reform proposal may influence the Faculty's final decision.

"Any time such a high-powered committee claims to have spent lots of time on something like this, they have a lot of inertia behind them," said Professor of Chinese History Peter K. Bol, who sits on the Council.

Bol accused the committee of failing to address alternatives to the Core as it now exists, choosing to focus instead on minor, almost cosmetic changes.

"The Core Review Committee is not interested in alternatives," Bol said. "They want to get their proposals passed."

Bol admitted that those opposed to the proposal have not reached a consensus for a single plan of action, but he said: "I think we're seeing it's time to look for alternatives."

Among the dark-horse candidates are a proposal to teach all Core courses in small, seminar-style courses, and Bossert's suggestion of a system of majors and minors.

The controversy and time commitment the issue of the Core have raised among the Faculty have led some to the conclusion that extended debate might be the only way to implement a strong system and avoid future hassles.

"I don't think people are going to want to keep reviewing the Core every few years. It's too traumatic," said Paul. "Whatever you do, you don't want to tinker with it in a year or two."

If the Faculty do vote to accept some version of the committee's legislation, professors and administrators said, the new requirements will almost certainly not go into effect until the 1998-99 academic year.

Current students and next year's first-year students, who were all accepted under the old Core curriculum, would be exempted from any new regulations

Rejection in the Faculty Council would not necessarily kill the legislation; although the chances of it passing would be less likely because legislation bound for the Faculty must either have a Council recommendation or a two-thirds majority of the Faculty.

Paul echoed the sentiments of several other members of the Faculty in expressing doubts that the legislative modification process will be completed before the end of the academic year.

"It doesn't seem like there's very much time to [pass the legislation]," he said.

Because Verba believes that his views represent the majority of Faculty opinion, he said, it is likely that any legislation will be enacted with relatively minor amendments.

"I'm optimistic that we could get Faculty support for [Core legislation]," Verba said.

But according to Council member William H. Bossert, Arnold professor of science, the legislation's chance of obtaining a majority on the Council without further revisions is slim.

Bossert--who said he strongly opposed the idea of a Core Curriculum from the start--said he thinks more than half of his fellow Council members would vote against the committee's recommendations.

In fact, Faculty opinion appears highly polarized on the issue of Core reform, with several vocal professors espousing extreme positions, while the remainder are unsure of what the wisest course of action of action would be.

No clear majority has emerged behind any one alternative, nor does Verba's report seem to marshal enough support to clear the Faculty unscathed.

However, Verba's venerable reputation and the great deal of effort his committee has put into the reform proposal may influence the Faculty's final decision.

"Any time such a high-powered committee claims to have spent lots of time on something like this, they have a lot of inertia behind them," said Professor of Chinese History Peter K. Bol, who sits on the Council.

Bol accused the committee of failing to address alternatives to the Core as it now exists, choosing to focus instead on minor, almost cosmetic changes.

"The Core Review Committee is not interested in alternatives," Bol said. "They want to get their proposals passed."

Bol admitted that those opposed to the proposal have not reached a consensus for a single plan of action, but he said: "I think we're seeing it's time to look for alternatives."

Among the dark-horse candidates are a proposal to teach all Core courses in small, seminar-style courses, and Bossert's suggestion of a system of majors and minors.

The controversy and time commitment the issue of the Core have raised among the Faculty have led some to the conclusion that extended debate might be the only way to implement a strong system and avoid future hassles.

"I don't think people are going to want to keep reviewing the Core every few years. It's too traumatic," said Paul. "Whatever you do, you don't want to tinker with it in a year or two."

If the Faculty do vote to accept some version of the committee's legislation, professors and administrators said, the new requirements will almost certainly not go into effect until the 1998-99 academic year.

Current students and next year's first-year students, who were all accepted under the old Core curriculum, would be exempted from any new regulations

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