Faculty Approves Surprise Change to Core Reform

Addition of QRR as Subfield, Affirmation of Philosophy Passes Unanimously

The Class of 2003 will face a Quantitative Reasoning course requirement, as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) last night unanimously approved the most sweeping changes to the Core curriculum since its inception in 1974.

In addition, the Faculty approved motions to examine undergraduate language requirements, as well as reducing overall requirements, and called for reports on these topics by the end of 1997.

The Faculty ran nearly thirty minutes over its customary two-hour limit for meetings, as several votes required head counts and heated debate required the enforcement of time limits for speakers.

Legislation adopted at the meeting, while increasing the number of Core areas, keeps the number of Core requirements for each student at eight. The legislation also mandates "no fewer than six courses per term in each of the Core areas," and encourages greater inclusion of departmental courses in the Core.

In a highly unusual move, Faculty members failed to follow a unanimous recommendation of the Faculty Council to table a proposal. The Faculty voted against tabling and passed the measure, which allows departmental courses with prerequisites to join the Core (see story this page).


Pforzheimer University Professor Sidney Verba '53, chair of the Faculty's Core Review Committee, presented his committee's recommendations, refined through months of negotiation and debate, as the meeting's main motion.

Verba estimated that sufficient courses would not be developed for the Quantitative Reasoning area until September of 1999, meaning that all current students and members of the classes of 2001 and 2002 will not be affected.

Though he expressed some concerns about the measure to allow high-level courses into the Core, Verba said he was pleased with the meeting's overall results.

"I'm very happy with what came out," he said. "I think the Core will come out greatly strengthened."

Responding to student concerns about the Core's inflexibility, the Faculty adopted Verba's call for FAS Dean Jeremy R. Knowles to develop incentives for teaching in the Core and urged Core committees to make their guidelines more inclusive.

These changes are designed to bring more departmental courses through the review process necessary for entering the Core.

After a call to end debate and vote on Verba's motion, President Neil L. Rudenstine took a voice vote in which three Faculty members voted "no." This vote, however, was invalidated by Rudenstine's failure to take a vote on the move to end debate.

When another vote was taken on the measure, Rudenstine's call for "no" votes found a silent room. Arnold Professor of Science William H. Bossert '59, who had voted "no" in the original vote, abstained but later said he had meant to prevent unanimity.

"I did intend to vote no--I just didn't get up in time," Bossert said, citing questions about the committee's definition of "inclusive."

Small Core Courses

After approving Verba's proposal, the Faculty began the first of several intellectual debates about what kind of education Harvard students should receive.