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Faculty Reinstates Death Notices

'Black bordered cards' scrapped three years ago

By Benjamin P. Solomon-schwartz, Crimson Staff Writer

After much heated debate, an overwhelming majority of the Faculty voted yesterday to reinstate the sending of "black bordered cards" to notify faculty members that one of their colleagues passed away.

The cards will be sent when any emeritus member of the Faculty, research professor or current tenure-track professors dies. This was a University tradition until the central administration delegated the duty to individual faculties three years ago. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) let this custom slide away, as did all the other schools.

Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in Memorial Church Peter J. Gomes first brought up the issue at the April 11 Faculty meeting.

"There are few symbols and ties of the communal life of this Faculty. There are very few things that tie together the special and unique community which we serve with pleasure and delight--the memorial minute is one and this is another," Gomes said.

Then Diana L. Eck, professor of Comparative Religion and Sanskrit and Indian Studies, proposed the motion yesterday, lauding its importance for the community.

"It's appropriate in a community where we spend a long time searching for each other, serve on committees together and toil hard together," Eck said. "I think that we should observe these rites together as community more formally than in the Gazette."

Currently, the Gazette publishes notices when anyone affiliated with the University dies.

Professor of Psychology Stephen M. Kosslyn, who was against the motion, said the issue is divisive because it is difficult to decide when the Faculty would send out cards.

The Faculty Council, an elected subset of the Faculty, was sharply divided over the issue when members voted this month.

Members have said the issue of "black bordered cards" took more time and energy to discuss than any issue this year.

"We thought it would be a no-brainer when we began discussing it. But the more we talked the more it became clear that it was a difficult issue," said Zemurray Stone Professor of History of Science Katharine Park '72, who voted against the motion in the Faculty Council and at the Faculty meeting.

Park said that there are many people vital to the University who would not be commemorated by the cards under the current proposal, ranging from administrators to non-tenure track professors that include senior tutors and heads of various centers within the Faculty.

Mallinckrodt Professor of Applied Physics William Paul proposed an amendment to extend the privilege of the cards to all voting members of the Faculty, but Park said that would not solve the problem.

"Until we can find a way to define a group of people [to receive the card] that is co-extensive with the way we think of the University, we should not send the card," she said.

Other Faculty members said this provides the opportunity to take a moment and think about the deceased colleague. Eck said because the Faculty was making this decision it was appropriate for the Faculty to commemorate its own members.

Despite the affirmative vote, many members of the Faculty, including Gomes and Park, emphasized that the issue of who is part of the community of Faculty members is one that continues to demand much thought.

"It stands for a question that we need to think a lot about. I hope that [this discussion] will spark further thought," Park said.

Studying Somewhat Abroad

With much less controversy, the Faculty also approved a proposal to allow Harvard students to remain enrolled in the College while taking one or two courses at other local universities.

"We feel this fulfills a specific curricular need for those courses not taught at Harvard," said Dean of Undergraduate Education William M. Todd III.

It is especially directed at students wishing to take rare language courses not available at Harvard, he said.

The details of the plan are based on the current study abroad program.

"If the Sorbonne, Cambridge and the University of Heidleberg could only take 96 students from us last year [for study abroad], I don't think this will lead to the Dickensian spectacle of dragging the Dean [of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles] to debtor's prison," Todd said.

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