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Council Hears of Dean's Plans for Curricular Review

By Alexander J. Blenkinsopp, Crimson Staff Writer

Dean of Undergraduate Education Benedict H. Gross ’71 made a guest appearance at the Undergraduate Council meeting last night, becoming the third major administrator to speak at a council meeting this year.

Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby outlined the upcoming College curricular review at last week’s meeting, and Gross fielded similar questions on the review and preregistration last night.

Like Kirby, Gross emphasized the breadth of the review, saying the Core will come under close scrutiny.

But he also expressed support for preserving some of the essential facets of the Core.

“I’d like to keep a common experience for all our undergraduates,” he said. “If we went to a distribution requirement, this is such a research-oriented university that there is a danger that the courses that exist now would not appear in the catalog.”

According to Gross, the review committee will consider creating interdisciplinary courses and broader survey Core courses in order to make the requirements more enjoyable and useful to students.

“I don’t see why the Core needs to be chopped up into 11 distinct areas. I think there could be some good Cores that are interdisciplinary,” he said. “I don’t want students to feel hampered at all by the Core.”

After one student asked about the lack of difficulty in quantitative reasoning and science Cores, Gross—who co-teaches Quantitative Reasoning 28, “The Magic of Numbers”—dismissed the notion that that the courses lack rigor.

“My feeling is that there is a lot of content,” he said. “The Core courses should not have substantial prerequisites.”

Gross referred to an e-mail message he sent to all undergraduates last week inviting students to attend two meetings on the curricular review this month.

“The whole purpose of the meetings is to generate a whole lot of discussion and commentary,” Gross said. “I think if you come to these meetings, you’ll find that the Faculty has a variety of opinions on the Core.”

Many council representatives also inquired about preregistration, and Gross responded by highlighting the potential benefits of the procedure.

“The professors feel that they’re losing time. There’s so much motion and so little attention paid to what the material is” under the current system when registration occurs after shopping period, he said. “They’d like to think the students who are in the first class have made at least an initial commitment.”

“You’re still going to have the freedom of add/drop during shopping period,” he added. “I think it will also lead to better advising.”

When a council member asked if students would be able to learn earlier if their petitions to count departmental courses for Core credit had been approved under a preregistration system, Gross called the idea “a very reasonable suggestion.”

“When a petition comes through, we try to consider whether it can be universally applied to the Core,” he said. “Some professors don’t want to put it in the catalog as fulfilling a Core requirement.”

After Gross concluded his 40-minute question-and-answer session, the council ratified three pieces of legislation.

The first, authored by Fred O. Smith ’04 and Rachelle K. Gould ’03, called for the council to urge University officials to provide ample recycling and trash cans in tailgate areas during The Game.

It also called for the council to “publicize the placement of bins, by communicating with HoCos prior to the event and by placing clear signage throughout the venue.” The bill passed unanimously.

The second piece of legislation, also authored by Smith, requested $45 for prizes to be distributed randomly to students on the council’s Events Calendar list. The prizes, according to the bill, would help increase publicity for the calendar.

Despite the relatively small size of the monetary allocation, the bill elicited nearly 20 minutes of debate. Ultimately, the council passed it on a 37-3 count, with two abstentions.

The final bill, sponsored by James C. Coleman ’03, would allocate $1,900 for the production of t-shirts for the Harvard-Yale game. The bill noted that the council produces “an affordable and ‘non-offensive’ alternative to many of those [t-shirts] that are offered.”

After an amendment requiring the t-shirts to be sold for more than the cost of production—which Alexander B. Patterson ’03 opposed in a forceful speech that included the removal of his shirt—was ratified, the bill passed unanimously.

—Staff writer Alexander J. Blenkinsopp can be reached at blenkins@fas.harvard.edu.

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