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Students Discuss Opinions on Curricular Options

In the first widespread attempt to gather students to voice opinions on the curriculum, the student representatives to the College’s ongoing curricular review collaborated with the Harvard Political Union (HPU) to host a panel discussion last night in Emerson Hall.

Over pizza and soda, students aired a litany of gripes against the Harvard undergraduate experience—and offered a number of suggestions for change.

Fighting the Sox-Yankees game for the attention of the student body, the panel garnered about a 15 student audience.

The talks were aimed, said Joseph K. Green ’05—a member of the committee to examine pedagogy—at helping “figure out what questions are important to ask” as the review continues.

The four committees charged with conducting the review began meeting this fall and plan to issue at least a preliminary report by the end of the academic year, according to Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71,

Gross officially kicked off the review last spring with the formation of these committees and an e-mail soliciting student feedback.

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“There’s a lot of creative thinking to be done,” Green added, and Concentrations committee member Nicholas F. M. Josefowitz ’05, also a Crimson editor, asked the participants to “think as crazily as you can.”

Students came armed with personal experiences, complaints and ideas that ranged from the philosophical to the practical.

Kelzie E. Beebe ’05 addressed the Core curriculum, saying that she appreciated its ability to give students a broad educational experience but that the Core does not, in its present form, treat humanities, social science and natural science students equally.

“[As a science concentrator] I had to take six or seven writing classes right off the bat,” she said, “as opposed to the three science classes humanities concentrators have to take.”

Beebe suggested maintaining the Core areas as they are now, but increasing the number of departmental courses that would fulfill them all.

For John H. Jernigan ’06, a central concern was the concept of interdisciplinary studies.

“My main complaint is against the idea of interdisciplinary studies,” he said, later calling the inclination of many students toward them “overblown.” He said he thought undergraduates would be better served by studying various subjects in their own right, rather than trying to fuse several together—a practice he said would obscure the essential nature of each.

Nathan O. Rosenberg ’05 said the College must work harder to ensure that instructors are competent enough to teach their classes.

“The College has to make a strong commitment to teaching its teachers,” he said.

Rosenberg asked that the committee members put thought into a more philosophical question as well—what it is that Harvard, at the end of the day, aims to deliver.

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