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Despite professors’ mixed reactions to the curricular review’s interim report, Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby outlined at yesterday’s Faculty meeting the tasks of four new committees that will direct the next stage of the review.
The review, he said, is ending its brainstorming phase and will move on to make more concrete suggestions.
“We are at the end of the beginning,” Kirby said.
The four new committees, Kirby said, will focus on specific themes out of 57 recommendations put forth in the curricular review’s interim report, written by Associate Dean of the College Jeffrey Wolcowitz and released at the end of April.
Kirby said yesterday that one group will be charged with continuing to examine and organize general education at Harvard. It will consider how best to implement the report’s recommendation that Harvard establish a distribution requirement supplemented by broad “foundational and integrational” classes called the Harvard College Courses.
Another committee will address science education, focusing on revamping introductory science courses and revising the recommended pre-med curriculum. Kirby said before the curricular review report was released that pre-med students should be able to take introductory courses specifically designed to meet medical school requirements, leaving those studying pure science to take courses intended to match their interests.
The third committee will examine the Expository Writing Program, fulfilling the report’s recommendation that such a committee be established.
The committee will also examine writing across the curriculum and ways to integrate public speaking and expression into Expos classes.
Lastly, Kirby said, Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 will convene a committee to discuss the review’s controversial proposal that students be assigned to a House before arriving at Harvard and live in groups affiliated with those Houses during their first year.
The new committees replace four wide-ranging working groups that deliberated throughout the first stage of the curricular review and were disbanded when the interim report was issued.
It is still unclear how the vast majority of the review’s recommendations are to be implemented, much to the displeasure of Joseph K. Green ’05, who served on the Working Group on Pedagogy.
Green said he was concerned that the other investigations might be pushed through without further student input.
Undergraduate Council President Matthew W. Mahan ’05 said the specific focus of these four committees could be problematic, but that he is pleased Gross is taking student input into account.
“I don’t think all the recommendations can fall under the purview of those four committees,” Mahan said.
He added that including a reexamination of the housing proposal in the new committee structure demonstrates that the College is taking students’ views seriously.
“If [Gross] were to take that straight to [Faculty] legislation, there would be a little bit of a backlash,” Mahan said. “To some extent I would say this is a lesson learned from preregistration.”
Kirby said the new committees will include both students and faculty members, and Mahan said the Undergraduate Council would be primarily responsible for selecting the students.
Also at yesterday’s meeting, in a move that will change the face of graduate student financial aid, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Peter T. Ellison announced that beginning this fall, the school will be able to offer full dissertation fellowships to all incoming students in the humanities and social sciences.
All humanities and social sciences graduate students working on their dissertations will now be guaranteed full support and not have to teach during their last year.
Higginson Professor of History and of East Asian Languages and Civilizations Philip A. Kuhn, who has expressed concern at the last two Faculty meetings about how the curricular review would affect graduate student funding, said he supports the change and hopes that funding increases continue.
“It’s a good first step,” Kuhn said. “We still have to choose teaching fellows without regard to their level of preparation or aptitude or temperament. Some day we will advance to the point where teaching undergraduates at Harvard will be regarded as an honor and not a job,” he added.
The professors and students who spoke yesterday expressed varying opinions about the curricular review report. While they lauded several specific recommendations, some also criticized the report for lacking an overall vision.
“While I appreciate the report’s broad contours...it still remains to develop a guiding vision,” said Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures Julie A. Buckler at the meeting. She later wrote in an e-mail that such a vision is essential in defining “what a good ‘liberal education in the arts and sciences’ should ideally look like today in its diverse individual incarnations.”
Buttenweiser University Professor Stanley H. Hoffmann said that while Harvard’s previous two curricular reviews were founded on clear visions, this one is not.
“This time, we have an interesting document, but one that lacks a rationale,” he said.
Professor of Latin Kathleen M. Coleman, who served on the Working Group on Concentrations, said she noticed fundamental disconnects in the way the process played out.
Coleman said that, aside from the Steering Committee composed of the working group chairs, “none of the working groups collaborated with any of the others.”
Though she served on a working group, Coleman said she was surprised by the report’s suggestion that concentrations require no more than 12 courses.
“We did not discuss the issue of capping concentration requirements, although such a suggestion found its way into the report,” Coleman said.
Gutman Professor of Latin American Affairs John H. Coatsworth said he supported the new University-wide calendar endorsed in the report because it would facilitate study abroad—another one of the report’s recommendations.
“First, the new calendar will end the academic year earlier, so students will be in a better position to take advantage of summer study and internship opportunities with early start dates and to combine international experiences with other summer activities.” Coatsworth said. “Second, the new calendar would also make it possible to create new foreign study opportunities for College students during the month of January.”
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