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University President Lawrence H. Summers will join high-profile lecturer Michael J. Sandel, Bass professor of government, in teaching a Core course this spring.
The course—Social Analysis 78, “Globalization and Its Critics”—will investigate the cultural, political and economic effects of globalization, according to the course description now available on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar’s website.
“It examines the consequences of globalization for poverty and development, labor and the environment, national sovereignty, international conflict, political identity, cultural diversity, and democratic governance,” the course description reads. “It considers competing perspectives on issues such as outsourcing, free trade versus protectionism, the relation between democracy and capitalism, and the backlash against globalization.”
Based on class enrollment figures from the 2003-2004 term, Summers and Sandel are two of the most sought-after faculty members at Harvard. Summers offered a seminar for first-years last semester, Freshman Seminar 47t, “Globalization,” to which hundreds of students applied for 16 spots. Sandel attracted 903 students to his perennial Core favorite Moral Reasoning 22, “Justice,” easily the most popular course at the College last year.
Sandel wrote in an e-mail that “Justice” will not be offered this year, but said that he would return to teaching the course in the fall 2005 semester.
Alex J. Lee ’06 reflected the sentiments of several students when he wrote in an e-mail that he would shop “Globalization and Its Critics” simply because of the professors teaching the course.
“Hearing that Sandel and Summers will be co-teaching peaks my interest,” Lee wrote, “not so much for the content, since I’m not even sure what the course is about, but just to hear the opinions of such prominent speakers.”
Frank E. White ’05 wrote in an e-mail that he thought the prominent professors would make Social Analysis 78 well-attended—but not necessarily by the most serious students.
“It sounds like the sort of class that will be popular with the 10 billion ec majors and gov jocks alike,” White wrote.
Despite the anticipated popularity of the class, Sandel wrote in an e-mail that he and Summers do not plan to cap enrollment to “Globalization and Its Critics.”
Summers did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Jennifer N. Green ’07 wrote in an e-mail that she would not take the course she called a “once-in-a-lifetimeopportunity” because of its anticipated popularity.
“I’m not a big fan of large lecture, stadium-style learning because it distracts and detaches me from the material,” she wrote. “I haven’t taken a class with Sandel or Summers and don’t know the measures they take to overcome this barrier.”
Sandel wrote there would be opportunities for students to join the debate between him and Summers in every class.
One potential factor cited by students that may cause them to turn away from Social Analysis 78 is that they have already taken the always highly enrolled Social Analysis 10, “Principles of Economics,” and may not want to take the class as an elective.
“Anybody who wants a two-semester introductory course to economics will take Social Analysis 10,” Director of the Core Susan W. Lewis said. “There are lots and lots of students who want that.”
But despite having already fulfilled her Social Analysis requirement, Ellen S. Martinsek ’07 wrote in an e-mail that she will seriously consider taking “Globalization and Its Critics.”
“I think it’s going to be a great course, both because the topic is extremely interesting and pertinent and because the professors are experts,” Martinsek wrote. “Admittedly, since I’ve already taken Ec 10, I have slightly less incentive to take another Social Analysis Core rather than some other course, but I might end up taking it anyway.”
Unlike most Core classes, “Globalization and Its Critics” will be taught in a two-hour lecture once per week, said Lewis.
“It is very unusual for a Core class, but President Summers has a very constrained schedule,” Lewis said.
Sandel wrote that the longer classes would allow for meaningful exchanges between himself and Summers.
“The two-hour format will enable us to have sustained and lively exchanges on the political, economic, and ethical questions posed by globalization,” Sandel wrote. “Where we disagree, we will debate our differences.”
But Grace B. Colloton ’07 wrote that she feared student interaction would not lead to a positive learning environment.
“I can see it being filled with students who are just trying to argue with the professors for the sake of arguing with someone so ‘important’ and it’s really difficult to sit through classes like that for a whole semester, at least for me,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Brandon M. Terry ’05 praised Summers for reaching out to students through teaching the course.
“I think it sends a message that...he takes undergraduate education seriously and is willing to make sacrifices in order to maintain a world-class undergraduate program,” said Terry.
—Margaret W. Ho contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Alan J. Tabak can be reached at email@example.com.
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