Timeline: The Difficult Road to Today's Report

Since the curricular review began to consider a new model for general education at Harvard College in 2002, the going has been anything but easy. Several reports were greeted with uncertainty and even outright opposition from the Faculty, and Harvard's top administrators—Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby and University President Lawrence H. Summers—both resigned. With today's report, the Task Force on General Education is trying to get the review back on track after troubled times.

October 2002:

Kirby launches Harvard College’s first major curricular review since the review that led to the creation of the Core Curriculum in 1978.

December 2003:
Curricular review committees meeting during the 2003-2004 academic year release an update; the working group on general education says it is considering whether a closed distribution system like the Core should remain a part of the undergraduate experience, or whether to move to a more or less prescriptive system.

April 2004:
The first major report of the curricular review is released. It recommends the elimination of the Core and suggests that students instead be allowed to fulfill broad distribution requirements through departmental courses or loosely defined “Harvard College Courses.”

May 2004:
Kirby announces that four new curricular review committees will be created for the 2004-2005 academic year to refine the ideas of the 2003-04 committees; one committee will further study the elimination of the Core.

December 2004:
At the academic year’s first Faculty-wide discussion of the curricular review, there is little agreement among professors about what the Core should be replaced with and whether interdisciplinary Harvard College Courses should be offered.

March 2005:
A nine-page “Draft Final Report” on general education is submitted to the Faculty Council. The report’s recommendations are in line with those of the April 2004 report. It is quickly withdrawn after being criticized by early readers for being overly vague and lacking a defining vision. By April, the Committee on General Education has pushed back the expected release date of their report to fall 2005.

June 2005:
A subgroup of the Committee on General Education, which becomes known as the “Gang of Five,” begins a series of summer meetings with the goal of improving the March report.

November 2005:
The Committee on General Education releases a 40-page “final revision” of its report, based on the work of the Gang of Five. The report calls for students to take three courses in each of three areas of study; Arts and Humanities, the Study of Societies, and Science and Technology. Students could fulfill the requirements through departmental courses or through broad “Courses in General Education.”

January 2006:
With the various curricular review reports ostensibly completed, Kirby announces in a letter to professors that the review is moving to a “formal discussion and decision” that could include a vote on general education by the end of the spring 2006 semester. Just one week after the announcement, Kirby resigns under pressure from Summers, setting off a wave of Faculty attacks on Summers that lead to Summers’ resignation in February. Summers’ and Kirby’s resignations, combined with tepid support for the November 2005 report, result in little progress being made on general education during the spring.

June 2006:
During his last weeks in office, Dean Kirby appoints six professors to the Task Force on General Education, which he charges with creating yet another report addressing the future of general education at Harvard.

October 2006:
The Task Force on General Education releases its preliminary report, which rejects the distribution requirement suggested by previous reports and instead suggests that students be required to complete approved courses in specific “areas of inquiry and experience” and “critical skills."

See The Crimson's other coverage of the new general education report:
Report Recasts the Core
After Missteps, Harvard Cuts A Path Away From Its Peers