Each department will move at its own pace in implementing secondary fields

Some departments may offer secondary fields to students as soon as next year, faculty members said after yesterday’s vote.

Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 wrote in an e-mail last night that he expects departments to begin submitting proposals to the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) this summer. The EPC, which must approve each proposal, will start considering them in the fall, he added.

But each department will set its own pace, and many faculty members said they were uncertain when their departments would be ready to offer secondary fields.

Many departments had already begun discussing the implementation of secondary fields before last night’s vote, and departments will now move ahead to more intensive planning—some in meetings this week, directors of undergraduate studies said yesterday.

Cabot Professor of Social Ethics Mahzarin R. Banaji wrote in an e-mail yesterday that the Psychology department is excited about the possibility of secondary fields and “will get to work immediately to implement them.”

But some departments will move at a slower pace.

While the Astronomy department has already begun to consider a possible structure for their secondary field, Director of Undergraduate Studies Bryan M. Gaensler said he does not expect it will be offered before the fall of 2007.

Virginie Greene, director of undergraduates studies in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, said that departments should take their time.

“I personally think that it is not a good thing to try to go too fast on such issues, and I would not like to present students with botched work just because we feel pressured to do so,” she said.

Students will not be able to pursue a secondary field in Social Studies or History and Literature, two interdisciplinary concentrations, according to the director of studies from each concentration.

Students who concentrate in these two areas, however, will be able to pursue a secondary field in another discipline.

“Since Hist and Lit is already an interdisciplinary concentration...and since all concentrators are required to write a thesis, it makes more sense for Hist and Lit to be the primary field and to welcome concentrators who choose other secondary fields,” Director of Studies in the History and Literature program Steven Biel wrote in an e-mail.

But Biel wrote that he does not know if History and Literature concentrators would be able to declare a secondary field in a department that offers courses that already count for History and Literature credit.

“I can’t give an answer until we see how the various allied departments define their secondary field requirements,” he wrote. “We would want to avoid double counting courses.”

Several faculty members said their departments may offer multiple secondary fields.

Psychology Department Chair Stephen M. Kosslyn wrote in an e-mail that although the department has yet to work out the details, secondary fields might be offered in neuroscience, developmental psychology, social psychology, and other areas.

Knafel Professor of Music Thomas F. Kelly said the Music department is considering possible secondary fields in music performance, analysis, composition, and jazz.

It is difficult to predict how the implementation of secondary fields will affect the overall patterns of student concentration choice, said Putnam Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology David A. Haig, an EPC member.

”I think this will encourage students to try some of the smaller concentrations, knowing that they can take a secondary field in economics or one of the biology concentrations,” he said.

But director of undergraduate studies for Folklore and Mythology Stephen A. Mitchell wrote in an e-mail yesterday that he is not convinced that students will join smaller concentrations while pursuing secondary fields in larger departments.

“I think a lot of us wonder about whether that—or the reverse—will prove to be the case,” he wrote.

—Staff writer Lois E. Beckett can be reached at

—Staff writer Johannah S. Cornblatt can be reached at