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Gen Ed Report Met With Apathy

Legislation will be drafted to implement the new Gen Ed requirements

By Alexandra Hiatt and Rachel L. Pollack, Crimson Staff Writers

The Committee on Undergraduate Education yesterday called for the creation of a new group to draft official legislation that, if approved by professors, would pave the way for a new system of general education to replace the Core.

The proposed committee of students, faculty, and administrators will write legislation “on the adoption and implementation” of the final report by the Task Force of General Education, which was released last week.

At a meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) on Tuesday, professors who drafted the final report cast their system as a significant departure from the Core—calling for new categories of required courses that would integrate “real-world” knowledge with a liberal arts education. Other Faculty members who spoke at the meeting largely lauded the report’s recommendations.

But in interviews this week, student leaders across campus sounded less enthusiastic and less convinced that the proposal would mark a significant change in undergraduate education. They also said that the final report, which was e-mailed to the student body last week, has attracted little notice from undergraduates.

Jason C. B. Lee ’08, president of the Black Students Association, said the report has been a “non-issue” on campus.

The report “seemed to be a lot of renaming,” Lee said. “It didn’t really seem to be a concrete effort to refocus the undergraduate education or take a really innovative approach.”

The recent appointment of Drew Gilpin Faust as Harvard’s next president appears to have shifted the spotlight even further away from general education.

“The presidential news has kind of taken precedent in dining hall banter,” said Tiffany T. Niver ’08, president of Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business. “I haven’t heard a lot about the Gen Ed report.”

And Brigit Helgen ’08, president of the Harvard College Democrats, said the proposal “looks quite similar to the Core requirements we have right now.”

“I would really have to see what the classes end up being,” she said. “Right now it doesn’t seem like it would make that much of a difference.”

Nevertheless, administrators and members of the Undergraduate Council are sounding positive notes on the proposal.

After yesterday’s meeting of the Committee on Undergraduate Education, Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 said that “both the students and faculty on the committee gave the Gen Ed report a very positive reception.”

“The people on the CUE are looking forward to the next stages of implementation,” he told The Crimson.

Matthew R. Greenfield ’08, a UC member who sits on the CUE, said that the report’s focus on real-world applicability marks a fundamental change in the rationale behind a Harvard education.

“The philosophy guiding it is very different than the Core, and that is an important aspect of it,” Greenfield said.

“Just because it isn’t radically different doesn’t mean that there is not an improvement.”

Both supporters and those skeptical of the proposal emphasized the importance of a structured plan for implementation.

“I think students are realists,” said UC President Ryan A. Petersen ’08, who served on the task force that drafted the report released last week. “They like the proposal but they know that implementation will determine whether it is a success.”

A first Faculty vote on general education could come as early as March 13, when the full FAS next convenes.

—Matthew S. Lebowitz contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Alexandra Hiatt can be reached at ahiatt@fas.harvard.edu.
—Staff writer Rachel L. Pollack can be reached at rpollack@fas.harvard.edu.

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