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Faculty Hear Proposals on Theater Concentration, Honor Code Affirmation

By Karl M. Aspelund and Meg P. Bernhard, Crimson Staff Writers

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences responded largely positively both to legislation detailing the format of an affirmation of integrity as part of the College’s first-ever honor code and to a proposal to implement a new concentration in Theater, Dance, and Media at their second meeting of the semester Tuesday.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris presented on behalf of the Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana legislation for an affirmation of integrity statement undergraduates would make as part of the College’s new honor code. Under the legislation, students would be required to affirm their awareness of the honor code each time they register for the semester and would be unable to register should they not make that affirmation. Students would also be asked  to do so during final exams and on final papers and projects—including theses— and on other assignments at the discretion of the individual faculty member.

Harris emphasized that when affirming their awareness of the honor code, students would not be required to agree with the values of the honor code but simply acknowledge that they have read it.

Additionally, incoming freshmen would be required to write a paragraph about integrity after accepting their offer to Harvard.

Faculty voted in approval of the College’s first-ever honor code, in addition to the creation of a new student-faculty/administrator judicial board to hear cases regarding the violation of the honor code, in May 2014 after years of discussion and planning. The honor code will go into effect in the fall of 2015, according to Harris.

Smith noted that the Faculty Council voted 15-1 in favor of the legislation on the affirmation statement, with no abstentions. Economics professor Jeffrey A. Miron, who was opposed to the legislation, said that such a statement was “misguided and a poor use of our resources and energy.”

“I think asking students to sign their name every time stimulates cynicism,” Miron said.

Computer Science professor David J. Malan ’99 said that he too was skeptical of effects that the affirmation statement might have.

“What problem are we trying to solve or reduce?” he asked.

English professor Martin Puchner—who has spearheaded the effort to create the concentration in Theater, Dance, and Media—presented preliminary plans for the concentration to the Faculty and emphasized that necessary infrastructure, including performance space and faculty members with backgrounds in theater history, already exist at Harvard.

“Really the basic building blocks are here,” Puchner said.

He noted that the concentration would not be housed in a particular department but would draw faculty from different disciplines spanning from English to Music, and would not include separate tracks for dance or media.

Faculty will vote on the proposal at their next meeting on April 7, according to Harris, and should they approve of the new concentration, the concentration’s governing committee—the Standing Committee on Theater, Dance, and Media—would be created July 1.

In an interview after the meeting, FAS Dean Michael D. Smith cited the University’s strength in theater as well as the increasing use of varied media in theatrical performance as rationale for the lack of tracks.

“It has really always been thought of as an integral [area of study], not as things that we are stitching together,” Smith said.

Smith also noted that the $5 million in seed funds given for the concentration by Faust’s office will be used to finance concentrators’ productions, meet certain instructional needs, and hire administrative staff to run the concentration.

Multiple faculty members expressed support for the proposed concentration on behalf of their departments, including English department chair W. James Simpson, Music department chair Carol J. Oja, and Romance Languages and Literatures director of undergraduate studies Mary Gaylord.

Gaylord spoke on behalf of the  Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, saying that she hoped there would be opportunities to collaborate with the new concentration, should it be approved.

“We have multiplied circular efforts in the area of performance, and I hope that this will be a multilingual affair as well as a multi-medium,” Gaylord said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Faust asked to make a statement on Harvard’s role in Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid.

Saying that recent media attention has “often been misleading and outright inaccurate,” Faust reaffirmed that Harvard has “no commitments at this time or offered any proposals to the Olympics committee regarding our engagement” in the 2024 Olympic bid.

“Any Harvard involvement must remain aligned with our academic mission and our long term planning goals,” Faust said.

—Staff writer Karl M. Aspelund can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kma_crimson.

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.

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