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Committee Will Present Draft Gen Ed Proposal This Month

The committee tasked with reviewing the College’s General Education program is nearly finished with a draft of its final recommendations and will present them to Faculty at town hall meetings in the next month, according to committee chair Sean D. Kelly.

The committee has worked for the past year soliciting feedback about General Education at the College and at the end of last semester presented an interim report of recommendations on how to change what it has deemed a “failing” program.

Members of that committee, which is composed of seven professors from across the Faculty of Arts Sciences, said they are optimistic that they can complete their final proposal by the end of this semester.

According to History professor Maya R. Jasanoff ’96, the committee met several times over the summer to discuss feedback they had received about their interim report and begin drafting a final proposal. She estimated that there will be about four town hall meetings for faculty members.

Faculty Senate
History Professor Maya R. Jasanoff '96 is pictured during an interview with The Crimson in May.

Jasanoff called review of the Gen Ed program “the most important issue” of the semester.

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The interim report, presented to the Faculty in May, says that while the principles behind the program are solid, its implementation has been faulty. The committee found that students generally do not understand the purpose of the program, find its courses too easy, and do not take the program as seriously as courses in their departments.

Since Gen Ed comprises about a quarter of an undergraduate’s courses at Harvard, the program is the “single most unifying experience that students across the College share,” according to the report.

“It is disturbing to discover, therefore, that despite strengths, and serious efforts by many constituents, the Program is failing on a variety of fronts,” the report says.


Since the end of last semester, Kelly and his committee have met with faculty to discuss the interim report. According to Comparative Literature Department Chair David Damrosch, Kelly met with all of the humanities department chairs at the end of the spring to present the report and discuss the program.

“We’re feeling quite upbeat about that. He and his group are really taking a stand in trying to make [the program] better,” Damrosch said.

Jasanoff, who has been a member of Faculty Council and various committees across FAS, said committee work has been enjoyable and “intellectually challenging.”

“The most difficult thing is articulating a short, sweet executable vision” for a program central to the College, Jasanoff said.

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

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