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English Department Diversity Course Requirement Approved

Harvard's English Department is housed in the Barker Center.
Harvard's English Department is housed in the Barker Center. By Katherine L Borrazzo
By Joshua J. Florence, Crimson Staff Writer

English concentrators will soon be required to enroll in a course featuring authors who may have been overlooked in the past for their race, gender, or sexuality following the Education Policy Committee’s recent approval of a departmental motion.

Members of the Class of 2020 who declare an English concentration in the fall of 2017 will be subject to the new requirement, which stipulates students must take a course featuring authors who may have been "marginalized for historical reasons," according to English Department chair W. James Simpson.

“We’re tremendously pleased that the new requirement has been approved,” said Derek K. Miller, associate director of undergraduate studies for the English department.

The Educational Policy Committee, which approved the English department’s proposal last month, is chaired by Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and votes on changes to departmental requirements.

According to Miller, the department is now beginning the process of determining which courses would fit the requirement.

“I think you’ll see an interesting array of courses taught by faculty across the department,” Miller said “Certainly there are courses that are already on the books that could fit.”

Many English professors were deeply invested in the creation of the motion, according to Miller, and the internal departmental conversations have spurred reflection on the English department’s course requirements as a whole.

“Once we get this new requirement in place, it will help us reflect on everything were and currently doing,” Miller said. “Developing a curriculum is a constant process.”

The curriculum change comes as some students continue to make the push for an ethnic studies program. In 2015, a College committee recommended expanding the number of courses explicitly addressing issues of diversity. The report also suggested flagging those courses in the online course search system, a recommendation that has yet to be fulfilled.

In a February interview, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith said that faculty members remain cognizant about issues of diversity in curriculum.

“I do think the faculty are thinking about this deeply,” Smith said. “It’s foremost on everyone’s mind.”

However, Smith said, the responsibility falls on individual departments to decide whether to alter their curriculums to include more courses on diversity.

“Individually, what the curriculum looks like in the English Department for example, is best determined by those who are members of the English department or affiliates of the English department.”

—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.

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