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Faculty to Consider New Data Science Course Requirement

University Hall houses many administrative offices of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
University Hall houses many administrative offices of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
By Joshua J. Florence and Mia C. Karr, Crimson Staff Writers

Future Harvard students may be required to take a new required category of course entitled “Thinking with Data” should the Faculty approve a motion that will be first discussed at Tuesday’s Faculty meeting.

“Thinking with Data” courses, according to a report from a subcommittee tasked with developing an outline of the requirement, could take several forms: they could be created from scratch or reshaped from existing introductory Statistics department classes. The courses would aim to teach students about how to acquire and analyze data.

While the report recommends that students take the course by the end of their sophomore year, completing the course by then would not be a requirement.

Unlike the foreign language requirement, students could not place out of the “Thinking with Data” course, although students who possess “prior experience” with data would have the option of taking an advanced course, instead of the more rudimentary courses.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences meets in University Hall.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences meets in University Hall. By Charles K. Michael

The motion, presented by Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris, calls for the creation of a committee charged with implementing the proposed course requirement. The committee would begin meeting in the 2017-2018 school year.

Additionally, changes to FAS’s course schedule are up for a vote this Tuesday. If another proposal by Harris is passed, FAS will alter its course schedule with most classes lasting 75 minutes followed by 15 minutes of passing time, instead of the traditional “Harvard Time.” The proposal, created to accommodate longer passing times due to the future SEAS campus in Allston, would take effect in the fall of 2018.

Faculty members are also slated to dive back into debates on undergraduate social life at the meeting when they discuss Biology professor David Haig’s motion opposing Harvard’s policy penalizing members of single-gender social organization.

Last month, Haig submitted a motion to the Faculty moving that “this Faculty does not approve of Harvard College requiring a student to make an oath, pledge, or affirmation about whether the student belongs to a particular organization or category of organizations.”

Haig’s motion was in direct response to a report from a committee tasked with creating recommendations for the implementation of the policy, which states that, starting with the class of 2021, members of single-gender social organizations can not hold club leadership positions or athletic team captaincies or be recommended for certain post-graduate fellowships.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana accepted the recommendations last month, which included a provision that students sign a document affirming they do not belong to a single-gender final club or Greek organization before applying for leadership positions, athletic team captaincies, or fellowships.

Discussion of Haig’s motion marks the latest in a series of debates among the Faculty on undergraduate social life. Last May, former Dean of the College Harry S. Lewis ’68 also introduced a motion opposing the sanctions, but withdrew it shortly after announcement that a faculty committee would be formed to re-evaluate the sanctions. Haig currently serves on that committee.

Last month, the Faculty Council, the highest elected body of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, voted that this motion be referred to the Faculty committee. Their recommendation will be presented at Tuesday’s meeting, but the ultimate decision is up to the full Faculty.

Per Faculty meeting rules, the Faculty will discuss Haig’s and Harris’s motions, but not vote on them until a subsequent meeting.

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


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