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General Confusion

The College has failed to transparently communicate recent developments in the General Education system

By The Crimson Editorial Board

In 2016, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences approved the overhaul of the General Education program and instituted a new program of study that requires students to take four Gen Ed courses and three distribution requirements, as well as a course on “quantitative facility." Though the new program was originally set to be rolled out in Fall 2018, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana announced Monday that the changes would be delayed until Fall 2019.

While we understand the complexities of developing a new Gen Ed program, we believe its rollout and subsequent delay have been communicated with a fundamental lack of clarity by the College. This has in turn created undue stress and unnecessary obstacles for students, especially because this change was announced during shopping week. The Program in General Education has described the interim period when students are subject to hybrid requirements from the new and old system as flexible, but the extension of this period by another year has only prolonged the state of flux.

The College has not sufficiently explained the impact of the changes, the prolonged transition period, and the new requirements to students. Khurana folded the Gen Ed delay announcement into an email welcoming students back to campus, which some students do not read, as opposed to sending out a separate email update with a more specific subject and purpose. This made the announcement seem like an afterthought, reflecting a lack of prioritization on behalf of the administration.

Moreover, the confusion surrounding the new Gen Ed program may unfairly impact the Class of 2021 and 2022 in particular. Freshmen and incoming freshmen already encounter enough difficulty as they navigate course selection and fulfilling requirements before they have a concentration and related plan of study. Clear communication to these students is necessary to ensure that they do not choose courses that they misunderstand to fulfill certain requirements.

The administration should use this extra year before the new Gen Ed program takes effect to consider student feedback about the proposed changes and lack of clarity. We believe that the current provision that certain Gen Ed classes, such as Science of Living Systems 20: "Introduction to Psychological Science," can also count for concentration credit should remain in place. This practice takes the stress out of exploring new fields of study. Further, the College must improve its communication with students regarding the Gen Ed program, as it is difficult for students to give feedback when they are not up-to-date with the transition.

We appreciate the effort Harvard has made to improve the old, outdated Gen Ed system. However, the impact of these efforts has been stymied by the delay, and student uncertainty about requirements has overshadowed the future benefits the new program may produce.

Ultimately, the College owes students and faculty a clear, transparent, and formal announcement updating the College on the state and structure of the Gen Ed program. This message should include specifics such as the date of the final implementation and advice for how to handle this interim period.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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