Changes to the Core Curriculum

At its May meeting, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) voted to add a new course requirement in Quantitative Reasoning to the Core Curriculum.

At its May meeting, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) voted to add a new course requirement in Quantitative Reasoning to the Core Curriculum (see "Course Correction for the Core," May-June). And, in an act of collective idealism tempered by fiscal responsibility, faculty members also voted to adopt several new mechanisms that aim "to provide no fewer than six courses per term" in each of the now 11 Core areas--their response to a recent dearth of courses (most recently, in Moral Reasoning) that has limited student choice and flexibility.

The new quantitative-reasoning course requirement, which replaces a test-out option, will probably affect undergraduates beginning with the class of 2003. Actions that will increase the number of courses available within each of the Core areas could be fully implemented within two years. These include review, and where possible, adjustments to make the guidelines for bringing courses into the Core more inclusive; examination of the Core course recruitment and review process to enhance its efficiency; and pursuit of departmental courses that may be appropriate for Core credit (such courses, once approved through the usual process of Core course selection and review, could continue to be listed as departmental courses with a cross-listing in the Core). The legislation also called on the dean to develop incentives for faculty members to teach in the Core; to ensure that curricular and resource planning in the departments maintains a sufficient number of Core courses; to make sustained efforts to achieve the goal of small sections in the Core where they do not already exist; and to engage in coordinated planning to meet the classroom needs of the Core. FAS dean Jeremy Knowles noted that he was "very happy to be so urged."

During discussion in an earlier faculty meeting, Wolfson professor of Jewish studies Jay Harris said that the faculty was not taking a holistic look at the total spectrum of undergraduate requirements. To that end, the meeting passed two further measures. The first resolved that the total number of undergraduate course requirements should be reduced, either by reducing the number of areas necessary to meet the Core requirement from eight to seven, or by capping the total number of concentration course requirements. The second agreed to review the undergraduate foreign language requirement. FAS's Educational Policy Committee will study both these issues in the fall.

A motion by Marquand professor of English Lawrence Buell to add faculty-taught, small-enrollment courses to the Core did not pass after a number of faculty members spoke against it, armed with statistics that showed such a laudable goal to be beyond the resources of the FAS in the foreseeable future.

In all its votes save one, the faculty followed the lead of its steering committee, the Faculty Council. The exception came with the surprise passage of a motion introduced by professor of English and comparative literature James Engell, which stated that "departmental courses with Core credit need not necessarily be designed for the most general audience, provided such courses are within the aims and guidelines of a Core area." The passage of this motion, praised by student advocates of Core reform, will allow departmental courses that have prerequisites into the Core.

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