Jan. 22, 1998
Vol. 17, No. 8

current issue
archive / search

    Council begins discussion of curriculum proposal

    A five-year effort to evaluate and improve the College curriculum is nearing completion this quarter as the College Council considers a proposal to modify several aspects of the Common Core, concentrations and electives.

    The College's curriculum has been reviewed regularly and revised substantially -- sometimes dramatically -- over the last three-quarters of a century. The current proposal is more modest than many changes in the past, but it would change the mix of courses taken by College students through a slight reduction in the number of core courses and a concomitant increase in the number of courses in the concentrations and among electives.

    "We have been reviewing the curriculum for nearly five years, and I think we developed some valuable ideas," said William Novak, Associate Professor in History and a member of the "Friday Group," the College faculty group that met regularly during the past two years to analyze the curriculum and propose changes.

    The group developed a proposal that will be discussed and debated in six College Council meetings scheduled over the next two months, and a council vote on legislative action is likely to take place in March. The College Council consists of 40 College faculty members who "exercise the legislative powers of the College faculty," according to the statutes, including overseeing, developing and improving the curriculum.

    The curriculum review process began with a series of retreats among the Collegiate Divisional faculty. Then, in December 1995, over 100 College faculty gathered for a two-day retreat and a College-wide curriculum discussion. The following month, a College Curriculum Group was formed that included the five Collegiate Masters, the seven members of the Committee of the College Council and the eight members of the College's Curriculum Committee. This group met regularly on Fridays -- hence its name -- arranging question-and-answer sessions and receiving presentations from faculty leaders in core instruction.

    Last spring, a drafting committee prepared a proposal that was then modified by the Friday Group, which was joined by the four Divisional Deans, and introduced to the College Council in June. Initial discussions took place in November, and the council will debate the proposal in the upcoming meetings before a vote is taken.

    Novak said that after rejecting several more radical proposals, the faculty agreed on a proposal that offers roughly equal quantities of core, concentration and elective courses. This compares to the current system, which divides course requirements equally between the core on one hand and the combined concentrations and electives on the other. During the debates this winter, the council will weigh the relative pedagogical advantages of more core courses versus more electives and courses within the concentrations.