The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 49.0°F | Fair

Course XXI will for now remain one departmnet

By Raymie Stata

"The reorganization of Course XXI is a non-story," said Ann F. Friedlaender PhD '64, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Over the past 10 years, the school has been discussing breaking the Department of Humanities, which currently consists of six sections, into separate departments. But for the time being, the department will remain as it is.

Currently, said Friedlaender, Course XXI contains six "quasi-departments" -- Anthropology/Archaeology, Foreign Languages and Literatures, History, Literature, Music and Theatre Arts, and Writing. Although they are nominally all part of the same department, they have budgetary and administrative autonomy. The Science, Technology, and Society Program, while not part of any department, has similar status.

The most recent reorganization attempt occurred in 1987 when Friedlaender proposed grouping the sections into three separate departments: Anthropology/Archaeology, History, and STS; Foreign Languages, Literature, and Writing; and Music and Theatre Arts. This proposal, Friedlaender said, "went over like a lead balloon." While Music and Theatre Arts did combine, the rest of the sections balked.

According to Professor Jean E. Jackson, director of the Anthropology/Archaeology section, such an amalgamation ignores the distinctions among different fields. "Lumping Anthropology, History, and STS together under `social studies' is like lumping Biology, Chemistry, and Physics together under `science'." In the long run, she said, such an organization would lead to acrimony among the faculty as they argued over hiring and budgetary priorities.

The reorganization stems back to the late seventies when a proposal was made to create separate departments for each section of the humanities. According to Professor Bruce Mazlish, head of Course XXI at the time and currently director of the History Section, the administration stopped the reorganization because the size of the proposed departments could not justify their costs. Soon after, the sections of Course XXI were given some independence by allowing them a freer hand in curricular decisions. Two years ago the sections were given complete autonomy.

After the failure of the "top-down" approach, Friedlaender is waiting for proposals to perculate up from the sections. "I am ready to act immediately on any proposal that is presented," she said, "but nothing will happen until that time."