UA examines HASS-Ds, Medical Dept:
SCEP calls for HASS changes
By Katherine Shim
In a preliminary report released on Tuesday, the Undergraduate Association Student Committee on Educational Policy recommends four major revisions to the current Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences program.
These changes would include revising the prescribed nature of HASS-D courses, eliminating the Phase I writing test, leaving the administration of HASS-D final exams up to the discretion of the professor, and requiring that one Context subject be taken.
"It was the feeling of SCEP that MIT students really had no general base of knowledge," said Alejandro Solis de la Tejera '92, chairman of SCEP. "Many of the subjects offered under the five HASS-D categories are really too narrow. Such courses as `Shakespeare,' `Playwriting,' and `Mythic and Folk Motifs in Russian Literature,' are all great courses, but they don't serve as good introductions to their fields."
"What we envisioned was some type of general base of humanities knowledge similar to the 18.01, 8.01, 3.091 requirement," Solis continued.
For this reason, the SCEP report, titled Recommendations for Changes in the HASS Program, advocates the removal of all narrowly focused courses from the five HASS-D categories and the addition of more "introductory" courses. Students would be required to take two of these introductory classes in their freshman year.
These fundamental courses would further serve as the classes in which basic writing skills would be taught, replacing the need for the Phase I writing requirement.
"At best, the concept of evaluating a student's writing through a test seems redundant," reads the report. "Good writers fail and bad writers slip through. In addition, a paper can be submitted and resubmitted until it achieves a passing grade. In fact, a paper can be taken to the writing office, where it will be corrected."
The report further recommended that the stipulation that all HASS-D classes have finals be lifted, with the decision of whether or not to administer finals left to the professor. The report emphasized widespread discontent over HASS-D finals and stressed that they should be administered only as an "educational tool."
Finally, the SCEP report recommended that one of the eight required humanities courses be a Context subject.
Work on the SCEP report was triggered by the academic calendar changes proposed during the spring term.
"We looked into why these changes were made," said Solis, "and we found that it was largely because of the huge increase in conflict exams, resulting from HASS-D finals. Then we began to look into the whole humanities problem further."
SCEP drafted its preliminary report with student input from its SCEP hotline on Athena and will continue to solicit student and faculty comments. A final report will be released during the spring term.
HASS-D Overview Committee to
The HASS-D Overview Committee, established at the same time that the HASS-D program was first instituted in 1986 to annually renew the HASS-D curriculum, has been charged by the Committee on Undergraduate Performance to reevaluate the entire HASS-D system this year, said Ruth Spear, coordinator of the HASS Information Office.
"Both the final exam and the mechanical requirement of 25 pages of writing for a HASS-D class are issues that are being reconsidered," Spear said. "We are also looking at the five categories to see if they too need changes."
The overview committee will report its findings to the CUP in the spring, according to Spear.
The overview committee is comprised of five subcommittees, one for each HASS-D category (Literary and Textual Studies; Language, Thought, and Value; the Arts; Cultures and Societies; Historical Studies). The chairperson from each subcommittee sits on the overview committee, along with Philip S. Khoury, acting Dean of Humanities and Social Science, and one student member.
Khoury could not be reached for comment on the SCEP report, but Harriet N. Ritvo, associate professor in the Writing Program and member of the overview committee said, "The SCEP report comes at an opportune time and certainly will be considered by the overview committee."