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Faculty To Vote on HASS-Ds

HOC singles out 9.00, Econ as non-HASS

By Karen Robinson

A vote on a motion to change portions of the HASS-D requirement was postponed Wednesday after squabbling over another proposal that could pave the way toward ending the HASS-D status of Introduction to Psychology (9.00), as well as macro-, and micro- economics courses.

The motion, if passed, would allow students to take any three HASS-Ds as long as they are in three different categories. Currently students must take one class from HASS categories 1, 2 or 3; one from categories 4 or 5; and a third distribution subject from a category not fulfilled previously. This change would mostly affect students wanting to take classes in Categories 1, 2 and 3. Students would still be able to use an upper-level language course to fulfill one of their HASS-Ds under the proposed changes.

9.00, economics singled out

While there was little dissension over the motion that came before the faculty, many raised concerns over other findings by the HASS Overview Committee which presented the motion.

One of the committee’s most controversial findings was a proposal to add to the set of basic HASS principles the following statement: “HASS offerings are meant to complement science and engineering at MIT and to emphasize other methods and modes of discourse.”

According to the report, “The purpose of this addendum is to convey a clearer picture to students and faculty alike of the relationship of HASS to the broader MIT curriculum.”

The committee cited problematic requests made by students to include, for example, courses in set theory and mathematics offered by the Department of Liguistics and Philosophy as well was highly quantitave classes in micro- and macro- economics as HASS courses. The committee also singled out 9.00 as having “long raised concerns within the HOC as to its appropriateness for the HASS-D system.”

Professor Steven Pinker who teaches 9.00 drew attention to this point at the faculty meeting. Pinker objected to the “two-cultures” point of view, that humanities and science are necessarily separate and should not be incorporated into the same class. It would be “bizarre to have an implied requirement that ossifies one way to look at HASS,” Pinker said.

According to the report, the HOC is currently considering the appropriateness of 9.00 for HASS-D classification.

Bette Davis, coordinator of the HASS office, said that the clarification was actually to make a more “black-and-white” distinction for determining what classes from other universities should earn students HASS credit.

One point made several times during the discussion about HASS principles was that the new bullet, while intended to make HASS more well-defined, was difficult for many faculty members to understand.

Davis also said that this description of HASS classes is internal to the HASS department, and will not be voted on by the faculty.

Distribution to change again

Since the HASS-D program was set up in 1988, there have been five categories of HASS-D classes. Categories 1 and 2 correspond to humanities classes, 3 to arts, and 4 and 5 to social science classes.

The current requirements were implemented in 1994, six years after HASS-D’s inauguration, following the recommendation by that year’s Overview Committee, headed by Professor Harriet Ritvo. That report specified that its changes should be reviewed in this year.

Reasons for change cited

Dean of Humanities Philip M. Khoury cited several reasons for the proposed changes, mainly that the new requirement would be easier for students and advisers to understand.

In addition, it offers students more flexibility in choosing their HASS courses. “Fields are increasingly cross-disciplinary,” he said, a property that is reflected by the increased flexibility.

These changes will be followed-up on in another review to take place next January.