The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 66.0°F | Light Rain

A Selected History of the GIRs

A Selected History of the GIRs

The newly proposed modifications to the General Institute Requirements stress flexibility and innovative project-oriented experiences.

But these guiding motivations are far from new — previous iterations of revisions to the core curriculum have espoused similar goals, and even suggested similar requirements.

The end result is that over the past 50 years, the Institute has moved from a strict curriculum where freshmen and sophomores took nearly identical classes to one where academic freedom and broadness have become the valued commodity.

Changes to the Science Core

1964: The science requirements are cut in half, with the faculty voting to replace four physics subjects (8.01–8.04) with two, four mathematics subjects (18.01–18.04) with two, and two chemistry subjects (5.01–5.02) with one, in the name of academic flexibility.

A laboratory subject, aimed at emphasizing projects rather than routine experiments, becomes a requirement. Rounding out the new core is a three-subject science distribution requirement.

The new requirements take effect starting with the Class of 1969.

1981: A biology requirement should be a “serious consideration,” according to a report by the Committee on Educational Policy, which also suggests the “possibility of a required subject in computation.”

The same committee expresses doubt that the science requirement then in place gives students enough breadth, and calls the laboratory requirement “unsatisfactory.”

1991: The faculty approves a biology Institute requirement. With that addition, the science distribution requirement is cut from three subjects to two, which are renamed Restricted Electives in Science and Technology.

Changes to the HASS Core

1949: A committee reports an overhaul of undergraduate education, with more emphasis on humanities, as well as on fundamental principles instead of detailed context.

The commission proposes replacing the four-year program in humanities with strong emphasis on history, English, and economics.

In its place, they suggest a four-year humanities program with a two-year core curriculum for freshmen and sophomores followed by elective sequences in the junior and senior years. The core is designed to emphasize Western civilization and contemporary American heritage.

The new core goes into effect in the fall of 1951.

1950: A direct result of the 1949 Lewis Commission report, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences is created.

1974: The humanities core is scrapped by the faculty in favor of a distribution/concentration model that fully goes into effect for the Class of 1978.

The distribution requires three subjects in three different fields, and a three- to four-subject concentration also becomes required. Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Harold Hanham calls it “a proposal which is flexible enough to allow us to move forward.”

1986: A committee evaluating the HASS requirement proposes a four-subject distribution requirement, with one subject in each of four categories. This proposal was not adopted.

1987: The HUM-D distribution created the decade before is replaced by the current HASS-D requirement, requiring students to take three subjects in five categories, going into effect for the Class of 1992. An alternative proposal to require one subject each in humanities and social science and a third in any HASS subject was voted down.

—Kelley Rivoire