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Changes to the Academic Policy

The current first-year class at Haverford College will be the last to see the current system of academic requirement. Beginning in Fall 2018, the Core Distribution Requirement will be altered, as per new policy from the Education Policy Committee.

Under the current system for the upper classes, students have to complete a first year writing seminar, two semesters of language classes other than English, take one quantitative course, and take three courses in at least two subfields each in natural science, social science, and humanities.

“Many of the courses blurred the lines between the three existing divisions begging the question of why we use these categories,” said Emily Krasnow ‘17, one of the two student representatives on EPC.

“For example, when the divisions were put into place, Religion was taught almost entirely as a text-based discipline (Humanities) but the current department also includes learning goals and courses that fit more naturally into the social sciences,” said Philip Meneely, a professor of Biology, and a committee member on EPC. Prof. Meneely has served on the committee since the 2012-2013 academic year. He served as chair of EPC from Fall 2013 through the Fall of 2016. “New programs (minors and concentrations) and departments that have been added since divisions were put into place several decades ago include Linguistics, East Asian Languages and Culture, Peace Justice and Human Rights, Environmental Studies, Health Studies, and Visual Studies, none of which fits neatly into only one of our current divisions.”

Under the new system, the writing seminar and language requirements will remain the same, but the rest of the system is changing. Beginning in Fall 2018, students may no longer count the quantitative requirement as a divisional requirement. For example, courses like chemistry will no longer count as both a quantitative and a natural science class and fulfill two requirements with one class.  

“[The new requirements] are more flexible, and accommodate [for] different kinds of programming,” said Prof. Maud McInerney, Professor of Comparative Literature and the current chair of EPC. Students will be able to work with their advisors to choose which domains they would like to apply courses that are cross-listed.

The divisions of natural science, social science, and the humanities have now been changed into three domains.

“The domains [are] being defined by their learning goals rather than by the content of the courses or departmental homes,” said Prof. Meneely.

There is the domain of Meaning, Interpretation and Creative Expression, the domain of Analysis of the Social World: Individuals, Institutions, and Cultures, and the domain of Physical and Natural Processes, Mathematical and Computational Constructs. Students must take two classes in two subfields of each of the domains.

Said Krasnow, “Students gain much more flexibility in their choice of courses which may raise concerns about undue specialization,but requirements of courses in different departments should mitigate that effect. As with the old gen ed requirements, the new ones will be easier for some majors to fulfill than others.

The decision marks the end of a long-term discussion about how to give students the best exposure to a broad set of academic pursuits.

“I could not tell you how many models EPC discussed, and how many models we looked at from other colleges– definitely more than a dozen, and probably more like 25,” said Prof. Meneely. “At a guess, some version of a proposal was brought to the faculty for discussion at least 15 different times over the past 5 or 6 years.”

Changes will take place in the fall of 2018, which will allow time for changes to be made in Bionic, as well as to make sure that all faculty understand the changes.  

EPC is currently looking toward working on a requirement to increase civil and ethical engagement. There is no conclusive timeline for these changes.

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