Faculty Approve New HASS Requirement

By Genevre Filiault, Staff Associate, and Anna Frazer, Associate Dean for Curriculum and Faculty Support, Office of Faculty Support

At its meeting on May 20, the Institute Faculty voted to approve changes to the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) Requirement, one of the General Institute Requirements for all MIT undergraduates. This change simplifies the distribution component of the Requirement from the current, more complex, five-category distribution to one that consists of one subject each from three categories—humanities, arts, and social sciences.

Collage of students

Two important aspects of the Requirement remain the same: Concentrations will continue to consist of three or four subjects depending on the area, and the HASS Requirement will continue to overlap with another GIR, the Communication Requirement, in the two CI-H subjects. The goal is to have the new HASS Requirement in place by Fall 2010; the Faculty vote specifies that it must be implemented no later than Fall 2011.

In the same vote, the Faculty approved the creation of a new subcommittee of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP) to oversee the HASS Requirement. The subcommittee’s work will include making recommendations of category placement of subjects for the new distribution and changes to Concentrations to the CUP and a mandate to continue experimentation with creating a program within the Requirement that would be focused on first-year undergraduates, known as the First Year Focus Program.

Originally, the HASS Requirement changes were part of a broader set of recommendations for modifying the GIRs, which failed to carry at a February Faculty meeting. After this decision, Faculty committees and other constituencies engaged in numerous discussions to explore further the concerns with the recommendations and how to move forward in thinking about the undergraduate educational commons. It was in these discussions that the leadership in SHASS indicated that the School wished to move ahead with changes to the HASS Requirement independent of proposals regarding other areas of the GIRs.

Throughout the multi-year process of reviewing the GIRs, DUE staff have supported the work of the Faculty committees including the presidentially appointed Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons; the Educational Commons Subcommittee, an ad hoc subcommittee of the CUP; and the various working groups associated with each of these undertakings.

The role of the DUE staff in planning for and supporting the implementation of the new HASS Requirement will be equally vital. A DUE-led implementation working group will be charged sometime in the next few weeks. This group will take the lead in developing and executing a communication plan and in defining and implementing technical requirements associated with the new Requirement. In the meantime, the new Faculty subcommittee of the CUP will be charged and begin working to establish policy and oversee the Requirement in the steady state. The timeline is short, but enthusiasm is high for this important step in catalyzing the undergraduate educational commons.