Some Major Changes

Reed’s website presents its academic atmosphere as something of a study in contrast. On one hand, it maintains the academic rigor of a traditional liberal arts college, while on the other it embraces the cultural, social, and intellectual progressivism of today. Continuing the effort to find a balance between a passion for traditional academia and allowing students to pursue more modern interests, a major and two concentrations have been approved by the Committee on Academic Policies and Planning (CAPP).

Professor of Mathematics Jim Fix (Mathematics 1999–), sees the new concentrations as an opportunity for students to further delve into the fields of computer science and statistics in a way that has not previously been offered at Reed. Fix thought the incorporation of this major into the Reed mathematical discipline was only natural, as many colleges have had computer science departments since the late ’50s. The addition of these concentrations not only means that more courses will be available in these areas but also opens up the possibility for new faculty to be hired in those fields. The increased accessibility of the two concentrations along with the added number of courses being offered in those fields will hopefully result in more non-Math majors taking Math classes. “That’s the thing I love about Reed,” says Fix. “I’m a Math professor talking to an English major [Grail contributor Noah Samel ‘17], and I may just see you in one of my intro classes. That doesn’t happen at most places.” These majors are currently open to sophomores and a qual will be offered for juniors.

The new major, Comparative Literature, was approved due to its heavy focus on inter-departmental interaction. The establishment of a Comparative Literature major has been a nascent idea in the Language and Literature departments for some time now, and was proposed to make up for the areas where the General Literature major falls short. CAPP plans to eventually retire the General Literature Major. “Majors will have the option of doing part of their coursework in an allied field outside of Lit & Lang, taking either a group of classes from a single department or several courses from multiple departments that engage with a common topic. In time, professors from these other disciplines may choose to become formally affiliated with the Program, cross-listing their courses in Comp Lit or co-advising theses,” states the September 5, 2014 proposal to CAPP from a faculty committee established to explore a Comparative Literature major. This allows students to conduct interdisciplinary theses about subjects such as gender and sexuality studies, from an eclectic range of viewpoints. The Comparative Literature Major will be in the Course Catalog and ready for implementation in the 2015–2016 academic year.

Each of these new majors exists for a different reason, but all have a similar goal. Reed’s academic atmosphere shouldn’t remain static as the world around it changes, but rather than let these changes reshape the college’s curriculum, Reed sticks to what it does best. Each of these majors aims to provide students with a proper grounding in the field they choose while preparing them for the world after Reed, finding the grey area in the college’s paradoxical mission statement its students have love.