In an effort to expand the focus of the Program of Ethics, Politics and Economics, EP&E Director Seyla Benhabib will propose several changes to the interdisciplinary program next month.
Benhabib said the proposals are aimed at strengthening the major’s focus on ethics, legal theory and social ethics. The proposals include a new general social analysis seminar that would be required of all students in the major. The program’s advisory committee will consider the proposals at a meeting Feb. 11.
“The concern is that the major is highly skewed in the direction of political economy,” EP&E Director of Undergraduate Studies Ellen Lust-Okar said. “Perhaps we can create something that does a little bit better in helping us steer away from that.”
Benhabib said the proposals are aimed at expanding but not shifting the program’s focus. She said she still considers political economy a major component of the program.
If approved, the new class, which is tentatively titled “Methods of Social Inquiry,” would replace the current statistics requirement.
Though still incorporating many aspects of statistical analysis, Benhabib said that the course would have a broader scope that would be less centered on mathematics.
“Quantitative skills have a great place in [studying methodological approaches] but they should not be emphasized to the exclusion of other methods and techniques of analysis,” Benhabib said. “We haven’t been as effective in bringing to the sophomores and juniors who are beginning this program what else is available and what else can be done in social science analysis.”
Eric Maltzer ’03 said the new class would be a positive step in encouraging cohesion within the major. Maltzer was a member of an informal student advisory committee that met with Lust-Okar to suggest improvements to the major.
“[Students in the major] seem so disjointed. It is kind of an independent study major right now,” Maltzer said. “It would be very nice to have one class where everyone in the major could be together.”
Even if the proposal is approved at the advisory committee meeting, Benhabib said she does not expect the class to begin to function as a seminar until the fall of 2005. Benhabib said she expects the course to be offered as a lecture series starting next year.
With the added emphasis on ethics and legal theory, Lust-Okar said she hopes to encourage a greater variety of senior concentrations. In addition, Lust-Okar and Benhabib are planning to throw a party for everyone in the major to help students get to know each other and share ideas for possible concentrations.
Benhabib said she also plans to propose creating general advisory sessions to provide additional help for seniors writing their theses.
Benhabib said that the selection of next year’s four visiting professors was also geared to highlight other aspects of the major. New course offerings will include a class on the use of narrative and storytelling in journalism by a prominent German journalist; a class on law, society and morals by a law professor from the London School of Economics; and a course on comparative political economy that will be taught by another visiting professor.
“We are continuing the old strengths but looking to open up new kinds of courses,” Benhabib said. “Our goal is to offer more rather than less.”