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Editorial: Make sciences and humanities equally difficult

The University should seek to minimize the discrepancy in difficulty among its various departments and concentrations. In general, courses offered in the sciences require significantly more effort and time. Though we acknowledge the recent conversation regarding grade inflation, we firmly believe the University must work to implement a more standardized grading framework to account for discrepancies across departments. While the gross quantity of A-level grades awarded has risen over the past few years — a trend consistent across the various academic spheres — the current system does not address the blatant inequalities in the associated workload and benchmarks.

According to the Critical Review, humanities courses require roughly six hours of work per week, with some demanding as few as three. CSCI 0150: “Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming and Computer Science” and CHEM 0350: “Organic Chemistry,” on the other hand, report maximum hours of 21 and 26 per week respectively, with averages above 10 hours. In addition, many of these courses include a three-hour weekly lab section, and bachelor of science degrees require sometimes twice as many courses as bachelor of arts.

While the added difficulty of the sciences may better prepare undergraduates for graduate programs and medical school, it also deters many students from concentrating in science, technology, engineering and mathemetics. When choosing concentrations, first-years and sophomores choosing concentrations may consider whether they want to work twice as much as friends studying humanities and social sciences.

But in addition to deterring students from concentrating in these challenging fields, these greater demands also push humanities students away from STEM electives. While many physics and biology undergraduates use electives to try courses in political science and history, this trend is in no way mirrored by students concentrating in the latter — a definite weakness in the framework of the open curriculum.

Certainly one of the hurdles is that humanities courses often do not require prerequisites while science departments offer few courses that do not require some prerequisites. Still, more students might continue math or biology where they left off in high school if they did not view the subjects as twice as much work as an economics course.

Science courses must limit how much they ask of students. While this change might reduce the breadth of courses and thoroughness of a class’s understanding, it would also produce a more well-rounded student body with more undergraduates pursuing degrees in STEM and other concentrators exploring the hard sciences.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board, led by Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15. Send comments to


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