Faculty Council Hears School of Public Health Proposal


Members of the Faculty Council met Wednesday afternoon to review Council election procedures and hear a proposal from the Harvard School of Public Health concerning one of its Ph.D. programs in a “very tame” meeting, according to Council member David L. Howell.

The Council — the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ highest governing body — also approved a list of Summer School courses for next year at the meeting.

Director of the School of Public Health’s Population Health Sciences program Lisa Berkman presented a proposal that would allow Ph.D. students in her program to see their fields of study listed on their transcripts. The program, jointly offered by the School of Public Health and FAS, combines five departments into the broader, interdisciplinary study of Population Health. Students in the program belong to one of five fields of study, each of which are affiliated with a corresponding department — Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Global Health and Population, Nutrition, and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Berkman’s proposal spurred questions about the need to add field specializations to graduate student transcripts, according to Howell.


“[M]any departments and disciplines have diverse subfields, after all. But the program in Public Health is rather different since it’s an innovative program that amalgamates several preexisting departments,” Howell wrote in an email.

Because the proposed change is substantial, the issue surfaced for discussion only at Wednesday’s meeting. The Council will go over the proposal again and hold a vote on the suggestion at its next meeting on Dec. 12.

Howell also presented a report to the Council on behalf of the committee he chairs, formed to review Faculty Council election procedures. The Faculty approved the current election system in November 2015, with the requirement that a committee review the changes after three years.

The Council previously used a system that required voters to rank their preferences among a large number of candidates and counted votes in rounds. A report issued in April 2015 called the process “unnecessarily complicated” and “confusing.” The Council subsequently switched to a more streamlined system in which three members are elected "At-Large," and three are elected from within each division.

“The committee found that the new procedures are working very well. Nominations to the Council are up, more faculty members agree to stand for election, and voter turnout has broken records every year since the change,” Howell wrote in an email. “So the committee has recommended that the system remain in place.”

The next full Faculty meeting is slated for Tuesday, Dec. 4.

—Staff Writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.


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