HASS system gets simpler

Freshmen try out a streamlined, more flexible humanities requirement that does away with HASS-Ds and the lottery

“The new HASS system is very flexible. It’s not a pain in the ‘HASS,’” said Rui Hu ’12.

This fall marks a major and much-discussed changes as the HASS-D (Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Distribution) system begins to be phased out. Starting with the Class of 2014, the five distribution areas have replaced by three categories: Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. There is no longer a lottery for the classes, either.

These changes are intended to give students more flexibility to choose classes they are interested in.

“Through the HASS Distribution, we wanted students to learn the different ways of knowing the material,” said Diana Henderson, Dean for Curriculum and Faculty Support.

“It was felt that there was a lot of choice in HASS-D, but there could be more, and there was a real scheduling problem. Students would pick their three science GIRs, and then ‘fit in’ a HASS-D class, by which time their schedule limited them to much fewer options.”

Previously, as the HASS categories were known mainly by number rather than by name, students and advisors often were not entirely clear on what they could or should take in HASS, Henderson said.

Additionally, the new HASS requirement fits better with MIT’s requirement that students take at least two communications intensive classes outside of their major.

“With HASS-D, we often had classes that did not fit well with an emphasis on teaching the subject along with encouraging oral discussion and writing. In Literature, for example, that just came naturally. In courses like those in Music, however, that caused a problem, so the new system puts more of a distinction between communication intensive classes and regular HASS classes,” Henderson said.

Students seem to like new system

“I’m a senior — I’m only vaguely aware of the new HASS requirement’s existence, but it sounds a lot better than the current one because they don’t have to specifically take HASS-Ds. That’s why I put off two of them until senior year,” Philip D. Tynan ’11 said.

Students trying to complete their majors and simultaneously fulfill the HASS-D requirement often landed themselves in similar situations.

“From what I’ve heard, HASS-D was a pain before, and now they’re easier to deal with,” said Julia Berk ’14. “It’s gotten simpler.”

The general consensus seems to be that the new HASS requirement is definitely a step up from the old one, allowing more freedom in choice of classes, as the distributive component is no longer limited to a small selection of the wide range of HASS subjects available at MIT.

“My colleagues in science and engineering have given all positive feedback so far. Many of them are freshman advisors, so they can explain simply to students that they should choose from humanities, arts, and social sciences, rather than just a couple of numbers,” Henderson said. “Of course, this is just the first semester — it isn’t even Add Date yet, so we’ll be hearing a lot more responses to the HASS requirement. I think it’s something that will have to play out for several semesters.”

So, it seems new HASS Requirement has the potential to live up to its motto: “Engaging, Surprising, Required.”