In a unanimous vote last Wednesday, the faculty approved a CEP proposal to allow half-credit graded courses in instrumental and vocal instruction in the music department. We applaud this move by the faculty for several reasons. First, as the proposal pointed out, it is not a revolutionary measure; many peer institutions already offer partial credit courses for such lessons.
There are many serious musicians here at Williams, and many of them already take private lessons. Especially in light of the fact that instrumental or vocal performance and private study in these areas are already recognized by the music department as being important to the academic study of music, it simply makes good sense to allow more students the opportunity to be graded for this study. Not only does the proposal allow more students the opportunity to be evaluated for their study of instrumental or vocal performance, it encourages them to take this study more seriously. For this reason, we were happy to see the measure supported by the faculty.
More importantly, however, passage of the measure demonstrated the faculty’s willingness to embrace curricular development and innovation.
In our time at Williams we have never had any specific cause to doubt the faculty’s commitment to curricular improvement, but it is nice to see anyway. This particular measure might seem simply to be the College catching up to other institutions, but in fact it could pave the way for further welcome additions to the curriculum.
The CEP was careful to point out that by endorsing the music department proposal it takes no stand on half-credit courses in general, and that any future proposal of this kind would have to be evaluated on its own merits. Still, the easy passage of this proposal gives hope to similar courses being offered in other disciplines with unique characteristics. The example of dance springs immediately to mind, for it is a discipline that currently can offer only P.E. credits to students. Although the Dance program is not affiliated with any academic department, it would be nice to see some sort of arrangement that allows students to receive greater credit for their study of Dance than P.E. credit. The proposed theatre and dance center is already sparking optimism for a greater recognition of Dance as an academic discipline.
Regardless of the future of Dance, however, we were simply pleased by the quality of the CEP proposal. It supported a good idea, and took into consideration potential implications, refusing to take a position on half-credit courses in general and stating its explicit opposition to 1.5 credit courses. At a moment when many speak, sometimes recklessly, of the curriculum, we are comforted to see the CEP, whose job it is after all, continue to think about the issue in a constructive and informed way.