From the Crimson:

In order to make the Classics more appealing to students without previous exposure to Latin and Greek, the department may eliminate its rigorous six-hour general examinations and create a specialization in classical civilizations.

While long, written general exams used to be standard across departments, Classics is the only one that still requires students to pass a comprehensive test of that length to graduate, according to Director of Undergraduate Studies Mark J. Schiefsky, who is on the review committee that will present the proposal to the full department next month.

The exam requires students to be able to translate and analyze a variety of canonical Latin and Greek texts on sight, including portions of Herodotus’ Histories, Homer’s Iliad, and Virgil’s Eclogues.

Schiefsky said that he did not want the prospect of general exams to scare away potential concentrators, especially those who did not study Latin or Greek in high school.

“One can satisfy the requirements without really being ready for the general exam,” he said. “That is uncontroversially true.”

Some current concentrators said that the proposal would be able to attract more students to the oft intimidating concentration.

“I think it’ll help the Classics department grab more new students since the generals tend to scare freshmen away when they hear about them,” said Andrew T. Rist ’09, who was president of the Classical Club last year.

But Schiefsky said that the department is not simply trying to attract more students.

“There’s no sense of crisis at all,” he said.

Although some seniors said they are looking forward to taking the general exams as a touchstone of their academic achievement, one concentrator said that he is glad the department is trying to reach out to more students.

“I think it’s very valiant and noble and valuable that they’re trying to open the classics to more people,” Brian P. Hill ’11 said, “because the more people you get, the better.”

The Classics professors on the review committee will present their plans to colleagues at a department meeting on Dec. 2, when the proposal may come to a vote.

The current proposition specifies two main tracks within Classics—classical languages and literatures and classical civilizations—both of which would see the number of basic requirements reduced from 12 to 11 because of the delayed date for concentration declaration.

According to a Classics professor who asked not to be named, the revamped language and literature track would require six courses in Latin or Greek—as opposed to the current eight—as well as Classical Studies 97a and 97b and three additional Classics electives instead of the current two.

The new Classical Civilizations track would require four classes in Greek or Latin, Classical Studies 97a and 97b, and five electives, which could be taken in areas including art, philosophy, and history.