Specially qualified and dedicated students with the talent and energy for working independently may undertake a contract major-a coherent study of an interdisciplinary subject not covered by a regularly offered major. Such a major must be in an area suitable to the talents of the faculty in residence and cannot be a regular major with two or three courses omitted. A contract major also must conform to the structure and have the coherence of a departmental or program major-i.e., it must embody a disciplined cumulative study that moves from an elementary to an advanced level and culminates in a synthesis similar to a senior major course. Hence a contract major usually consists of a program of existing courses sometimes supplemented by courses of independent study and the senior course.
Students wishing to pursue a contract major must contact the Dean's Office to set up an initial conference before the end of Winter Study period of the sophomore year. This conference with a dean will help them to prepare their applications, which are then due early in the spring semester. The process of constructing a proposal for a contract major is both interesting and demanding. As part of that process, students should consider carefully the advantage of working within existing majors or programs, taking note of the considerable intellectual pleasures involved in sharing similar educational experiences with other students working within the same field. Students might also consider whether their interests could be met by completing a regular major and coordinate program, or a double major, or simply by working outside a major field in courses of special interest. Because the contract major represents an exceptional opportunity provided for students whose interests cannot be met through existing departmental and interdepartmental majors and programs, it cannot be pursued in conjunction with another major.
Students who wish to explore or propose a contract major should consult with the Dean's Office and with potential faculty advisers as early as possible in the sophomore year, and then follow these procedures:
1) The student must initiate discussion with at least two members of the Faculty from different departments who expect to be in residence during the student's senior year and who are willing to endorse the contract major and undertake a central role in supervising its implementation, criticism, evaluation, and ultimate validation. Since in essence faculty sponsors substitute for the student's major department, they are expected to play an important role in the contract major.
2) The student must submit to both sponsors a written statement for approval (forms and guidelines are available in the Dean's Office) which should contain:
a) a description of the proposed major area of study and an explanation of why it is appropriate to pursue as a contract major.
b) a list of all courses in the proposed major and an explanation for each course choice. A minimum of nine semester courses, one of which must be designated the senior major course (and taken during the senior year), must be completed for a contract major. Normal rules governing course grades and grade point average apply for entry into and continuation in a contract major.
c) a list of other courses taken or anticipated to meet College distribution and degree requirements, including grades received in courses already completed.
3) The faculty sponsors, having approved the program, will submit it with their signatures to the Dean's Office for review. This material should be received in the Dean's Office by Friday of the fourth full week of the second semester of the student's sophomore year.
4) Both sponsors should also separately submit their letters of endorsement and evaluation to the Dean's Office. If the student is proposing basically to transform an existing coordinate program (e.g. Afro-American Studies, area studies programs, Environmental Studies, Women's Studies, etc.) into a contract major, the chair of that program should also submit to the Dean's Office a statement attesting to the validity of the proposal. These letters must be received in the Dean's Office along with the application.
5) The Dean's Office will forward these materials to the Committee on Educational Policy, adding recommendations regarding feasibility and an evaluation of the substance of the proposal.
6) The C.E.P., after consultation with departments and programs substantially affected by a proposal, will vote on each proposal individually and will report the decision to the Dean's Office, which will notify students and sponsors before the spring registration deadline. If time necessary for C.E.P. review demands it, the Dean's Office may postpone notification to students and permit them to register late without penalty. In making its decisions, the C.E.P. considers the student's academic record, the coherence and feasibility of the plan of study, and the degree of support expressed by the faculty sponsors and, if appropriate, program chairs.
7) Subsequent changes in a contract major must be requested in writing by the student and approved by the faculty sponsors as well as by the Dean's Office. Where there has been substantial alteration of the original program, the Dean's Office will forward the student's written request to the C.E.P. for reconsideration.
THE DEGREE WITH HONORS IN THE CONTRACT MAJOR
The route to the degree with Honors in the contract major will normally be a senior thesis requiring two semesters and a Winter Study of work. In special circumstances a student may propose to substitute a one semester course or a Winter Study course for one of his or her thesis courses and write a minithesis. The contract major with Honors shall comprise a minimum of eleven semester courses or ten semester courses plus one Winter Study. One semester of independent study undertaken for the thesis may be allowed to fulfill the requirement for a senior major course.
The Faculty sponsors shall determine by the end of Winter Study whether the student is to be admitted to Honors candidacy. If not admitted to Honors candidacy, the student may elect not to continue further independent study. If admitted to Honors candidacy, the student shall submit a written thesis or minithesis to three Faculty readers, at least one of whom shall be a Faculty sponsor and at least one of whom shall not be a Faculty sponsor. The outside reader or readers shall be selected by the Dean's Office in consultation with the Faculty sponsors. There will be a one hour oral exam by the readers, and they shall make a final decision regarding Honors.