TO THE EDITOR:

We are writing in response to the editorial “Maintain the SFS Core” (THE HOYA, Feb. 4, 2005, A2).

While SFS students face a substantial load of required courses, they and all other Georgetown graduates will also have to face a future in which science and technology will play an even bigger role than today, enriching and disrupting the lives of everybody on the planet.

Former SFS students will be in positions in which they must make decisions that will affect the lives of many, and to make informed decisions, they will need to communicate with scientists and mathematicians.

The debate should not be over whether there is or is not a science and math requirement for SFS, but what form that requirement should take to most benefit students.

While no science requirement can prepare a student for the multitude of challenges that he or she may face in a lifetime, Georgetown has a responsibility to educate all students so that they can understand emerging issues, participate meaningfully in discussions and help shape intelligent decisions.

A graduate of the class of 2010 could be involved in policy decisions related to global warming. Will she have to rely on others’ evaluation of statistical data, or will she be able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the many statistical studies on the subject? Will she discount the mathematical models that predict dire consequences resulting from greenhouse gases because she never understood mathematics?

She could be heading an irrigation project in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020, starting a biotech company that fabricates HIV vaccine implants in 2030 or working as a member of Congress on legislation for the use of intelligent robots in health care in 2040.

She would need to know some environmental science, the biology of the human immune system or some basic facts about computing and artificial intelligence to do any of this successfully.

There are mathematics and computer science courses that teach students how to build and analyze complex models of reality that extract many of its essential features, resulting in more informed decision-making.

Statistics courses teach methods for making informed decisions even in the face of uncertainty.

Biology courses educate students about current and emerging threats from bioterrorism and about new opportunities for defeating age old scourges such as malaria.

Chemistry and physics courses teach students about the inner workings of our technology-dominated world and the scientific background of the modern world’s energy needs.

All of these courses show students how modern science progresses, preparing them for a changing future.

The fact that Michael Scaturro expressed in his letter (“SFS Rightly Stresses Liberal Arts,” THE HOYA, Feb. 8, 2005, A2) that he felt the only benefit of taking math and science is so students “can do basic calculus problems or remember something from `Science in our Daily Lives,'” points out the need for a well-thought-out science and math requirement.

When a math/science requirement for SFS comes online, these departments will produce new creative courses to satisfy the new needs. While we cannot speak for all of our colleagues, we certainly look forward to this challenge.

SFS students should be the first to realize that we live in a changing world and that curricular decisions today must reflect this fact and make some trade-offs, if necessary. With a math/science requirement for the SFS, all students will ultimately come out ahead.

JAMES SANDEFUR HANS ENGLER PROFESSORS, MATHEMATICS DEPARTMENT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY FEB. 16, 2005

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