The old HASS system
MIT’s commitment to producing well-rounded graduates means that, in addition to a rigorous scientific curriculum, students are expected to complete a number of classes in the wide range of topics collectively referred to as HASS: Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Until now, the requirement consisted of three components: three distributive classes, three-to-four classes toward a concentration, and one or two electives.
The distributive component required students to enter a lottery for a selection of classes known as HASS-Ds. There are five areas, commonly designated 1–5. (The official titles are Literary and Textual Studies; Language, Thought, and Value; Visual and Performing Arts; Cultural and Social Studies; Historical Studies).
Every undergraduate was expected to complete one HASS-D in each three unique of those areas.
The second component, a concentration, was created not to give a taste of many fields, but to allow students a more in-depth exploration of a particular field of interest (without being as demanding as a minor). HASS concentrations require three or four classes that function together to form a coherent path of study.
The HASS Elective requirement simply means that students must take a total of eight HASS classes, including distribution and concentration. The idea is that this comes out to one HASS class per semester, although some students take more than one HASS in some semesters and none in others.