Analysis of the May 2010 GE Proposal (pdf) sent by a UCSB colleague on email, 5/12/10

For what it's worth, there is no GE on this campus to speak of. Years ago I served on the GE Committee (for two or three years) and in all that time not one syllabus was ever turned down for GE credit. Essentially if a faculty person wanted a course to satisfy GE requirements, they simply had to have their department submit it. The GE committee simply approved the proposed areas it fulfilled and that was that. This defeats the purpose of General Education Requirements. Almost any other university you can name has a core of courses that cover particular areas that are deemed essential to the educational requisites of a liberal arts undergraduate degree. No such thing exists here. Our GE is simply a smorgasbord of classes that are designated to fulfill area requirements, a fairly unsupervised hodge-podge of courses (many of them worthy, but that's not the point). A task force had been appointed years ago to study and then try to rectify this situation, and its recommendations were defeated at the eleventh hour because the Senate insisted on a vote without allowing proper time to discuss and educate departments about the proposals. There were real objections to those proposals but because the entire thing was defeated, we were back at square one, rather than having a system we could work to improve (kind of like health care!).

The current proposal basically makes everything GE. This is simply to embrace the de facto situation we have now, for all practical purposes. The reason is not to usurp control from departments or to make Undergrad Council the kingpin of course governance. I do know that certain GE requirements have been unavailable to students because of overenrollments -- if you can't get into any classes (and I saw many students in this situation this year) that fulfill the requirements you need, you are stuck. This is what I understand the rationale to be, having discussed it with Mary Nesbit among others. Until there is meaningful GE reform on this campus, I don't think the administration is conspiring to take away content or process. There is a real need to loosen things up more, and since the situation is so haphazard and loose now, it really doesn't change the concept we currently designate as GE. Undergraduate Council is the organized body that actually has to approve GE now, as I understand it. So we're still at their mercy regardless. For the record, the administrators I have spoken with about this issue would greatly prefer to have a more coherent GE program, in which very specific courses, across disciplines and areas, were deemed essential. Since we are not in a place where we can afford the time it takes to overhaul GE (the last task force was at it for at least five years, if memory serves), the proposed solution simply expands the "system" we now have in order to solve the enrollment problems. The one desirable effect is that impacted courses will actually have some hope of regaining manageable enrollments.

This isn't a desirable solution from the point of view of general education, faculty or adminstrators, but it seems to be one of the only viable ways to alleviate quickly the overcrowding in courses (in some instances profs have encountered pretty unruly crowds of students desperate to get in to a required course, and TAs have been threatened because add codes are not forthcoming, etc.). The situation is becoming untenable, and if there is pushback on it, I hope that an alternative strategy can be offered.

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