GE Area E Legislation to be proposed on
Discussion paper for meeting of HFA chairs on 5/16/04
by H. Marcuse, 5/16/04
The proposal to update the descriptions of the objectives of Areas C-G has
been postponed at the request of the L&S Faculty Executive Committee, which
wants to solicit additional comments from campus departments and deans. The
Undergraduate Council is amenable to this. However, we note that our proposal
to update the area descriptions is merely to publish the current practice of
the Academic Senate vis-à-vis the implementation of GE. We note that
these descriptions were circulated in June 2001, May 2002, and October 2003
with explicit requests for campuswide comment. The proposed area descriptions
reflect improvement based on additional discussions of feedback received. At
the request of the L&S Faculty Executive Committee, the Undergraduate Council
urges you to discuss these latest versions (available on the GE website) of
all area descriptions fully with your faculty and submit your comments to us
by the end of Fall quarter 2004.
As part of the on-going review of currently approved GE courses, the Undergraduate
Council would like to implement one aspect of the Task Force recommendations:
the restructuring of the Western Civilization requirement. Several issues were
raised and discussed with regard to this change. I offer the following summaries
to start our discussion. Please feel free to raise additional issues.
- Reduction of the Western Civilization requirement from two courses to one.
No one, not even the 2001 minority report in favor of retaining a Western
civilization requirement, has claimed that there is an intellectual rationale
for requiring more courses in Western culture than in other cultures.
The minority report recommends a one-course requirement. The subsequent statements
of support for a Western civilization requirement, inasmuch as they address
the issue, also advocate a one-course requirement.
- Core subject area vs. special requirement.
Once this is made into a one-course requirement, there is no reason to have
a separate subarea to house it. In fact, as the minority report notes and
recommends, it is advantageous to convert it into a special subject requirement
so that courses in other areas can be proposed to fulfill it as well.
Even if the requirement were not reduced from 2 to 1, since it is by nature
a specific content requirement that can be fulfilled by courses in multiple
disciplines, it would be more appropriately be made a special subject requirement.
- The 2-courses in one sequence requirement.
A "depth" requirement, an intensive and sustained treatment of one theme,
is widely considered a valuable feature of general education programs. The
E-1 series courses are the only attempts by UCSB's GE program to try to realize
this goal. The reviews of our GE program were not averse to a depth requirement
per se, just to its limitation to "Western Civilization."
Does this mean that we should keep a sequence requirement within area E, open
to other series courses (also in other core areas) as well? Those of us who
have been working in GE feel that this is inadvisable because it is neither
maintainable over time, nor currently being achieved. In UCSB's complex curricular
environment, only a small fraction of students stand to experience the depth
effect of area E-1. Already in 1994 the two sequential courses requirement
(AB or BC, but not AC) had to be abandoned because it created enrollment and
scheduling bottlenecks in the B courses. Students with majors that require
substantial coursework at the introductory or pre-major level must put especially
this requirement (as well as most GE requirements) off until their upper division
years, when they often prefer to take more advanced courses with smaller enrollments,
and have more specific ideas about the course content with which they wish
to engage. Finally, CUAPP has noted that some departments have trouble staffing
the frequency of offerings that this requirement requires. Students who have
a bad experience in one series may wish to change to a different department's
sequence after the first quarter, but are not allowed to. In any case there
are wide disparities between the approaches used by teachers teaching different
segments of each survey. For all of these reasons, the "depth effect" is rarely
realized in practice.
I would like to note that CUAPP is considering ways to highlight certain courses
among our long and unwieldy GE listings as especially recommended or especially
appropriate for non-majors. Many students have expressed a need for such information
(the proverbial poets wondering which science courses are right for them,
or the engineers wondering which literature course will be most accessible
to them). As we continue our review of current GE courses, we will solicit
recommendations from departments and suggest standards for courses to be highlighted
on the GE list. However, we do not favor making any of these special GE courses
mandatory, only to indicate that they are recommended and designed for non-majors.
- Enrollment implications.
Some departments offering courses in area E-1 use the high enrollments that
the two-course restriction generates as a source of TAships that provide teaching
experience and funding for their graduate programs. While from an undergraduate
educational perspective this is the worst reason to have a requirement in
General Education, we would like to address these implications as well.
First, three courses will still be required in area E, so that while some
students will opt to take other listed courses, all current enrollments will
remain in the courses currently listed in that area. Since all current E-1
courses additionally fulfill both the new European traditions and the writing
requirement, they will remain highly popular for GE purposes.
Second, student FTE and TAship allocations are not as closely linked as has
been suggested. Our understanding is that within each division there is a
"customary" number of TAships, which deans distribute among departments and
augment with supplementary funds. High student demand for courses with TAs
is certainly a reason for departments to obtain such TAships in the first
place, and to request such supplementary funds. However, departments can still
channel GE enrollments towards certain of their courses by limiting the number
of courses they list. Also, there is a natural enrollment ceiling in the courses
offered at any time in the entire area, so that substantial enrollments will
remain in these survey courses.
We suspect that departments and faculty will find significant advantages in
the flexibility that this change will afford.
- Renaming of area E and the correlated special requirements.
If faculty would like more information about the discussions of the terms
"Civilization" and "Western"/"non-Western," we refer them to the GE workgroup
homepage, where all of the individual, departmental, and committee contributions
can be conveniently referenced from one hyperlinked document. (www.history.ucsb.edu/projects/ge).
document by H. Marcuse, 5/15/04; page created by H. Marcuse, May 17, 2004
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