GE Area E Legislation to be proposed on 5/27/04
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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. (

document by H. Marcuse, 5/15/04; page created by H. Marcuse, May 17, 2004
back to top,GE workgroup homepage