e-mail in response to the June 2001 UCSB GE Task Force report (link), from the Department of History of Art, Feb. 14, 2002, distributed to TF membership on Feb. 15, 2002.
The Department of the History of Art and Architecture met twice on the GE Task Force's Report. The Department's Executive Committee met in Fall to discuss the Report and the Department as a whole met last week to discuss it.
In both meetings faculty expressed their support for the proposed changes to the GE requirements. They felt that the streamlining of the requirements was long overdue and they concurred with the Task Force's perception that the current system does not work in so far as the GE selection of courses does not really constitute General Education. They felt that the present system suffers from the fact that it is an irritating micro-management of individual courses without real curricular planning, coordination, and oversight of GE as a whole. Rather than encourage General Education they see the present system as working against interdisciplinary courses and courses that could really function as general comparative introductions to different modes of thinking and analysis. They were supportive therefore of the loosening of categories for GE courses. Faculty also welcomed the fact that writing would be more thoroughly integrated into the GE offerings through the proposed TA training.
Concerns raised in both meetings had to do with the dropping of the Western Civ requirement and the conception of the Ethnicity requirement. There was some sympathy for the Task Force's Minority Report's perception that GE needs courses that historicize, criticize and analyze in depth Western traditions and institutions. Faculty felt that the Task Force's recommendation runs the risk of naturalizing Western Civ while pulling out Ethnicity for critical analysis and discussion. They felt that the comparative element was missing and that for this reason if one is taught the other must be taught--or both should be dropped. Faculty teaching African art and Islamic art objected to the wording of the Ethnicity requirement finding it too narrow and not global enough in its perspective. They questioned the category of "ethnicity" seeing it is the fabrication of political and legal institutions and the US Census Bureau and not a category that has intellectual or experiential validity. They felt strongly that the requirement reifies ethnicity thus closing off constructions of identity that should be opened up in the academy for debate and analysis. They felt that the academy is the place where these constructions need to be challenged (since they are not elsewhere) and that the requirement as written does not encourage this.
The faculty also would like to see GE courses taken by freshman and sophomores, and not as is too often the case now--by juniors and graduating seniors. They believe that GE courses should function as true introductions to the university and to its ways of thinking. They felt this could be managed through RBT and that the Task Force should consider making this a part of their recommendation.
Linked to this was the support for making GE a lower division experience. They felt that the majority of courses fulfilling the Core Area requirements should be in lower division thus reserving upper division courses for upper-division writing.
There was some confusion about whether students may or may not fill GE requirements with courses that count towards their major. Since a number of students decide to major in art history after taking GE courses in art history, we would not want them to have to retake those courses in some other area because they have decided to major in art history.
There was also support for the idea that the teaching of writing and research skills in an electronic environment needs to be factored into the GE writing requirements.
The Report was approved unanimously at last week's meeting by the Department as a whole.