Departmental response to the Oct. 30, 2003 UCSB General Education Discussion Document (link)
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November 24, 2003

To: Harold Marcuse, Chair, General Education Workgroup
From: Francis Dunn, Chair, Classics Department
About: proposed GE revisions
Copies: David Marshall, Dean; Davies King, Dramatic Art

At a faculty meeting on Friday, November 22, the Classics faculty discussed the proposed revisions to the General Education program outlined in Harold Marcuse’s memo of October 30. We understand that the Workgroup’s proposals are to some extent still a work in progress, but we have serious reservations about several proposals, and would like to see these addressed as soon as possible.

General (Core) Requirements

  1. Reductions and time to degree. A major premise of the Workgroup’s proposals, and of the Task Force’s proposals before this, is that the number of GE requirements is an obstacle to timely completion of the degree. The supposed need to reduce these requirements is frequently stressed in order to induce departments and divisions to share in the potential reduction of enrollments. Yet there is little reason to suppose that these proposals will decrease the time to degree. The core requirements will be reduced by two; yet two new courses will be added to the special requirements AND there will be a substantial reduction in the size of Writing requirement classes. By carefully choosing their courses, some students would probably see a net reduction in required courses, but just as many would see no reduction, and with a cap on Writing course enrollments, many students would actually see an INCREASE in time to degree.
  2. Distribution of reductions. There seems to be a consensus that some kind of reduction and/or streamlining of requirements is necessary. Such changes will only be possible if all parties are persuaded that reductions have been apportioned fairly. The present memo does not inspire confidence: it removes from consideration reductions in Area C without explanation, simply noting that the workgroup accepted arguments from MLPS. All areas and divisions should be treated equally, and any unequal reductions should be clearly and thoroughly justified.
  3. Rationale for reorganization. An emphasis on methodology is cited as a chief motive for these proposals, but is unevenly applied. Literature and the visual Arts have entirely different methodologies, but now will be combined into a single area. Civilization and Thought, which used to include the distinct methodologies of History, Philosophy, and the study of Religion, will now be replaced by Historical Studies. The memo asks as an afterthought "which area would be most appropriate" for Religion and Philosophy courses (p. 4), but never asks "why shouldn’t Area E be renamed Philosophical Studies, or Religious Studies?" -- let alone failing to address basic procedural questions. If the goal is truly to introduce students to various methodologies, then we need many more areas, including Performing Arts as well as Visual Arts, Natural Sciences as well as Life Sciences, and so on. A very sensible GE program COULD list all these methodologies and devise some way for students to study a selection of them. The current proposal does nothing of the sort. It keeps broad areas, not methodologies, in all categories except Area E.
  4. Interdisciplinary studies. The Workgroup proposes adding a new Core Requirement in inter/multi-disciplinary studies, on the grounds that "one purpose of a GE program is to ensure that all students at an institution are exposed to the unique features offered by that institution" (p. 4). No member of the department could think of a precedent for this notion. If this were indeed a purpose of GE, then surely we should require all students to take one course in the College of Creative Studies and another in the school of Engineering, since both are unique features of UCSB. The campus rightly takes pride in its interdisciplinary courses and programs, and rightly advertises them to prospective students. Yet to require that ALL students take such courses, and that departments devise courses to meet this demand, is most likely to water down and compromise this strength of our campus.
  5. Special Requirements

  6. Writing requirement. We strongly support the recommended limit on class or section size; smaller class size is essential in evaluating substantial writing assignments. The Workgroup has not addressed the problem of implementation: a reduction in class size will require additional expenditures on faculty and graduate assistant FTE. If funds are not made available for class size reductions, the result will be a severe bottleneck in the remaining writing courses and this bottleneck, in turn, could significantly increase the average time to degree.
  7. QGE Ethnicity requirement. The rationale for this new requirement is unclear, its implementation is sure to be filled with political landmines, and it expands the list of GE requirements when we have been asked to reduce them. Perhaps the simplest and most practical approach would be to define the requirement more broadly: any course that 1) deals in a sustained and rigorous manner with social or cultural "difference," and 2) is not listed under the "US Ethnicity" rubric. To avoid expanding the list of GE requirements, the Workgroup could replace the old Non-Western Culture requirement with a Cultural Difference requirement.
  8. Western and non-Western Culture requirements. The Workgroup’s proposal to replace Civilization and Thought in Area E with History presumably led it to salvage something of the old E1 "Western Civilization" Core requirement by adding a new "Western Civilization" Special requirement. This comes at substantial risk. The Western and non-Western categories may reignite the debates that scuttled the last round of proposed GE revisions; and this expands the list of GE requirements when we have been asked to reduce them. The simplest and most practical answer is to keep the old Core Area E largely intact, and dispense with BOTH the old Non-Western AND the new Western Special requirements. If the number of Special requirements remains the same, and the reduction in Writing class size is adequately funded, then the campus can devote attention to fair and balanced reductions in the Core requirements.

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