November 25, 2003
TO : Harold Marcuse, Chair, General Education Workgroup
FR : Cynthia Skenazi, Chair, Department of French and Italian
RE : Proposed revision of General Education program
The plan for revision emerges from an important recognition that the
sheer number of courses and the lack of consistency among them (in terms
of how they meet GE requirements and the frequency with which they are
taught) make for a questionable program. The Department of French and
Italian examined carefully the proposed changes and came to the conclusion
that they will affect the Humanities in general, and our Department in
particular in a negative way. The suggested reorganization disregards
the crucial function of departments of literature, and the intellectual
agenda of the campus. It will also affect in a negative manner the interaction
of existing academic units, and will not in any way spread a genuine General
Education focus across the university as a whole. A consideration of the
most important changes sustains this analysis.
reduction of the number of courses in core area "World Civilization
and Thought" from 3 to 2, and the redesignation of this area as
|No one ever
had any intention of limiting this core area to one department.
The Task Force reports list 5 departments and state that the list
is not complete (link). We think
that ALL current area E courses would qualify under the new name.
The question we pose about the Phil 20 and RelSt 80 series would
also apply to the new CompLit sequence: might it be more appropriate
for another core area, such as "literary and textual studies,"
or the suggested new interdisciplinary area? Whether or not a
new "area I" is created, those surveys and yours would
probably remain appropriate for "historical studies."
Finally, please note that the current wording of Area E's "objective"
already focuses on history: "To provide a perspective on
civilization through the study of human history and thought."
(Even if "thought" is not necessarily history, the word
"civilization" implies a historical approach.)
that the current sequence requirement in area E-1 is intended
to give students a sense of the continuity of human experience
(its limitation to "Western" societies precludes true
cultural breadth). However, in practice, given the difficulty
of ensuring continuity across courses in any sequence taught by
many different faculty members, it is unlikely that this objective
is currently achieved.
In the jargon of GE such a sequence requirement is known as a
"depth requirement." We agree that this is a desireable
goal, and we welcome suggestions on how to realize it given UCSB's
tradition of substantial faculty teaching autonomy and limited
resources for curriculum standardization.
The course reductions alone will not enhance exposure to these
areas. Closing loopholes and eliminating overlap should work in
this direction, however. We respectfully point out that colleagues
in other divisions (which receive proportionately less emphasis
in GE) feel that they contribute at least equally to the rising
status of our institution.
With the loss involved in the narrowing of a core area to a single
discipline that is also a department on campus, there would be no space
for classes that address cultural and intellectual developments and
trends that cut across history and other disciplines. Moreover, the
reduction of the number of courses in the category from 3 to 2 would
seem to put an end to the requirement that students take a two-course
sequence. The sequence requirement assures that students gain some sense
of cultural-historical breadth and continuity; its elimination would
only contribute to further intellectual compartmentalization. One does
not understand the rationale of this proposed change. How will the course
reduction in the Humanities and Social Sciences enhance students’ exposure
to these area? It is worth pointing out that UCSB liberal arts program
has had a major impact on the rising visibility of our institution.
The GE proposal, with its support of the increasing specialization and
compartmentalization of knowledge represents a real blow to the value
of a genuine liberal arts program.
that faculty teaching courses in this area do not (indeed cannot)
limit themselves to "simple 'historicization'", but also
address such questions. However, we do not think it would be appropriate
for faculty to mandate this to their colleagues, and we think it
would be unenforceable if we tried to.
Furthermore, does the new title "Historical Studies" mean
that as long as we study a topic in a historical fashion, we have learned
about its value and teaching as part of a civilization or a culture?
We would like to point out that a university should not just disseminate
and transmit a simple "historicization" of a topic, but raise
questions about namely values, methods, and achievements of human endeavor.
|As noted above,
we thought that your courses might be more appropriate in "literary
and textual studies." Please accept my apologies for being
course content will determine this, and you will certainly have
input on where they are included!
recognize the rolethe GE program plays in many graduate programs.
However, the primary purpose of GE is to enhance undergraduate education.
We do not feel that it is appropriate to consider issues of graduate
education unless they maintain or improve the quality of our GE
program. Large courses with TAs will remain a feature of UCSB with
or without GE requirements. We are sure that your carefully designed
sequence will attract a broad audience, and we would like to work
with you to ensure that it is highlighted in our GE program.
The new sequence of courses we created on "Tales of Love"
will no longer be included in the new area "Historical Studies".
This sequence exposes our graduate students to a new aspect of teaching :
large GE classes, discussion sections, improvement of writing skills,
study of literature through the history of Western Civilization. Although
this sequence is not yet a major source of student enrollment for us,
it would nullify our patient efforts at bringing literature in a three-quarter
sequence that would give students a rich understanding of the humanistic
endeavor as a whole. This would seriously impact our undergraduate and
merging of two core areas –"Arts" and "Literature"–,
each of which currently requires 2 courses, into "Arts and Literature",
which would, under the new plan, require a total of 3 courses.
justification we offer for the merger is that, compared to the
breadth of approaches encompassed within other core areas, the
methodologies of art and literary/textual studies are similar
enough. We note that they would remain as two distinct subareas.
Additionally, literature and fine arts currently have a disproportionate
emphasis in our GE curriculum. However, even after the reductions,
a relative emphasis will remain. The addition of the proposed
new special subject requirements (WCiv, QGE, also INT core area)
provide other avenues that favor HFA courses. We went to great
lengths to provide comparison data. Please see the table summarizing
and linking to our comparison institutions on the GE homepage
(link). As best I
can tell, NO other UC separates these two areas, and among our
comparison schools, only Virginia does. In fact they were combined
at UCSB until 1993, as the 1985 (link)
and 1993 (link) reports make
Ultimately, the there are two factors motivating our proposal
to reduce the number of courses. On the one hand, it would be
undesirable to increase the overall number of GE requirements
beyond what they are now, while lowering the number slightly
would encourage the participation of students who currently
find other ways to satisfy GE. On the other hand, we wish to
"make room" for additional requirements that we feel
will contribute more to enhancing undergraduate education than
maintaining the current levels of exposure to various approaches.
De facto, this has already occurred, in that areas F and G are
not limited to either historical approaches or to the study
of "master works" of art and literature, as the current
wording states. ("Objective: To develop an appreciation
of literature through historical study, analysis of master works,
and aesthetically creative activity.")
The lumping together of Literature and Fine Arts into one area is a
matter of administrative structure, not of intellectual validity. The
workgroup has not offered any intellectual rationalization of the role
of these two areas in the general education of students. They seem to
think that the reduction of courses will keep us parallel with Social
Sciences, which is also reducing its requirements by one course. We
strongly disagree with this proposed change. The reduction of courses
is questionable because it is based upon a questionable premise, namely
that the fact that the number of UCSB’s requirements is higher (how
much higher has not been disclosed) than those of comparable institutions.
This appears to us as a strength of our liberal arts program. With the
merging of literature with the arts, the French and Italian literature
courses that formerly met the GE requirements for literature would now
be in competition with the other "arts" for student enrollment.
This would seriously decrease the number of students enrolling in the
literature and comparatist courses our faculty is able to offer. The
valuable and enriching exposure to literary texts would be lost as well.
- The creation
of a new core area "Interdisciplinary Studies", with a one-
|Why is it
inconsistant? It seeks to recognize this development! If CUAPP,
the committee that evaluates the suitability of courses for GE
areas, were to be rigid in its application of the current definitions,
many such courses could not be listed in their current areas,
because they use so many approaches that they do not provide sufficient
depth in any individual one.
As to your final sentence in this section, please be reasonable.
Every categorization creates a "delimited domain." Every
department on this campus (with the exception of a few programs
that answer to the provost) and essentially every listed course
in GE is indeed "confined" to that extent. Creating
this GE category does not "misrepresent," it validates
the interdisciplinary work being done on this campus.
The proposed change is inconsistent with the fact that many departments
have already been shifting in that direction. Many of the courses taught
in our department are already very interdisciplinary. Furthermore, interdisciplinarity
is neither a core area or a convenient label for the many courses that
do not fit into any of the existing core area, as the GE workgroup document
inconvincingly puts it. Interdisciplinarity is, rather, a description
of intellectual projects that occur between disciplines and that involve
careful mediations. To create a substantive area of interdisciplinarity
creates a delimited domain out of an approach to learning that cannot
be confined in this way. It misrepresents the extent of the interdisciplinary
work being done across and within the disciplines on campus.
- The creation of a
special "Queer, Gender and Ethnic Studies Special Requirement".
this is complex, but no less ideological than requiring two courses
focusing on "Western civilization." Even if total consensus
cannot be reached (it probably does not exist for any aspect of
the current or proposed GE curricula!), there is clearly strong
support for the current ethnicity and proposed QGE requirements.
The rationale is stated in the discussion document (link),
and in a more detailed document entitled "intersectionalities"
The proposers of this requirement would be very interested in
hearing why you think it is not justified.
The proposed change involves many complicated ideological issues. Consensus
will probably never be found on them. Furthermore, what is the rationale
of this proposed change since there is already an Ethnicity requirement?
Our conclusion is that the new GE proposal disregards the vital function
of our Division and of departments of literature.
It will affect the intellectual agenda of the campus, and consequently,
the allocation of resources. We strongly believe that departments of literature
will suffer the most under a new structure that does not respect their
mandate while promoting a compartmentalization of the university curriculum.
These outcomes raise serious intellectual and political concerns, and
should be addressed thoroughly before any substantial changes are finalized.
|We do not see
how the implementation suggestions "disregard" the HFA division
or the literature departments. There is no direct correlation between
student enrollments (which may be affected by GE requirements), and
faculty FTE and TA allocations. We agree that more thorough study