Boxed responses added by Work Group chair Harold Marcuse on 4/24/04. At worst, they represent only his perception of the Work Group's positions, although after a year of discussions he hopes (I hope) that I am not misrepresenting our deliberations and opinions. As always, comments are welcome.

Departmental response to the Oct. 30, 2003 UCSB General Education Discussion Document (link)
The original version of this document without the responses by the Work Group chair (link)
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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.

  1. The
    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.)

    We agree 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.
    reduction of the number of courses in core area "World Civilization and Thought" from 3 to 2, and the redesignation of this area as "Historical Studies".
  2. 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.

    We presume 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 presumptuous. Obviously, course content will determine this, and you will certainly have input on where they are included!
    We 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 graduate program.


  3. The

    The intellectual 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 clear.
    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.")

    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.
  4. 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.

  5. The creation
    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.
    of a new core area "Interdisciplinary Studies", with a one- course requirement.
  6. 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.


  7. The creation of a
    Indeed, 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" (link).
    The proposers of this requirement would be very interested in hearing why you think it is not justified.
    special "Queer, Gender and Ethnic Studies Special Requirement".
  8. 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.
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 is necessary.
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.

prepared for web by H. Marcuse, 4/24/04, comments updated 5/4/04
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