The Jan. 17, 2005 Area E reform L&S survey:
Rebuttal to Con Arguments

by Harold Marcuse, Jan. 11, 2005

The L&S Faculty Executive distributed an "advisory" ballot on the proposed changes to Area E-1, in order to conclude the consulation process with the College faculty. The ballots are due in on January 17, 2005. I am publishing below my personal take on the "con" arguments that were distributed with that ballot. This was an e-mail I sent to my colleagues in the History Department and represents no one's views except my own. It will make the most sense for those who've read the con statement itself.

From: Harold Marcuse <>
Subject: [histfac] Harold on GE ballot
Date-Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 12:29 PM

Dear history dept. colleagues,
As you know, I'm not a disinterested party on this issue. Since I'm leaving for Germany before our Wed. meeting, I want to urge you to vote on this issue, and to vote YES for the change to area E. You've heard me plenty on this issue, but I'd like to address briefly the con arguments in Richard Hecht's statement with the ballot anyway, in case they cause any doubts.

His first point is patently untrue: this changes NOTHING in the requirements for the BFA, BM and BS degrees (only the latter is numerically significant anyway). Those do not now and will not in the future require ANY WCiv courses. The sciences faculty are adamant that their BS students should not have this limitation, and their reasons are not uncompelling.
I note, however, that many BS students are now enrolled in those E-1 WCiv courses, even though those particular ones are NOT required. This is easy to see in the enrollment sheets which list majors and degrees. In fact, BS students are in many of (the best of...) these courses in a percentage disproportionately greater than their share of the total undergrad population! So: they are taking E-1 now of their own free will and this change does not affect them.

Second, I would grant that our current GE program is a "menu" and not a coherent whole. UCSB neither has nor is willing to put up the resources to create a serious GE program. This would also require a substantial number of faculty to commit over the long term to teaching GE surveys, infringing in a major way on our cherished freedom to choose what we teach. Without strong incentives for many faculty, it will stay this way. We also have a student body that is very diverse, with large numbers of certain highly structured majors and transfer students who could not possibly be integrated into a "serious" GE program.
I note that in several of the E-1 WCiv sequences, departments (Religious Studies and History too, although they are not the worst) already use a small but persistent number of lecturers and temporary hires to cover these courses. And there is little to no coordination between the two quarters of a given sequence that any given student takes. (How many of the 4Bers have coordinated with the 4Cers, for example?)

In fact, the main reason I feel so strongly that this change should take place is that students (BA only!) who have a bad experience in the first quarter of an E-1 sequence should NOT be locked into taking another quarter from the same dysfunctional department, as is currently the case. I have seen ESCI scores over time for each sequence, and boy do they vary. Two departments' are sub-basement across all ABC. Ours are above par. I want students to be able to learn from their mistake if they take one of those, and I want departments to have to work harder to ensure quality in those courses. (We have several faculty reports beyond ESCI of grave problems in some depts.)

Third, well, if you think the only or best way everyone can understand the world better is by studying the part they know best even more, I won't argue with you.

Fourth, this is true, non-survey courses CAN be added to the list of those fulfilling the new WCiv/European Traditions requirement. Those many faculty who have worked on GE have learned that broad survey courses are NOT the best learning experience we can offer ALL students. (Of course it may be good for SOME.) Having served for 6 years on the committee that approves courses for various requirements I say with confidence that we do our best to ensure that quality courses are approved for GE. We must trust the faculty members who propose those courses to a great extent. Mandating that students stay in a dysfunctional large survey is no way to offer them a good education.

Fifth, I have met with EVC Lucas and deans and department chairs from all divisions. TA allocations are NOT linked to course enrollments, but are allocated according to what I would call "custom." Deans have a SMALL amount of funds that they can distribute once enrollments are in to add a few TAs to courses with unexpectedly high enrollment demand, and departments can use such demand to ask for more TAships for that course the next time around. But even a cursory glance at other divisions, and even large GE courses in our division that do not get TAs shows that the enrollment-TA link is weak at best.

Sixth: Richard says my careful analysis of enrollment shifts, which Randy and Omer refer to briefly in the pro statement (and which Richard heard last May in the legislature meeting) wasn't "compelling" enough for him. I went over this with Pat and LAIS chair Sarah Cline last spring, and I think they were convinced that such shifts are essentially impossible over the short term, and even over the long term CAN only result in enrollments going from "bad" current E-1 courses to "good" ones. (In fact, I hope they do, that is the whole point.) I can't speak for Pat and Sarah, but my impression was that they realized this change might give them desirable flexibility to allocate the TAships we get more effectively.

In sum: Note that the TOTAL NUMBER OF COURSES IN E required of all students remains EXACTLY the same. Nobody gets out of anything in Area E!! They only get the freedom to get out of a big survey they hated and choose mainly from other big surveys. If they like their first survey, there is a high incentive for them to continue on in that dept's sequence, as they have already invested substantial intellectual resources learning the ropes of that department/material.

SO PLEASE: do it for our students' benefit. Advise the L&S executive committee that this is indeed a change that brings a large advantage to our BA students and flexibility to departments, without affecting TA allocations. It will improve, not detract from affected students' educational experience.

Thanks for listening,

document created and posted by H. Marcuse, 1/11/05
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