Academic Senate
Santa Barbara Division

General Education Workgroup
Minutes of the Meeting of February 21, 2003
[version distributed to membership on 3/31/03 for comment;
Dan's comments added]

Members Present:
J. Heinen (GSA Rep.),
D. Kohl (Undergraduate Council; Chair, Student Affairs Committee),
C. Lawson (AS President),
H. Marcuse (Co-Chair, GE Workgroup; Undergraduate Council; Chair, Committee on Undergraduate Academic Programs and Policy),
C. Michel (Co-Chair, GE Workgroup; Vice Chair, Undergraduate Council)

Others Present:
D. Blake (Analyst, Undergraduate Council),
M. Dahleh (Assistant Dean of Student Services, College of Engineering),
D. Segura (Chair, Undergraduate Council)

topics below (jump to): MLPS meeting discussion, course criteria, depth vs. breadth, principle of choice, bio-bib, database of syllabi, new meeting re: US-ethnicity, interdisciplinary req, advantages of core vs. special req.

The meeting began with a discussion of what Workgroup members learned from last Friday's meeting with the MLPS dean, chairs and advisors . It was noted that many faculty are unfamiliar with the details of the UCSB GE program and how it works. While reviewing the GE booklet, attendees raised questions about the suitability of some of the classes listed. Upon discussing availability of sufficient GE offerings, the lack of capacity and appropriate courses for non-majors identified in the Taskforce report seemed to no longer apply. Departments have recovered from VERIP, and are now devoting more courses to non-majors. The Departments of Geology and Geography reported that they have additional spaces in their courses designed for non-majors. These two departments, which are not often chosen as majors by entering students, see GE as a way to attract students into their major. It is important for us to realize that large and popular departments with high student demand may tend to accord less importance to GE than lesser known departments that use it as a tool to attract students. This is probably true across the divisions.

There was apparent unanimity that the number of MLPS courses in GE should not be reduced to two, but remain at 3.

There was near unanimity that there should be no mandatory distribution within the MLPS area. That is, students should be allowed to take all three area C courses in the same department, if they so choose. However, one MLPS representative, who is also a GE Workgroup member, asserted that the GE Program should be structured so as to promote distribution.

With regard to maintaining a different set oif GE requirements for BS and BA students, the representatives present did not think that the current practice of requiring fewer GE courses for BS students presented a problem. One attendee suggested "meeting in the middle" between the 9 (BS) and 13 (BA) core courses required in areas C-G, but this did not seem to spark much enthusiasm. The work group must still decide whether it wants to embrace this objective of the Task Force proposal. This can be further clarified at the other divisional meetings.

The MLPS delegates agreed that writing should be emphasized in the GE curriculum, and they seemed very open to the idea that "discipline appropriate" writing in (lower and upper division) MLPS courses could and should qualify to satisfy the "writing intensive" special requirement. However, they rejected the idea that writing (of any kind) should be mandatory in all courses on the GE list, especially not in the big survey courses. As a way of weeding out courses that are inappropriate for GE, some thought that having EITHER discipline-appropriate writing, OR quantitative relationships as a normal requirement of most GE courses might be appropriate, but (at least) one work group member disagreed. It was suggested that departments be strongly encouraged to incorporate writing and the use of quantitative skills into any courses they wish to propose for GE eligibility.

The Workgroup then discussed at some length what makes an appropriate GE course. It looked at the prologue of the GE booklet, and question 4 on the application form for GE courses, which reads, "Please indicate in which specific and explicit ways this course addresses the General Education Requirement of demonstrating/clarifying some of the basic concepts, theories, methodological issues, and analytical tools that inform your area of study/discipline." Senate staff member Debra Blake offered to contact her counterparts at other UCs to find out what forms, criteria, and procedures they use.

Dan Montello had the following comment on this paragraph in an Apr. 1, 03 email:
As we now know, the most detailed existing criteria for what counts as a GE course is to be found on the form to apply for a GE course (it should be in the GE manual). At the bottom of the first page of the 2/21 minutes, a quote from that form is given: "..demonstrating/clarifying some of the basic concepts, theories, methodological issues, and analytical tools that inform your area of study/discipline." This is unsatisfying to me, as it is hopelessly broad. Is there a course on this campus about which that statement could not be validly made? It is reminiscent of Denise's response to my question at the last meeting in March, when I asked her something like "are any of your courses inappropriate in topical scope for GE?," to which she replied "no." The survey vs. focused in-depth contrast continues this theme. Am I the only person around who is quite baffled by General education criteria that define almost any course as appropriate? Focused and in-depth is for majors and minors. Just to be clear, I am suggesting that the word "general" has an implication of breadth, not depth, but I believe this is appropriate for GE even if it gets called something else.

In spite of its continued efforts to establish criteria that fits all types of courses across disciplines, the Workgroup has not yet completed this task, and this continually leads us to roadblocks in making decisions with regard to other important topics. It was suggested that we look at syllabi for a variety of particularly appropriate GE courses that to get a sense of some general principles on which to build.

Some faculty think that only broad survey courses covering the entire sweep of a discipline are appropriate for GE, while others think that focused, in-depth courses are also or perhaps more appropriate. The MLPS participants' strong, near-unanimous sentiment for allowing students the choice of taking this more focused route indicates that "survey" would not be an appropriate criterion.

GE Workgroup Co-Chair Harold Marcuse believes that this principle of student choice and faculty preference (what faculty choose to offer as GE courses) could be applied across the entire GE spectrum. This is an argument for broadening the scope of courses in area E-1 beyond the exclusive "Western" (European) focus. The number and mix of courses in a given area would represent the number and conviction of the faculty offering them, whether broad or narrow coverage, or any given specific content focus was more appropriate. For instance, in an area such as E-1, the number of exclusively Europe-based "Western" courses would be roughly proportional to the number of faculty willing to offer them, and students willing to take them. The fact that certain some faculty and students think that Europe-based "Western" is the most important focus for GE courses would not be sufficient reason to mandate that this area of study be designated as a specific GE requirement for ALL students, while not requiring other equally important and well supported areas of study.

In the context of discussing criteria for GE courses, the work group had an enlightening discussion about how courses get onto the GE list. In general [with the notable exception of courses added because a single student initiates the process] courses are added by departments, and sometimes but not generally by individual faculty. The departments benefit by increasing their FTE, and because this aspect is included in Academic Program Reviews. Most individual faculty however, know little about GE. It is not unreasonable that many faculty would prefer or expect to have students already familiar with the methods of their discipline, and not invest lots of time teaching writing to students writing. The suggestion that "GE courses/student FTE taught" could be added as a separate new category to the bio-bib form met with many nods of assent. This would provide at least an avenue for recognizing a faculty member's investment in teaching and contribution to GE, and perhaps an incentive for faculty to participate in GE. At the very least, it would raise awareness of GE. In the future, a joint meeting with CAP should be held to discuss this.

The Workgroup also discussed the necessity of policing the GE list after courses have been approved. Mr. Marcuse’s suggestion that a web space (e.g. be maintained with a database of electronic versions of syllabi of all GE courses, which are required to be updated at each course offering, met with general assent. This would also benefit students by giving them more information before choosing specific GE courses. The specific policies regarding such a site would need to be worked out.

Finally, Undergraduate Council (UgC) Chair Denise Segura and UgC Vice Chair Claudine Michel reported on recent meetings to discuss the ethnicity requirement with faculty from the Departments of Chicana and Chicano, Asian American and Black Studies. There was 100% unanimity among the faculty members attending those meetings that the requirement should be left exactly as it is, without broadening. It was thought that the non-Western requirement should remain as well, but be renamed to reflect a broader concern with global/comparative frameworks for ethnicity. (Of course, the departments offering such "non-Western" courses would have to be consulted, and might see this differently.)

In light of the changes in the world and our understanding of it in recent years, however, there was interest in creating a new core area that would not be defined methodologically, but would cut across areas D-G. Its courses would have some type of broadly comparative aspect, in areas such as international studies, global studies, ethnicity, social justice, or intersectionalities. Although some UCs have a similar area, ours would be unique in its breadth, and might reflect in our core teaching UCSB's claim to be the most interdisciplinary of the UC campuses. This new area would draw one or two courses from the existing 10 now in the Social Science and HFA area. It might also be formulated to include the "connections" type course that Undergraduate Council member Jim Proctor advocates, linking HFA and MLPS, as opposed to "neighboring" divisions.

There was also a brief discussion of the implications of making a requirement a core area, as opposed to a special (add-on) requirement. A core area fosters the creation of new courses and draws students to departments and programs offering courses (and willing to develop courses) in that area, while a special requirement fosters the modification of content in existing courses. Core requirements force students into an area, while add-ons attract students to specific courses because they can fulfill multiple requirements with that course.

This raised the question of how many students over-fulfill a requirement such as ethnicity. It is not possible to find out which courses students use to fulfill the ethnicity requirement, because many students take multiple courses that fulfill it. It would be interesting to know, in order to assess the impact of that requirement, and the potential impact of adding a second, potentially broader requirement, how many students graduate with only one, or only two, or more courses meeting the ethnicity requirement. We need to ask the registrar's office whether such data can be obtained. [data later obtained as excel spreadsheet]

There was a brief discussion of the proposed meetings with the Social Science and Humanities and Fine Arts chairs and staff. It was agreed that both should be organized on the model of the MLPS meeting, which was judged very successful. The issues outlined by Mr. Marcuse on his suggested agenda, also the question of a new core area, will need to be discussed. It was decided that next week's work group meeting will focus on the ethnicity requirement and interdisciplinarity as either a new core area or an emphasis, and the next meeting after that that is not a divisional meeting will focus on writing. If a divisional meeting is scheduled for March 7, Senate staff member Bridget will help organize a special meeting with the respective chairs/dean, since both Ms. Segura and Ms. Michel will be out of town that day.

Attest: Harold Marcuse

prepared for web by H. Marcuse, May 4, 2003
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