The GE Workgroup and the HFA Division,
March 2003-March 2004
compilation by H. Marcuse
Some departments and chairs in the HFA division appear hostile to the work of the GE work group, as evidenced by their responses to the Oct. 30, 2003 GE discussion document (links to the full texts of the 8 official HFA responses can be found in the 1/25/04 "announcement" on the GE homepage:link). In attempting to understand the causes of this hostility, I (H. Marcuse, work group chair) created this document to summarize our interactions.
On Jan. 24, 2003, the work group convened for the first time. On March 3, 2003, after five meetings among ourselves, seven (of 10) members of the GE workgroup met with twelve chairs and the dean of HFA at their regular meeting for about an hour. Based on notes by Jim Proctor, I (Marcuse) wrote a 4-page summary of that meeting, which was distributed to the HFA chairs by e-mail on March 4, and posted on the GE website on March 14 (no additional feedback from attendees had been received) (Marcuse's notes about 3/3/03 HFA meeting). At the end of that meeting we had agreed that a follow-up meeting during spring quarter was necessary. Some HFA chairs met on March 18 to discuss GE issues. Davies e-mailed me right after that 3/18 meeting with a summary of the discussion and a request to meet during spring quarter (correspondance between HFA and Marcuse, March-Oct. 2003: "Anatomy of a Delay").
That second meeting with HFA was delayed ultimately until Fall--Nov. 3, 2003 to be exact. Why? During Spring, it took far longer than anticipated to produce a document summarizing the work group's deliberations to date, which could serve as a basis for further campuswide meetings. In an attempt to keep things moving, I drafted an "interim report" on April 25 (link), which the work group discussed at length, especially in a marathon session on May 9 (minutes with straw voting results). As requested in the discussion and based on the straw vote, I drew up a short summary report (May 19 summary report). However, for the remainder of the quarter the work group's efforts were focused on the presentation of "formal GE course criteria" to the Faculty Legislature on May 29, and on the discussion of a GE petition process. (These were not made available on the internet until Oct. 27, although I personally thought they could and should have been from the start.)
In the fall further campuswide discussion was again delayed. The main reason then was differing opinions within the work group about how much to consult with entities across campus before releasing a proposal for GE reform. I felt from the beginning that we should consult early and often, certainly multiple times, before we could release any specific proposal. In early October I drafted another document (which ultimately became the Oct. 30 discussion document) that summarized the open questions I felt needed to be resolved before we could craft a specific proposal.
The work-group-internal discussion of what we would release how and to whom (see Oct. e-mails) was preempted because in early October the HFA chairs obtained from a work group member and discussed my outdated April 25 draft report (it had been superceded by the May 19 report, as well as by a draft of the Oct. 30 discussion document itself). While still readying the discussion document for release, on Oct. 14 the work group invited HFA to send an additional liason/consultant/representative to the work group (members Marcuse and McLeod are also from HFA). They accepted this invitation right away, and Davies King or Elizabeth Cook attended most of the rest of the work group's regular meetings (but not those with the other divisional chairs).
On Nov. 3 the work group (3 members only) attended the HFA chairs' meeting, which was devoted to discussion of GE. That evening I drafted an e-mail summarizing my view of what happened at that meeting (11/4/03 e-mail summary). The hostility of some HFA chairs to some of the proposed changes, and depth of misunderstanding between the work group and some chairs was already apparent at that time. We will never know whether the unsent e-mail might have helped to alleviate the situation.
The problems in attaining sufficient attendance at work group meetings that had plagued us since Spring 2003 were particularly acute in Winter 2004. I was also busy meeting the catalog deadline for the implementation of the formal course criteria we had decided upon in the previous May. Thus we had only two regular meetings (Jan. 30, and Feb. 6, 2004), and conducted our rump deliberations via e-mail. On Feb. 18, 2004 I distributed a draft "final report" to the Undergraduate Council and work group (e-mail cover memo; Feb. 18, 2004 report). Since the on-line version contains some minor later modifications, for documentation purposes I include the exact document I sent that evening (please ignore the informal "appendix" in it): link to .doc file. There are two passages in that document mentioning the HFA division, as follows:
"Economic security and change. (link to original)
Second, we find that the willingness to contemplate change in the existing program is directly proportional to the economic security of the departments. The departments that responded formally are all in the HFA division, and many of them stated explicitly that they felt the implementation suggestions would "marginalize" the humanities and arts with potentially severe resource implications. Our HFA consultants underscored that as the UC budget situation continues to deteriorate, those departments would rather keep the status quo than risk any changes in enrollment patterns."
"Appendix: : Considerations regarding a distribution-model GE program at UCSB
[paragraph about comparison schools omitted; see original]
Additionally, on a campus with a research-oriented faculty such as UCSB, a distribution model program is more suitable. While there is a limited set of introductory courses that remain relatively constant over time, the bulk of the courses we offer are upper-division courses that are abandoned and created as our research interests evolve. There are of course notable exceptions across the divisions, with HFA tending to abandon and create the most courses, and MLPS offering the most stability over time, with the Social Sciences taking an intermediate position.
Thus we have the inherently contradictory situation that HFA, the division that is most suited to a distribution-type system, is also the one that is most fearful of possible negative resource implications from its implementation. This contradiction is most apparent in the current Area E-1, in which several departments have invested heavily in offering a tightly controlled set of introductory courses, and thereby reap the benefits (in terms of student FTE) of the most purely core-model portion of our current system."
On March 16, 2004 Davies wrote the following to me:
Harold, Where is the final report of the GE task force at this point? I think some of the language in it incorrectly gives the impression that resource "fears" are the sole source of opposition from HFA to the discussion document's proposal. To characterize the HFA response entirely in terms of emotion (i.e. fear) really misrepresents the questions which those departments (pretty much alone) took the time to spell out, and those questions were NOT all about resource implications. I think you give an unclear and unfavorable picture of HFA concerns. Could I suggest some different language at this point? Thanks, Dave
I responded on March 17:
Sure, I'm always open to suggestions, and the "final report" isn't published anywhere yet--you are referring to the paragraph inserted below?
In any case: On 2/18 I updated the 2/6 version of the report that the gegroup discussed, and presented it to the UgC on 2/19. I just went through and fixed some minor things I noticed at that meeting, and the result is attached. I am waiting to meet with Denise about my suggestion about how the UgC might proceed together with the FEC before finalizing it. More importantly I haven't yet had time to finish the detailed summary of the departmental responses promised at the top of p. 3--that is where discussion of issues such as redefinition/renaming of areas, number of courses, Western Civ, INT, QGE will take place. In my opinion, the HFA responses about them are, individually and collectively, so self-contradictory and reveal insufficient understanding both of the proposal and of the workings of GE (eg. core vs. special req.) that I thought they best be left for a separate document. (This is not to criticize HFA: even among the workgroup, and in my own mind, there is still confusion on some of these issues!)
In any case, the one paragraph that specifically mentions HFA is on p. 3:
"Economic security and change.
Second, we find that the willingness to contemplate change in the existing program is directly proportional to the economic security of the departments. The departments that responded formally are all in the HFA division, and several of them stated explicitly that they felt the implementation suggestions would "marginalize" the humanities and arts with potentially severe resource implications. Our HFA consultants underscored that as the UC budget situation continues to deteriorate, those departments would rather keep the status quo than risk any changes in enrollment patterns."
That paragraph also sets me up for a possible meeting with the deans & provost: if they want a better GE to be approved at UCSB, they will have to make some resource commitments regardless of any enrollment shifts.
Perhaps it would be most expedient if you are I were to meet--after I've drafted the detailed discussion of departmental responses, but before I take it to the gegroup as a whole? What issues do you want to be sure are mentioned?
I'm cc'ing this to gegroup, since it summarizes the current state of affairs. I hope I'll soon be able to send the group a document about the redefinitions of areas c-g--it's waiting for UgC consultation. [The draft of this document is Marcuse's 2/19/04 memo with recommendations for immediate action. It is on the UgC's 4/29/04 agenda.]
On March 18, Davies responded as follows, with an amended draft attached:
Dear Harold, Elizabeth Cook and I have met to discuss the final report you drafted, and we would like to propose some changes to the language you use, sections that specifically address HFA concerns. I'm attaching a revised version of your document. I'm sending this only to you, but if you'd prefer I could send this out the whole workgroup. We've also noted your dismissal of HFA responses to QGE, INT, and so on as "self-contradictory" and incoherent. Again, I think you should note that the ONLY written responses you got to these aspects were from HFA (in other words, that HFA departments were alone in trying to figure out what, if any, intellectual justification could be found in these proposals, which is quite different from implying that HFA (alone) was unable to make sense of them). I don't think the department responses are self-contradictory. They might contradict each other, which is quite different. It has been clear all along that HFA does not have a unified response to these proposals, nor was it asked to come to some consensus.
Also I think you are right to suggest that some of the "confusion" in the departmental responses can be traced to the confusion inherent in the proposals.
Let me know what you think about these proposals. I'd be happy to get together with you and discuss them further. Perhaps next Tuesday afternoon, if you're around.
All best, Dave
Marcuse's 2/18/04 text:
"Second, we find that the willingness to contemplate change in the existing program is directly proportional to the economic security of the departments. The departments that responded formally are all in the HFA division, and many of them stated explicitly that they felt the implementation suggestions would "marginalize" the humanities and arts with potentially severe resource implications. Our HFA consultants underscored that as the UC budget situation continues to deteriorate, those departments would rather keep the status quo than risk any changes in enrollment patterns.
Changes requested by King & Cook, 3/18/04:
"Second, we find that resource issues and pedagogical concerns are interwoven in a way that led to resistance to the proposed changes. The departments that responded formally (all in the HFA division) felt the current GE system would better serve the purpose of general education (that is, a broad and meaningful education) than the curtailed and more narrowly defined system that was being proposed. Some HFA departments (and some areas within HFA departments) supported a push toward a more list-based GE system, while others supported a distribution-based GE system. Arguments were made on the basis of both curricular principles and resource concerns. Thus, the division as a whole did not come to agreement on which way to go. No departments from other divisions took the time or energy to respond specifically to the discussion document. Our HFA consultants made the point that, at a time when resource limitations are becoming acute" [the proposed text broke off here, presumably it would conclude with the last phrase from Marcuse's text]
Marcuse's appendix (italics added to indicate text left by K&C [not bolded at right]):
a distribution-model GE program at UCSB
Text by King & Cook (bold in original):
In the last
section of the discussion document [see section
three], mention was made of an alternative distribution-based
system, but no system was outlined in detail. The responses to this suggestion
showed that some felt a distribution model program is more suitable on
a campus with a research-oriented faculty such as UCSB. While
there is a limited set of introductory courses that remain relatively
constant over time, the bulk of the courses we offer are upper-division
topics-based courses that shift according to
the faculty coming into and leaving departments and changing research.
There are of course notable exceptions across the divisions, with HFA
tending to abandon and create the most courses, and MLPS offering the
most stability over time, with the Social Sciences taking an intermediate
As far as your text additions go, I'd like to hold off until the analysis document is done. Your main point in the first addition is that pedagogical issues as well as resource concerns drive the HFA responses? Absolutely, and I can add that. But whether ge must be broad on content (as opposed to broad on approaches), and just what constitutes "meaningful education" are so contested that I'd rather steer clear of that. And while you may think that the proposal is "curtailed and more narrowly defined" I'd probably say it is "streamlined and methodologically more coherent" or some such. So I'd like to steer clear of that as well.
I'm trying hard not to be too defensive, but I can't see that even those HFA depts. that responded in writing really "took the time or energy to respond specifically to the discussion document" AS A WHOLE. They looked primarily at their parochial concerns in a limited way, just like MLPS. There is little indication that the HFA responses truly considered the large and increasing number of transfer students (and the implications of a two-track GE system: IGETC vs. L&S), or students opting for the BS degree, or even the pedagogical implications of increased student autonomy in choosing their courses.
Also, I think what you're adding to the appendix is already in the section beginning "Third" on p. 3--or am I missing something? On the final suggestion that the work group work out a distribution proposal: The UgC has already accepted the report to the extent that the Task Force proposal as a whole is not viable, and trying to do more with it (exploring a distribution system) would exceed the work group's charge.
Anyway, I think it would be best to wait to meet until I have that analysis
ready, which won't be by next Tue, since I've got loads of grading to do. I'll
be in touch as soon as I have that done.
On March 21 I received the following response from Dave:
Harold, Well, basically what I gather from your response is that you are
unwilling to make any changes in your final report. That is unfortunate, and I
think wrong, because your final report, which is meant to represent the
opinions of the workgroup, more or less gives the impression that HFA
departments thwarted the proposed changes by registering incoherent responses
which were merely masquerades for efforts to safeguard their own territory.
I can understand that you might be frustrated that your own division saw enough
problems in the discussion document that they raised objections. The basic fact
is, they raised objections because the document did not serve the process well--
at least, it did not if you supposed that you were going to rally support for a
coherent program which was soon to be proposed. My view is that the workgroup
did not agree among themselves over what that discussion document was meant to
do. I believe you thought it was one step away from a proposal for the Academic
Senate, while others thought it was just meant to raise issues and get some
sense of outside opinion. It was far too incomplete and too dependent on people
doing a lot of outside reading on the issues for it to function as a quasi-
proposal. I think it did work to generate some discussion of the issues, but it
did not produce anything like a consensus in the workgroup about what might
come next as a workable proposal, partly because the only detailed responses
came from HFA. The fact that HFA as a division has internal division about
what, if anything, should be done with GE, is a problem, but it should not be
taken (or represented) as the cause of the failure of this process. And I don't
think you should "take it out on" the division, which is what the current
Should we consider writing a minority report instead? I REALLY think that would
send the wrong signal, but it might be necessary if the final report does not
more accurately represent what we saw happening. By we, I mean E. Cook, David
Marshall, HFA chairs, and me.
I hope we can work together on this. Thanks, Dave
On Monday, March 22, 2004 I responded (and haven't heard back as of 5/8/04):
Dave, you don't need to threaten me with minority reports. Where did I write
that I won't make "any" changes to the report draft?? Just tell me
what your point is so that I can understand it. I thought I captured the essence
in the paragraph below: that the HFA responses are motivated by pedagogical
concerns as well as resource issues.
If that is not it, please tell me.
>> Your main point in the first addition is that pedagogical
>> issues as well as resource concerns drive the HFA responses? Absolutely,
>> and I can add that. But whether ge must be broad on content (as opposed
>> to broad on approaches), and just what constitutes "meaningful
>> education" are so contested that I'd rather steer clear of that. And
>> while you may think that the proposal is "curtailed and more narrowly
>> defined" I'd probably say it is "streamlined and methodologically more
>> coherent" or some such.
Also tell me if you really expect me to write in the official report that the
gegroup would characterize its work with the task force as merely "curtailed
and more narrowly defined". That may be your opinion, but I doubt it represents
the majority view among the ge workgroup.
I would indeed like to talk with you and Elizabeth and figure out what your underlying concern is, but as I said, I'd like to do a thorough analysis of the HFA responses first, and I have a lot of grading to do and several letters of recommendation to get out, so it won't be for some days.
To be quite honest, I think it would be truly wonderful if you, Elizabeth,
David Marshall and the HFA chairs got together to write a report, minority or
whatever. The HFA responses are all on the GE website. To portray HFA as the
only division that took the discussion document seriously is ridiculous. MLPS
followed our discussion carefully and found most (not all) things quite understandable
and reasonable. The Social Sciences were in a difficult leadership position
and did not even receive the document until well into December. There are several
explanations for the lack of responses from them, first and foremost that they
didn't hear about the document until after the deadline for responses. Then,
after the feedback from HFA I decided that it would have been better to draw
up a new document incorporating HFA views before asking SocSci for feedback
again. So I decided not to bring that first round of discussion to a full conclusion
(against Al Wyner's recommendation, for instance).
Second, however, may be that the social sciences did not find anything particularly objectionable in the document.
And that possibility (likelihood?) leads me to the most distressing aspect of your communications: you presume that only HFA cares. My impression is that the other divisions think HFA is off in right field. It is a shame that you did not attend either of the other divisional meetings. If HFA can produce something to convince the other divisions why such a preponderance of HFA courses should be required in GE, I would be delighted. I was disappointed that my suggestion that the gegroup meet with the three divisional deans to start an interdivisional conversation met with such disdain among the rump work group in January. That is still going to need to happen, I think.
To say it just one more time: *I* did not say the HFA responses were incoherent, nor did I mean to imply in any way that they are "masquerades." Please tell me what language in my draft report says or intimates that. If you can find a place in the HFA responses where perspectives of other divisions were considered, please point them out to me. I will need to know that for that summary. Why do you assume *I* saw the discussion document as "one step away from a proposal for the Academic Senate"?? It is chock full of questions that need to be clarified BEFORE we could circulate a *proposal* for campuswide *discussion*, which might then yield something for the Senate to consider.
Au contraire: I think HFA thought it was "one step away" and went ballistic. I think that behind the misunderstandings we/I heard the underlying concerns and are going to proceed accordingly. My god, are there misunderstandings! Just to take your department's response: NOWHERE did we mean to suggest that GE shift to emphasize either methodological courses, or lower division. Again, on the contrary: we find the Task Force's methodological definitions of the core areas more appropriate and useful in trying to classify the courses that come before us, BUT there will be NO shift in the courses themselves. And we envisage more UD, NOT LD, as you thought. In fact, from the get-go I personally have been one of the strongest advocates of UD in GE! (I have a lot to say about that, but will stop here.)
Anyway, I'd be interested in hearing your response. I feel you have not understood a word I have written, starting with the discussion document.
Regards (and still smiling),
document created by H. Marcuse, 4/26/04, posted 5/8/04
back to top, GE workgroup homepage,