GE Workgroup Meeting with HFA Chairs and Dean
November 3, 2003
unsent e-mail draft by H. Marcuse
posted on the GE website April 26, 2004

On Nov. 3, 2003 the GE 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, and sent it to the other workgroup attendees for comment. Because of pressing personal deadlines and lack of time, I never sent it to anyone else. I present the text here to document my view of what transpired. (See also this summary of the work group consultations with HFA: link.)

From: Harold Marcuse <>
To: Jim Proctor <>,
cc: Harold Marcuse <>
Subject: 11/3 meeting with HFA chairs
Date-Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Jim, Brandon,
What do you think of this draft I'd like to send to Dave [King, HFA convenor] to send to the HFA chairs?
Dave [King], I'd like to do a brief follow-up to yesterday's meeting, summarizing what I thought some of the main points of discussion were. Perhaps you can distribute this, to see whether I've missed anything important.

I came away from the meeting with the impression that the following are some preliminary areas of major concern among the HFA faculty. I'll take the opportunity to give a pithy summary of my response.

  1. What is the rationale behind combining the Arts and Literature areas and reducing that requirement from 4 to 3 courses?
    HM: To streamline the system, to "make room" for additional requirements (esp. a new core area), to bring our requirements more into line with alternate routes to fulfilling our GE (esp. the IGETC transfer program, also our own BS degree), to stay in line with comparison schools.
    I note that at the other UCs these areas are combined and, with the exception of some UCSD colleges, have 3 or fewer required courses:
    UCB: FG=1.5, UCD: FG=3, UCI: EFG=3, UCLA: FG=3, UCSC: EFG=3. (If anyone would like to check, the GE workgroup's website has links to each program.)
  2. What are the reasons for and implications of the new methodological definitions of the core areas?
    HM: Basically, the Task Force attempted to create a clearer system by basing the core categories on the type of sources and methods used in each. This will enable the GE management to categorize courses more rationally, and removes the catch-all definition of area E. It will entail some recategorizing of courses, and we are concerned to hear from departments who see no home their GE-oriented courses in this system.
  3. Why do we propose a new requirement in inter- and multidisciplinary studies, and why is it a core and not a special subject requirement?
    HM: We would like to highlight this unique feature of UCSB by explicitly integrating it into our undergraduate curriculum. A large and increasing number of courses are being proposed for GE which cannot be situated in any one core area. (I gave the example of Asian-American 4.)
    On the core vs. special area, this is a very complex issue that we discussed at length and initially agreed should be a special subject requirement (see our minutes from 4/18/03 and 4/25/03 on the website). However, when examining the mechanics of implementation, a core area made much more sense. We would be happy to revisit and explain our position on this issue.
    The question was perhaps also more general: How open are we to modifications of the proposal? The answer: very much, BUT major modifications must have cogent reasoning behind them, also considering the ripple or cascading effects on other elements of the program. GE is a complex, interlocking, multidimensional system, and it is hard to change just one aspect without incurring negative effects elsewhere. We must consider the entire campus, not just our divisional/faculty perspective.
  4. Other issues were also raised, but needed more time to make the various positions clear.

Finally, in retrospect, if I were to have one thing I would like to have conveyed at the meeting, it would be:
The people working on GE reform are among the most dedicated to GE on this campus. We have devoted countless hours over many years to learn about, analyze, understand and carefully construct a GE program that will be a service to the full range of our diverse student body and highlight the best this campus has to offer. We are willing to push the boundaries of institutional constraint, but we realize that we cannot break them.
I wish that people would approach our proposal NOT as an attempt to lower standards or implement short-lived fads to the detriment of established disciplines. Having worked inside GE for years, we know what an embarrassing mess it has become, and we know the direction it need to go. We need help from the campus in recognizing and overcoming pitfalls along the way, and in making sure we come up with a final result that is optimal for all concerned. Please meet us with goodwill and work with us.


document created by H. Marcuse, 11/4/03, posted on GE website 4/26/04
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