Implementation Issues and Recommendations for UCSB's General Education Program
summary of deliberations to date
based on a May 19, 2003 work group handout and other documents
by H. Marcuse, 10/29/03

Note: Some of these issues will not be part of the GE reform legislation. They have been or are being referred to CUAPP, the Senate committee responsible for GE, since they are simple policy guidelines that do not require legislation (ruling of the Senate Committee on Rules, Jurisdictions and Elections, May/June 2003).

  1. Course Criteria. In order to ensure the coherence and quality of our GE program, and its transparency for students, the list of GE courses should not be allowed to proliferate unduly. To this end we have formulated some formal criteria that the evaluating committee (CUAPP) can apply in addition to the usual content and method criteria when evaluating the suitability of a given course for the GE curriculum. We have examined detailed listings of the courses potentially affected by each of these changes, and we are confident that the current list can be substantially reduced without causing disruptively large shifts in enrollment patterns.
    (Note: recommendations a-d were presented to the Faculty Legislature and then approved by CUAPP in May 2003. They are being implemented beginning in November 2003. Feedback from affected departments is being solicited to mitigate unintended negative effects and possible modify policy. Departments will receive spreadsheets with color-coded markings for courses affected by each criterion.)

    1. Since General Education is intended for students who are not majors (or not yet majors), all GE courses must be open to non-majors on the first registration pass.
      Implementation details: If courses with this restriction currently on the GE list are determined to have substantial enrollments of non-majors (preliminarily, at least 20%, or more than 20 students, whichever is less), departments will be asked whether they would like to remove the registration restriction in order to keep the course on the GE list.
    2. Since General Education is intended for students without specialized knowledge in a field, GE courses may not have course prerequisites, except one other GE-approved course (intended for sequence courses). The restrictions "not open to freshman," and "upper division standing" are not course prerequisites.
      Implementation details: As in 1a), if a department can show that such courses are used by substantial number of students to fulfill GE requirements, exceptions can be granted.
    3. In order to ensure that students have a reasonable chance of taking courses published on the GE list during their time at UCSB, GE courses should be taught at regular intervals, ideally once each year.
      Implementation details: The intention to teach a course at least every other year must be declared upon application for GE approval. All courses on the list will be evaluated approximately every four years. GE courses not taught at least 3 times during a rolling 5-year period will be flagged for examination. Departments will be asked to report on the status of such courses. If a course is not scheduled to be taught the following year, it will be hibernated or removed from the GE-approved list.
    4. A recent syllabus for all GE courses will be made publicly available.
      Implementation details: Syllabi will usually either be posted on a departmental or special GE website. The initial syllabus will be the one submitted for a course with the application for GE approval. The syllabus will be updated at least at the fourth year review. We request that staff time be funded to accomplish this task. An electronic submission process for GE courses, like the one being implemented for course approvals, would expedite this process.
    5. All courses on the GE list will be reviewed every 4 years, on a rolling basis. Staff support will be needed to collect from the registrar and departments a "profile" of each of its GE courses during the past 4 years, including a recent syllabus or syllabi (for courses taught by multiple instructors), enrollment and TA data, and a list of instructors, with employment status and rank (GE courses should usually be taught by regular faculty).
    6. A final recommendation is a tool that the person or committee overseeing GE can use to increase the GE orientation of the courses on the GE list. The GE administration should maintain a profile of the GE offerings for each department, and ensure that at least some of every department's GE offerings also fulfill the writing or quantitative reasoning requirements. This consideration stems from the GE task force's recommendation that, whenever possible and appropriate, core courses should include discipline-appropriate writing. In recognition of the difficulties this requirement would pose in implementation generally, and for certain departments without experience in requiring writing, and in consideration of the fact that writing may not be didactically appropriate to all GE courses, the GE task force's recommendation has been modified to become a management tool.
  2. Advanced placement. While examining the quality of courses that satisfy GE requirements, we discussed the use of high school advanced placement (AP) courses to fulfill GE requirements (see chart in UCSB General Catalog). Given the age of the student populations of those courses (which can be taken as early as the sophomore year in high school), and the probable dearth of research experience of the high school AP instructors, we affirm the Task Force's recommendation that practice of granting GE credit for AP courses should be curtailed (5/6/02 report, p. 5). We recommend the following changes to policy:
    1. First, only those AP courses that are equivalent to a specific UCSB course that is approved for a GE area may satisfy GE. (This policy would not apply to GE core areas A and B.) In practice, this would only affect four courses in area D (American History, Comparative Government and Politics, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics), and one course each in areas C and E-2 (European History)(see the AP-GE chart in UCSB Gen'l Catalog).
      Moving in the opposite direction, certain other courses not currently acceptable for GE might count towards the writing special requirement. An example of this would be the International Baccalaureate certificate, which includes a year-long research paper project. This would have the benefit of supporting the inclusion of writing-intensive courses in high schools.
    2. Second, a minimum score of 4 (not the present 3) would be necessary for a course to satisfy a GE requirement. In order to avoid increasing confusion and complexity, raising the minimum test score would have to apply to the specific course equivalency as well. Thus for example, students scoring 3 on the American Government and Politics AP exam would still have to complete the UCSB equivalent PolSci 12 for the PolSci premajor. Students scoring 3 on an AP exam would still earn unit credit towards graduation. We note that differential credit is already granted in English and foreign languages.
    3. We note further that UC Berkeley and UCLA now exclude all AP courses from fulfilling their GE requirements. Based on feedback from UCSB departments that have had positive experiences with AP students, we felt that such a blanket policy would be inappropriate. It might create enrollment bottlenecks, and it would limit the flexibility of talented students to progress rapidly through our degree requirements. The divisional deans should be consulted for comments on feedback about the ramifications of this policy.

Other Implementation Issues
As of October 2003 the GE work group has yet to discuss in detail the task force's recommendations regarding implementation. There are two main issues:

  1. Petition process. The GE committee's past practice of allowing exceptions for individual students only if the course in question was suitable to be placed on the GE list was one of the main causes of proliferation of courses on the list. In light of the criteria laid out in 1, above, a petition process with appropriate standards to ensure the quality and manageability of the GE program will be necessary. Detailed pro and con arguments are laid out in a separate discussion document from June 2003 (link).
  2. The position of a faculty director of GE who would coordinate and monitor GE offerings. This was one of the central recommendations of the June 12, 2001 task force report (link), which was underscored in the Senate GE committee's June 6, 2001 evaluation of a preliminary version of that report (link):

"We wish to emphasize particularly, however, that none of the recommendations of the Taskforce should be adopted by the Senate unless the recommended administrative office at Dean’s level with adequate staff support is made available by the UCSB administration. In this committee’s view, an effective general education program needs the planning, funding, coordination, and quality control that only a line officer can provide who is specifically charged with this task and with the authority to carry it out. If this condition is not met, the present GE requirement, as imperfect as it is, should remain in force." (emphasis in original)

On April 18, 2002 the Senate GE committee proposed the following more detailed implementation guidelines, some of which were incorporated into the GE task force's May 6, 2002 second report (link), and again published in the committee's Sept. 18, 2002 response to that report (link):

      1. Ensuring that the courses on the GE list continue to meet the criteria under which they were approved.
      2. Working with departments on the development of new GE courses.
      3. Briefing departmental faculty and staff GE liaisons.
      4. Compiling data on capacity shortfalls or surpluses in various GE categories.

document based on April, May and Oct. 2003 drafts by Harold Marcuse, Oct. 29, 2003
back to top, GE workgroup homepage