January 21, 1994



RE: General Education Proposal

The members of the Executive Committee of the College of Letters and Science recommend the changes in the General Education program that appear in the legislation being voted on by the Legislature of the Academic Senate. We have some concerns about the administration of the program that will be mentioned below.

We support the educational aims of the changes as defined by the Senate special committee chaired by Professor Harding. We especially support giving students and their faculty advisers increased opportunity to shape general education requirements in ways that meet students' intellectual needs and aspirations. It appears to us that the special committee has effectively taken a middle course that offers increased choice to students but continues to give the General Education Committee the responsibility for selecting appropriate courses for general education purposes.

We also support the introduction of the minor as a possibility. The introduction of a minor will allow an additional coherence to be introduced into students' elective choices. We note that one of the purposes of the proposed revisions is for students to trade off, within limitations, breadth for depth. A minor program will allow students to have guidance and recognition for a sustained program of courses that has fewer of the logistical problems associated with a double major. Neither students nor departments should be required to participate in the minors program; it is intended to be an optional program for those students who want an additional concentration and for those departments for which it makes disciplinary sense and which have the necessary resources.

The Executive Committee believes that if the revised general education program is to achieve its goal of providing increased choices and possibilities of coherence for students, more courses must be solicited for the general education list and some courses currently on the list may have to be offered more frequently. Our survey of departments indicated a number of departments willing, even eager, to propose new courses, while others have indicated difficulties with present enrollments. Considering the predicted effects of the VERIP [Very Early Retirement Incentive Program], we believe that more courses must be added. We believe there is merit to the suggestion that the current practice of rejecting a course for general education if it has a prerequisite be relaxed. Under the revised proposal, students will presumably sometimes be taking sequences in the same department, and we believe that an increased number of exceptions to the prerequisite rule may be defensible. We do not believe that the quality of general education courses will necessarily suffer if more courses are added to the fist. We also do not believe that a university that places students into courses only because seats are available and without regard to their interests and goals and then commends itself because students' progress toward the degree is adequate has necessarily provided an excellent general education program. We believe the university should be organized so that good students can actively and optimally further their intellectual development.

We believe that at least in the early years of this new program the General Education Committee must be actively involved in monitoring its success and recommending adjustments as needed. We are not suggesting a relaxation of appropriate standards but when necessary, the active solicitation of courses. Any new program, even one with so few radical changes as this one, is likely to need adjustments. We suggest that the Committee actively monitor the program in consultation with the Deans in Letters and Science and appropriate Senate Committees.

One aspect of the proposed program that may need early attention is the increase of writing intensive courses for the B.S. degree from four to six courses. If as is expected the number of courses listed is dramatically increased because all courses actually meeting the writing and grading requirement (including courses in the major) are included, students may be able to meet the requirement without taking additional courses; however without such increases B.S. students will be required to take additional courses to meet this requirement. We do not support a de facto increase in the number of general education requirements and suggest that this requirement be carefully monitored and formally reviewed at the end of two years.

Another aspect of the proposed program that may need careful monitoring is the elimination of the subdivision requiring one course in literature written in English and another in the literature of another language. Several foreign language departments are concerned that most students will take only literature in English and thus receive a too insular education; the English department is concerned because it is probably unable to offer any additional seats beyond what it presently offers and may be offering fewer after the VERIP. The Executive Committee supports the intent of the special committee to allow students to take several related courses instead of requiring dispersion. Presumably many students will want to take two courses in a foreign literature. However if the foreign language departments are right and many students avoid their courses, a serious bottleneck may be created in the departments that offer literature written in English.

document scanned & OCR by H. Marcuse, 11/15/03
note: although I've read through this, OCR errors may be present.
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