The Western Civilization
Requirement at UCSB:
Pro and Con Arguments, 1985-2004
The original justification for this requirement, which was created at that time, can be found in the 1985 GE Committee chairman's report [at that time area E was lettered area C] (link to full 1985 report). Warren Hollister wrote:
I note that no justification was provided explaining WHY double the number of courses was required to promote awareness of that topic, which is claimed to be a feature of most courses students take anyway, in contrast with awareness of other all other cultures, which can be obtained with a single course.
Western Civ. per se does NOT appear as an issue in the Nov. 1993 GE reform report (link). However, at that time the requirement that the two courses in area E-1 be adjacent to each other (A-B or B-C of an ABC series, but not A+C) was dropped. Scheduling and enrollment bottlenecks had been developing in the "B" sequences.
The Western Civ requirement was discussed by the UCSB GE Task Force at its meetings on: 3/3/00, 12/1/00, 1/19/01, and 5/9/01. (The links go directly to the relevant discussion, often only a paragraph.)
After the UCSB GE Task Force drafted its first report in April 2001, two members objected to the removal of the Western Civilization requirement (area E-1) so strongly that they felt compelled to draft a minority report (5/14/01 report). The majority of the Task Force drafted a response (6/11/01 response), which was endorsed by the Senate GE committee (6/6/01 assessment, see last paragraph).
Support for the minority report was voiced at an Oct. 16, 2001 Senate open forum on GE reform by members of the Philosophy and French & Italian departments. They argued that if we are to retain a "non-Western culture" requirement, then we should also have a symmetrical "Western" requirement.
When the Task Force again solicited feedback, several departments submitted
responses. A member of the Religious Studies Department
drafted a long memo in support of the minority report for a 1-course requirement
(Feb. 2002 RS letter).
Members of the department have indicated to me that the "unanimity"
professed in this memo was for balance between "West" and world,
not for Western Civ, which makes sense when one considers that the RS
Western Civ course is not even required for RS majors, and that the department
prides itself on its global scope.
These departmental responses were discussed by the Task Force at its 2/15/02 meeting. Although I have no staff notes for that meeting, I did find a handwritten note that I (Marcuse) wrote during that meeting, which reads as follows:
I may have intended to give this to the Task Force chair to insert in section 4[.2] of the (second) task force report (link).
In Dec. 2002 the Task Force proposal was withdrawn from the legislative process because many faculty felt that certain compromises needed to be reworked. To that end the campuswide GE Work Group (which I now chair), with faculty, students, administrators, and a representative of the L&S faculty executive committee was created. This group affirmed that the parity solution was appropriate in several discussions. At the very first work group meeting in January 2003 we attempted to define what "Western" might mean:
The issue was discussed again on 2/21/03, when I proposed my "market model" solution to this area: as many professors as supported an exclusively Western focus could offer courses in it, professors opposed to the exclusivity would offer their courses, and student would have a choice limited by the relative availability of enrollment slots in exclusively Western and "other" courses (2/21/03 notes; market model described in detail in the 4/25/03 interim report, see 4th paragraph beginning with "These preferences..."). This model was also a principle of the 1993-94 GE reform, see Nov. 1993 report, principle no. 2.
On 2/28/03 the Work Group had another substantive discussion of this requirement:
The notes about 3/3/03 Work Group meeting with the HFA chairs contain the following text (3/3/03 meeting notes):
On April 18, 2003 the minutes say (4/18/03 minutes, go to bottom):
From the May 2, 03 workgroup meeting (minutes, at bottom): "There was brief discussion of one history professorís suggestion that the terms Eurocentric and non-Eurocentric be used as alternatives to the current Western and non-Western labels."
On May 9, 2003 the work group held a marathon session in which we voted on each issue. Items 6-11 deal with the Western/non-Western issue (5/9/03 minutes). This is difficult to sum up, since we had been discussing various models in which ALL courses in area E were categorized as Western, non-Western, and other/comparative. Members who did not understand the utter impossibility of trying to implement such a categorization into core subareas resulted in confusion on question 8. However, on question 11, whether there should be parity, we were completely unanimous. Points 3e and f of the May 19, 2003 interim work group report reflect this unanimity (link). The point was not discussed again by the work group, but was explicitly included in the Oct. 30, 2003 discussion document, items no. 6 and 7 (link--in the on-line version hyperlinks to passages in original documents are included):
At the 11/3/03 meeting with HFA chairs to discuss the recently distributed discussion document, no questions whatsoever were raised about this issue (e-mail summary of meeting). However, several of the departments that later responded formally and informally to that document did address this issue. The most detailed discussion was conducted in the history department (I have compiled these as a separate document: Nov. 2003 History department discussion of Western Civ). Classics proposed dispensing with both WCiv and NWC entirely, i.e. advocated the original GE Task Force proposal (link). Drama, English, and Linguistics made no mention of it. Film Studies objected to the division of the world into Western and its absence, but preferred "World Cultures" if that compromise was necessary (link). French was concerned whether their new E-1 series would still be included if E were renamed "historical studies," but made no mention of this issue (link). Music had no objection to our proposal, but prefered the name "World Cultures" (link). Philosophy only questioned the name change of Area E overall, but did not voice any objection to the proposal (link).
On Feb. 19, 2004, at the behest of the Undergraduate Council after my report that day about the GE Work Group's findings, I drafted a memo outlining a "first step in General Education reform" (link). It was centered on updating the core area definitions, and restructuring area E. I proposed a course of consultation, but the usual bureaucratic delays prevented their initiation until April. Then, at the request of the L&S Faculty Executive Committee, the original proposal to update all core areas (link) was withdrawn for further consultation, but this issue, discussed over and over and having achieved as much consensus as will ever be possible, was retained.
Thus in May 2004 the Undergraduate Council submitted legislation to change GE area E-1 from a "general subject area" to a "special subject" requirement. Proposed Area E legislation; legislation discussion paper. It will be considered in the 5/27/04 legislature session.
See also the University of Illinois' guidelines describing their 1-course Western Civ requirement, which is paired with a "non-Western or US minority culture" course (link, scroll down to section 7.2 [2/2021: web archive version]). For a summary chart of our comparison schools' GE requirements, and links to their pages about them, see this table on the UCSB GE work group homepage. NO other UC campus has such a requirement, except for Eleanor Roosevelt college at UCSD, where it is paired with one "non-Western." UCSC has a one-course "Ethnic minorities/non-Western society" requirement, but NO parallel Western requirement. We stand alone as ethnocentric dinosaurs.
[Addendum Feb. 2021: the external links in that table of comparison schools are almost surely broken. Many may be retrieved from the web archive's Way Back Machine: http://web.archive.org/]
Additions to this document are welcome! e-mail me: email@example.com
added 5/13/04: I found the following summary of the major positions in this Western Civ debate in the introductory text on a history department colleague's 1993 syllabus for a Western Civilization series course:
|Nov. 30, 2004
Our delay in implementing our Western-Civ-optional reform makes it much more difficult for transfer students to fulfill their prerequisite courses. See this Oct. 21, 2004 e-mail and report from the Intersegmental Major Preparation Articulated Curriculum (IMPAC) project.