Notes on Work Group meeting on 2/21/03

by H. Marcuse, modified after comments by D. Segura, 2/23/03

We began with a discussion of what each of us learned from last Friday's meeting with the MLPS dean, chairs and advisors. The most obvious point was that most faculty are unfamiliar with the UCSB GE program and how it works. When the attendees viewed the GE booklet, for instance, they raised questions about the suitability of some of the classes. When we discussed the availability of sufficient GE offerings, the lack of capacity and appropriate courses for non-majors indentified in the Taskforce report seemed no longer to apply. Departments have recovered from VERIP, and are now devoting more courses to non-majors. Geology and Geography reported that they have additional spaces in their courses designed for non-majors. These two departments, which are not often chosen as majors by entering students, see GE as a way to attract students into their major. It is important for us to realize that large and popular departments with high student demand may tend to accord less importance to GE than lesser known departments that use it as a tool to attract students. This is probably true across the divisions.

There seemed to be unanimity that the number of MLPS courses in GE should not be reduced to two, but remain at 3.
There was near unanimity (against the explict argument of a work group member) that there should be no mandatory distribution WITHIN the MLPS area. That is, students should definitely be allowed to take all three area C courses in the same department, if they so choose.

Different GE for BS and BA: The members present did not think having fewer GE courses required of BS students presented a problem. One attendee suggested "meeting in the middle" between the 9 (BS) and 13 (BA) core courses required in areas C-G, but this did not seem to spark much enthusiasm. The work group must still decide whether it wants to embrace this objective of the Taskforce proposal. This can be further clarified at the other divisional meetings.

Writing should be encouraged but not mandatory in every GE class. The MLPS delegates present agreed that writing should be emphasized in the GE curriculum, and they seemed very open to the idea that "discipline appropriate" writing in (lower and upper) division MLPS courses could and should qualify to satisfy the "writing intensive" special requirement. However, they rejected the idea that writing (of any kind) should be mandatory in all courses on the GE list, especially not in the big survey courses. As a way of weeding out courses inappropriate for GE, some thought that having EITHER discipline-appropriate writing, OR quantitative relationships as a normal requirement of most GE courses might be appropriate, but (at least) one work group member disagreed.We then discussed at some length what makes an appropriate GE course. We looked at the prologue of the GE booklet, and question 4 on the application form for GE courses, which reads "Please indicate in which specific and explicit ways this course addresses the General Education Requirement of demonstrating/clarifying some of the basic concepts, theories, methodological issues, and analytical tools that inform your area of study/discipline." Debra offered to contact her counterparts at other UCs to find out what forms, criteria and procedures they use.

The categories of the APCC report [link to extract from 64p. pdf, added 11/16/03, see pp. 17-30], interdisciplinarity, intellectual and cultural diversity, information technology, internationalization, were suggested. Some faculty think that only broad survey courses covering the entire sweep of a discipline are appropriate for GE, while others think that focused, in-depth courses are also or perhaps more appropriate. [see the 1993-94 legislative amendment on this issue: link] The MLPS participants' strong, near-unanimous sentiment for allowing students the choice of taking this more focused route indicates that "survey" would not be an appropriate criterion.

In fact, I (Marcuse) think this principle of student choice and faculty preference could be applied across the entire GE spectrum. [note 11/16/03: this was also a principle of the 1993-94 GE reform, see Nov. 1993 report, principle no. 2] This was an argument I made for broadening the scope of courses in area E-1 beyond the exclusive "Western" (European) focus. The number and mix of courses in a given area would represent the number and conviction of the faculty offering them, whether broad or narrow coverage, or any given specific content focus was more appropriate. For instance, in an area such as E-1, the number of exclusively Europe-based "Western" courses would be roughly proportional to the number of faculty willing to offer them, and students willing to take them. Those faculty who think that Europe-based "Western" is the most important focus for GE courses should not be allowed to mandate to all students, and other faculty, that their content area matters more than others. [I fleshed out this argument in the work group's April 25, 2003 draft interim report (7 page "long" version) presented 4/28/03, see p. 1: link.)

In the context of discussing criteria for GE courses, the work group had an enlightening discussion about how courses get onto the GE list. In general [with the notable exception of courses added because a single student initiates the process] courses are added by departments, and sometimes but not generally by individual faculty. The departments benefit by increasing their FTE, and because this aspect is included in Program Reviews. Most individual faculty however, know little about GE. It is not unreasonable that many faculty would prefer or expect to have students already familiar with the methods of their discipline, and not invest lots of time teaching students writing. The suggestion that "GE courses/student FTE taught" could be added as a separate new category to the bio-bib form met with many nods of assent. This would provide at least an avenue for recognizing a faculty member's investment in teaching and contribution to GE, and perhaps an incentive for faculty to participate in GE. At the very least, it would raise awareness of GE. In the future, a joint meeting with CAP should be held to discuss this.

We also discussed the necessity of policing the GE list after courses have been approved. My suggestion that a web space (e.g. be maintained with a database of electronic versions of syllabi of all GE courses, which should be updated at each course offering, met with general assent. This would also benefit students by giving them more information before choosing specific GE courses. The specific policies regarding such a site would need to be worked out.

Finally, we heard a report about Denise and Claudine's meetings with Chicano, Asian-American and Black Studies faculty about the ethnicity requirement. There was 100% unanimity among the faculty members attending those meetings that the requirement should be left exactly as it is, without broadening. The non-Western requirement should remain as well but renamed to reflect a broader concern with global/comparative frameworks for ethnicity. (Of course, the departments offering such courses would have to be consulted, and might see this differently.) In light of the changes in the world and our understanding of it in recent years, however, there was interest in creating a new core area that would not be defined methodologically, but would cut across areas D-G. Its courses would have some type of broadly comparative aspect, in areas such as international studies, global studies, ethnicity, intersectionalities, or social justice. Although some UCs have a similar area, ours would be unique in its breadth, and might reflect in our core teaching UCSB's claim to be the most interdisciplinary of the UC campuses. This new area would draw one or two courses from the existing 10 now in the Social Science and HFA area. It might also be formulated to include the "connections" type course that Jim Proctor advocates, linking HFA and MLPS, as opposed to "neighboring" divisions.

There was also a brief discussion of the implications of making a requirement a core area, as opposed to a special (add-on) requirement. A core area fosters the creation of new courses and draws students to departments and programs offering courses (and willing to develop courses) in that area, while a special requirement fosters the modification of content in existing courses. Core requirements force students into an area, while add-ons attract students to specific courses because they can fulfill multiple requirements with that course.

This raised the question of how many students overfulfill a requirement such as ethnicity. It is not possible to find out which courses students use to fulfill the ethnicity requirement, because many students take multiple courses that fulfill it. It would be interesting to know, in order to assess the impact of that requirement, and the potential impact of adding a second, potentially broader requirement, how many students graduate with only one, or only two, or more courses meeting the ethnicity requirement. We need to ask the registrar's office whether such data can be obtained.

There was a brief discussion of the proposed meetings with the SS and HFA chairs and staff. Both should be organized on the model of the MLPS meeting, which was judged very successful. The issues outlined by Marcuse on his suggested agenda, also the question of a new core area, will need to be discussed.We decided that next week's work group meeting will focus on the ethnicity requirement and interdisiplinarity as either a new core area or emphasis, and the next meeting after that that is not a divisional meeting will focus on writing. Since Debra will be out of town Mar. 2-3, if a divisional meeting is scheduled for March 7, Bridget will help organize a special meeting with the respective chairs/dean since both Denise and Claudine will be out of town that day at the inauguration of chancellor France Cordova.

prepared for web by H. Marcuse, 3/15/03, minor additions 11/16/03
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