Meeting of GE workgroup with HFA dean and chairs,
March 3, 2003
, noon-1pm

draft notes by Harold Marcuse
(based on my memory, with help from Jim Proctor’s notes)
addition of AP discussion 3/4/03, 10am after e-mail circulation
[3/14/03: no feedback received]

Claudine Michel, Black Studies
Jim Proctor, Geography (consultant)
Harold Marcuse, History
Al Wyner, dean
David Kohl, Biology
Sue McLeod, Writing (consultant)
Dan Montello, Geography/L&S exec.

HFA (22 depts and programs total):
David Marshall, dean
Robert Renehan, Classics
Tony Anderson, Philosophy
Cynthia Skenazi, French & Italian
Lee Rothfarb, Music
Mark Meadow, Art History
Pat Cohen, History
Ron Egan, East Asian
Janet Walker, Film Studies
Carl Gutiérrez-Jones, English
Dave King, Dramatic Art

We started with a quick round of introductions, then Claudine gave a brief summary of the creation of the GE Task Force (TF), its precipitous conclusion after 3 years, the withdrawal of the ballot last December, and the Undergraduate Council’s charge to the work group (WG) to revisit the problematic aspects of implementation.

Harold summarized the current GE area requirements on the chalkboard, showed the task force recommendations, and noted some of the feedback the workgroup has received so far, as well as some of the issues we are discussing.

After explaining that the TF’s main rationale for reducing the overall number of core courses from 13 to 10, namely so that UCSB could have ONE GE program for all bachelor’s degrees, several people wondered why we should reduce GE for everyone in order to raise the standard, apparently minimally, for a few. Harold explained that the overall number of courses doesn’t give a complete picture. Reductions in HFA area requirements (areas E,F,G) have little impact on students in majors in the departments in that area, since their majors and elective choices overfullfil that area. Ditto for MLPS students in Area C: reduction from 3 to 2 has de facto no effect on them. Primary net gain: BS students add two courses (in area F=arts and G=literature), BFA and BM students add one in G. Primary net loss: BA students have one fewer in C (science); dropping by one each in D (social science) and E (civilization and thought) would not have a major impact on their course choices (Harold thinks).
The WG has found that the resource issues that led to the TF suggesting a reduction in area C no longer apply, and it is virtually assured that the new proposal will require 3 courses in that area. The MLPS chairs/advisors were virtually unanimous that it was ok for BS students to have a lower GE standard than BA.

Harold noted that in our discussions everyone seems to like their status quo, wants changes elsewhere. The WG is trying to keep the broader campus vision in mind, including the desirability of one GE program for all of L&S. The 2000 Western Association of Schools and Colleges reaccreditation report recommended this, too. The College of Engineering, under pressure from its accreditation/certification board, might also like to come "on board" with L&S’s GE. Thus the WG does not want to lose sight of compromises that might be necessary for that goal, even if it might be a two-step process, with another reform maybe 5-10 years down the road, after any changes now have been digested.

Claudine noted that other divisions see areas EFG as overbalanced, with 7 currently and 6 proposed in the TF recommendation. Harold and Dan noted that there are practical and historical reasons for this: perhaps greater diversity of approaches within HFA than MLPS, and the origin of GE in the liberal arts tradition meant a strong emphasis on the liberal arts.

Someone asked about the proposal to have only lower-division courses in GE. Harold explained that this was one of a number of "gateway" criteria proposed for GE courses, in an attempt to keep the GE-approved list to a reasonable and manageable number. One major problem with the present GE is that the approved list must be trimmed down.

However, any "LD only" requirement must remain flexible. One reason: some depts. have many or most UD courses with no prerequisites (e.g. area F=arts). For some areas this may be more appropriate. Dan noted that GE should emphasize breadth over depth. Harold noted that there is a larger debate about the didactic appropriateness of survey vs. in-depth focused courses for students to become acquainted with the methods of an area. Harold thinks that different types of courses may be more appropriate for different areas, or for different student learning styles. It is hard to find a one-size-fits-all type of course for all disciplines and all students. As you see, this matter is not settled within the WG.

Another reason for not limiting GE to LD only: A substantial proportion of UCSB students transfer in from 2-year colleges (20-25% of a given graduating class). Although 70% have their GE already (through IGETC, an intersegmental GE transfer certificate we must accept under state mandate). The remaining 30% want to take only UD to progress timely to completion. They in particular would need to have UD GE offerings.

Another gateway requirement the WG has been considering is to disallow some AP (advanced placement) courses from satisfying GE (elective unit credit for scores 3 and higher would still be granted, as per state mandate). This might have significant enrollment implications, which need to be studied. It would probably also vary from field to field. Perhaps only allowed in fields that also accept AP courses as prep. for their major. Some departments, math, for instance, have said that AP students placing into advanced courses are often better prepared than students who have taken the UCSB prereqs. Or, as Al pointed out, we could limit GE credit to students with scores of 5 or 4 only. This is completely within our control.

More important in the WG’s deliberations is requiring all GE courses to be open to nonmajors on the 1st registration pass. Limiting to majors only contradicts the very notion of GE: knowledge for the non-specialist.

Q: How do you define GE? Harold noted that this stood at the beginning of the TF and WG deliberations, and still accompanies us. He suggested as a general definition the body of knowledge no undergrad should be without. Dan suggested that it was to ensure breadth of exposure to liberal arts curriculum.

The discussion turned to some of what were called ulterior motives for GE: exposure to other groups to increase sensitivity and decrease prejudice. At this point the "special requirements" (1 QUANtitative, 1 ETHnicity, 6 WRiTing intensive, 1 Non-Western-Culture) were added to the chalkboard. Harold explained how the TF proposal would have eliminated WRT as a special requirement by making it a gateway criterion for ALL courses on the GE list—writing appropriate to the discipline. On the one hand it "disappeared" from GE, on the other hand students would have to have 10 writing-intensive courses. However, this was abandoned as a rigorous criterion because of resource issues, and because writing is not always didactically appropriate in survey courses. One proposal is to say that a course proposed for GE should have either QUAN or WRT, and explain why if it does not. This reverses the current form, which presumes courses won’t have them, and only adds them on special request.

Harold gave a brief explanation of the difficulties involved in creating a new core area, while adding a new special requirement was much easier from an implementation standpoint. There are also different implications for faculty incentives: special requirements encourage faculty to add these skills or to their courses to make them more attractive, or to offer courses with this content. Core areas are attractive to departments, which must then find faculty to commit to teaching new course sequences over the longer term. We would have to ensure that making a content requirement part of a special core area would not "ghettoize" it.

Carl had heard that the WG is thinking about a new area and asked for clarification. Harold summarized some of the WG discussion from last Friday. A new Area ‘X’ is under discussion. It might necessitate reduction in other Areas. SocSci would be more accepting of the TF proposal to drop to 2 if it could also offer courses in such a new Area. One question for the WG’s future meeting with the HFA chairs will be: Might HFA also be willing to offer courses in that area instead of only the tradition E,F,G?

Tony Anderson asked for more clarification of this possible Area X. Claudine explained the background of the ETHnicity requirement, the possible removal of the NWC requirement, and integration across areas D,E,F,G.

Mark asked whether the WG has considered impacts on graduate students given Taships, e.g. Art History 6ABC, E-1 fulfillment. Someone suggested that the WG ask all depts: "What's the basic skill you want a student coming out of department ___ to have?"

David Marshall commented on the resource issue, then noted that there should be concern regarding impacts of changes to GE, but there should also be a positive response to the intellectual/pedagogical merits of the proposal, which should come first. This is a distributional approach to GE vs. what he took as undergrad (core course approach). This is not a Divisional matter; different disciplines are in different Divisions in other UC campuses. Additionally, some areas (e.g. History) are deemed especially important for GE distribution requirement. Maybe this new interdisciplinary Area is a very good idea; many new HFA hires bridge e.g. humanities and science (History of Science search, Music, German dept., …). Conclusion: Focus on intellectual merits first, then look at impacts on departments.

Harold noted that the WG has asked for data, but that it is extremely hard to predict how enrollment patterns might change with requirements. TF already asked this question. Art History 6, for instance, was thought to have draw sufficient students even if it were not in the E-1 area. We are getting data to assess this as best we can, however, so depts can decide and plan accordingly. It is also important to allay misplaced fears.

Q: How to conceptualize area X?
Especially hard to define what falls outside of usual categories, e.g. interdisciplinarity. WG talked about intersections, comparative, integrative courses. [Harold’s brainstorm after meeting: how about "frontiers of inquiry"?]

Carl recounted the example of problems that led to the TF proposal to expand the definition of the ETH requirement. It is focused narrowly on a specific set of explicitly named marginalized groups in US society. A course on slave narratives that included substantial material from the Caribbean could not qualify. Some uninformed faculty misled students to think that the current ETH courses will disappear from list. However, new def. only allows some new courses to be added that couldn’t hitherto. The expanded definition was based on input from instructors who work on ETH. We need to get beyond Divisional debate in terms of tradeoffs; possible need for support from UCSB admin.

It is very important to solicit input broadly from the campus, but misinformation leads to bad input. David Kohl noted that one positive outcome of the TF report is that is has generated lots of good discussion across campus about GE.

Dan noted the need also to look into process of approval of GE courses, vs. just amending category descriptions and numbers.

Before time ran out completely, Al Wyner wanted to raise the issue of how HFA depts feel about proposed changes to the Western Civ req? Harold explained that one element of the TF proposal compromise was to remove sub-Area E-1 and make WCiv a special requirement. This will be one important aspect to clarify at the WG’s next meeting with HFA.

Meeting times were discussed. 4 or 5 HFA could not make Friday, March 14. Claudine asked about Monday, March 17. That wouldn’t work well for others. A Friday afternoon next quarter might work, depending on which one. Do we need to hold the meeting this quarter? Harold noted that it is important to prepare for it and be ready. WG need to prepare for SocSci meeting next Monday, so next quarter would be better.

prepared for web by H. Marcuse, 3/14/03
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