By Jennifer Cain
City on a Hill Press Reporter
The Academic Senate voted last Friday to reform general education (GE) requirements with a new system that will take effect fall 2009. Students who are not incoming freshmen have the choice to adopt the new GE system.
The new GE system will replace the traditional 10 to 15 classes with nine to 10-plus “specialized” classes. The changes, according to the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP), come in response to the fact that the GE system has not been reformed for over 20 years.
The proposal, crafted by the CEP, is based on faculty and student feedback.
“Today we made one of the biggest decisions that is going to affect the campus in the future, which is the GE reform,” said Michelle Romero, a third-year literature major representing the Student Union Assembly (SUA). “This is going to affect thousands of students coming into the university. The breadth is a set of courses that we determine would give students a well-rounded perspective of a certain kind of world issues.”
The diminished set of requirements, a key difference from the old GE system, consists of classes with more specific objectives that will not allow for the overlapping of classes.
With no overlapping, a student will not be able to fulfill multiple GE requirements through one course. The Academic Senate discovered through student feedback that some students only enroll in a class based on the number of requirements that class fulfills.
For instance, the math requirement, a requisite for all students who wish to graduate, is traditionally fulfilled through two Natural Science and Engineering classes (IN) and one quantitative course (Q).
While some courses at UCSC allow for a student to fulfill both an IN and Q with just one class, new changes will require students to take three separate classes: “Mathematical and Formal Reasoning” (MF), “Scientific Inquiry” (SI), and “Statistical Reasoning” (SR), each designated to one requisite.
Carolyn Martin Shaw, an undergraduate professor in the department of anthropology, was concerned about the new GE system.
“CEP is going to want me to give evidence whether or not I am meeting the goal of the GE my class is dedicated to. Will my syllabus now be sufficient for that?” Shaw said. “When we slice and dice our courses in the way we do, we leave ourselves open to accountability for the part that should be an integrated experience.”
The nine to 10-plus specialty classes will require incoming students to enroll in seven classes designated to math, science, and social science, as well as one “perspectives” course and one two-credit “practice” course. The amount of requirements a student’s core class fulfills determines the total amount of requirements.
The “practice” requirement, a completely new category, can be fulfilled by a class on environmental awareness, on human behavior, or on technology and society.
The “perspectives” requirement, also a new requirement, can be fulfilled through “Collaborative Endeavor” — a course that teaches students to work in groups — “Creative Process,” or “Service Learning.”
Some faculty members were concerned that there are not enough faculty members within certain departments to teach the new classes the GE reform requires.
One of those members was Paul Koch, a professor of earth and planetary sciences and department chair.
Koch said he did not vote because the proposal was not presented with an analysis of whether or not the university has enough faculty to teach such courses. He also wondered whether the new GE system would require the university to hire more teachers.
“I support the academic objectives. I think it is a good proposal. I don’t think the university should make such a large change to the way it offers its GE requirements without any analysis of impact,” Koch said. “You would have hoped that either the administration or the committee on planning on budget would have done some analysis of whether we have classes in each of the general areas that could accommodate the students, and if we don’t, then how many do we need.”
David Draper, a professor of applied math and statistics, said he was confident that his department’s capacity could handle the new change and urged the Academic Senate to vote positively for the motion to reform GE.
“I have no concern whatsoever about capacity on the topic of statistical reasoning. I think we can start this requirement today,” Draper said. “This is the combination of two years of thoughtful deliberation and consultation, and we risk ending up doing nothing in attempt to do this perfectly. “
Chancellor George Blumenthal said he was “excited” that more courses are being created.
“I don’t think that all the courses that we now have will map into the new requirements, and that is because they are new requirements,” Blumenthal said. “Some courses will have the same designations and in some cases we may have to create new courses and I see that as a good thing. The amount of courses we have to satisfy the new GE is no more than what we have to satisfy the old GE. I am sure we can do it.”
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