Illustration by Jamie Morton

While writing may not be the forté of all UC Santa Cruz students, it is a requirement, regardless of major. This can be a challenge for some graduating juniors and seniors who have the choice between fulfilling the DC (disciplinary communication) requirement or the W (writing) general education requirement, depending on major.

Jaye Padgett, former chair of the Committee on Education Policy (CEP), explained how the two requirements differ.

“Unlike W, DC must be satisfied within a student’s own major discipline,” Padgett said. “Our W was actually very out of step with similar requirements across the country in just requiring a student to take a course in any discipline.”

The CEP determines what the current general education policy is. Since the 2009 school year, the UCSC general education (GE) requirements have included the DC requirement, which replaced the W.

“Students have ‘catalog rights,’ which means we cannot change requirements on them mid-stream,” Padgett said.

Catalog rights are those students have to fulfill the GEs established the year they entered UCSC. These rights also allow students to fulfill the GEs for any subsequent catalog. This means students who enrolled in 2008 have the choice of fulfilling the W requirement or the DC requirement, which was initiated in 2009.

“There were a lot of capacity issues with W,” said academic advising coordinator Stacey Sketo-Rosener.

When the W requirement had to be fulfilled, classes like Literature 101 became filled with science majors, many of whom said they were taking the course only to fulfill their GE. Not all majors or departments offer classes that fulfilled the W, forcing students to take classes that did not pertain to their areas of study.

“Those students weren’t happy, and neither were the instructors of Lit 101,” Padgett said.

Since students couldn’t get into classes that fulfilled their W requirement, the CEP was swamped with petitions until the 2011-2012 school year, when the GE issues only applied to seniors.

“When I was chair of CEP, I got about 300 petitions per year from students who wouldn’t be able to graduate because they couldn’t find an open W course,” Padgett said. “It was a mess.”

Since most students who have had the choice to take the W or the DC are graduating soon, petitions for excusing the W requirement have tapered off significantly from last year.

Most students accepted into UCSC fall 2008 are projected to graduate this spring, so new and returning students will likely not have to worry about this issue. However, if fulfilling or changing the W requirement remains an issue for students, many advisors and colleges are here to help.

Sara Walsh, a Cowell College academic advisor, said these resources are helpful for the students who have issues with meeting DC or W requirements.

“Departments and colleges are very willing to work with individual students to change their W/DC requirement to select the easiest option for each student,” she said.