The Stevenson College community came together on Monday for a town hall style meeting to address some of the Academic Senate’s proposals to minimize the role of core classes and to unify the courses across the colleges.
“We have urged for core to be based in the colleges,” said Stevenson Provost and town hall organizer Alice Yang to the audience of about 30 people. Stevenson will create a website for students and alumni to elicit feedback on their experience with the two-quarter “Self and Society” core course at Stevenson.
Academic Senate discussed on Wednesday how to cut the cost of core, which include proposals to make core classes more uniform within the ten colleges, decrease the number of units from five to two or three or eliminate the GE requirement attached to the classes, which came from concern that STEM students’ graduation was impeded.
According to a Stevenson survey of graduating students, 40 percent of those surveyed were STEM students, and none of the students surveyed said two quarters of core impeded their graduation. Core instructors Caren Camblin and Geoff Childers read testimonies from graduated students’ input in the survey.
“As a STEM major I can not imagine I would have learned the basics of reading comprehension, setting up an essay, formatting an argument, researching articles, etc. without my Stevenson core course,” Camblin read from the testimonies. “The texts had impacted my first year here because they opened my eyes to a diverse world of beliefs and cultures.”
The 10 panelists — made up of students, instructors and alumni — and the audience members who stood up to speak, saw the structural suggestions, especially the possibility of cutting the second quarter of the core course or increasing class sizes, as a step toward eliminating the foundation of the small liberal arts education at UC Santa Cruz.
Each of the colleges has a core class specific to its college identity. At Stevenson, the focus is on “Self and Society,” so much of the class is spent on discussing religion and philosophy and examining how the image of one’s self relates to the broader society. During the two quarters students read religious texts, Virginia Woolf and the autobiography of Malcolm X.
“Through these discussions you could get a sense of who your fellow classmates were,” said second-year Stevenson student Noah Schreiber. “It’s even more important now that the lounges are gone to have these small core classes so that people can expand outside of the friends that they create through similar viewpoints.”
Kiva Silver, a Stevenson core instructor, emphasized how important the small seminar classes are for opening first-year students to critical thinking and discussing complex philosophical and religious ideas, and how these classes are necessary for students to feel active in their education.
“That’s what the little flags on McLaughlin Drive are always telling us — ‘thinking outside the box’ and all of this stuff — but where else do you do this but in Stevenson core?” Silver asked.