WHAT HAPPENS TO GECs IN 2012?
Switch to semesters: Will everyone take the same GECs?
Published: Tuesday, February 23, 2010
When the university switches to a semester system in 2012, all students could be required to meet the same set of general education requirements if administrators agree on a recent proposal.
Under the proposed curriculum, which was released in late January by the university’s committee on general education, all students would be required to take 15 to 18 courses in addition to their major requirements. Students now must take 16 to 21 courses, depending on their major.
If the proposal is passed, students will take only one history class rather than two. There are also now two open option classes, where students can take whatever they want.
With more than a dozen university programs with different course requirements, students are left with a smorgasbord definition of “general education.” Administrators hope to clarify that definition with the revised plan.
“There’s currently about 13 or 14 different variations of the [general education] curriculum in addition to honors, and what we tried to do was establish a minimum standard that would apply to as many programs as possible,” said Mark Shanda, chair of the University Level Advisory Committee, which drafted the proposal. “We looked very hard at that goal. We’re pretty confident that the majority of programs will be able to build their degree programs around this baseline model.”
But some professors are worried that science classes are getting lost in the shuffle of the proposal, which requires only two biological and physical science classes, rather than the three required now.
And some say that the sciences are neglected in the stated goals of the proposal, said Myroslava Mudrak, a member of the University Level Advisory Committee.
“It is nearly impossible not to think that it would be better to
have more science,” said Harald Vaessin, professor of molecular
genetics and member of the committee. “We live in a world where it’s an
integrated part for everybody — it doesn’t matter what we do.
However, Vaessin contends that students will be able to take more science courses in the proposed “open option” courses, which allow students to choose from a variety of classes. And it’s important not to get caught up in counting classes, he said, but university officials should carefully monitor the content of the courses.
Vaessin also pointed out that it would be difficult to find any professor who thinks his or her field of study is well represented in general education requirements.
The committee is collecting feedback from university departments and is reopening discussion on concerns they have received, Shanda said.
Some details of the proposal could be changed, Shanda said, but he is confident the framework will remain the same.
Once the proposal is finalized, it will go to the Arts and Sciences
Committee on Curriculum and Instruction. That committee will make a
formal recommendation to the Arts and Sciences Senate before the
proposal would go to the Council on Academic Affairs, where colleges
outside of Arts and Sciences will be asked to respond.