April 4, 2002

Arts May Change Requirements

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College of Arts and Sciences faculty members continued discussion on a proposal to restructure the college’s distribution requirements yesterday at a faculty forum. The proposed changes affect only the social sciences and humanities distribution requirements. The proposal does not specify any changes for the arts college’s science and mathematics distribution requirements.

In its proposal, the curriculum committee has recommended de-emphasizing the distinction between humanities and social sciences. It has proposed, instead, to group courses into five broad rubrics: Literature and the Arts; Historical Analysis; Cultural Analysis; Knowledge, Cognition and Moral Reasoning; and Social and Behavioral Analysis.

“The chief objective of the rubrics is to present the range of scholarship delimited by the current Groups three and four in a more articulated fashion, but with an articulation not constrained by departmental boundaries,” according to the proposal.

Because the curriculum committee was formed to simplify the arts college’s distribution requirements, faculty members expressed concern that the proposed categories are too complex.

“I could not advise a student based on these changes,” said Prof. Debra Castillo, romance studies, adding that they are “incomprehensible” and “less user-friendly.”

Prof. John Whitman, linguistics, a member of the curriculum committee, acknowledged that although the proposed categories are complex, the current categories are not descriptive enough.

“The current descriptors for social sciences and humanities don’t do a good job describing what we do,” he said.

The proposal requires students to take five courses in at least four of the rubrics. In addition, no more than three of these courses may be from the offerings of any one department.

Faculty members also questioned why the proposal allows each individual course to be listed under only one rubric.

“The purpose of distribution requirements is to spread students’ course-taking across the college,” Whitman said. “If the courses were cross-listed, that would be defeated.”

According to Richard Galik, physics, the curriculum committee has also considered changing the primary and secondary lists of science courses.

“We have discussed at length whether there should remain a primary or secondary list,” he said, adding that the committee had not come to a decision on the issue.

The first curriculum committee presented its recommendations for changes to the distribution requirements in May 2000. However, a second committee was appointed in October 2001 by Philip Lewis, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to revise the recommendations. The second curriculum committee endorses the recommendations made by the first committee, but has proposed changes in the definition and descriptions of the categories.

According to Associate Dean Jon Clardy, the faculty will vote on these recommendations by the end of this semester.

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin