Last week, after over two years of deliberation, the College of Arts and Sciences approved changes to the college’s distribution requirements.
The current Arts school distribution requirements have been in place for nearly a century, according to a member of the Arts administration. The requirements were changed to better reflect the disciplinary demands of courses offered in the Arts school.
Prior to requirement changes, the courses offered in the Arts school fell into the following categories — physical and biological sciences, math and quantitative reasoning, social sciences and history, and humanities. However, recent sentiments building over several years among Arts faculty and administrators reflected dissatisfaction with these course classifications, and new organizational standards were sought.
The changes passed last week break the final two categories, social sciences and history and humanities into five new categories that, according to faculty and administrators of the college, better represent the academic opportunities offered in the school.
Beginning in fall of 2003, courses will be organized into the following categories — physical and biological sciences, math and quantitative reasoning, literature and the arts, historical analysis, cultural analysis, knowledge, cognition and moral reasoning, and social behavioral analysis.
Currently, Arts students are required to take five courses falling in the social sciences and history and humanities categories. With the new distribution requirements, students will have to complete five courses falling in the five new categories and must take at least one course in at least four of the disciplines. There was no change made to the physical and biological sciences and mathematical and quantitative reasoning distribution requirements.
While the new requirements do not increase or decrease the number of courses an Arts student is required to take, those involved in the changes felt that these new areas of distribution both more accurately organize the college’s courses and also achieve a broader arts education.
“[We want students] to gain a knowledge of the different sorts of analysis [the school offers],” said Jonathan Culler, senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Deliberations regarding the distribution requirements began in 1999 when a curriculum committee was formed to review the University’s current academic requirements and to study the distribution requirements at other comparable universities. In 2000, the committee submitted its first proposal to the faculty of the Arts college who discussed the proposal and ultimately sent it back to the committee for revision.
Subsequently, another committee was formed to generate a new academic proposal, and last week the new proposal was finally approved by the faculty of the Arts college.
According to a curriculum committee member, faculty members and administrators involved in the reforms are pleased with the new course categorizations and feel that they effectively and thematically distinguish the courses in terms of subject matter and academic modes of inquiry and analysis.
Students in the arts college, however, reacted with mixed responses to the new distribution requirements.
“I think it is unnecessary,” said Matthew Lazarus ’05. “People will have even less freedom than they do now in choosing their classes.”
Other students, however, appreciated the broad curricular demands of the new requirements.
“I think it strengthens the basis that we are gaining from a Cornell education because it broadens our horizons,” said Bryn Fuller ’05.
While current Arts students may appreciate or resent the new organization of the curriculum in the Arts college, the changed distribution requirements will not take effect until the spring of 2003 and will only affect students in the class of 2007 and after.
Archived article by Ellen Miller