April 3, 2003

Arts Changes Requirements

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Changes to the distribution requirements and foreign language requirement will greet the incoming Class of 2007 to the College of Arts and Sciences this fall. These changes have been finalized by the college’s Educational Policy Committee and are intended to clarify distinctions between distribution categories. They will also result in fewer Arts students being able to test out of the language requirement because of previous studies.

According to Lynne Abel, associate dean for undergraduate education, the faculty of the college agreed on the language requirement changes two years ago, and on the distribution changes last year. The two will happen at the same time so as to avoid “mass confusion,” Abel said.

The distribution changes replace the old numbered groups (I through IV) with a new alphabet soup: Group I keeps its name, Physical & Biological Sciences (PBS); Group II is now Mathematics & Quantitative Reasoning (MQR); Groups III and IV (Social Sciences and History, Humanities and the Arts) are split up into five categories: Cultural Analysis (CA), Historical Analysis (HA), Knowledge, Cognition, & Moral Reasoning (KCM), Literature and the Arts (LA) and Social & Behavioral Analysis (SBA).

Students will be required to take five courses in the social sciences and humanities from at least four of the five new categories. Academic departments are required to classify each of their classes as belonging to only one category, and the Educational Policy Committee reviews these listings. While almost all economics and sociology classes count as SBA, other departments will have a harder time classifying their offerings. Abel noted that “things can get confusing if you have, say, a government course with historical perspective on certain political problems.”

Advanced Placement (A.P.) credit will no longer reduce the number of required classes in sciences or math and quantitative reasoning, though students can still use A.P. credit to opt out of lower-level classes. Abel said the goal was to “use the advantages of A.P., but not have it influence the shape of your degree once you’re here.”

ShawnaKim Lowey-Ball ’05 thought this change was reasonable, pointing out that under the old requirements “they made people in science take humanities,” while humanities majors could place out of two of the four math and science requirements.

The language requirement is considerably simpler: students either pass a 200-level language course or pass 11 or 12 credits in a single language at Cornell. “Most students will not place out of the language requirement,” said Abel, as only students who are able to prove native or near-native competence in a foreign language will be exempted from the requirement.

Students seemed to take the changes in stride, as no one currently in the College will be affected. Emily Goldman ’05 didn’t mind the changes, “as long as they still keep other options like College Scholar.”

Amina Omari ’04 had similar sentiments. “It just seems like they’re describing categories in more elaborate detail,” she said.

Archived article by Dan Galindo