Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

April 28, 2016

Cornell College of Arts and Sciences Considers Restructuring At Forum

Print More

Arts and Sciences Representatives and the CAS Dean’s Advisory Council discussed the college’s plan to divide the admissions and advising offices and reevaluate the distribution requirements at an open forum Wednesday.

Gretchen Ritter ’83, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said that this restructuring is in part a response to “huge increases in applications,” citing the over 19,000 applications to the CAS for about 1,100 available seats in the class in the last admissions cycle.

“We always have many more qualified applicants than spaces,” Ritter said, “[We ask] who would most benefit? For whom would our style and approach to education be a great fit?”

The College Curriculum Committee, chaired by Prof. Laura Brown, English, was recently established to examine the requirements outlined by CAS and make recommendations on potential improvements.

“Any number of things might happen,” Brown said, referring to the possible outcomes of the Committee’s meetings.

She emphasized that the committee will examine how distribution requirements affect students’ educations, through an open discussion with students and administrators.

The committee will conduct polls with students, “asking what [their education] meant to them, where it has led them, how it has contributed to their career satisfaction,” Brown said.

In addition, Brown said she will host focus group discussions and use data on course selections to compile substantial information on the efficacy and productivity of the current distribution model.

Ritter said she also hopes to evaluate the relationship between students’ majors, distribution requirements, and first-year writing seminars, possibly allowing for a more thematic approach and integration of a common focus, dependent on a student’s academic interest. Ritter’s suggested examples included a common focus on history or quantitative reasoning.

“There are several schools that are in the midst of rethinking their curriculum,” she said.

Ritter suggested the idea of a core curriculum model, which she said would establish certain required courses or texts for all CAS students, as opposed to the distribution model.

Ritter also posed several questions to be considered in revising the college’s academic policy.

“Why do we have a foreign language requirement?” Ritter asked. “What should we do in our educational structure to help people prepare for citizenship? Should there be any requirements in college? Should we have a core curriculum in which everyone reads the same books?”

In considering why so many students are choosing to pursue pre-professional academic tracks, the committee also hopes to establish how exactly a liberal arts education is important and useful today, according to Ritter.

She said she hopes the committee will find answers to the question “What is the value of a liberal arts education?” stressing that CAS’s academic advising will implement any necessary improvements to maintain that value for students.