Katie Sims / Sun Staff Photographer

September 20, 2016

Students Reject Move to Standardize Undergraduate Course Requirements

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After Interim President Hunter Rawlings floated a move to standardize some undergraduate courses at last week’s Faculty Senate meeting, students pushed back, saying that they appreciate the freedom to choose their own classes.

Rawlings encouraged faculty to consider reinforcing the ideas of liberal education across all seven of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges. While Rawlings discussed requiring courses in data science or statistics, he did not propose any specific initiatives and stressed that he would seek faculty feedback.

The theoretical concept of an undergraduate core curriculum was not well received by some students. Several said the ability to apply to a unique college and to take the courses that pertain to specific interests and goals was significant in their decision to attend Cornell.

“When I was looking at schools, what I liked about Cornell was that I had the liberty to choose the program that I wanted,” said Hannah Hyams ’20, a student in the ILR School. “In ILR I can study what I want to study. A universal core curriculum would take away that freedom.”

Others argued that 13 years of primary and secondary education had provided enough variety.

“It would be like high school all over again,” said Pradeepa Krish ’20, an Applied Economics and Management major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We already have Freshman Writing Seminars and requirements within our colleges, so what’s the point? Yes, a well rounded education is important, but that’s what we’ve had for the past 18 years. We applied here for specific colleges to specialize and prepare for jobs.”

Although all students The Sun interviewed were opposed to a core curriculum, when asked what core requirements would be most advantageous to Cornellians, they replied with a range of answers.

Arts and Sciences student RJ Lombardi ’20 suggested that a “tech-literacy course” or an accounting class could be useful to all students.

“As we are transitioning to adulthood we are going to have to handle things like finances that our parents used to deal with for us,” he said. “It would help us become independent, which is what college is there for.”

Citing the growing importance of STEM fields, Jane Friedman ’20 suggested that Cornell could expand science and technology requirements.

Martin Eizayaga ’20 proposed that a philosophy class could help students in his engineering classes understand why what they do matters.

“One of the reasons I came to Cornell was because it had the engineering school, but it wasn’t an institute, it had liberal arts in it,” he said. “In engineering you can learn what happens and how, but not the reason it matters. I think it’s important to answer those questions and enhance our understanding.”