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The Arts & Sciences curriculum committee made recommendations for the current curriculum on March 28. Faculty were sent the recommendations to evaluate.

April 10, 2018

Faculty Respond to Proposed Changes to Foreign Language Requirement

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When asked what he hopes for the future of the Arts and Sciences curriculum, Prof. Brian Crane, chemistry and chemical biology, says that he hopes for a curriculum that “excites students, allows them to explore broadly in the arts and sciences, exposes them to new things, prepares them to excel in the modern world and inspires a passion for lifelong learning.”

Crane, a member of the Arts and Sciences curriculum committee along with committee chair Prof. Thomas Pepinsky, government, support the committee’s recent recommendations to alter the college’s curriculum requirements.

The changes would shorten the college’s language requirement, allowing students to take one non-introductory course or two language courses of at least three credits in the same language, as The Sun previously reported. The existing requirement mandates one non-introductory class or 11 credits in one language.

Additionally with the proposed changes, students would be able to satisfy their language requirement with courses in American Sign Language.

Crane said the key principles underlying their recommendations are that the curriculum should be, “balanced among the disciplines, allow students to explore early, while not over burdening them with requirements and provide exposure to areas that are most crucial for thriving in modern society.”

Prof. Ravi Ramakrishna ’88, mathematics, also supports the proposal as a whole and emphasizes the importance of reevaluating the curriculum periodically.

“I also very much prefer the simpler structure of requirements and the idea of encouraging students to explore earlier in their academic careers,” Ramakrishna said. “Since the last review of the Arts and Sciences graduation requirements, the faculty has turned over by well over 50 percent. We should periodically make sure requirements are those of the current faculty and designed for current students.”

On March 28, the committee presented their final report and recommendations to the Arts and Sciences faculty at a faculty meeting. During the meeting, other faculty members presented their feedback — especially regarding the changes to the language requirement.

Gretchen Ritter, dean of the arts and sciences college, encouraged groups of faculty in an email to collect their ideas regarding the report by “endorsing some or all of the recommendations, or offering alternative proposals,” while thanking the committee and Pepinsky for, “leading a thoughtful and thorough process that has taken so many varied perspectives into account over the past year.”

According to Ritter’s email, Prof. Leslie Adelson, German studies, and Prof. Sturt Manning, classical archaeology, are creating a draft proposal in response to the committee’s recommendations. This draft proposal will address their concerns with the proposed shortened language requirement and suggest new recommendations.

“The College of Arts & Sciences must preserve its vital commitment to foreign language study for the sake of a liberal arts education across the disciplines, and especially in the age of global citizenship,” Adelson said. “Any further reductions in our language requirements would not serve our students and their futures well.”

Pepinsky — although aware of possible challenges and alternative proposals — is “optimistic, however, that faculty from across the departments and programs in the college will identify areas of common interest,” which will be “the foundation for future growth.”