Arts and Sciences faculty discussed the Curriculum Committee's voted on amendments to the distribution requirements. Changes will be reflected in the final proposal.

Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Arts and Sciences faculty discussed the Curriculum Committee's voted on amendments to the distribution requirements. Changes will be reflected in the final proposal.

October 3, 2018

A&S Faculty Amend Changed Distribution Requirements

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Faculty discussed and voted on amendments to parts of the Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee’s proposal to change the college’s distribution requirements. Major amendments included changes to the wording of the new “human difference” distribution category and modification to the wording concerning the double-listing of courses in distribution categories on Wednesday.

The amendments will be added to the final proposal for faculty to vote online to accept or reject entirely on an unspecified date, according to Lisa Nichii, vice provost of undergraduate education.

The Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee released its original proposal in March, which recommended reducing the language requirement from 11 credits of instruction in one language or one non-introductory course to two courses of at least three credits each in the same language or one non-introductory level course, The Sun previously reported. The proposal also recommended allowing American Sign Language to fulfill the language requirement, instituting a “human difference” requirement and reorganizing the distribution requirements.

The Sun reported in May that faculty decided to not vote on the proposal at a meeting. In June, a revised proposal was released where the language requirement was unchanged from its current form. The new version of the proposal still would allow sign language to be used to fulfill the requirement, however.

At the meeting on Wednesday, faculty discussed the proposal to require students to fulfill five out of the 10 new distribution requirements in their first four semesters at the University.

The goal is  “to balance the feasibility of fitting in many different distribution courses for a student that has a very packed first couple years [like those with] with pre-med requirements and also trying make sure this exploration does happen early,” said Prof. Tom Pepinsky, government, chair of the curriculum committee.

Prof. Cynthia Chase, English, expressed concern for the student “who arrives at Cornell already knowing what she or he is especially interested in” and that there are many of those students “who are telling me they are reluctantly fulfilling a distribution requirement because it is their junior or senior year,” Chase said.

Pepinksy affirmed the change was to encourage early exploration and that “the logic behind this is to encourage students to explore beyond what they think they already came here wanting to do,” he said.

Additionally, faculty passed an amendment to change the name of the “human difference” distribution category to “social difference.”

Prof. Sandra Greene, history, voiced her disapproval on the original word choice of “human,” since it is not particularly even accurate in how it handles what is incorporated in that category,” Greene said.

Greene told those present that “a more accurate description is social difference, because it deals with class, race, ethnicity, ethnic origin: theses all are all social categories — there’s no human difference, it’s social difference,” Greene said.

Wording was clarified for the proposed change for courses being listed under two distribution categories instead of a single distribution category. The faculty voted to adopt “individual courses can be listed in up to two distribution categories” as the clarifying wording in the proposal. Pepinsky previously told The Sun that the new version of the proposal allows two of the classes students take to go towards two distribution requirements each.

Additional discussion centered around having classes fall under two distribution categories. Deborah A. Starr, Near Eastern studies, expressed approval for the chance to list courses in more than a single distribution category.

However, Starr expressed concern over the possibility of a disproportionate amount of humanities courses being double-listed over science courses.

In response to Starr’s concern, Brian Crane, chemistry, a member of the curriculum committee, said there is “lots of fusion between the scientific disciplines.”

Additionally, Crane said the proposal was driven by “practical concern.”

Crane specified the “hierarchical” nature of science curriculum makes it difficult for students to fulfill their distribution requirements, painting the image of a sophomore taking 25 credit hours in a single term to emphasize the inflexibility of the current distribution requirements.

“So without this flexibly [of double listing courses], this curriculum just becomes very difficult for some science students to do,” Crane said.

“We’re worried about student stresses,” and, “We’re not saying don’t take anything, we’re just saying there is some flexibility if you want to use it,” Crane added.

“The entire meeting went well; I think that we had a productive debate — I think we had a nice exchange of ideas, we had some important amendments that had to be passed,” Pepinsky said to The Sun after the meeting.

“I think the people who are not on the committee were generally pleased with the meeting,” Pepinsky said.