Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

May 2, 2002

Arts & Sciences faculty okay curriculum changes

General education requirements for students entering the College of Arts and Sciences in fall 2002 will be clearer and less cumbersome than the CAS curriculum that has remained in place, with only minor changes, since 1981.

Arts and sciences faculty approved the new undergraduate curriculum during an April 19 meeting in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room.

An overwhelming majority of the 125 or so arts and sciences faculty in attendance stood to indicate they approved of the new undergraduate curriculum. When arts and sciences Dean N. John Cooper then asked faculty opposed to the curriculum to stand, only about a dozen people did so.

The vote capped 30 months of document drafting, memo writing, public hearings and sometimes-contentious discussion of just which courses are essential to a liberal arts education. (About two-thirds of the Pittsburgh campus's 15,367 full- and part-time undergrads last fall were enrolled in CAS.) Not everyone liked the new, streamlined requirements, even after CAS's curriculum review committee dropped its most controversial proposal: reducing from three to two the required number of natural sciences courses.

Among those who spoke against the new requirements were political science professor Ronald H. Linden and chemistry professor David H. Waldeck. They argued that the new curriculum will marginalize the social sciences by no longer requiring students to take a public policy course while continuing to require just one course in the social sciences. Such a move is unwise "at a time of extraordinary political complexity at home and abroad," said Linden. Many students' na•ve reactions to the Sept. 11 attacks underlined the need for more social science education, not less, he said.

Discussions of eight proposed amendments to the general education requirements grew esoteric at times — for example, when faculty debated whether students should be required to take "a course in music or art" (original wording) or "a course in the arts," as theatre arts professor Bruce McConachie's amendment proposed.

The difference: Under McConachie's amendment, "the arts" could include theatre arts, whereas "music or art" excluded theatre arts.

In arguing against the amendment, music professor Bell Yung maintained that theatre deals mainly with verbal or literary texts, whereas music and visual arts primarily employ non-verbal expression. Therefore, Yung argued, theatre arts courses should be grouped with literature, rather than arts, courses.

Theatre arts chairperson Attilio Favorini disagreed. "With all due respect to my colleagues from music," he replied, "we believe in the theatre that [our work] is not primarily with words. The basic building block, the unit of theatre, is the act, philosophically speaking. It is not the word. When words occur in the theatre, they occur as acts."

Most faculty showed they agreed with Favorini's words by acting to vote for the amendment.

— Bruce Steele

Leave a Reply