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May 2, 2002

Curriculum changes approved

The College of Arts and Sciences' new general education requirements include: an introductory composition course; two writing-intensive courses; a quantitative and formal reasoning requirement; one course each in literature, the arts and philosophy; a second course in literature, the arts or creative expression; a sequence of two foreign language courses; three foreign culture/international courses; a non-Western culture requirement; one course each in historical change and social science, and three natural sciences courses.

Besides approving new general education requirements, arts and sciences faculty voted overwhelmingly April 19 to approve general statements, curricular initiatives and administrative changes in connection with the new curriculum — but not before professors criticized some statements (and rejected a few) as being vague or potentially threatening to faculty interests.

Political science professor Jonathan Harris, whose academic specialties include the former Soviet Union, attacked one statement by declaring: "I study Stalinist documents for a living, and this looks like a Stalinist document."

The statement in question, which faculty ultimately rejected by a 79-46 vote, would have called for the associate dean for Undergraduate Studies to work with CAS Council "to develop, for the review of the FAS faculty, qualitative guidelines that respect the prerogatives of individual faculty but establish uniform expectations with regard to the intellectual growth that can be reasonably expected of students in courses at various levels and how that should be recognized through the grades awarded."

Under one new curricular initiative, arts and sciences departments will be urged, but not required, to develop courses that address diversity issues such as race, gender, sexual orientation and religious differences.

A few professors suggested that diversity courses should be required. But English professor Jean Ferguson-Carr said she and other members of the curriculum review committee were "very unwilling" to require departments to develop diversity courses. Not only would that have mandated 60 new arts and sciences courses, Ferguson-Carr pointed out, but committee members believed that students should be encouraged to select diversity courses, rather than seeing them as yet another hurdle they must jump.

— Bruce Steele

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