Faculty in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences voted to cut the school’s General Curriculum Requirements nearly in half Friday afternoon, a decision that will significantly alter the course load for future students in the University’s largest college.
CCAS students are now required to take 42 to 44 credit hours in seven different areas of study, but the revised plan would only require students to take 24 credits worth of required courses.
“The reduced number of focused GCR courses have the potential to be of great benefit for students,” CCAS Dean Peg Barratt said. “Students will be more free to follow their passions and to work with advisers to choose courses that reflect those passions.”
Under this plan, GCRs will comprise 20 percent of a CCAS student’s career, as opposed to the current 40 percent – a decrease that brings GW in line with its accrediting body’s recommendation. The change will not apply to students already enrolled in the school or the class of 2013 during their first year.
The final proposal did not include specific criteria that students would have to fulfill. A committee will be set up within the Columbian College to decide what those requirements might be and report back to the faculty in the fall.
“At the moment, it is totally open to what they will be,” said Barry Berman, chair of the department of physics. “It is a big reduction from what we’ve had before.”
Berman said that the committee could recommend a requirement of specific courses, courses in certain areas, or recommend that new courses be developed.
Faculty members also passed an amendment Friday that allows the committee to decide whether or not the school will have a foreign language requirement.
“There was widespread sympathy for such a requirement,” Berman said. “The expectation is that many students will be able to pass out of the requirement by taking an exam.”
Berman said that he was opposed to the reduction of GCRs to 24 credit hours and argued that 30 credit hours would be more appropriate.
“The sentiment was, including my own opinion, that 24 really wasn’t quite enough to get into the requirements and the different stuff that people should have,” he said. He noted that sciences take a particularly long time to understand.
“I was in favor of reducing the GCRs, but not as proposed,” said Diana Lipscomb, chair of the department of biological sciences. “It was about reducing them without decreasing the skills and knowledge we want [students] to have.”
After reviewing the curriculum for a year, faculty members debated what purpose GCRs should serve.
Professor of economics Joe Cordes said the debate was split between people who wanted to decrease the requirements while giving students a common unifying experience, and people who wanted to teach particular skills in particular ways.
The goal of the new proposal is to create a safety net for students to make sure they do not graduate with a GW degree lacking a particular skill set.
“If the advising system were really good, you probably wouldn’t need any requirements. But we all know that doesn’t always happen,” Berman said.
Alex Byers contributed to this report.