Staff Editorial: More freedom, fewer requirements

For all you sociology majors, what would your GPA look like if you hadn’t had to take that calculus class freshman year? And for all you biochemistry majors, what would you give to have one less WID class to take?

Future generations of Columbian College of Arts and Sciences students are about to find their general curriculum requirements plates a little less full. The CCAS faculty voted last week to reduce the number of GCR credit hours from 44 to 24, which would give students more flexibility than past CCAS students ever had.

The move to reduce GCRs is long overdue for CCAS, but at the same time, the faculty must tread lightly in the effort to provide a balance between choice and structure. It is understandable that when a college awards a group of students their degrees – which are all worth the same amount – it wants to be sure that the students have all had somewhat similar educational experiences. But this may be a fairly outdated approach.

The bottom line is that even if every student took the same classes, they would all graduate with different experiences, simply because their professors and class dynamics would not all be the same. The unified approach should take a backseat to letting each student get what they want out of their education.

By reducing GCRs, students will have an average of seven extra classes to fill with subjects that they are personally motivated to pursue. Whether it is taking more classes within majors or enrolling in subject areas that students will probably never be exposed to again (wheel thrown ceramics, anyone?), students will likely get more out of those courses than they would sleeping through an astronomy class.

Still, a valid concern would be that not giving students, especially freshmen, enough direction will result in college careers that take longer than four years or that don’t provide enough substance. A possible solution could be to make a minor or concentration a requirement along with the standard major. This way, students would not be able to take classes in lieu of GCRs that would only serve to boost GPAs, but would still be able to follow their own interests.

Another way to provide guidance, especially for freshmen, is to require students to take a dean’s seminar, courses that have been both popular and successful in the past. This would guarantee an in-depth, substantial class for each student while still allowing the flexibility to study that which interests each individual. Students currently use these seminars as a way to knock out GCRs, but in the reformed system, the seminars could serve as a concentrated introduction to an area of interest.

It goes without saying that if students have less classes they take because of requirements, they will need that much more guidance from their advisers. Advising will likely no longer be just helping students check off GCRs, but will require advisers to actually help students figure out what interests them. Advising improvement needs to go hand in hand with the GCR restructuring if the process is to go smoothly.

Reducing GCRs has been a controversial decision, and the transition will most likely be rocky. Still, this decision will benefit the students in the long run. The goal should not be uniformity, but simply helping students make their education into something they enjoy as well as something that will be a valuable asset in the future.

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