Every semester, students need to be conscious of several general education requirements when registering for classes. For instance, every Columbian College of Arts and Sciences student needs to fulfill a GPAC arts course, which can be a stressful search process – especially for those who aren’t artistically inclined. If GW offered more GPAC courses that center around the different areas of writing for the arts, students could explore the world of art more effectively while fulfilling the requirement at the same time.
There are about 8,000 students in CCAS with 56 different majors. All students in the school are required to take a three-credit arts course to graduate, which is why offering a large selection of arts courses is essential. There are 41 sections of art courses offered this spring semester, 20 of which are writing-based, like history or creative writing classes. While this is almost half, it isn’t enough to accommodate all non-art majors, which make up the majority of CCAS. As a result, this selection should feature more writing-based arts classes than the visual or performing arts classes – like photography and acting. With more writing courses, students who are comfortable with writing and humanities could explore a specific topic of interest that could be of use to them, rather than seeing an arts course as just a requirement.
The issue is not simply that students don’t want to venture outside their comfort zones. Beyond the subject matter, there are thousands of students that need to fulfill their art requirement but may not have the time to take a four and a half hour photography class. Some of these classes also charge a materials fee for using cameras or art supplies as well, which are typically around $100. Between the large time commitment and steep material fees, these art courses are asking for a lot from students who are likely simply taking a course they need for graduation that they may not even be interested in.
As a student planning to study abroad in the fall, I have been researching different courses offered at universities abroad to see what they offer. What I immediately noticed when looking at the classes offered at London universities, like Queen Mary University, is that there are around 75 writing-based courses that center around the arts, a significantly higher variety compared to GW. This is understandable since England is well-known for its literature and theater, but GW’s offerings for writing-based courses that fulfill the arts requirement don’t even scratch the surface. The list only features a few art history courses per semester, and several sections of introduction to creative writing. Meanwhile, at Queen Mary University, I noticed they offered an extensive selection of specialized writing-based art courses like writing contemporary theatre, comedy and satirical writing, poetry, film writing, narrative writing and more.
The skills gained from these writing-based art classes – like writing for a target audience, organizing thoughts and practicing tone and rhetoric – are invaluable skills that should be more accessible to students that aren’t creative writing majors. And these types of courses should be offered at GW because, according to the list of pre-approved courses, none of these courses even transfer over for the arts requirement. The creative writing department does offer classes in these areas, but they require prerequisites, making them only accessible to creative writing majors and minors.
Creative writing is one option for students who aren’t artistically inclined in visual arts. As a result, it’s not a surprise that the 19 spots in each of the five to eight creative writing sections offered each semester fill up quickly on the first day of course registration. I‘ve tried to get into a creative writing class for the three semesters I’ve been at GW, but as a sophomore, the course has never had any open seats by the time I’m able to register. Additionally, general creative writing isn’t enough to appeal to the various interests of students who take arts writing courses.
By expanding the course selection to intro level courses that focus on these niche areas of creative writing, GW would give students more opportunity to pursue an arts-based course they will be genuinely interested in and allow more students to actually get into an arts class before senior year. Officials should strive to add at least 10 more writing-based arts classes in varying subjects. Students would also be able to pick and choose the areas of arts writing that interest them more than others. That way, if one student is specifically interested in poetry and another in short story writing, then those two students could focus on those specific areas, rather than only skimming through each area in a general creative writing course.
The list of potential writing-based courses could cover other areas of writing as well, like art history. GW offers some courses in these areas, like introduction to art architecture and dance history, but there are so many more fields of art that could potentially be explored. While adding more creative writing courses may be difficult due to budget cuts the department has faced in recent years, the budget should be reconsidered. Funds could even be reallocated to replace extra sections of visual arts classes, since those classes don’t fill up as quickly as creative writing and still have spots open now.
If CCAS is going to continue to require all students take an arts course, a wider selection of writing-based arts courses is needed. This would help students to take full advantage of general education requirements, and help them gain skills separate from their major, in a subject that interests them. By pushing non-arts majors into photography or acting classes they don’t care about, the intended effects of the arts requirement are lost.
Rachel Armany, a sophomore majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.
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