The humanities need more funding and higher standards

Humanities disciplines at GW are in dire need of a more structured curriculum. But for departments to create such a curriculum, the University needs to funnel more money to humanities disciplines like history and gender and sexuality studies.

During the hour and 15 minutes of Gender and Sexuality in Bollywood, a 3170 level course, our sessions rarely include robust discussions on complex theories relating to gender and sexuality. Instead, most of the students treat the course as an easy respite from their real majors. Not only are we not expected to have completed any prerequisite courses on film or gender and sexuality, but we also are not even expected to enter the course with basic knowledge about Bollywood cinema.

Through no fault of the professor, the course has become a hotbed of tepid discussion, rarely giving students who are genuinely interested in understanding gender theory the opportunity to learn new ideas and challenge their existing opinions. I have experienced a similar disappointment with most of the upper-division courses I have taken as an upperclassman majoring in history. Anybody from freshmen to seniors can take upper-division courses that ideally should be reserved only for sophomores, juniors and seniors who have taken a specific set of prerequisite courses to prepare for courses that build upon those prerequisites.

Students of any major deserve to grow through their program and advance their studies as they move toward graduation. That has not been my experience in GW’s upper level humanities courses. My classmates and I must be able to undergo the same premiere education as our peers in other well-funded programs, and we cannot ignore the fact that GW does not want to allot money to a smaller humanities department like WGSS. The program could and should be better, but it needs more funding.

Other departments have seen similar issues. The religion department was forced to shrink its course offerings three years ago because it did not have enough money to fund courses that covered four different religions. At the time, there were no full-time faculty that specialized in either Hinduism or Buddhism, which are two of the six major religious traditions that are part of the basic curriculum for religion majors. And most recently, professors have called on officials to implement a “cluster hire” of underrepresented faculty and provide enough money for the Africana studies program to become its own department. This requires money, and officials should not overlook it.

We now know that administrators are likely no longer looking to grow the share of STEM students and reduce the overall student population. In that decision, there is a glimmer of hope that officials can turn their attention to the departments that desperately want to grow. My classmates and I should not need to take an upper-level class with freshmen who are just studying the material for the first time.

Courses must be productive spaces that push students to grow out of their comfort zones and challenge their beliefs, and more funding for my department and several others would help accomplish that.

 

Shreeya Aranake, a junior majoring in history, is a columnist.

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