e-mail in response to the June 2001 UCSB GE Task Force report (link), from the Department of Drama and Dance, Feb. 14, 2002, distributed to TF membership on Feb. 15, 2002.
In general, the department has strong doubts about the proposed revisions, probably enough to incline us to oppose them outright rather than see them approved as proposed.
I know that one of the concerns among HFA chairs is the possible loss of enrollment from the division. We see it as very likely that the changes would lead to a decrease of total enrollment in Dramatic Art and Dance. There are ways we could alter our program to keep the enrollments level, but the changes would involve losing courses in our department that we consider important. We generally appreciate the presence of GE students (or students who take our courses as electives--it's hard to be certain which is which) in our upper division classes. We foresee creation of a couple more lower division classes in the future, and these could perhaps be tailored to the new categories, but most of our teaching power that is not strictly devoted to majors (i.e. that aims at GE students) is and should be on the upper division level.
It is not clear how DA and DN courses would fit into the proposed new categories. Both fields of study are intrinsically interdisciplinary and involve multiple skills. We have courses in both divisions that are associated with the humanities (history and literature classes) and others that are associated with fine arts. We have others that are associated with both. (By the way, this is a problem with the current GE system, too.) Also, we have courses that are equally historical and literary, others that are equally about art and literature. We think the new scheme is unlikely to reflect this aspect of our courses.
We understand the notion that GE courses should lead to broadening and not be duplicative of courses for the major. However, in this department, there are relatively few courses that do this. On the other hand, the voices that speak against "pre-professionalism" don't take into account that arts training requires a more structured training, and more prolonged, than other fields of study. We have programs that involve a carefully structured three- or even four-year training. Those students find it advantageous to spread out their GE courses over the whole time of their study at the university. The new requirements, which squeeze GE courses into the lower-division years, would prove a burden on them. This is not true solely for students in the BFA programs, but also in the BA emphasis in design.
We also wonder if the crunch on transfer students has been sufficiently taken into account. While some follow the plan and arrive here with their GEs out of the way, many do not. We have a hard enough time figuring out a way for them to get through major requirements in two or even three years, since they need to cover some of their GE requirements.
We applaud any change that will lead to an improvement in writing skills among lower division students. We suggest the creation of graduate-student staffed freshman seminars, allowing the grad students to design their own curriculum around a special topic and then strongly pushing writing skills. (See Cornell for a model.)
Although we recognize that there are conceptual ambiguities behind the Western/non-Western categories, we mostly agree that it is wrong to abandon them. We are not convinced that the new categories will lead students to the courses that will give them a framework for understanding the humanities and arts.
We ask that the proposal for retiring courses that have not been taught for two years be increased to three or even four years.
These are the main features of our objections to the present proposal. I hope they can be taken into account as you reshape the proposal.