December 11, 1993

To: Executive Committee, College of Letters and Science
From: xx, Chair, History
Re: Revision of General Education Program

Our departmental Curriculum Committee has discussed your November 18 document on this subject. I offer the following comments, based on that discussion.

  1. We support the proposal to eliminate the subdivisions of the current General Education Program (as indicated in Senate Committee's report) while maintaining its overall structure.
  2. We support "in principle" an increase in the number of GE courses, but we are troubled by the way the question is put. It seems to beg the question of the proper criteria for "appropriate" GE courses. It seems to invite responses that could be used to justify drastic relaxation of the criteria for approval, and this we strongly oppose.

  3. Our understanding of the proper criteria for GE courses include the following:
    1. GE courses should be "historically taught" by ladder faculty rather than associates or temporary lecturers.
    2. Courses with defined prerequisites cannot be GE courses if by having fulfilled the prerequisite the student could not take another course in that discipline for GE purposes. By "defined prerequisite', is meant a specific (usually lower division) course and not merely "junior standing." Another way of looking at this is that if the course has a prerequisite that is itself a GE course, it is more advanced and more specialized than GE courses should be.
      The purpose of this criterion is to exclude courses, however valuable they may be in themselves, that are so specialized as to be most appropriate to majors in that discipline or so advanced to assume the student already has a grounding in a discipline.
    3. GE courses should have a rather broad focus (e.g., not literature courses on a single author or history courses on a brief period). The current GE list has a few exceptions to this principle, but they are rare.
    4. More generally, GE courses should be geared toward providing students with an understanding of the principles and methods on which disciplines that will play a major role in determining the quality and character of their lives operate.

    To reiterate, increasing the number of GE courses is certainly a good idea but not if it is done by ignoring the criteria.

    Resource incentives should be extended to departments that are willing to create new courses or modify existing ones to meet the criteria. we are aware of no data that supports the assumption that "bottlenecks" in the GEP are preventing the timely graduation of students. on the contrary, UCSB, with the most demanding general education program in the UC system, has the best time-to-degree record. There are other reasons than a lack of space in GE courses to explain why students are taking longer to graduate (e.g., financial stringency as fees rise, delaying the choice of a major, excessive major requirements in some fields, etc.).

    This may well be the time for a systemwide discussion of GE principles. It is not the time to emasculate UCSB's GEP (which was singled out for praise in our recent accreditation review). If faculty in some departments are "underutilized," we should not reconfigure the GEP in order to utilize them. Underutilization is no reason to turn the GEP into a General Utilization Program. It is, rather, a reason to use the resource allocation process to encourage departments to create new GE courses.

  4. The History Department does have an interest in offering a minor program, although we see this as an issue quite independent of General Education. We contend that minor programs should be monitored carefully for quality. We would like to know, however, whether resource incentives will be offered to departments to offer minors? Will departments that offer minors which attract substantial enrollments receive resources to sustain the effort involved? Or will they find the minor tail wagging the major dog?

document scanned & OCR by H. Marcuse, 11/15/03
note: although I've read through this, OCR errors may be present.
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