With incoming freshman classes continuing to outperform their predecessors, growing pressure has been placed on the College of Literature, Science and the Arts to enhance and diversify curriculum options for incoming students. In response to these mounting concerns, LSA Dean Terrence McDonald, working in conjunction with the LSA Student Government, has proposed a series of core curriculum reforms.
These changes — laid out in McDonald’s State of the College Address — seek to enlarge the pool of academic minors by adding international relations, kinesiology, religion and chemistry to the array of options already available for the fall 2005 term. Also proposed is a revamping of the language requirement and a re-evaluation of what courses should fill the race and ethnicity requirement. Although classes for these impending minors already exist in the University, high student demand compelled the college to consider further changes.
Though students currently can tailor their courseloads to model the basic blueprint of an international relations minor, the label “international relations” does not appear on their transcripts. This move would help draw prospective students who compare the academic majors and minors available across a competitive field of universities. What is more, there are few drawbacks to the proposal. Given the abundance of teachers and courses in these areas, the curriculum committee should not have to reallocate its resources or divert from any existing programs to create the new minors. The only significant change, the creation of academic advising programs for the minors, should prove to be helpful in gauging the success of the programs.
Unlike the addition of an international relations minor, the proposed changes to the language requirement may be more contentious. Under the existing rules, students who have completed or passed out of two semesters of a language are not given a realistic opportunity to take a second language; if they want to start anew, they must take four semesters. LSA’s proposed change will reduce the previous four-semester requirement to three if students passed out of two semesters in another language — a positive step toward removing the heavy burden students have to pay for dabbling in multiple foreign languages. This change will allow students become proficient in more of the many different languages the University offers.
Along with the anticipated curriculum changes, the committee also aims to re-evaluate which courses fulfill the LSA race and ethnicity requirement. Many classes that discuss race and its implications, like American Culture 210.001, which discusses Arab Americans and their place in the U.S. racial classifications system, do not fulfill race and ethnicity requirements. According to the requirement, the course must address the meaning of race, racial and ethnic intolerance in the United States and comparisons of discrimination. The curriculum committee must re-evaluate each course and appropriately distinguish between classes according to the set race and ethnicity standards. With these changes to the distribution requirement and an augmented collection of academic minors, the proposed LSA reforms may go a long way toward enhancing the college’s image among current and prospective students alike.