Every semester, when the highly anticipated course guide goes live online, my first concern is which classes can I take to fulfill my LSA distribution requirements. But this doesn’t seem like an appropriate response. College allots the only four years in your life during which is it completely acceptable to have absolutely no idea what interests you. But the University insists that I take at least two natural science classes, a subject that isn’t enjoyable for an English major like me. It doesn’t seem fair that students spend their time worrying about completing requirements rather than exploring classes that appeal to them.
By the time I found classes to fulfill some of my many LSA requirements and classes to fulfill my major distribution, I had no room left in my schedule for any electives — unless I wanted to take 19 credits. The University needs to stop regulating our academic curriculum so strictly. This control over our class choices inhibits the chance to explore unique classes. For instance, the Afro-American and African Studies department is offering a class about Michael Jackson this semester. However, the class doesn’t fulfill any basic breaths and if a student is not a CAAS major, one might find it difficult to make time.
Students spend four — or maybe if they’re lucky, five — years as an undergraduate student. That’s about eight semesters. That means that during their time at the University, most students will take approximately 32 classes. If a student is in LSA, at least 10 of those classes are comprised of distribution requirements. How is it fair to justify that a third of the classes students take are because they were forced to do so?
Brown University doesn’t have a single requirement for undergraduate students. Students, even incoming freshman, are able to select any class that interests them and, regardless of their major, create a schedule that consists of any array of subjects. This type of setup permits students to take classes that they enjoy going to and discussing. In a society where students often see their peers skipping classes and lectures, it is hard for students to self-motivate themselves to attend a class they are forced to take.
The current structure the University has isn’t fair to its students. Students pay per credit. Why should anyone have to pay for something that they don’t want? You wouldn’t go see a movie that doesn’t interest you just to pay for a ticket stub.
Additionally, one might not find the time to fulfill a second major or minor because they need to finish their distribution requirements. It seems unfair to deprive a student of a degree just because they didn’t have time in their schedule to take the necessary classes.
Let me be clear in stating that I am not advocating for complete curriculum freedom. I think that, particularly within a major, some breath is essential to having a rounded education in that topic. But I do strongly believe that a student who knows that he or she wants to study Spanish has no need to take two or three natural science classes. Every student has specific strengths. Just because one person is better in calculus than another doesn’t mean they are smarter.
The University needs to relinquish the reins over requisite classes. The college of LSA, especially, should diminish distribution requirements. While I can appreciate the desire to encourage students to try a plethora of subjects, demanding at least two courses in the basic fields (Natural Science, Humanities and Social Science) is excessive.
Students should be able to fill their schedules with classes that they find unique and insightful. The University shouldn’t impede. Quite contrarily, it is the University’s responsibility to ensure that students have the opportunity to learn about topics that interest them most.
Emily Orley is a senior editorial page editor.