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Council nixes CORE requirement

Amanda Michaels | Wednesday, December 10, 2003

After over two decades of providing sophomores in the College of Arts and Letters with a broad base of knowledge in the form of a structured, year-long program, Core has been dropped from the school’s list of requirements.In its place stands the College Seminar, a one-semester course approved by a 30-18 vote among members of the College Council over the two-semester option of a half-year sophomore class and a senior capstone class. Rather than relying on a series of requisite texts based on a program-wide theme – the approach Core currently follows – the College Seminars will offer a variety of interdisciplinary course options, based on proposals awarded development grants by the College.”We’ll try as best we can to get a group of faculty working on a common topic, because we believe that is our greatest chance at achieving interdisciplinary collaboration,” said George Howard, director of Core and professor of psychology. “But each faculty member would probably approach the subject using texts from their own disciplines. For example, if I were to offer a College Seminar on the environment, I would get other disciplines from the college to get involved with me, like economics, philosophy and theology, to put together a broad course, but I would use texts psychological in nature, because I’m a psychology professor.”Though the year-long Core is no longer a requirement, next year’s sophomores will have the option of taking the College Seminar, a one-semester Core course or the full Core program. There is no way of forcing students to take a year of Core, and because one semester will be equivalent to a College Seminar, it is doubtful that many students will choose to do so, Howard said. Also, as Core will no longer have a restricted curriculum, the faculty members will be free to address the topic using whichever materials they see fit. Debate has raged over Core for months, with many opposed to abbreviating it, fearing that it would no longer serve the original purpose of the program.”There were some students and faculty who argued that Core isn’t broken, so we shouldn’t change it at all, but it is fair to say that this solution met the needs of the majority of voting members of College Council,” Howard said.The existence of Core Congress, the body made up of student representatives for each Core class, is also in doubt, as they will no longer be able to use a common syllabus as grounds for discussion, but “other aspects of these College Seminars might make a Core Congress a good idea,” Howard said. “Reducing the requirement to one-semester is certainly a move away from providing a broad intellectual experience, because Core really takes two full semesters to cover the domain it set out for itself,” Howard said. “But there’s a sense in which the college has just given the students back a free elective students didn’t have, and students would not be losing anything if they continued to take the year-long Core course.”