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Group reviews proposals

Amanda Michaels | Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The College Seminar program, formerly Core, continues to face both praise and criticism as the Feb. 1 deadline for course proposals draws nearer.

Approved at the Dec. 9 College Council meeting, the one-semester College Seminar stands in place of the full-year Core course currently required for all sophomores in the College of Arts and Letters, and will officially take effect next fall. The new program will offer a variety of multi-disciplinary courses in both the fall and spring semesters – a major adjustment to Core’s common curriculum – but also allows students to take the full-year Core course as an elective.

George Howard, director of Core and professor of psychology, said he is currently aware of 18 course proposals, including Environment, Materialism and Consumption, Reconciliation in Film, Theatre and Psychology, Social Psychology and Men and Music. The program’s finances allow for 35 proposals to be approved, though that number was flexible, said Howard.

“We want at least 30 proposals, and since the professors are committed to teaching the course twice over a three-year period and we plan to offer 30 courses in the fall and 25 in the spring, we should be covered for at least a year with that number,” said Howard. “However, we will be faced with the exact same problem next year. So, the best long-term interest for the College is to have more than 30 proposals.”

In the event of too many submissions, a committee made up of one faculty member from humanities, social science and the fine and performing arts will make the final selection.

Though there was doubt surrounding the future of Core Congress, the voice for student concerns about the program, Howard said that, at this time, they intend to keep the Core Congress, now appropriately titled the College Seminar Congress. The congress, he said, has been a valuable resource providing what have been, at times, surprising responses of students that led to changes in the program.

Faculty feedback, previously ambivalent after the divisive 30-18 vote that made the College Seminar official, is now, as a whole, positive.

“It is fair to say that everyone is reconciled to the changes. As with most things intellectual, the more you think about them, the more excited you get, so there seems to be a growing enthusiasm for the program. The fact that I have been contacted by 18 people already is very heartening,” Howard said.

Many current freshmen, the first to be affected by the changes, have responded favorably to the new program, citing freer schedules and more course choices as positive developments.

“I like that the one-semester program frees up our schedules. We have the option to explore different areas of interest, which is important since sophomores have to be ready to declare a major by the end of the year,” freshman Kristin Hopson said.

Not all students, however, are pleased by the changes, which are a departure from the broad liberal arts values represented by the Core program.

“I’m disappointed that they took away the collective learning experience that Core offered,” freshman Daniel McLaughlin said. “It’s a shame that this unique program was overshadowed by the need for efficiency. I will probably take the full-year as an elective though.”

Sophomore John Schneider, currently enrolled in his final semester in Core, sees the College Seminar program as a welcome change but does not regret taking the full-year.

“Although Core has potential for good, it doesn’t often materialize, so ending the full-year requirement is a good thing,” said Schneider. “I don’t feel gypped, but from my experience, they made a good policy decision.”