EDITORIAL: Criticize University's general education requirements
The Justice Editorial Board has received newly proposed changes to the general education requirements created by the Task Force on General Education. Dean of Arts and Sciences Susan Birren announced in a Jan. 27 email that the Task Force would be reworking the requirements for an undergraduate degree. All proposed changes will not impact current Brandeis students but will be first adopted by the class entering in Fall 2019.
Although this board commends the University for initiating this review and attempting to improve the core curriculum — which has not been changed in 23 years — we believe many of the proposed changes are restrictive and unnecessary.
This board supports the proposed changes to writing intensive and oral communication requirements as well as the addition of a digital literacy requirement. These three requirements will be completed by students within their major department. The board believes this will encourage departments to rethink their internal curriculum and update courses to reflect the realities of modern industry, particularly in regards to technology.
The creation of the “Health, Wellness, and Life Skills” requirements and the expansion of the University Writing Seminar into the new “First Year Experience,” however, is misguided. The “Health, Wellness, and Life Skills” requirement forces students to complete three non-credit courses or modules. This board believes the additional time spent completing these requirements will frustrate already-busy students and create a vicious cycle of disinterest in learning potentially valuable life skills. Similarly, for first-year students eager to take interesting elective courses which have the potential to guide their next three years, the “First Year Experience” requirement adds more work which unnecessarily restricts students from pursuing areas of learning they are genuinely curious about.
Included in the proposal is the statistic that over half of all Brandeis students double or triple major. This board believes that by adding two additional credit requirements and one additional non-credit requirement, the University is compromising the ability of its students to take charge of their own academic career.
This board expressed similar concerns in Feb. 7 editorial in which we foreshadowed that “proposed amendments will likely hold back students more than help them.” It seems that our predictions will soon be reality. While this board recognizes these new requirements are intended to be positive changes meant to help students grow as individuals, we believe many are shortsighted and paternalistic.They will limit students’ academic exploration, and they fail to strike a healthy balance of flexibility and interdisciplinary learning.