By Evan Branigan
Last month, the faculty Academic Senate overwhelmingly approved a resolution to reaffirm faculty commitment to the “W” general education requirement, which requires students to complete a series of writing classes culminating in one writing-intensive course. The faculty is also calling for administrators to allocate financial resources to ensure students can meet this goal effectively.
Faye Crosby, Academic Senate chair, said, “We asked the administration to put the resources into making sure that the “W” requirement will operate for the educational benefit of students, and not simply as a paper requirement that forces students to take courses that they would rather not take.”
Departments across campus have struggled in recent years to offer sufficient “W” courses for their students.
Professor Dan Wirls, chair of the Politics Department, pointed out that his department reluctantly abandoned the 100-series course that previously satisfied the “W” requirement. The loss happened two years ago because department resources were stretched too thin.
The change has forced many undergraduates to take courses outside of their majors to satisfy the graduation requirement. Wirls said that he supported the recent resolution.
“Politics is a writing-intensive major,” Wirls said. “We’d like to come up with something to offer our students, we but we need more financial resources.”
Budget cuts have also squeezed other departments across campus. Some economics “W” courses are now as big as 50 or 60 students, up from 20 or 30 just a few years ago.
Linguistics Professor Jaye Padgett chairs the Committee on Education Policy, which approves courses, directs grading and evaluation policy, and has complete control over undergraduate curriculum and graduation requirements.
Padgett sees the “W” as a critical component of the undergraduate curriculum, but wants to see students trained to write within their majors.
“Changing the requirements is something that needs to happen,” Padgett said. “Our system hasn’t been overhauled since 1984. That’s a long time.”
Padgett suggested that, for example, a computer scientist should be trained to write material pertaining to that discipline, which involves a different style than a linguist or an economist would use.
The resolution is only the beginning of what could potentially be a major overhaul of the general education structure at UCSC. The committee last attempted to reform the general educational system in 1999, but efforts stalled because departments could not agree to support the writing requirement.
This time, the committee wants to tackle the “W” first, and then examine the other GEs. The process could take up to three years.