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Administrators are considering a fall 2018 launch for the revamped General Education program, according to Gen Ed committee chair Edward J. Hall, a move that could make access to the new program a possibility for current freshmen.
Details of how and when the new program—approved by a vote of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences last Tuesday—will be implemented have thus far been unclear. Hall said that he was optimistic a “concrete plan” would emerge by the end of the academic year.
Echoing FAS Dean Michael D. Smith, who said in February that he wanted students to transition to the new Gen Ed “as effectively and efficiently as possible,” Hall said it was important to implement the revamped program quickly.
“The current program is not living up to its aspirations,” Hall said. “Other things equal, the sooner we can replace it the better.”
The new program will reduce the number of required Gen Ed-specific courses from eight to four, in addition to adding three broad distribution requirements and a quantitative course, the details of which have yet to be determined. Students will also be able to take up to half of these courses pass-fail, a last-minute change to the legislation that came as a surprise to student leaders.
Hall said one of the limiting factors in launching the new program would be the time required to vet new and current Gen Ed courses to ensure that they fit under the altered categories and are consistent with the larger philosophical views of the revamped program.
“We do know that before we bring it online, even courses that are in the current program that want to stay in Gen Ed are going to have to go through some kind of careful re-assessment process,” Hall said.
Stephanie H. Kenen, the administrative director for Gen Ed, wrote in an email that before such a vetting process can begin, administrators will have to decide what criteria the would-be Gen Ed courses must meet to be part of the new program.
“We have to determine what the guidelines and standards will be for courses in the revised Program, and a workable process for reviewing them for inclusion,” Kenen wrote.
However, Hall said administrators know in part what to look for, given the school's experience with the first iteration of Gen Ed and the findings of a long review process.
“We actually have a pretty good idea of what it takes to run a really good Gen Ed course,” Hall said. “By this point, we have a lot of acquired lore and wisdom about that.”
Administrators will also need to ensure that students in the transition, who would include current freshmen if the program is launched in 2018, have “flexibility” in meeting their requirements, according to Kenen and Hall.
“We have to determine which requirements current and incoming students must fulfill and what courses they may use to fulfill them,” Kenen wrote. “We need to balance three things: fairness and flexibility to students; programmatic integrity; and administrative efficiencies.”
Pressure to implement the new program quickly, balanced with the need to ensure fairness in the transition, make 2018 “probably a good compromise,” Hall said, although he noted that there was still no “firm date” for the roll out.
“Longer in a way would be better because we could be more patient about the review process, but that also feels like it would be unfair to students,” Hall said. “We don’t want to delay that long.”
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