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Faculty Critique Loss of Course Gen Ed Status

Carter Eckert
Professor Carter J. Eckert.
Some professors of popular General Education classes slated to lose their General Education status under a proposed new College system said they are frustrated their courses will no longer qualify under the updated requirements.

The College will roll out the new Program in General Education in 2019, a year later than originally planned. With the switch, perennial General Education favorites like Culture and Belief 23: “From the Hebrew Bible to Judaism” and Societies of the World 38: “Pyramid Schemes: The Archaeological History of Ancient Egypt” will no longer count towards requirements.

Shaye J.D. Cohen, who teaches CB23 and another course on the Hebrew Bible in the fall that has seen high enrollment numbers in the last few years, said the General Education committee decided these courses would no longer count for General Education credit under the new program.

In March of 2016, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to overhaul the current General Education program after a committee tasked with reviewing the program reported it was “failing on a variety of fronts.”

Though Cohen said he supported the motion at the time he said he was not aware of the way the implementation committee would choose courses for the new program.

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“Had I known at the faculty meeting when we approved Gen Ed 2.0, had I known this is the way it was implemented, I would've voted against it,” Cohen said.

Cohen said he thinks the criteria for new General Education classes is biased toward certain disciplines.

East Asian Languages and Civilizations Professor Carter Eckert, who teaches Societies of the World 27: “The Two Koreas,” said the implementation committee told him the course would no longer be counted for General Education credit last summer.

Eckert said he sent an application to the committee explaining how his course fits the new General Education categories.

“I was rather puzzled that the Gen Ed committee decided that the course didn't fit, and there wasn’t a clear explanation in the email that I received as to why it did not fit, apart from saying it didn’t fit into these categories,” he said.

Though Cohen said he can’t predict future enrollment numbers, he said he assumes “that the enrollment will diminish substantially” with the loss of Gen Ed status.

In the spring of 2017, Cohen’s CB23 had 365 enrollees in the College. This past fall, his course Cultural and Belief 29: “The Hebrew Bible” had 297 enrollees in the College.

“I'm more than happy to reach out to a large number of students,” Cohen said. “That number is probably going to go down. As far as that is true, I will be less happy.”

Peter Manuelian, a professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, said his Societies of the World class, “Pyramid Schemes,” might face similar challenges in enrollment if the course is removed from the General Education program.

“I wouldn't want to see a large enrollment course turn into a small enrollment course just because we're redefining it under some way,” Manuelian said.

Manuelian said he has not decided whether he will apply for the new Program in General Education or teach it as a departmental class.

Both Cohen and Manuelian also said they were sad to see a “Study of the Past” requirement that exists under the old General Education system not be included in the new program.

“The current system has at least one course dealing with the study of the past, and I’m not sure that will be part of the new system,” Manuelian said. “Speaking as a biased person who deals with the ancient world, I’d like to see that stick around.”

The chair of the standing committee on General Education did not directly respond to a request for comment.

—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at lucy.wang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22.

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