Current students could put G.E. plan to use in 2006

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A recently approved reform of CSUN’s general education plan, designed in part to address overcrowded classrooms and the broader academic interests of a potentially confused student body, could have implications for students now enrolled at CSUN.

Many students who enrolled as freshmen this semester will have a choice next semester whether to switch over to the new G.E. curriculum, which was developed by the Faculty Senate through its Educational Policies Committee last semester, or to stay with the old one.

The new 2006-08 course catalog, complete with the new G.E. reform curriculum, will be implemented in Fall 2006 for all incoming students. Students who choose to follow the new curriculum will not have the option of switching back to the old model.

The specifics of how Fall 2005 entrants will use the new G.E. model are not yet finalized, according to Jennifer Matos, chair of the G.E. task force and professor in the Biology Department.

“The purpose (of G.E. reform) was to make the G.E. simpler, more straightforward (and allow) students to move through this requirement,” Matos said.

Students who enroll for the first time will have to take 48 general education units to graduate, as opposed to an old curriculum in which students took 58 units.

G.E.-certified students who come from community colleges will have to take fewer G.E. classes because of their earned units under the new plan. Matos said part of the reason for the G.E. reform plan was to get rid of the inequity of transfer students having to take classes they have already taken.

Matos also said that students often take G.E. courses they are not interested in, simply because it is a requirement, another issue addressed in the reform plan.

The new curriculum offers fewer classes to take from a single department in fulfilling a section (e.g. Social Sciences, Section C). Rather, students will choose courses they are interested in from any department in order to satisfy the required units for that section.

“It opens up flexibility for students, so that students can pursue their own interests, rather than us dictating what they should take,” Matos said.

Some students favor the new G.E. plan because of the lesser units, more electives and the flexibility of choosing courses.

“I guess it’s better that way because students are free to choose classes that they want to take, something (that) you’re interested in,” said Veronica Ostrak, a second-year freshman.

The Basic Subjects category will essentially stay the same, but the other alphabetical sections (i.e. Sections B, C, D, E, and F) will be grouped into one single category: Subject Explorations.

In that category are five sections that have their own maximum amount of “free” units, and students can choose classes from any department that fulfills them.

“One of the things we try to incorporate with this new change is to encourage students to take up a minor by taking up some of the courses in the Subject Explorations category,” Matos said.

Another problem the reform plan will begin to address is the scarcity of major electives, as few majors offer enough electives, which developed into the free units part of the G.E. reform plan.

For example, the English Department will offer up to 17 free units to satisfy the elective requirements of the major. That will give students a variety of courses to choose from, and could potentially address the problem of overcrowded classrooms.

The plan will also provide some leeway for students who wish to change majors, as some of a student’s completed courses could continue to count toward graduation.

“I believe that the new CSUN (G.E.) program provides a rich and diverse educational experience for our students, while at the same time gives the students some additional flexibility, due to the reduction of units in G.E.,” wrote Diane Schwartz, chair of the Educational Policies Committee and professor in the Computer Science department, in an e-mail.

The new curriculum will allow students with advanced skills and knowledge in areas outside their majors to bypass introductory G.E. courses and instead take more rigorous majors-only courses, according to the G.E. reform model description.

A music major who is playing for the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra would not have to take the lower-division G.E. courses simply to fulfill a section requirement, according to Matos.

Though the reform plan addresses some issues of classroom overcrowding and a potentially confusing path to a degree, some faculty members believe the plan does little to address the larger issue of insufficient state funding in the CSU that contributed to some of these problems in the first place.

Kristyan Kouri, sociology professor and co-vice president of lecturers for the California Faculty Association, said the reason behind the policy change was to bypass the budget crisis and ignore the extreme need for more CSU funding.

“The CSU is chronically under-funded,” she said. “We don’t have money for professors and, because we don’t have money, students can’t get the classes they need. And because of that, students can’t graduate in four years (with the current G.E.).”

Kouri also stressed the importance of general education and learning about the world beyond what a person will likely pursue as a career.

“What has happened to education is that it has become occupation-oriented, whereas it used to be about a college education that would help expand your mind,” Kouri said, stressing that a classical education is about learning all different kinds of things.

Jelly Mae Jadraque can be reached at jelly.mae.quilantang.jadraque@csun.edu.