Scripps College students gathered in the Student Union on March 3 in an open forum to discuss decreasing the college’s breadth of study requirements. The discussion was inspired by a recent petition written by Theresa Iker SC ’14 that proposes large changes to the requirements.
The petition questions whether the large amount of general education requirements currently in place is necessary to meet Scripps’s emphasis on interdisciplinary education.
Scripps students currently must complete ten general education requirements in addition to three semesters of the Core humanities program and a first-year writing course. Of the four liberal arts-focused Claremont Colleges, only CMC has more general education requirements due to the college’s inclusion of a three-semester physical education requirement. Pomona, on the other end of the spectrum, has only five breadth of study requirements.
Iker’s petition, which was posted on the Scripps Class of 2014 Facebook page, proposed to amend this practice and allow Core II and III sections to count toward general education requirements, since many sections focus on a specific theme that coincides with a general education guideline. Iker’s changes would also combine the Mathematics and Natural Sciences requirements into one category. The Letters and Social Science requirements would be similarly merged, while the Fine Arts requirement would be eliminated altogether.
Scripps students would still be obligated to take three semesters of a foreign language, in addition to currently required courses in Gender and Women’s Studies and Race and Ethnic Studies.
Iker said she created the petition because she felt that the requirements limited her ability to explore academic options.
“My personal reasons stem back to my feelings as a first-semester first-year when I just didn’t have the time with my GE’s to pursue different options for majors,” she said.
The petition immediately generated both positive and negative responses on Facebook. In order to better facilitate the discussion, Sophomore Class Representative Oriana LaVilla SC ‘14 organized the forum. Many students who attended were concerned with the changes proposed by the petition, particularly the combination of Math and Science into one category. Some math and science majors said that a solid background in both disciplines is necessary in order to be competitive and competent in life after college.
Biophysics major Kiley Lawrence SC ’14 said that combining the two requirements would be “playing directly into a stereotype” about the ability of women to excel in these typically male-dominated fields.
Others said that they opposed the elimination of the Fine Arts requirement, in the interest of maintaining Scripps’s commitment to interdisciplinary education.
“I think one of the most important aspects of my Scripps education is the fact that it requires me to challenge myself again and again,” Jessi Warren SC ‘14 said. “Courage is such a pillar of a Scripps education, and I think that we learn courage by doing things we’re not used to.”
Warren discovered her own interest in politics through fulfilling the Social Studies requirement in her first year, and is now minoring in Politics and International Relations.
Many students at the forum and on Facebook shared Warren’s opinion about maintaining the current number of General Education requirements.
“Even though they’re difficult to get done, I think they’re still really worthwhile,” Rose DuCharme SC ‘14 said. “Race and Ethnic Studies was one that I thought was particularly worthwhile, because I learned a lot of stuff that I would not have ordinarily been aware of or thought about. That’s a class I would not have normally taken otherwise but I’m glad I did.”
However, all of the students at the forum said that they supported Iker’s proposal to count Core II and III courses toward General Education requirements. Many also said that there should be a greater variety of courses that count toward some of the less flexible General Education requirements, such as Race and Ethnic studies. Warren, an anthropology major, said that only one anthropology class satisfies the conditions of a Race and Ethnic studies class.
Iker said that she is open to modifying her proposals to incorporate the opinions of other students.
“I realize that I don’t have enough resources as one person—that’s why I sent out the petition,” Iker said. She embraced the idea of expanding the flexibility of the current requirements rather than cutting them down.
“I really just wanted to get people talking,” she said. “This forum was the first step of what I hope will be a broadening of the discussion.”