Pitzer Task Force Proposes Changes to Graduation Requirements

After eight years of brainstorming, drafting and revising, the Pitzer College Educational Objectives Taskforce, an all-faculty council, presented a proposal of changes to Pitzer’s graduation guidelines to the Pitzer Student Senate March 1. However, the proposal incited concern in the Pitzer Student Senate for its lack of student input.

Currently, Pitzer requires all students to take a distribution of 10 courses in core areas in order to graduate: three courses for interdisciplinary and intercultural exploration, two courses in humanities and fine arts, two courses in the social and behavioral sciences, one course in the natural sciences, one writing-intensive course and a social responsibility involvement.

According to political studies professor Nigel Boyle, a member of the task force, three changes are being proposed. The first two changes are the creation of a social responsibility praxis requirement and a social justice theory requirement, for each of which students must take a required course or partake in an independent study.

Currently, the social responsibility requirement has a non-credit option in which a student could partake in community engagement work.

A third change involves the expansion of the intercultural understanding requirement. Students will be required to demonstrate an understanding of multiculturalism from both an international and a domestic perspective in two courses.

“The main point of these changes is to put Pitzer’s curriculum where its mouth is,” Boyle said. “Pitzer talks a lot about social justice, social responsibility [and] intercultural understanding, but when it came to what students were actually meant to do, it was so loosey-goosey that it was practically meaningless. And that was a problem.” 

“We can’t have aspirational goals if we don’t have any meaningful academic way of addressing them,” he added. 

In response, the Senate passed Resolution 51-R-13 March 8, which proposed a Student Advisory Commission to assist with the Educational Objectives Taskforce as the group continues to work on its final revisions to the guideline changes. The proposal for a Student Advisory Commission will be put to a vote during the March 15 Senate meeting.

The resolution states that “the Student Senate implores the need for the student voice to be taken seriously and heard in a professional capacity.”

Boyle said that he believes that the change in a graduation requirements will not be a radical shift for students. The proposal has been presented before the college council, which will approve or deny the changes in a faculty-only vote April. The council consists of the faculty, staff representatives and 16 student representatives, according to the college’s website.

“The curriculum is the responsibility of the faculty,” Boyle said. “This is an area where faculty have primary responsibility.” 

If passed, the proposal will then go to the president and the board of trustees for final approval. 

Andrew Lydens PZ ’17, who co-authored the resolution and serves on the Student Affairs Committee, said that some students are concerned with the elimination of the non-credit option for the social responsibility praxis requirement.

“Many students are involved in out-of-classroom social responsibility endeavors to fulfill this requirement and the recommendations would thwart most future out-of-class social responsibility counting for this specific graduation requirement,” Lydens said.

The resolution cites the college’s website: “Pitzer presents a unique opportunity for self-exploration and for exploration of the world.” It also states that this “implies the opportunity to take a truly broad array of courses.”

According to Kyle Dalrymple PZ ’17, who serves on the Student Affairs Committee, the issue also lies within limited course selection for the social justice and praxis requirements.

“Two courses is a lot, and there is also a huge concern about the quality of these courses that will be offered,” he said.

However, Dalrymple said he believes the changes in general will have a positive impact on the student body.

Boyle said he does not believe the changes will pigeonhole students into a narrow course selection, but instead will hold faculty accountable to designing their class curriculums to meet more rigorous standards. Additionally, students will have the ability to use a single class to fulfill multiple requirements, and to use classes within their major to meet these core criteria.

“The governance problem that we have is that things like this tend to take six, seven, eight years; students cycle through much more quickly,” Boyle said.

Boyle said he would be willing to present to the Senate again but noted that it is unlikely the task force will rewrite the current plan.

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