Pomona’s Curriculum Committee Proposes Changes to GE Requirements

Pomona College’s Curriculum Committee released a proposal of changes to the
college’s current General Education (GE) requirements after a review process that
has lasted more than a year. The committee began collecting data for the
review in the 2013-2014 academic year.

The current
GE requirements
were instated 10 years ago and include five Breadth of Study requirements, a
first year critical inquiry writing seminar, a physical education requirement
and a foreign language course.

The committee’s most recently updated proposal has seven parts. The
proposal asks students to take a writing intensive course after the first-year
seminar, a speaking intensive course, a second Physical Education course and
an Engaging Diversity course. It also proposes dividing Area 1 into two areas, with one focusing on Analysis/Criticism and the other on Creation/Performance. If
students do not finish their Breadth of Study Requirements by the end of their sixth semester, they will receive last place in pre-registration each subsequent semester until they complete these requirements. Finally, the proposal presents a
new statement of the learning goals of GE.

“We solicited feedback from the entire community on if we think the current
system has deficiencies, how would you propose to address those deficiencies,” said Michael
Steinberger, economic professor and chair of the Curriculum Committee.

According to Steinberger, the committee received a total of 17 individual
proposals. Then, the committee revised those proposals after reviewing all the
student, alumni and faculty survey responses about their opinions about the
current GE system.

A general report on these survey responses released in early March by the
curriculum committee states that faculty members are generally more
dissatisfied with the current requirements than students are.

At an April
24 forum held for students regarding the seven-part proposal
draft, students read through the individual sections and gave their opinions on the wording, logistics and possible implications on
future students even though current students will not be affected by
the GE changes.

Ben Brasch PO ’16 said that he was unsatisfied with the proposed revisions. 

“My general reaction was
that half the things seemed good, seemed somewhat reasonable and useful, like
the split of Area 1,” he said. “Half the things didn’t seem to really matter to me.”

Brasch expressed
dissatisfaction with the current GE requirements and said that
they don’t correspond with what it means to get a liberal arts degree from Pomona
College.

“The fear I have about
Pomona is that with these elementary-school Breadth of Study requirement
things, you can get a degree, a liberal arts degree, and be convinced that it
is a real liberal arts degree and take like four classes outside your major,” Brasch said. “That’s
all it takes. So the fear I would say is that there is an insidious assumption
that if you graduate from Pomona that you graduate with a liberal arts degree.”

A popular point of
discussion during the student forum was the Engaging
Difference overlay requirement. Some students expressed
concern with the
wording of the proposal. As a result, the wording has now been revised and the requirement will be called Engaging Diversity.

Before both names, the area was originally called Dynamics and
Difference in Power, a class in which is encouraged but not required under the current GE system.

“What the curriculum committee heard from students and faculty members is
that there is an interest in making sure that our students are prepared to live
in a dynamic, diverse world and that they are ready to engage difference,”
Steinberger said.

Outgoing Associated Students of Pomona College Commissioner of Academic
Affairs and curriculum committee member Emily Glass
PO ’15 said that discussion on GE has been like “a tug of war between our
values and practicality.”

“For
example, if Pomona had enough seats, they would mandate every student to take a
lab course,” Glass said. “The faculty think that doing a lab science would be a really
good educational experience for its students. For me, it’s sometimes
disappointing to see economic factors constrict our options when looking
forward.”

The faculty will discuss the proposal during the May 6 faculty meeting.
Steinberger wrote in an email to TSL
that he does not believe it will be “finalized and passed” during the meeting.

“I
would expect lengthy discussion on possible amendments and changes to the
proposal,” he wrote. “The Curriculum Committee has proposed a single, unified General
Education system, not a piecemeal list of options. That said, I would not
be surprised if some parts of the system we propose are changed, edited or
deleted.”

Whether the incoming first-year class will be placed under the new GE
system will depend upon when the proposal passes. If the proposal doesn’t
pass even after faculty amendments, Steinberger wrote, “then
we stick with the current General Education system and no changes are made.”

This article was updated May 1. It originally contained a quote by a student who referred to the old proposal that had stated that students must complete their Breadth of Study requirements by their fourth semester. The Curriculum Committee had revised that clause before the publication of this article to students’ “sixth semester.”

The article also originally spelled the Curriculum Committee’s name incorrectly.

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