At this month’s faculty meeting the Committee on Educational policy submitted the 1999 â€“ 2000 Course Package for faculty approval. The package, which lists changes to major requirements, as well as new and substantially revised courses to be offered by each department, was approved.
Next Fall, the English department will offer eleven new 100 level courses to replace English 101. Course titles include Poetry and Magic, Shakespearean Greenworld Comedy, and American Cinema in the 70’s: The Other American Renaissance. The department will also offer a group of 200 level “gateway” courses intended for prospective majors. Both 100 level and gateway courses will be writing intensive and limited in size.
Art History and Art Studio will institute a new major track called the History and Practice Route. The track will combine elements of both wings of the department, and requires seven core courses and four electives, allowing students to pursue a series of courses related to one topic such as the history of architecture, or the issue of gender.
In Division II, American Studies will alter the major to make it more coherent and interdisciplinary. Majors will choose five courses from one of four specialization routes. Philosophy will change the minimum requirement for admission to the honor’s program from a 3.3 GPA in philosophy to a 3.6.
Division III intends to offer a new course, CHEM/PHYS 318 Materials Science: The Chemistry and Physics of Materials that will be the first step towards creating a Materials Science course cluster.
English Department Chair Christopher Pye explained the dual reasoning behind the new 100 level courses. One major consideration was the difficulty of teaching a course on a topic as broad as Techniques of Reading.
“The reason we wanted to go in this direction is it gives faculty members a chance to be more focused,” Pye said. “Many faculty were feeling that it was hard to produce a focused course.”
Another consideration was the purported goal of the course. According to Pye, English 101 was originally designed to teach the skills required for the major although 90 percent of students who take the course do not end up majoring in English. Pye explained that the new one hundred level courses are more like the introductory courses for non-majors in other departments.
“They’re designed to teach students what’s interesting about the major,” he said.
The courses will have a “focus on learning argumentation skills with close reading skills as an emphasis. Even the ones that are, for instance, on film there’s still an emphasis on close analysis, on the way a scene works,” said Pye.
Two-hundred level gateway courses are intended as introductions to the department for prospective majors.
The department has also decided to offer some uncapped 200 level courses in subjects conducive to larger classes. The intention is to allow the department to staff more, smaller classes. ENGL 204 The Feature Film, ENGL 219 Introduction to Literature by Women and ENGL 202 Modern Drama will all be offered uncapped next year. The department will try to limit enrollment in 300 level courses to around 25 students.
The English department has also spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the major requirements, and hopes to change the impression that minority literatures are marginalized by the department.
“Were in the midst of thinking about the requirements,” said Pye. “The issues that were coming up in our discussions with BSU students will come into play when we’re thinking about requirements.” He added, “In the array of courses that we will have at the 100 level, many have multicultural aspects.”
Pye also admitted the concern that asterix courses can be marginalized. “Part of the theory behind gateway courses is to put some minority literatures in the mainstream.”
As with the English department, several considerations have played into the Art department’s decision to add the new History and Practice track. According to Art Department Chair Guy Hedreen, majors and faculty alike value the unity of the Studio and History wings of the department.
“One [consideration] arose when we prepared a report for our ten year external review,” said Hedreen. “It became clear that we’re better as a single department. History and Studio shed light on each other, but our majors didn’t reflect that. The new major is aimed at making it possible to take classes in both.”
Hedreen explained the second consideration as relating to Williams’ mission as a liberal arts college.
“Our current majors are well suited to students who want to go on in grad school, but pre-professional training is not our only goal. Students who are not interested in pursuing one academic discipline after college might be interested in combining the two [wings].”
Another appealing aspect of the new track is that it allows students to pursue one theme such as gender, or discipline, such as architecture.
“We’ve always had a problem accommodating students who have wanted to go on in architecture,” said Hedreen, explaining that design schools expect architecture students to have studied both studio art and architectural history, which is frustrating.
Like the English department, the Art department is concerned with class size when considering new offerings. With the high level of pedagogy in Art History 101-102, the course requires heavy staffing, and Hedreen regrets having to cap the department’s oldest course at 285.