Faculty approve several changes to major requirements

At the March 9 faculty meeting, the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) presented its recommended changes to academic departments and programs. The proposed changes, which were developed by the departments and programs themselves and then sent to the CEP, include changes to requirements for the art history, English, geosciences and comparative literature majors. The addition of the word “sexuality” to the women’s and gender studies program, to become the women’s, gender and sexuality studies program, was also proposed. The faculty overwhelmingly approved all recommended changes.

Art history

Whereas art history majors have previously been required to take the year-long course ARTH 101-102, “Aspects of Western Art,” as the foundational course for the major, majors will now have the option of taking ARTH 103, “Asian Art Survey,” for major credit instead of either ARTH 101 or 102. Majors will be required to petition the chair of the art department to approve the substitution. In addition, majors will be required to take a 300-level tutorial or 400-level seminar in addition to the 400- or 500-level seminar that is currently a part of the major. The major will still consist of nine courses in total.
“Although 101 and 102 have been fabulously successful courses and remain so, as our sole foundational offerings, we felt that our major was limited,” said Peter Low, professor of art and chair of the department. “In its own educational mission, the College increasingly is emphasizing the global scope and fostering global awareness in students, and this was our way of being a part of that.”
Furthermore, the art department hopes to bring the College’s art history major in line with the general art history practices around the world. “The discipline of art history is also becoming increasingly global in scope,” Low said. “In the last 30 years, its purview has expanded enormously, and we’d like our offerings to reflect that.”

Because of the new flexibility in introductory courses, art history majors may now complete the major without taking either ARTH 101 or 102, courses that the department recognize as incredibly important for the overall study of art history.

“This is always the challenge … The wider your scope, the more selective you become in your treatment of what’s in that scope,” Low said. “There is potentially some loss there, but there’s plenty of time to address in future years those things that students may have missed.”

In its memorandum to the faculty discussing the proposed changes, the CEP cited a potential inconsistency in the requirements for art history majors and non-majors: “Majors may substitute ARTH 103 for either 101 or 102 … but non-majors must take both 101 and 102 to receive similar credit. We urge the art department to resolve this inconsistency,” the memorandum said. The department is not overly concerned about the issue, however, as they already receive many petitions each year in regards to 101-102, according to Low.

“There will be some extra administrative work there – a minimal amount – but we feel that the increased scope and flexibility [the new option] gives our students far outweigh the drawbacks,” Low said.

In the future, the department hopes to keep increasing its global scope. “Right now we’re addressing the challenge with the faculty we already have,” Low said. “Down the road, we hope to hire another Asianist, an Africanist and maybe an expert in South and Central American art.”
As for the new requirement of a 300-level tutorial or 400-level seminar, Low cited a desire to make the art history major more challenging.

“Specifically, it will offer the majors more opportunities to develop critical and analytical skills, to write research papers and to present their work publicly,” according to the department’s proposal to the CEP, which was distributed at the faculty meeting.

“We’re rendering our curriculum more flexible at the bottom level while also making it more challenging at the upper level. It seems like a positive combination,” Low said.
Overall, the department is excited about the changes to the art history major. “We feel that these are ways to maintain some of the best aspects of our curriculum while still rendering it a little more up-to-date,” Low said. “It’s a matter of embracing the future in a way that’s good for our students, our faculty and the College as a whole.”

English

The English major will see several substantial changes in the future. Whereas majors have previously been required to take two courses on literature from before 1700, two on literature from 1700-1900 and one on literature from 1900 to the present, majors will now be required to take three courses designated as “literary histories.” One of those literary histories must include works primarily from before 1800, and no more than one may focus on works after 1900. Additionally, majors will now be required to take at least three courses at the 300- or 400-level, as well as write a one-page proposal for their direction of study when declaring the major. The major will still consist of nine courses.
The department decided to revise how it distributed classes chronologically due to several flaws observed with the old system. “By requiring students to take four courses in older texts … we tended to define what we do in the English department in terms of one tradition, the tradition of literary texts from England to America,” said John Limon, professor of English and chair of the department. The department wants to include in its curriculum an expanded number of Anglophone traditions, many of which only date back to the 18th century.

“We are still completely dedicated to teaching literary history, and we still value enormously the history of English and American literature … but we no longer want to signal that other textual histories are peripheral,” Limon said.

In addition to including more diverse narratives in the major, Limon also cited a desire to enhance the way majors study older literature. “With the old system, we imposed chronology on students abstractly and mechanically,” Limon said. “[We will] continue to have students study older English and American literature, but [we will] try to make it a thoughtful, self-conscious and organic thing.”

Reflecting on the one-page major proposal, Limon said he hopes majors will take more time to consider their particular interests in relation to the courses offered. “There are many valid paths through the English major,” he said, “and getting students to write a proposal should free them from thinking there is only one chronological path, and at the same time it should allow them to find a structure they believe in.” The proposal will be kept on file by the student’s major advisor and will form a basis for future discussions concerning course selections.

“The hope is that, through advising as well as reflection, students will put together effective programs of study – programs that strike a good balance between breadth and depth,” according to the department’s proposal to the CEP.

Women’s, gender and sexuality studies

According to Katie Kent, professor of English and chair of the women’s, gender and sexuality studies program, the program proposed to include “sexuality” in its title for several reasons.

“We wanted [the program] to reflect what we already do,” Kent said: The major has offered a queer studies track for over five years. In addition, the program’s faculty wanted to “recognize that the study of gender is intertwined with but not the same as the study of sexuality, recognize the growing interest of students and faculty in sexuality studies and bring us into line with many of the institutions to which we compare ourselves, who have made similar changes,” Kent said. At least 15 schools around the country, including Harvard, Yale, Wesleyan and Swarthmore, include the word “sexuality” in the titles of such programs.

“We are committed to offering students an intellectual experience that includes the interdisciplinary study of sexualities, not just queer but also those conventionally defined as heterosexual,” Kent said. She added that “for queer-identified students in particular, WGST offers an intellectual site for them.”
Geosciences

Currently, geosciences majors are required to take five specific upper-level courses, “Geomorphology,” “Mineralogy and Geochemistry,” “Structural Geology,” “Sedimentology” and “Stratigraphy” as part of the nine-course major. These five courses, however, cover only a small sampling of the modern study of geosciences.

“Today, emerging fields such as environmental geology, geographic information systems and climate science play an increasingly important role in the geosciences curriculum, yet none of those fields is among the required upper-level classes,” according to the department’s proposal to the CEP.

To give students more flexibility in their major, geosciences courses will now be split into four subsets and majors will be required to take a certain number of courses from each subset. All of the previously required courses are still available to complete the major, but now students may substitute those for other geosciences offerings.

“The department intends to offer students greater flexibility to choose areas of interest within the field and to take fullest advantage of the department’s increasingly diverse course offerings,” according to the proposal.

Because of the increased choice now available for the major, the geosciences department does acknowledge that students may need more guidance in selecting courses. Professors plan to enhance individual advising for each major to accommodate the greater number of course choices.

“The department believes that, due to its relatively small size, paying close attention to the programs of study of all its majors is feasible,” according to the proposal.

Comparative literature

Comparative literature students were previously required to take only one foundational course, “The Nature of Narrative,” for the major. The program will now offer a new course, “Introduction to Comparative Literature,” and majors will be able to select one of the two as their required introductory course. “Introduction to Comparative Literature” will not be writing-intensive, while “The Nature of Narrative” is, so the program will also require students to take at least one writing-intensive course to complete the major.