New lib. ed. requirements create scheduling woes

Fewer options that fulfill liberal education requirements are causing a rocky transition to a new system.

Danielle Nordine

With registration under way, many students may find they have fewer options for classes that fulfill liberal education requirements because of a rocky transition to a new system. As part of a revamping of the University of MinnesotaâÄôs liberal education requirements, the Council on Liberal Education has been evaluating the content of each course to make sure it meets the appropriate cores and themes. The council has been doing this since 2008. Because courses are still being approved, the exact number of available courses is not known, said Laurel Carroll, staff support for the council. However, a One Stop search Tuesday showed nearly 900 fewer available class sections in fall 2010 that fulfill liberal education requirements than during the spring 2010 semester. Classes are still being reviewed, and not all have been approved for next year. As a result, students currently registering for classes may not have access to all available options. The new requirements eliminated the possibility of classes fulfilling multiple themes and also made it more difficult for them to meet multiple requirements, such as a core and a theme at the same time, CLE Chairman Peter Hudleston said. This change, along with the current shorter list of available classes, could delay graduation for some students, said Steven Ostrow, chairman of the art history department. More rigorous criteria made it more difficult for courses to be approved by the council, Hudleston said. Since every course had to be reapproved to count toward a theme or core, some departments submitted fewer courses for consideration, he said. âÄúIt takes time and energy to do that, and all the departments and faculty members have a limited amount of both,âÄù Hudleston said. Many of the changes to the requirements, such as the addition of a new theme, will not affect current students. However, some courses may have shifted in what requirements they fulfill. Departments had to submit every proposed course to the council, a process that has frustrated some faculty members. âÄúTo have this really onerous task imposed on us by an external committee is time-consuming and insults our intelligence,âÄù said William Beeman, chairman of the anthropology department. Departments were required to submit a proposal for each class and explain how it fit in its proposed theme or core, along with a sample syllabus outlining the courseâÄôs contribution to the liberal education requirements. The council sent many proposals back to departments for clarification before they could be approved. Although Hudleston said the denial rate was likely less than 10 percent, the revisions frustrated some faculty. âÄúIn the end, weâÄôve had most everything approved, but in some cases it has taken four or five submissions,âÄù Ostrow said. âÄúUltimately I think itâÄôs a colossal waste of time.âÄù The goal of the updated liberal education requirements was to make it clearer to students why each class fits its core or theme as well as to strengthen the criteria for approving classes, Hudleston said. Some faculty have voiced concerns about the new requirement that liberal education courses must be taught by regular faculty members, which, considering the UniversityâÄôs budget problems, could reduce the number of classes offered. Hudleston said that while there are currently fewer classes available, the University is only required to have at least 3,000 spots available to students in each category. This requirement is met in every category except the new theme.