The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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General Education Curriculum up for debate

SMU’s General Education Curriculum, requirements all students must fulfill to graduate, could be in for an overhaul within the next two years.

Acting Associate Vice Provost of General Education James Gerhardt said that there will likely be a review of the curriculum next year or the year after. Some faculty members say that changes to the rhetoric, cultural formations and other general education courses could be debated.

Some students say the 10-year-old curriculum does not allow enough freedom in their education. Faculty Senate President-Elect Dennis Foster agrees.

“From an administrative point of view, it would be nice to be more flexible with perspectives,” he said. “Right now, the perspectives are very rigidly policed.”

The General Education Curriculum (GEC) is a group of core course requirements, adding up to 41 hours, that students must fulfill in order to graduate. The courses include three hours of mathematical science, six hours of rhetoric, three hours of information technology and six hours of science and technology.

In addition, perspective credits are made up of 15 credit hours in which students must take classes from five of six perspective categories: arts, literature, religious and philosophical thought, history and art history, politics and economics, and behavioral sciences.

Students must also have six credits of cultural formation classes, two credits of wellness and three human diversity co-requirement credits. These courses do not include classes students are required to take for a major.

A survey conducted on surveymonkey.com between Feb. 6 and Feb. 13 entitled “How do you feel about the GE curriculum at SMU” was sent at random to about 200 undergraduate SMU students through Facebook, the social networking Web site. Sixty-eight students took the anonymous survey. It did not require that any students give their name or age.

The survey found that 91 percent of students have had a positive experience with the curriculum. About half of those surveyed offered recommendations for change, ranging from abolishing the GEC requirements completely to having fewer requirements and more variety in class choices and class times.

Advocates of fewer requirements say that GEC classes limit the opportunity to take more major classes and electives.

“It seems very pointless to some extent, because while we want to have time to enjoy the classes and field we came to college for, we have to fill a large amount of our time with general education classes,” one student who took the survey said.

Another common complaint is that students are not able to take the classes they prefer because few class times are offered in the perspective categories.

“Being a dance major, it’s hard to find classes I want to take that fit into my schedule. So just adding more times would be helpful,” another student who took the survey said.

Student Body President Katherine Tullos said that the lack of GEC options was a topic of discussion at a meeting between Student Senate and Faculty Senate this year.

“I just think that more classes should be offered so that students can meet those different [perspective] areas in classes that they would really love to take, and be able to learn something new and exciting that they can use for their future,” Tullos said.

According to Gerhardt and other administrators, the lack of perspective choices results from a shortage of resources, ranging from a lack of classroom space to a limited number of faculty members.

This problem could potentially be solved by SMU’s upcoming capital campaign, a fundraising operation beginning in the fall of 2008 that will raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the school.

Foster said the university’s student-teacher ratio needs to increase in order for there to be more class options. To be on par with schools like Vanderbilt and Notre Dame, SMU would need to increase its faculty by about 30 percent.

One student surveyed said a business perspective category would be beneficial to the curriculum. Tullos said that while the university should not add more perspective requirements, a Business perspective would offer non-Business majors a different viewpoint.

“I think business applies to almost every major and everything you ever do, so that would be really helpful to students,” she said.

Foster said “there is considerable business illiteracy among a lot of students,” yet the Cox School of Business would most likely not offer a perspective category because of its lack of resources. There is not enough faculty in the business school to teach an additional 1,000 students per year.

Though fewer requirements and more choices seem to be the most common complaint among students, some suggested making adjustments to the cultural formation, (CF) credits.

Forty-two percent of students who have taken CF classes have found them to be too challenging, while 52 percent found them to be adequate in difficulty. CF classes are intended to teach students about humanities and the social sciences so that they may understand the significance of different human cultures throughout history.

The classes are meant to be interdisciplinary, taking material from different branches of knowledge. Students are required to take two CF courses between their sophomore and senior years.

Gerhardt said SMU’s CF classes are what set the university apart from other schools. He said they allow students to take “a sense of the great breath of human intellectual heritage.”

Faculty has said the administration may also take a look at the first-year English program. The program requires that students take six credit hours of rhetoric courses during their first year at SMU.

The first course, Introduction to College Writing, is a standard class taken by all first years. The second requirement is a rhetoric seminar, in which students may choose from a variety of specialized subjects. Since a large number of professors teach rhetoric courses, all with different teaching styles, each class in the rhetoric program has acquired a different level of difficulty.

“It is not a problem with the curriculum of the GEC. I think it is a function of the program having simply evolved over the years without having had an external or even internal review to take a close look at what people were doing in their particular classes,” Foster said.

Foster says the purpose of the GEC is to bring students out of their comfort zone. He says that in order to understand how the world works, students need to study beyond their specialties and the subjects they are interested in. By doing this, students may discover new passions, and collect tools that will benefit them in future endeavors.

“What different disciplines do is teach you how to think, organize material differently, to present material differently,” he said. “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

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