Schools Consider Changes to Breadth

The UC Irvine administration is currently considering changes to its breadth requirements which would lessen the number of required courses.
Current breadth requirements consist of seven different categories with up to three classes required in each category.
Meredith Lee, dean of the Division of Undergraduate Education, explained that a committee is currently discussing possible changes to the requirements.
‘The Council on Education Policy, a committee of the Academic Senate, is the group that is coordinating the discussion of possible changes in the breadth requirement,’ Lee said. ‘It is the faculty committee [that has] responsibility for undergraduate curriculum.’
The UCI Task Force on Undergraduate Education, which is made up of 14 faculty members, began its deliberations over the breadth changes in the spring of 2003. Its members issued a report in the summer of 2004 outlining the possible changes to the breadth requirements.
Their goal is to simplify the requirements and reduce the required breadth classes to 12. Under the proposed changes, there would be three categories instead of the original seven: arts and humanities; social ecology and social science; and biological sciences, engineering, information and computer science and physical sciences.
Students would take three classes from each of the two categories outside of the category that includes their major. They would also take three additional classes anywhere on campus outside of their own department or major requirements. The writing and foreign language requirements would remain unchanged.
Although combining these categories was a recommendation made by the task force, the proposal will most likely be modified further.
With the possible combination of categories, the Multicultural Studies and International/Global Issues requirement may be eliminated. Geoffrey Enriquez Jr., ASUCI academic affairs vice president, was pleased to hear that the decision to eliminate Category Seven has not yet been made.
‘Fortunately, members of the task force did not come to a consensus on the elimination of the multicultural requirement,’ Enriquez said. ‘A section of the report describes the concerns that several members of the task force had with regards to the elimination of the requirement, and included suggestions to preserve UCI’s commitment to providing a well-rounded college experience.’
Enriquez stated that the committee was still trying to incorporate multicultural studies into the requirements without a separate category.
‘One suggestion was to adopt the changes to the breadth requirements and require students to provide evidence of taking multicultural courses by the time of graduation,’ Enriquez said.
Right now, the CEP is in the process of getting feedback from all the schools at UCI about the best breadth requirements for their majors. Their responses are due on May 20.
Afterwards, the CEP will vote on the recommendations and send them to the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate. Scheduled tentatively for the fall of 2005, the final vote will be held at the Representative Assembly of the Academic Senate. Pending approval by the Academic Senate, the changes are tentatively scheduled to go into effect in the fall of 2006.
Student and faculty opinions about the possible changes are mixed.
‘I welcome changes that provide more flexibility within the breadth requirements and greater room for curricular innovation,’ Lee said. ‘It is important that the campus have a serious discussion about what we would like UCI undergraduates to know and be able to do when they graduate. Both [breadth] and major requirements contribute to our answer to this question, as do opportunities for students to study abroad, to have internships in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento, pursue undergraduate research, and choose freely among electives.’
Enriquez, however, is not in favor of some of the suggestions.
‘By dropping requirements simply to alleviate a student’s course load hurts the educational experience of a university student,’ Enriquez said. ‘Without a multicultural requirement, students will not understand theories of racial formation, the structural factors that consistently prohibit underrepresented minority advancement and what it means to be a global citizen.’
Some students seem to be satisfied with the current breadth requirements.
‘I’m happy with the current breadth requirements. I think they represent a diverse amount of subjects,’ said Dee Dee Luu, a first-year biological sciences major. ‘I think that these possible changes aren’t that different from what is currently required of us.’
Said Brooke Capilla, a fourth-year psychology and social behavior major, ‘With the exception of the language requirements, I think the current breadth requirements give students an opportunity to explore a broad spectrum of fields outside of the courses they take for their major.’
However, some believe the changes might be beneficial.
‘I’m pretty happy with the current breadth requirements,’ said Jaclyn Lee, a second-year information and computer science major. ‘I think the possible changes make things easier for people who don’t have time to take all these classes. They won’t feel as much pressure. I don’t really mind the changes.’