Students question Gen Ed

The General Education Review Committee, as part of its yearlong review of the program, is currently debating several changes concerning the structure of General Education classes and clusters.

Surveys were conducted both by the AU administration and by the Student Confederation to get a feeling for student opinions on the General Education program as it stands. The SC survey was organized by School of International Service junior Brooke Summers, an Eagle staff writer, and by School of Public Affairs junior Rick Evanchec, who also serves as the SC University Senate Representative.

The SC General Education Effectiveness Survey was distributed to a total of 112 students in all schools, but mostly in SPA and SIS, at various points in their General Education study.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed rated the General Education program as "good," while 28 percent deemed it "fair." Fifteen percent said that it was excellent and two percent called it poor. One percent had no opinion.

None of the students surveyed felt that the General Education requirements should be raised; rather, 57 percent said they felt it should be lowered. Forty-three percent felt it should remain the same. A majority of the students felt that repetition of the courses in more than one curricular activity was not a problem [61 percent], and a similar majority [57 percent] felt that the curricular areas were varied enough.

However, 58 percent of students surveyed said they were only somewhat happy with the current structure of foundation and second level courses in the General Education Program and 51 percent said that the foundation courses had only somewhat prepared them for the second level courses.

Because of these concerns, one possible change in the program's structure is the number and organization of course clusters. A course cluster is the foundation level course as well as all the second level courses that are connected to it. Under this proposed structure, there will be two or possibly three foundation courses. For these foundation level courses will be 15 to 20 second-level course.

In November, faculty members as well as students participated in a forum on General Education with members of the AU community.

The discussion was led by SC President Ken Biberaj, who said that the discussion was "pretty well attended" considering it was held a rainy weeknight.

"We wanted to find out a student perspective on the Gen Ed program, not just a student government perspective," Biberaj, a junior in SPA, said.

"We were pleasantly surprised with the student support for the idea of the General Education program," Biberaj said. A lot of the discussion centered on fixing Gen Ed, not getting rid of it."

The student surveys were combined with data pools from the campus climate surveys and polls of alumni who were one and five years out of AU, according to General Education Program Director and AU Professor Haig Mardirosian.

"The biggest concern among the students was of flexibility," Mardirosian said. "The number one constellation idea for change is how to make the program more negotiable without sacrificing the structural integrity. There are a number of possible model ideas that are being constructed for structuring clusters."

Mardiroisian said he was impressed that the students of AU have taken such an interest in improving the General Education program since no changes can affect only take effect starting with the class of 2005. Mardiroisian added that these ideas have "run the gamut" of change, from radical restructuring to slight adjustments.

"This is not a question of greater choice, but greater choice with intellectual integrity," Mardirosian said.

Summers said that while the committee is still accepting student suggestions for change to the program, its work is wrapping up and should be completed and ready for submission to the AU community and the University Senate by March.

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