Registrar Just Doesn’t Understand

Deena Mueller

When I flip through the course selection booklet for the 2007 fall semester, I begin to realize how difficult choosing classes will be. For a small school, Colgate does a good job of offering a variety of courses. However, as I try to put together a schedule, it becomes clear that I can’t possibly fit in all the classes I need for my concentration, all the classes I want to take for fun, and all the classes I have to take to graduate, like COREs and distributions. Obviously I can’t get around classes that count toward my degree, but it is the other requirements that are making things complicated.

I knew Colgate was a liberal arts college when I came here. I expected to study an array of topics, including things that didn’t relate much to my intended field of study. But now, I’m beginning to view all the special requirements as cumbersome hoops to jump through en route to gratuating. If you add them up Colgate has 10 required classes — six distributions, plus four COREs. Since a regular load is four courses, these requirements take a significant portion of our Colgate career to fulfill.

I have little problem with either set of requirements on their own, but together they’re both repetitive and exhausting. Rather than have two distributions from the Science/Math department in addition to a Scientific Perspectives, we could eliminate one of the distributions and still be forced to take a full year of natural sciences. Or do away with the scientific perspectives and make them electives in the natural sciences and keep the distribution requirement set a two. Distributions allow more freedom than the COREs because we can choose from several departments rather than a list of 10 or 15 classes offered each semester. Either way Colgate could drop one of these science requirements and still produce students who have a strong knowledge in these areas, and it would free up one more course possibility. With this change, I think the distribution system would be an effective way to get students to try out many subjects while still allowing us the freedom to pick classes in which we have an interest.

Besides the distributions, Colgate should keep the CORE cultures requirement. These classes allow students to study parts of the world they may not hear about in other classes. Think CORE Mozambique or Iroquois! In addition, these courses often approach the study of cultures in an interdisciplinary way.

The only significant change I propose is to offer Western Traditions and the Challenge of Modernity, but not make them mandatory. Many of us study these topics before we came to Colgate. I think I already own half the books required for Western Traditions. Not everyone should be forced to repeat these subjects. Instead, they could become part of the courses for a certain major. Modernity would fit well into the philosophy department. Likewise, Western Traditions would be a great addition to the Religion department. Both classes cover interesting material and are full of useful knowledge. However, so are many other classes at Colgate that if Western Traditions and Modernity were not required, we’d have more time to explore the others, which may better fit our needs and interests. This would actually enrich us more than the COREs, because we’re more likely to learn about things we have an interest in, rather than what we’re told to study.

Furthermore, the current system is unfair. Some sections of these classes require little work and award many ‘A’s, while students with other professors work hard and are unable to receive a score high than a ‘B’. This is true of other classes, but those classes we take by choice. If Colgate is going to make every student take these identical courses, the grading, workload and material covered should be more comparable. Currently, some classes don’t even read the same texts!

It is true that the CORE system has been a part of Colgate for a long time, but many other specifications have changed, like the lessened physica education requirements and the dropping of a swim test. The mandated courses at Colgate are not a waste of time, but they are part of a flawed system. Colgate should lessen the amount of requirements as well as make whatever system that remains in place more equal.