General education changes proposed

By Joseph Barrios

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Debate over a proposal to restructure undergraduate education began yesterday when the UA provost announced the idea at a faculty meeting.

University of Arizona Provost Paul Sypherd said research at the university is strong, but other areas need change.

“We do have a problem with undergraduate education, and everybody in this room knows it. We have to fix it,” Sypherd said to a crowd of about 600 people at the first Faculty Senate meeting of the semester.

Under the proposal, every UA freshman would be required to take six units in three areas: Natural Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and Individuals and Societies. Another six units in each area would be required during their second year. The core curriculum classes would replace current general education requirements and give students a better general education, Sypherd said.

John McElroy, English professor and faculty senate member, said he questioned the concept behind educating for the next century, an idea Sypherd discussed, because predicting necessary skills for the future is impossible.

“Nobody knows what the requirements for the next 100 years are going to be,” McElroy said.

Jeff Goldberg, associate professor in systems and industrial engineering, said it might be unfair to engineering students who have to take engineering requirements beginning their first year here. Core curriculum classes would interfere with required courses and extend the length of time for an engineering degree.

More ranked UA faculty would be required to teach entry-level classes and advise a group of undergraduate students to increase communication between students and professors.

An advisory committee of administrators, faculty and students met during the summer to put together the guidelines for the plan. Sypherd said the idea is still in the planning stages, and he invited faculty input.

But some thought the prob lem lies in more than just the structure of undergraduate education at the UA.

“We need every high school student to take advantage of what could be a good education. I think we should try to interface and not just accept what comes from the high schools,” said Donald Davis, Hydrology and Water Resources professor.

Core courses would be unfair because advanced science students would study alongside students with less knowledge and interest of science, Davis said. He said students need to be evaluated individually.

And ranked faculty teaching entry-level courses is not a new concept to some.

McElroy said he has volunteered to teach an extra introductory-level English class for the past four years so that freshman could have an extra section to take.

“I didn’t do it to get patted on the head and get called a good boy,” McElroy said.

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