Editorial: UConn gen-eds should inspire—not bore

The UConn seal on Fairfield Way between the Homer Babbidge Library and the Rowe Center for Undergraduate Education in Storrs, Connecticut. (Jackson Mitchell/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut is currently looking to realign and restructure general education requirements, hoping to adjust certain courses that have been points of concern. In assessing and altering the general education requirements, the university must commit to the stated goal of making the system more than “simply a box-checking exercise.” This process should aim, chiefly, to shift general education courses from a dreaded necessity, to an opportunity to take advantage of all UConn has to offer.

Gen-ed courses have the ability to inspire students to seek alternate courses of study, while rounding out an otherwise narrow education. A March 23 article from Daniela Marulanda of the Daily Campus cited the university’s claim that “general education requirements will undergo significant changes in the future with talks of adding an environmental literacy requirement.” Gen-ed requirements should seek to educate students about environmental issues, the political system (considering civics education is all but absent in American schools) and other crucial aspects of modern life.

Currently, the university is in the process of aligning courses within the W, or writing intensive selection. The Senate Curricula and Course Committee indicated to the Daily Campus concerns that certain W courses might require “changes in their wording, syllabi and requirements in order to be in compliance.” The continual reevaluation of these courses, which occurs on a six-year cycle, is vital in efforts to keep courses relevant. When looking at these courses, however, these committees must consider the impact different professors have on the same course.

Unlike a Q course, W courses (as with most humanities and social sciences courses) require greater flexibility based upon the particular instructor. It is important to make sure a W course is still fulfilling the writing-intensive requirement. However, professor discretion for certain aspects of the syllabus must be preserved. This is key in making courses interesting and personal, thereby ridding some of the stigma of gen-eds.

The concept of gen-eds has never been a thrilling prospect for incoming freshman. While UConn’s current predicament is not unique, the solution should be. With the benefit of enormous academic resources, gifted professors and talented students, the university should seek to change the gen-ed concept.

Realigning W courses and adding an environmental literacy component would be beneficial. However, these changes will do little to ameliorate the stigma surrounding general education courses. Gen-eds are often the last liberal arts courses students take. Finding a solution that emphasizes this global education, while educating students about important, unavoidable issues would go a long way toward making general education courses something to look forward to.