Dear Daily Campus Editorial Board,
I would like to respond to your recent article “Editorial: UConn gen-eds should inspire – not bore.” Later in the evening on the day I read this piece, I attended a reception for instructors who had received funding from the Provost’s Office General Education Enhancement Grant, a curriculum development competition run by the General Education Oversight Committee (GEOC). These instructors all went around the room and explained the course they had proposed and why they felt it would add to the general education curriculum at UConn. Each one of them ended with something along the lines of, “I’m really excited to teach this course. I think students are going to enjoy it.” In short, it was rather incongruous to listen to the excitement and enthusiasm of these instructors after reading an article suggesting how boring general education is at UConn.
As the Program Assistant for GEOC, I have listened to more than one student ask why they should have to take a course on French cinema. Others have emailed to accuse UConn of making them take general education courses to get more money out of them.
In the first place, 40 credits of general education are required by UConn’s accrediting body, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). As far as selection, my latest report found that there are almost 1000 general education courses on the books at UConn, including about 500 W courses. With about 200 CA1 courses alone, there is no reason for students to have to take a course on French cinema if they don’t want to. This semester, UConn offered 415 sections of general education courses. If students can’t find something to inspire them with that kind of selection, maybe they aren’t looking hard enough.
The dedicated group of instructors on GEOC work hard to evaluate courses and make sure that student needs are being met, and the new committee Chair in particular has worked tirelessly this year to explore ways to remake and rebrand general education at UConn. But as happy as I am to see students taking the initiative to have a say in their general education by lobbying for the addition of an environmental literacy component, there are still too many students who will only see this as one more box to check off.
General education at UConn is far from perfect, and the “box-checking” mentality is something that needs to be addressed at all levels of the university, including instructors, advisors, and administrators, but it is also past time for students to start taking responsibility for their role in this mentality as well. The title of your article, “UConn gen-eds should inspire – not bore,” comes off as accusatory, as if instructors have set out to put their students to sleep. I know from experience that it is difficult to inspire students when they are absolutely convinced that they don’t need or want to hear what you have to say, but are just there to ‘get this out of the way.’
I can assure students that UConn’s staff and faculty are trying hard to improve their gen-ed experience, but it won’t work if students refuse to meet them halfway. You will get out of your educational experience what you put into it. The only person who will always be capable of inspiring you is you.
-Karen Piantek, GEOC Program Assistant