The University of Connecticut’s general education requirements are in need of an overhaul. Whether the reasoning is to make scheduling more doable for students, to better incorporate social and environmental justice initiatives into the curriculum or anything else, this is an issue that has been acknowledged frequently. However, acknowledgement only goes so far, and follow-up action is necessary.
Beginning with students in the 2019-20 catalog year, a graduation requirement to take at least one ‘E’ course was added to improve the environmental literacy of the UConn community. Later on, the university introduced two 1-credit courses: one focusing on anti-Black racism in the U.S. and another on the climate crisis. Neither of these are mandatory so far.
While these additions are very welcome and a nice start, there is certainly a problem with simply adding requirements. Many students already struggle to complete the current gen-eds, and it’s important to integrate education on relevant social justice topics without just making it a check box on a requirements sheet. When creating this new structure, it’s important to make it so that these new requirements are mandatory, but also effective in engaging students in learning.
The deltaGenEd Task Force delivered a report to the university senate in the spring of 2019, and plans have been made to change the current system, but these changes, or at least some of them, need to come quicker. The final plans include a full restructuring of the system, but this is not coming until a few years from now.
A group of student organizations made up of USG’s Academic Affairs Committee, the UConn NAACP, UConn Collaborative Organizing and the Honors 4 Diversity Program created a petition last month asking the school to make the 1-credit course mandatory, and for “the implementation of two courses into the General Education Oversight Committee’s General Education plan that both address how diversity, inclusion, and social justice are intrinsically linked to the societal institutions in our country.”
These would be valuable first steps to take in creating a safer, more informed community at UConn, and the mandatory nature of the implementation is necessary. If only the people who openly want to be educated on sensitive topics choose to take these courses and engage with the new curriculum, the point of reform will have been missed. Lastly, it’s important to consider the urgency that these reforms are needed, as because many UConn students feel uncomfortable in this community now, something must be done immediately to change this.