Forum discusses changes to general education requirements

On Wednesday Oct. 24, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics Gary Towsley, current chair of the General Education Committee, held a forum discussing ideas for potential future changes to Geneseo’s general education requirements.

Towsley opened the forum, attended by more teachers than students, using a slideshow to explain the history of general education at Geneseo.

“Over the past 30 years there have been attempts to change general education, but the structure has remained the same,” Towsley said. “We decided that the best thing to do is look at general education from the top; make a big change and then small changes will follow.”

According to Towsley, the current mission statement regarding general education is geared toward preparing students to lead good lives, have good jobs and be good citizens. Based on these goals, the committee is “recommending learning elements in four areas that would be the backing of general education: specialized knowledge, broad/integrative knowledge, intellectual and practical skills and high impact experiences,” Towsley said.

Towsley said that all Geneseo students will create or select and complete at least one substantive learning experience and reflect upon it. He said these experiences are expected to be transformative and will fall under four categories: research and creative activity, civic engagement, global engagement and collaboration/leadership.

Towsley opened discussion to attendees after the presentation. Faculty members voiced concerns about giving credit hours to students without direct supervision from professors.

“Not all of these experiences and responses will count as credit hours towards majors, but will count simply as extra graduation requirements,” Towsley responded.

Faculty members also voiced concern regarding grading of responses. Some said they felt professors wouldn’t have time to grade the extra work, while others commented that some of these activities are already in place in our curriculum, so the increase in workload wouldn’t be drastic.

Final discussion focused on the goals that would define what experiences might count as credit for this requirement. Some said they felt that the options were too broad and that student expectations needed to be more clearly articulated. One faculty member said that students might equate a transformative experience with a merely enjoyable one.

Others said they disagreed, arguing that if requirements remained broad, students would have the freedom to be able to decide what they wanted to take away from their college experiences and to decide how they wanted to do it.

Towsley briefly mentioned the committee’s desire to include both intermediate and advanced classes in the core curriculum rather than solely introductory classes. He reminded those in attendance that everything discussed at the forum were just ideas that would not necessarily be implemented.

Assistant professor of geological sciences Amy Sheldon said, “I think re-evaluating general education is very healthy for the college as long as we keep the best interest of the students in mind. That should always be our objective.”

“I felt a lot of the responses to our ideas would pick out one fact and not look at the big picture,” said junior Greg Palermo, a student representative on the General Education Committee.

“I was a little taken aback in the way which the criticism was brought about. It was more combative than collaborative. I would have liked a larger student presence because nobody knows better than students on how to be a student and how their concerns can be addressed.”