The members of the Richmond College Government Association approved the contents of a letter -- intended for the General Education Revision Committee -- which expresses serious concerns about the University of Richmond's curriculum revision proposal in its current form.

The RCSGA letter, passed in a unanimous vote during a meeting last Wednesday, summarized the main concerns that had been brought to the attention of both the Westhampton College Government Association and the RCSGA by students, and offered suggestions for amending the changes to create a more favorable finalized proposal.

The General Education Committee members will continue revising the current proposal until a Nov. 30 meeting, in which the finalized proposal will be presented to faculty members.

The plan in its current form involves two models, both of which would increase the number of general education requirements from 13 to 17 in Model A or 18 in Model B. Model A maintains the current system, which includes fields of studies, but would add six competencies that must be met. Model B includes two units in four areas of study with seven competencies. Additionally, both would include civic engagement as one of the competencies, making volunteer work through class a graduation requirement for students.

Gene Anderson, the chairman of the General Education Revision Committee, said one of the goals of the curriculum revisions was to expand general education requirements to include classes that students would be interested in taking even if the class wasn't a requirement.

"Wouldn't it be great if the general education could actually include courses that interest students and help expose them to new areas that they didn't know they had wanted to pursue?" he said. "That's the ideal. We don't want all of the classes they have to take [for general education] to feel like requirements."

One of the main concerns addressed in the official RCSGA letter to the committee was the rigidity of the current version of the revised plan.

The letter states, "[RCSGA] believes that the General Education Committee's current proposal to increase the unit requirements for general education will severely inhibit students' academic independence."

Elle Carabetta, president of the WCGA, said: "Many students come to Richmond not knowing which major to pursue; such students should be able -- actually encouraged -- to take a variety of classes to develop a clearer vision for their future here at this university. Such students -- in fact, all students -- should not feel pressured by overbearing general education requirements at the same time."

One of the three main suggestions offered in RCSGA's letter was that the number of courses that qualify for the field of studies requirements should be broadened to make fulfilling the general education requirements more feasible.

The second suggestion was that the committee should make sure the finalized curriculum proposal was one that would not hinder students who wanted to pursue a minor or second major.

Anderson said the current system, which recently changed from credits to units, actually increased the percentage of classes that are part of the general education requirements.

He said part of the reasoning behind the revisions had been the general education wouldn't occupy as many of the graduation requirements in the future curriculum.

Anderson said that when revising the current general education curriculum change proposal, the committee was hoping to lower the maximum number of units that Model A or B required, which would ease the process of pursuing a second major or minor.

The last suggestion the RCSGA letter's offered addressed the proposal's current inclusion of a competency that would mandate civic engagement through a class.

The letter states, "[RCSGA] recommends the development of more opportunities for students to become active members of the Richmond community while not mandating community engagement as part of the general education curriculum."

The inclusion of the civic engagement provision in the proposal reflects the contents of the Richmond Promise, the university's strategic plan for 2009 - 2014 that President Edward Ayers implemented for Richmond.

The plan states, "The university should create greater opportunities for community engagement linked to academic coursework."

Sophomore Zoe Boath said: "I believe it is a great way to give back to the community, but many people already participate in community service either through philanthropies with sororities and fraternities, or by being involved in another on-campus group. Many people do not have the time to do all of the work required for classes, on top of out of class organizations, and then required community service hours on top of all of that."

Any amount of revision is possible leading up to the final vote, Anderson said, although he said he predicted the current proposal would be slimmed down into a leaner and meaner version in regards to the number of requirements included. He said the suggestions and concerns of the student government associations would be considered as a major part of the committee members' basis for revision.

If a final proposal is accepted, the curriculum changes would go into effect for the fall of 2011. Anderson said students would be grandfathered in, and those who entered the university under the current system would still have the option of continuing with the existing general education curriculum requirements.

Anderson said any students who felt strongly about the revision proposal or had suggestions for improvement would be more than welcome to contact him personally, and he would route the concerns to the committee.

"I realize that when it comes to the final say, students can't vote, but they can be sure to let us know how they feel." Anderson said. "We strongly value student input and want as much of it as possible during this process."

Contact staff writer Margaret Finucane at margaret.finucane@richmond.edu

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