The Academic Senate decided to let UCSB faculty vote on a proposal to eliminate three required classes and reorganize the university’s general education requirements.

In a special meeting Thursday, the Academic Senate voted in favor of the change, which if passed is scheduled to become effective July 1, 2003 for incoming freshmen.

“We had a current GE plan that doesn’t work. Students see it as a burden,” Academic Senate Vice Chair Walter Yuen said. “I see the approval of this plan as the beginning of a process … this is the beginning of revising something that doesn’t work.”

The proposal would require students to take classes from four areas: skills courses, core courses and one course from both ethnic studies and Western civilization. The proposal is a more flexible approach than the current system, which requires courses from several specific general subject area requirements. Skills courses would consist of two writing courses, one quantitative reasoning course and a foreign language requirement.

Two classes from five different subject areas would fulfill the core requirement: art studies, literary and textual studies, historical studies, social sciences, and science and mathematics. The quantitative reasoning and foreign language requirements of the current system will remain the same.

The current system would be downsized by eliminating one course from each of four requirements: area C (science, mathematics and technology), area D (social sciences), area E (civilization and thought) and the non-Western culture requirement.

“We have streamlined the GE program,” General Education Task Force Chair Muriel Zimmerman said. “GE is the way [students] are becoming broadly educated.”

The current system offers more than 1,200 GE courses, many of which are only open to majors on the first or second pass. This limits the selection of GE courses available and causes certain classes in each area to be impacted. According to the General Education Task Force Recommendation Report from May 8, only a small percentage of the courses on the GE list are frequently used by non-majors to satisfy GE requirements.

The proposed system would open core courses to all students on the first pass so that there would be more available GE courses within each requirement area.

“The new GE will cut the list of 1,000-plus courses to a small number of well-designed, high-quality classes,” Chair of Academic Senate Richard Watts said.

If the faculty passes the proposal, the skills requirement of two writing courses from a narrow selection would replace the current requirement of six writing-intensive courses.

“We found the [writing] requirement to be good in intention but not working in reality,” Zimmerman said.

Admitted students’ Advanced Placement (AP) scores can be used to fulfill current GE requirements. In an effort intended to raise standards of the university, the proposal would allow AP tests to satisfy skills courses but not core courses, Zimmerman said. Neither UCLA nor Berkeley accepts AP test scores in place of GE requirements, she said.

According to the GE Task Force, the new proposal will not include a non-Western culture requirement to make the program more flexible.

“Where do folks learn about other parts of the world?” said history professor Paul Spickard, speaking in opposition. “All courses in almost any major are 90 percent Western.”

Another part of the proposal would reduce the math, science and technology area, which does not offer many non-major classes.

Geology Professor Bruce Luyendyk said changing GE standards from three science requirements to two “makes no sense” because classes that fulfill the requirement are important, as they transcend cultural and geographical boundaries.

The GE requirements were last revised in 1992. The GE Task Force first convened to develop the current proposal in November 1999, with the goal of investigating the quality of the current GE program and recommending possible changes for the Faculty Legislature to approve.

“We just need to do a much, much better job than we are now,” Yuen said.

Many at the meeting felt that despite its disputed points, the new proposal is an improvement over the current system.