Undergraduates seeking Bachelor of Arts degrees from Kansas University’s largest school likely no longer will be required to take the two Western Civilization courses.
But three other KU schools outside of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences also require those two semesters of reading-heavy introduction to the Western world’s great thinkers for at least some undergraduates. As they wait for KU’s first-ever universitywide curriculum to be fully designed and put into place in fall 2013, their responses to the news about Western Civilization range from strong support for the course to a wait-and-see approach.
The Schools of Journalism and Social Welfare, along with the architecture department in the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, are the others with Western Civilization requirements.
And of those three, the architecture faculty have taken the strongest stance since the report earlier this month that the CLAS requirement likely would be dropped.
In a meeting earlier this month, architecture faculty members unanimously approved a resolution saying they were committed to keeping the Western Civilization requirement for students in the Master of Architecture program.
That five-year track is the main one for undergraduates in the department, architecture professor Stephen Grabow said, and it enrolls about 100 new freshmen each year.
The department requires only 45 hours of general-education requirements for those students, Grabow said, compared with 72 for CLAS students. But, he said, faculty feel six of those 45 hours should be Western Civilization because it gives students an introduction to a variety of subject areas including history, economics, politics, art and science.
“It’s one of the few totally interdisciplinary courses,” Grabow said.
He said the faculty spoke out to show support for the program, which they feared might be in danger if it’s no longer required and enrollment decreases.
Officials said earlier this month the courses would not be cut, and they likely still would be among a group of options that students can use to fill requirements in the new curriculum.
Grabow said it benefited architecture students, even though they’re part of a specialized professional program, to get a firm grounding in liberal arts because their future employers and clients would expect them to be intelligent, well-rounded people. The Western Civilization courses, while difficult, provide that grounding, he said.
“We just felt that we needed to make a statement about how valuable we think it is,” Grabow said.
The School of Journalism has not yet made a decision about whether to keep its Western Civilization requirement, Dean Ann Brill said. The requirement applies to all its undergraduate students, who number 762 in fall 2012 compared with more than 12,000 in CLAS.
The school’s curriculum committee this year will be considering which general-education requirements to include along with the new KU core requirements that will affect all undergraduates starting next fall, Brill said.
“It’s one of the classes we could require for our students, or we could require something else,” Brill said, “but we haven’t gotten to that point yet.”
She said the school would consider whether other courses could give students a similar background, or whether requiring fewer hours of general-education courses might allow students the flexibility to, say, spend a semester studying in England.
“That might be a richer experience in some ways than the Western Civ class,” Brill said.
The number of hours of general-education requirements for most KU undergraduates, 72, is out of line with most other universities, Brill said. The journalism school requires undergraduates to add a minor or double-major, and fewer general requirements also would provide more flexibility for that, she said.
The School of Social Welfare, which enrolled 159 undergraduates this fall, requires Western Civilization for its Bachelor of Social Work program.
Professor Alice Lieberman, the director of the BSW program, said the faculty would not be able to make a decision until it was clear what the new KU core requirements would be.
But she said that even though she represents a professional school rather than a liberal arts one, she appreciates the Western Civilization courses.
“The apparent loss of the Western Civ sequence as a critical part of a liberal arts education is very unfortunate,” Lieberman said.