Less than three years since the requirement’s debut, changes are coming to the Global Core.
The University’s Committee on the Global Core is looking to change the size and number of classes focused on “non-Western” cultures that meet the Global Core requirement.
“The ideal is to have those courses resemble CC [Contemporary Civilization] and Lit Hum courses,” said Kathryn Yatrakis, dean of academic affairs at Columbia College.
To accomplish that, the list of courses that meet the requirement will be getting shorter, according to Patricia Grieve, the chair of the faculty Committee on the Global Core and the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor in the Humanities.
The committee also plans to increase the number of small seminars and form connections between Global Core courses in an effort to bring the requirement into line with other parts of the Core.
Such changes would address criticisms like those of Kevin Zhai, CC ’12, who said the Global Core doesn’t build community like Lit Hum and Contemporary Civilization do.
“I just think it’s sort of bizarre where people have to choose [among different courses], and there is no unifying theme of ‘Global Core-ness,’” he added.
The two-course Global Core requirement was instituted in fall 2008, replacing the previous Major Cultures requirement, which the class of 2011 still had the option to fulfill. Grieve said that in 2008, the University made the list of courses “larger than we think is ideal” to make sure that all students were able to fulfill the requirement.
According to the 2010-11 Columbia College Bulletin, over 120 courses currently fulfill the requirement, though most of those classes are not offered in a given semester.
“This year, the Committee is looking to reduce the number of courses on the list in consultation with the faculty who teach them, as new courses are developed, and as the criteria for Global Core become fully articulated,” Grieve said in a statement.
But overhauling a major curriculum requirement comes with challenges.
Though the committee wants to encourage small seminars, Grieve noted that some departments offering important Global Core courses don’t have enough instructors to replace all of their large lectures with seminars. One option is adding discussion sections to large lectures, though the committee is still determining the best way to make the changes.
“The Committee is currently examining ways to help faculty include a substantive discussion component in courses ... in order to allow for the kind of student interaction that is the hallmark of other Core courses,” Grieve said.
The Global Core is feeling pressure from more than just the faculty committee.
Columbia College Student Council sent out a poll in early December asking students their opinions on the Global Core. Of the 171 students who responded to the survey, 65 percent said they did not feel the Global Core has a clear mission or purpose.
Just over 70 percent said they felt that the best format for Global Core classes is “small seminars, like Lit Hum and CC [Contemporary Civilization].”
“There’s such strong development in the Core Curriculum that the Global Core gets shafted, in a way, because it’s so new,” Annie Tan, CC ’11 and CCSC’s academic affairs representative, said.
Tan and class of 2013 president Alex Jasiulek have been communicating about reviewing the Global Core, and hope to encourage more student participation in the revision process by holding a schoolwide open forum.
The CCSC survey also showed a large divide among students about what the Global Core should accomplish.
Almost 56 percent of respondents said they thought its main purpose is to “introduce students to ‘non-Western’ cultures,” and just over 45 percent said they think its purpose should be to “give students a theoretical framework for examining both ‘non-Western’ cultures and the ‘Western’ culture that informs our own thinking.”
Tony Baker, CC ’13, agreed that a sense of ambiguity in the Global Core made for a superficial treatment of non-Western culture.
“I just think that two semesters is kind of token,” Baker said. “If you want to major in those areas, then you can really get a deeper appreciation of those subjects but everyone just kind of does like a one year huge gloss-over survey.”
Barry Weinberg, CC ’12 and the student representative to the University’s Committee on the Core, said he hopes discussing the Global Core is part of a larger discussion on what the Core Curriculum means to Columbia students.
“There is an interest in the students for kind of a large event or a campus-wide dialogue on what the Core really means to Columbia and how it applies today,” Weinberg said. “And part of that would be how the Global Core fits in.”
Correction: The original version of this article misidentified CCSC’s academic affairs representative, Annie Tan. Spectator regrets the error.
Sammy Roth contributed reporting.