Sunday, August 18

Students should take advantage of flexible major requirements


Budget cuts have inadvertently given students the time to take classes in a broad range of subjects

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Christine Danner


As the dust begins to settle from our university’s financial debacle, many students see their shortened major requirements as the silver lining to the tempest. But beware ““ laziness can easily drown out logic, and we don’t need our young minds to bear the brunt of this ordeal any more than necessary.

One of the most detrimental, and least discussed, results of the university budget crisis has been the cuts to many departments’ “allied field” requirements.

Three of the largest majors on this campus ““ political science, psychology and sociology ““ have experienced this unfortunate slash. These requirements were intended to encourage interdisciplinary approaches by obligating students to take four courses in a given number of other fields. For example, political science’s allied fields included psychology, anthropology, and history; without requiring these classes, the number of needed units has decreased from 56 to 40.

But because the unit requirement for the College of Letters and Sciences has remained the same, at 180 units, the cut isn’t meant to lessen the total number of classes students must take, but to offer freedom with how to fulfill the remainder of their units.

The esteem for enhancing one’s education with knowledge from other fields needs to continue. Unfortunately, the flexibility that many now possess, coupled with the laziness most of us have always possessed, could steer students away from meaningfully pursuing other, useful courses. Instead, they may be more likely to take easy-ride classes.

This is not to say that this flexibility is completely disadvantageous, however.

The university can now alleviate over-enrollment in departments like political science by making matriculation more feasible, and I imagine the reduced stress over unavailable classes was welcomed by many. As a double major in political science and sociology, fourth-year Matthew McDonald is certainly one such student.

“I was happy ““ the cut let me have more course overlap in my majors, and it was easier for me to get classes I need to graduate,” McDonald said.

The change obviously has both merit and rationale, but I can’t help but be wary of the hole many of us could fall into.

Students should respect their education (and their own money) enough to still enroll in classes that are stimulating and supplemental to their other educational pursuits. You don’t need your department looming over you with standardized suggestions to enable that.

Too often, students graduate less prepared for the real world, less prepared than they were led to believe four years earlier. Now more than ever, one’s ability to get a job hinges on one’s adaptability and utility in completing different tasks. Specialized, categorical knowledge is naturally becoming less valuable as our society’s interconnected nature strengthens.

This is no secret, as more colleges are implementing more interdisciplinary courses every single year, despite the economic downturn. But here at UCLA, we see slashes to these programs.

Our school is internationally idealized as a place where you leave well-rounded, sharper and better prepared to hold ground in an increasingly competitive global economy. That foundation seems less realistic when you consider how limiting it is that many people study exclusively within their pockets of concentrated material, and that the majors that didn’t follow this are slowly changing.

The university system obviously implemented general education requirements to ensure that students gain a proficiency in a range of fields, but certain classes have a bad rap.

Students widely share which ones require the least possible effort, and many GEs are considered unit-fillers for otherwise difficult quarters.

Though why GEs are often treated as a joke is entirely another matter, it is dire that we do not approach the freedom with which we have to fulfill our unit requirements with that same attitude.

Exploring knowledge beyond one’s undergraduate focus has so much potential ““ for erudition, for a stronger integration of students who otherwise don’t cross paths, and for a more genuine delivery of that message UCLA portrays.

The administration interpreted last year’s cuts as a chance to reevaluate how necessary allied classes are to majors. It would be ideal if the university took upon itself the responsibility of ensuring an expansive education, bearing in mind the value of working across different disciplines. But realistically, reinstating allied fields is not at the height of priorities, at least in this stage in the recession.

Students must take it upon themselves to ensure that not only do we not mirror that lack of regard, but that we do not sell ourselves short of the potential we already possess simply by being students at UCLA.

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