Prerequisites: helpful or hurtful?

Brandon Neale, Contributing Writer

Our University is a liberal arts college, right? We have requirements that essentially force us young intellectuals to challenge ourselves and to see the world from different perspectives. This cross-disciplinary practice can be eye-opening, yet scheduling these courses is a hassle.

As a rising senior, even I encountered issues with scheduling my first semester senior year. When I was talking to my mom on the phone about how hard it has been, she brought up a good point–seniors should have no problem taking whatever classes they would like. It is a liberal arts school after all; don’t we want our seniors to continue reaching for classes in different disciplines? Unfortunately, I’ve found the answer to this question to be no.

It appears that many departments are defensive over their courses. They attach major restrictions, prior course restrictions, in some even stranger cases, instructor permission restrictions. Furthermore, there appears to be an almost adversarial relationship between the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Management, and the College of Engineering.

I, myself, am a double major in political science and anthropology with a minor in Spanish. Nonetheless, those are not the only things that I’m interested in. This fall I wanted to shake things up and take two management courses, Quantitative Reasoning for Managers and Marketing.  Not only would Quantitative Reasoning for Managers fulfill my liberal arts school-sponsored requirement for Quantitative Reasoning, but it is also something I want to learn about. However, I encountered restrictions when I tried to register.

In this case, Quantitative Reasoning for Managers had a major restriction because it is a management major requirement. Yet, my basic major requirements for political science and anthropology do not have major restrictions–anyone can take them, especially Engineers and Management majors who need to complete liberal arts requirements.

It seems that the School of Management and the College of Engineering take precedence, and so do their students. Every fall the school sponsors E-Week to celebrate Engineering and all of our future engineer graduates. Similarly, the School of Management is celebrated for its high-profile Management 101 class that takes over the LC Mall and champions philanthropy in the local community. But what about us “arts and crafts” majors? We have to face the reality of the waitlist. We have to hope and pray that a  first-year management major drops Quantitative Reasoning for Managers so that we can have the chance to take the course.

Maybe our University is taking a literal approach to liberal arts–you can only take whatever you want within the College of Arts and Sciences (even though many departments also defend their classes with walls of restrictions). I understand that classes do build on one another and may require knowledge from a previous course. However, that argument holds more strength for students majoring in those disciplines. University students are smart enough to avoid courses they won’t be able to handle. If a senior is restricted from continuing to expand their knowledge into different fields, I must question our school’s definition of liberal arts. I think our school needs to encourage more interdisciplinary exploration and rescind policies relating to instructor permission, major restrictions, and other unfair requirements. Let Arts and Sciences majors take a shot at a course in the School of Management; we can handle it.

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