Crisis in Humanities Pt. III: English

In 2006, a university task force on undergraduate writing instruction argued that the lower division “Writing Intensive” general education requirement lacked sufficient oversight and provided inconsistent student support.

Three years later, a general education task force introduced a replacement, “Introduction to Writing in the University.” With tweeks to the original model and a different name, “Writing and Critical Inquiry” eventually passed through the Faculty Senate in 2012.

Data from University at Albany Business Analytics

 

Whereas the previous requirement was instructed by a bulk of English professors, full-time writing instructors worked for WCI separately.

Bret Benjamin, an associate professor in the English department and past president of UAlbany’s United University Professions chapter, believes freshman became less interested in pursuing the major as a result. He also linked department slumps with the end of “U.S. Diversity & Pluralism,” another requirement driven by a greater number of English faculty.

University at Albany chapter President Aaron Major hands out at a Mar. 1 UUP luncheon. Members of UUP recently discuss bringing back the “U.S. diversity & pluralism” general education requirement.
Tyler A. McNeil / Minerva Daily

Months before the Faculty Senate passed WCI, they consolidated the diversity course, along with “Regions beyond Europe” and “Global and Cross-Cultural Studies” into two requirements, “Challenges for the 21st Century” and “International Perspectives.”

“The enrollment shifts are a consequence of an internal decision, not some kind of cosmic shift in student perceptions in what humanistic thought can and can’t do,” said Benjamin.

Asked about enrollment trends in a request for an interview with Edelgard Wulfert, dean of CAS, Kathleen Gersowitz, the college’s assistant dean of academic programs said that

“Overall, over the past few years CAS enrollments have remained relatively stable,” she said.  “Following national trends, enrollments in the arts and humanities have declined while enrollments in the sciences have increased.”

“The enrollment shifts are a consequence of an internal decision, not some kind of cosmic shift in student perceptions in what humanistic thought can and can’t do”

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