A proposal for new distribution credit regulations has been approved by the University Senate. The aim of these new requirements is to maximize the breadth of disciplines students will have exposure to while also equalizing enrolment across departments as much as possible.
Under the new regulations, only a selection of courses, chosen by department heads, will be able to count toward distribution requirements. Students will still need six credits each in arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences, but will be limited to counting one course per discipline for distribution. This means that students cannot, for example, use more than one religious studies course to fulfill their humanities requirement.
In addition, all courses that have been selected for distribution do not have prerequisites and fall into non-mandatory subcategories.
Before these new rules take effect next fall, further changes are set to be made by the Academic Matters Committee (AMC) in consultation with department heads. The finalized regulations will undergo a review process after two years. The class of 2021 will have to declare their majors before this system is reviewed, and the university will only know if the system will be permanent after this point.
Current Mount Allison students will not be affected by the change.
After last year’s distribution proposal was defeated, several student consultation meetings were held in addition to student and faculty surveys about the proposed changes. “I’m generally really happy with how this process went, as opposed to last year,” said Sarah Murphy, social science senator and the student member on the AMC.
According to Murphy, the Mount Allison Students’ Union’s council voted unanimously in favour of the new regulations, as did the student senators.
Students and faculty expressed concern that under the system proposed last year, students could have avoided taking courses in the social sciences. However, Murphy says the new regulations will make that impossible.
“You’re going to be forced to take courses in each academic department, rather than just encouraged,” she said. “I think this is more reflective of what we’re hoping for, and it’s not a far enough departure from our current system that we can see any potential problems with it.”
A number of professors in the senate meeting on Nov. 15 raised concerns about the flexibility of the new regulations.
Loralea Michaelis, a professor in the political science department, proposed an amendment that the limitation of one course per discipline be struck from the new rules. According to Michaelis, “if you find someone’s behaviour, in the absence of a rule, tending toward a certain pattern, there’s usually a good reason for it.”
“There might be more than one good reason. One reason is that students use distribution to build competency in a discipline, and that’s not something that we need to discourage,” she said.
Additionally, Michaelis said that regulations should be made with a mind to current practices rather than principles such as breadth. “When we make new rules, it’s easier to get people to do something new than to prevent them from doing something that they’ve already been doing,” she said.
Elizabeth Wells, dean of arts and head of the AMC, disagreed with this sentiment.
“What people were doing with distribution was trying to shore-up an area, trying to build a minor or a concentration in one area. The whole philosophy of distribution is the opposite of that,” she said.
According to Wells, the new system is consistent with the results of student and faculty consultation.
“What people seemed to be concerned about was that [the old system] didn’t force enough breadth. Some faculties weren’t as well-represented as they would have liked to have been.”
Both Murphy and Wells said breadth is an important part of a liberal arts education. Wells said that “the end result, we feel, is going to be a better educational experience for people taking these new courses within the new system.”
*with files from Catherine Turnbull