I have this theory that the Faculty of Arts & Science, like the plethora of technological advancements that continue to seep into our everyday lives, is almost always trying to make things less complicated but almost always ends up achieving the exact opposite.
First and foremost, there is the calendar. It is now 584 pages long, in comparison to the one last year, which was only 568 pages. Of course, it’s not the quantity that counts, but quality. Thankfully, in terms of Distribution Requirements, this year Arts & Science decided to eliminate its lists of Humanity Courses for Science and Social Science Students, as well as Science Courses for Humanities and Social Science Students (Page 27 of the Calendar).
At first glance, this is great news. The fact that there were two separate distribution requirements for Humanities and Social Science yet one list that combines course suggestions for both areas of study always drove me completely nuts (for some reason humanities courses are always more abundant than social science courses!). Whenever it came to course selection, I used to just sit in front of my desk and flip through the pages of my calendar for hours, hoping to stumble upon a course slightly less random than FCS298H1: French Culture and Asia.
Things were switched up a bit for the new calendar. Instead of two lists that have at best stimulated my creative problem-solving abilities, now there’s a Distribution Requirement designation that follows each and every course description in the calendar (more details can be found on Page 26 of the 2010-11 calendar). So now, for any course of interest that is outside your discipline of study, you no longer need to rely on Six Degrees of Separation to find some guy or some girl who has taken the course (you deserve a pat on the back if you ever get to this stage) but who nevertheless may not be able to answer your question regarding whether or not it actually counts as a social science or a humanities credit. But now, the designation says it all:
DR=HUM–> It’s a humanities course!
DR=SOC SCI –> It’s a social science course!
DR=SCI –> It’s a science course!
But Lucy, you ask, my brain is not yet overwhelmed by this information. Does this mean that my rigorous education at U of T has finally made me smarter?!
Ah, but you see, there is more. It turns out, just as the school’s finally smoothing out the knots regarding degree requirements, it’s not even going to be used for students beginning their studies in September 2010 or after. What replaces it is something called Breadth Requirement, which classifies courses offered by Arts and Science into 5 categories according to subject content:
BR=1: Creative and Cultural Representations
BR=2: Thought, Belief, and Behaviour
BR=3: Society and Its Institutions
BR=4: Living Things and Their Environment
BR=5: The Physical and Mathematical Universes
Basically, students must take at least four full-course equivalents (FCEs) that have so far been assigned a BR designation – currently, only 100-level and 200-level courses hold such designations. Some do not have BR designations and show up as BR=none. The rest still show up as BR=TBA (BR designations for these will be available on the Faculty website this summer). These four FCEs can be fulfilled in one of two ways:
1. Take at least 1 FCE from each of 4 (out of the 5) categories mentioned above.
2. Take at least 1 FCE from each of 3 (out of the 5) categories mentioned above; for the remaining 2 categories, take at least 0.5 FCE from each.
Courses taken to fulfill the Breadth Requirement must have an assigned BR designation (i.e. it can’t be BR=TBA). The student must hold academic standing in this course. This course does not need to be used to satisfy a program requirement, and it can be taken as CR/NCR.
It all sound so grand (I mean, it must be when words like “cultural representation” is thrown around the circle). But how would we know what kind of a course would fit each of these categories? For something like CLA203 Science in Antiquity, for example, how would students actually intuit the fact that it falls under the BR category of “Thought, Belief and Behaviour”?
If I’ve had so much trouble to even think up a course that could be a social science course, how much trouble might students encounter when left to pick courses out of the whole 584 pages of possibilities that would fit into not one of three but five (much more ambiguous) categories?
Finally, it’s not like course selection at the St. George campus has always been a breeze. How would anyone actually go about picking courses that, on top of fulfilling a BR designation, also fulfill the following:
1. It must fit an undergrad’s complicated schedule.
2. It must have a reasonable enrollment indicator so that by the time Priority round lifts, there will still be spaces left for enrollment. It also can’t be an “R” or “RP” course.
3. The student must be eligible to take the course based on exclusion, pre-requisites and co-requisites.
4. It must not be too difficult for students specializing in a significantly different program of study (e.g. a student specializing in immunology taking courses in English literature).
I guess ultimately, adaptation is necessary for anyone who has the need to keep up with an evolving system. Maybe this is just like natural selection: along the process of change, somehow students will just figure it all out. I mean, they have to, right? After all, we all want a happy ending.