A curriculum proposal that would allow Knox students to graduate without also earning an additional minor or major has come under fire from current and former students who say the proposed change “dumbs” down the college curriculum.
“It would be a major disservice to students,” senior Naja Woods said.
Woods, who is majoring in Gender and Women Studies and minoring in Journalism, thinks that having a required additional minor or major forces students “to go deep” in another area of study.
“If this proposed change gets approved, the vast majority of students won’t take higher level classes. They’ll take a smattering of classes – most of them easy, 100-level classes – that won’t challenge them and prepare them for a real-life setting,” she said. “This is a dumbing down of the curriculum.”
Like many students, Woods initially didn’t like the idea of having to also complete a minor as an underclassmen, but then eventually began to enjoy each subsequent journalism class.
“It’s where I really learned to write and it’s actually the profession I’ve chosen to pursue after graduation,” she said.
Junior Julian Wicks was initially drawn to Knox because of the promise of a liberal arts education. “I feel like this [curriculum change] would break part of that promise,” he said.
Senior Temitope Ajetunmobi agreed that the administration should not remove the minor or second major requirements. He fears that students will not allow themselves to branch out into other areas of study.
“I am concerned for future students at Knox that they won’t be able to find their way and truly immerse themselves in a subject,” he said. “Requiring a second program of study forced me to expand my interests and allowed me to learn about something and gain more interest in a subject that I once didn’t think I would. I just don’t trust that future students will take advantage of that opportunity if it is not structured for them.”
For junior Ohi Iriah, the required minor limits students in a way, but he also feels that it does prepare students for more job opportunities after graduation.
“It’s best to have more than one area that you’re skilled in,” he said. “I know that I already do the least I can in order to still be successful in classes, I think that’s basic human nature and taking away the need for a minor allows students to slack even more.”
Some faculty members think that getting rid of the additional minor requirement will create a more open curriculum that allows a broad exploration of subjects, which they feel is just as important as in-depth exploration.
“It depends on if you think that what it says on your diploma when you graduate is more important that the information that you learned then keeping the minor makes sense, but if students are here to learn rather than just get a piece of paper, then eliminating the requirement makes sense,” said Assistant Professor of Classics Mitchell Parks.
Other professors, like Professor of Political Science Sue Hulett, said the elimination of a minor requirement simplifies things.
“The possibility of specializing in an area is still there just without the title of a minor,” she said.
Not all students said they would be upset if the faculty votes to get rid of the requirement of an additional minor or major.
“I don’t have a problem with it because it will make it easier for me to graduate but I also know that without it I won’t have the same experience that I originally came to Knox for,” freshman Lizzie Chidiac said.
Visiting Instructor of Political Science Katie Stewart said she felt the determination and initiative in most Knox students would still push them to study secondary fields in-depth.
“I wouldn’t think there would be an issue of students sliding because, from what I’ve seen in Knox students, is they already naturally have that drive in them,” Stewart said.
Some students already use that drive in creating self-designed minors, but sometimes it takes the requirement to encourage this. Kam Wells ‘17 graduated from Knox last June and landed a job working for the Baltimore Orioles. He credits the college’s minor requirement with pushing him to create a self-designed minor in sports data management.
“If Knox didn’t make me get a minor, I would have never self-designed a minor and had my career based on it,” he said.
Professor of Spanish Julio Noriega is not sure the proposed curriculum change is necessary. He believes that in order for the college to build tradition and identity, they need to keep what works for students and change what doesn’t. Removing the minor requirements could fall into that area.
“College is a transition to the world outside, and in order to be competitive, being multi-disciplined is more useful for students both as an advantage to them in future endeavors as well as making them better prepared for what comes next,” Noriega said. “No matter the model, we have to do what is best to lead students to be future professionals, because professionals cannot survive by focusing on just one thing.”
The faculty are expected to hold a strawpoll on whether to eliminate the additional minor/major requirement at the faculty meeting on Monday, March 5.
An earlier version of this article stated the faculty planned to vote on the changes in their Monday meeting. They held a strawpoll and plan to vote on the complete curriculum overhaul in April.