English courses reworked for Fall

Jason Clevenger

Prerequisites changed for upper-division classes

For non-English majors whose pens are drying up trying to get into upper-division English courses, new, less demanding prerequisites are an inkwell of new opportunities.

And that’s what Ray Craig, English department graduate coordinator and associate professor, hopes the new prerequisites will be.

Until this year, students who wanted to take upper-division courses had to go first through College Writing I and II, followed by Literature in English I and II and Introduction to English Studies before being allowed to take them.

In other words, students who aren’t majoring in English had to take three extra courses from the English major core requirement list just to have access to upper-division electives.

“It seems counter to liberal education principles in that someone who is in another discipline and has interest can’t pursue that interest,” Craig said.

The system had two major problems, he said.

The first problem is that upper-division classes were closed to people outside the major. The required courses for access to upper-division courses were not necessarily ones that students in other majors would be interested in taking.

The second problem is it slowed English majors down. They had to take certain classes in certain years to be able to move on to upper-division courses.

Craig said there is a recent trend of students wanting to graduate quickly, and the old system of “scaffolded” class prerequisites was interfering with that.

“I see (the new prerequisites) as being in line with what the provost and the president are trying to do in getting people through in a timely fashion,” Craig said.

The new prerequisites have been greatly skimmed down. English LERs, such as Great Books I and II and Introduction to Shakespeare no longer have any prerequisites at all. Upper-division courses now only require that students take College Writing I and II.

“It’s a matter of streamlining the course to graduation,” Craig said. “This is just a way for us to make sure we aren’t putting artificial obstacles along the course to graduation.”

For instance, if a senior wanted to take the new Special Topics course about American Super Hero Fiction (ENG 39995), the only prerequisite he or she would need are the two College Writing courses.

“We hope that this makes the courses more accessible to more students,” said Kim Winebrenner, associate professor and adviser to all English majors.

Such streamlining is a growing trend in academic departments, which are under greater pressure to draw students into their classrooms. The university’s new budget model, Responsibility Center Management, allows colleges to collect money from students’ tuition when they take their courses.

Craig said the English department’s decision to slash prerequisites wasn’t directly because of that.

“It’s conceivable that we might get a handful more students coming into upper-division classes than we have in the past,” Craig said.

But that wasn’t the real motivation, he added. Ultimately, the new prerequisites will give English majors more freedom in choosing when they want to take classes, and non-English majors more classes to choose from.

“We’re not a diploma mill,” Craig said. “People want that choice.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Jason Clevenger at [email protected].