Students brought their concerns about flexibility to the Faculty of Arts’ proposed degree changes in a town hall on Tuesday.
Proposed changes to the BA include cutting its 36 credits of core requirements and replacing them with five thematic pathways, as well as removing the requirement of a minor and six language other than English credits. The changes would allow students more flexibility in their Arts degrees, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) Ball said.
“I see (the BA renewal) as a way for us as a faculty to describe these different pathways to students.” Ball said during the town hall. “What I want to do is improve that model of things that we can point to and suggest that this is what you can do, and actually have a consistent answer to those questions.”
One student in the audience argued that the removal of the BA core requirements would add confusion to the degree’s structure, as students would have more freedom to take many more different courses. Ball replied that pathway style learning at the University of Calgary showed students could connect what they learned in first year to what they learned in fourth year. Students could build their degrees around what courses they were interested in as a result, Ball added.
Another town hall attendee asked why the new BA couldn’t be modelled more after McGill University’s or the University of Toronto’s BAs, which have scrapped their language requirements, yet retained their core requirements. Ball responded that the proposed BA model is what works “best for the University of Alberta.”
Ball brought up that the new BA would increase students’ ability to earn degrees with double majors, in which students are only enrolled in six per cent. He argued that parents will pressure their children into degrees they may not want.
“Say you fall in love with Philosophy, but your parents are like, ‘Well you need the proper degree, Psychology,’” Ball said. “The pressure is for you to do that as your major currently … In the new model you could also do the thing that you love doing, which is the Philosophy.”
A student in a double major honours program replied that he had no problems with his degree in the current BA framework. He said scrapping the requirements won’t make a double major easier for anyone.
Former Students’ Union VP (Student Life) Nicolas Diaz said the core frustration with the BA is that it’s large and obtuse, and that it needs to be “cleaned up a bit.” In terms of consultation, a process of expectations should be outlined when it comes to feedback collection, he said.
“I think folks need to hear that there are working groups that involve all the different stakeholders: students, academia,” Diaz said, following the town hall. “Making sure we’re building that consensus in conjunction with the town halls.”
SU VP (Academic)-elect Marina Banister also said she was concerned with the consultation framework. Banister has watched the BA review through various failures to pass in General Faculties Council, and said that without a literal action plan and timeline, the plans will never come to fruition.
“These town halls can be better if they provide a firmer timeline,” Banister said, “Right now they’re very based in what should this look like and what could this do, but not actually how it will happen. Without the how, these could come off as somewhat of a waste of people’s time.”