(Photo by Cole Tan)
(Photo by Cole Tan)
(Photo by Cole Tan)

The class is overcrowded, it has nothing to do with your major and the professor doesn’t know your name — welcome to general education courses.

FEATURE STORY: PROFESSORS DON’T ALWAYS MAKE THE GRADE

These classes are rarely anyone’s favorite, yet each student at the U is required to fulfill 12 requirements, including American Institutions, lower division writing and fine arts exploration. While these classes give students an opportunity to experience different majors and ideas, few students have a positive view of them.

The U’s general education requirements fulfill the school’s need to comply with the state R470 policy, which mandates higher-learning institutions to have courses like this. This policy was put into place to help students improve critical thinking, provide a well-rounded education and make it easier for students to transfer schools.

Austin Holmes, a junior in environmental and sustainability studies and international studies, said although he had a few good professors in general education classes, his overall experience was negative.

“You do not feel like a student in most of these courses,” he said. “You feel like a body or a number. You are simply there because you are obligated to do so.”

Charles Burnett, who graduated with his bachelor’s degree Spring Semester 2014, said this sense of obligation also led him to a bad experience in the courses.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if gen ed classes were actually worth the investment,” Burnett said. “But for the average student who just wants a diploma so they can get a job, they serve no justifiable purpose.”

He said his worst experience was in Non-Major Basic Drawing because he didn’t care about the class.

“I powered through the course because I needed fine arts credits, and it fit my schedule, but it dragged my GPA down,” Burnett said.

Holmes, whose least favorite general education course was Math 1010, said his classes felt like an extension of high school and emphasized memorization over learning.

The cost of these courses is another reason both Holmes and Burnett said they disliked them. Holmes said in addition to the tuition for his Math 1010 class, he had to pay more than $80 for a book and an electronic clicker to answer in-class questions.

“Because this class is required by so many students, and their grade is dictated by owning a book, they can charge whatever they want,” he said. “This is borderline extortion on an institutional level.”

Holmes said he was lucky because his mother paid for his tuition.

“I think that it is an absolute disrespect to my mother that she had to pay for two years of mediocre, obligatory, slightly advanced high school education,” he said.

Burnett said because most students come to school for a diploma, “these classes shouldn’t be the ransom students have to pay in order to get the thing they actually want from the university.”

Luisana Gomez, a junior in health, society and policy, said the worst general education course she took was Introduction to Music because the professor taught the material in a boring way.

“The teacher in my music class would basically just read off a PowerPoint the whole time,” she said. “I didn’t feel like she even had a passion for music.”

Gomez said she’s had a mostly positive experience with general education courses since the classes can be interesting and easy to manage, even if it’s unrelated to her major.

She thinks the U requires too many general education courses, but she understands the need for a well-rounded education.

k.ehmann@chronicle.utah.edu

@Ehmannky

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