The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Kristen Doerer

The GEC and SLQ requirements restrict Batesies’ academic freedom

As fall semester winds down and final papers and exams approach, I take a brief look back on my classes this past semeste and can’t help but feel like I wasted a semester of classes. As a history major, I don’t see the use of the required physics or geology class I took this semester; instead, I see wasted dollars spiraling down the drain.

For a liberal arts school, Bates does manage to have a good number of inconvenient requirements, specifically the Science, Lab, and Quantitative requirements (S, L, and Q) and General Education Concentrations requirement (GECs). I have to wonder whether these requirements expand our education, or instead restrain it.

Now, I don’t want to say Bates’ requirements are completely unnecessary, but I do think there could be a number of positive changes to the requirement system. The S, L, and Q’s that are academically accessible to non-science students are difficult to get into, don’t teach information that appears applicable, and take time away from other classes students find more interesting.

It is nearly impossible to get into one of these 100-level required courses due to the number of humanitarian majors that are looking for the least painful science or math course. Since my sophomore year, I have tried every semester to get into a number of S, L, and Q courses. I finally managed to get into both a S and a L course this semester, and decided to take both of them while I had the chance.

To know that half of my expensive tuition is going towards two classes that I generally dislike and don’t see the use in is, frankly, upsetting. These science and math classes should be more accessible. I agree that learning how to read and interpret a graph and how natural disasters occur is important, but I don’t see the point in memorizing rock types or explaining how a spring works.

I have to ask: why do we have to take two science courses? I understand the need for at least one science course, but why is it necessary to take a lab? What does a lab class do for a student who will not pursue science in any way in the future? I believe one science course is enough, especially for people who have no desire to learn more about science than the very basics.

I would suggest a revamping of the SLQ system that would eliminate one of the science requirements, stress the need to learn the most necessary and useful aspects of science and mathematics, and make the classes more available to humanities students.

Another one of the complaints I have heard often and repeatedly for four years is the inconvenience of General Education Concentrations, which are also known as mini-minors. GECs are, in theory, a great idea. Having students choose concentrations outside their major seems like a great manifestation of the liberal arts ideals. But GECs don’t always expand one’s academic choices, and instead seems to limit them.

One must take four classes that fall under a certain GEC. GEC titles include Ancient Greek, Beauty and Desire, The Collaborative Project, Colonialism, English, and Hazards in Nature, to name a few. While some of the courses under these GECs seem very interesting, reoccurring problems include that some of courses are not often offered, have prerequisites, or overlap with other required courses.

I understand that small liberal arts colleges don’t have enough resources to have all of these courses available or to have minors of every department. However, Bates ought to consider offering popular minors like economics, English, psychology and politics.

While some GECs have easy requirements to fill, like the English GEC which requires four English classes, only two of which can be 100-level, others are much more difficult to fill. For example, the Filmmaking in Cultural Context GEC only offers a list of ten courses which are not taught every semester. Depending on the GEC students have chosen to take, they have very differing opinions.

I discussed GECs with a few seniors in Ladd, and soon enough, a heated debate broke out. Brendan Johnson ‘14 defended the GEC system, claiming that, “The GEC encourages students to expand their academic horizons and catalyzes interdisciplinary bonding.”

Meanwhile, Matt Furlow ‘14 thought that GECs needed to be rethought or abolished, stating, “I think students should be required to take courses from at least 7 different majors, and abolish the GEC system because most GECs lack any sort of academic cohesion.”

These voices echo the confusion around GECs—whether they are effective or not. These mini-minors need to be adjusted to encourage students to take classes outside their major without constricting their choices.

GECs and SLQ requirements attempt to make students explore classes outside of their major, but in the end, these requirements force students to take certain courses when they are offered, thereby preventing students from taking courses outside their major or their GEC.

In general, I like Bates’ academic system. I have only become frustrated as I have come to realize that with one semester left, there are still many different classes I would like to take, and not nearly enough time to take them.

What’s wrong with being connected?

Electronic devices and social media have become vital centerpieces in our lives. Occasionally, this truth is met with resistance, including statements such as, “People today are too attached to technology,” and, “You always feel the need to be connected…Disconnect!” The message seems to be that our computers and phones are distracting us from “real” social interactions.

However, these protesters often forget that the entity on the other side of this “connection” is not simply a vast and mindless world of Technology, but is often, indeed, a fellow human being. In fact, the overall effect of technological advancements has been to promote and enhance human interactions, rather than inhibit them.

Primarily, many common websites and mobile applications allow us to connect with friends and family in new ways. A prime example of this is the ever-popular Facebook, where our list of friends may contain people we knew from high school, college, travel and work experiences, and family members. By posting pictures and updates, we are able to show all of these people what is going on in our lives: activities we are involved in, milestones we’ve reached, new jobs, adventures, and opportunities with which we’ve been presented. We no longer need to wait until Christmas card season to see pictures of our family members or learn about important events in the lives of those about whom we care.

In this way, we are able to benefit not only from being able to share our own experiences with others but also by staying updated with the happenings of others. Especially as we go off to college and later move away to build our new lives, sites such as Facebook allow us to maintain these meaningful human connections, even in such a busy world.

A recent fad has also provided a unique method of staying in touch with those who are important to us. Snapchat is an application for smartphones and iPods that allows photographs to be sent, but to only be viewed for up to ten seconds after being opened. This spontaneous method of sending quick messages creates an interesting dynamic, in which the sender can show that he or she has seen or experienced something that has reminded him or her of the receiver. This provides the opportunity to reach out to a variety of people, without the expectation of an extended conversation.

New technological tools also encourage collaboration, something that is especially evident when partaking in group projects of any sort. The Google feature “Drive” allows for documents, presentations, and spreadsheets to be shared and collectively created and edited simultaneously, with features such as comments and revision history. Before this was available, group papers and projects were often completed by splitting up the work by page or paragraph and hoping that those separate pieces would be coherent when put together. With Google Drive, each group member has access to each of the other parts, which encourages better transitions and a big-picture perspective of the goal of the project. Members can even collaborate on the same part of a project at the same time, even from separate locations.

Finally, websites such as Tumblr or Reddit that promote the sharing of images, videos, and ideas have the potential to connect us with people around the world. We are able to see that others are interested in the same things that we are interested in, and to share our opinions and questions with these global communities. This encourages us to think harder about what we assume to already know, and to discover new interests related to our own.

The suggestion to “disconnect,” of course, carries complete validity, as time spent on one’s own can have great value. However, the blanket statement that “connecting” is unhealthy and unnatural is simply misguided, for what this new technology allows us to do is to connect with other people.

Addressing sexual assault in the American Armed Forces

One in five female veterans is sexually abused during service, a Defense Department study showed. Now take four of your friends and come to terms with the fact that if you were all in the military, one out of the five of you would be sexually assaulted.

How can this be tolerated? In an American Forces Press Service in 2012, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta vowed to fight against sexual assault in the military claiming, “to do everything we can to reduce and prevent sexual assault, to make victims of sexual assault feel secure enough to report this crime without fear of retribution or harm to their career, and to hold the perpetrators appropriately accountable.”

But has this happened?

At Lackland air force base in Texas, 32 instructors allegedly sexually assaulted 62 recruits. While innocent until proven guilty, these instructors face harsh punishments—one instructor faces life in prison for the rape of a female recruit. Many of these cases were not reported until months or years after the assault.

In an interview done by the New York Times, Virginia Messick, a victim of rape at Lackland spoke of the problems in reporting sexual assault:

“How am I supposed to go about reporting something,” asked Ms. Messick, “when the person I’m supposed to report to is the person who raped me?”

Reporting sexual assault to one’s rapist is clearly not an option. Many believed that speaking out about sexual assault would be an end to their military careers. In an effort to forget what happened, only a few women reported their sexual abuse with the rest left to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder with few to no people understanding the cause.

General Mark A. Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, asked, “Why, on the worst day of their life, don’t they come forward? … That’s the heart of the problem. People don’t feel comfortable coming forward, and they do not routinely report either sexual assault or sexual harassment, and that is one of the biggest problems we have.”

Senior Air Force commanders believe that a weak command structure and a climate of fear among female personnel lead to the climate of widespread abuse. General Welsh also believed certain activities led to this climate, stating: “A young man who routinely binge drinks and loses control of himself is going to conduct bad behavior. That bad behavior could result in sexual assault. Let’s stop the binge drinking.”

But is this just an excuse? Is not the real problem the culture around sexual assault and rape. Rape does not exist in every society—it is not simply, a part of human nature. What is the culture at military bases that allows these crimes?

Congress, in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act attempts to fight sexual abuse in the military by prohibiting the recruiting of anyone convicted of felony sexual assault, separating convicted sex offenders from the military, and improving reporting on sexual assault cases. But these are vague terms that seem to offer real aid to the fight against sexual abuse in the military.

The military has embraced a “bystander intervention” program. This “bystander intervention” program is supposed to teach sailors and soldiers how to intervene when situations begin to look dangerous and is supposed to address the climate for tolerance of sexual abuse.

The military has tried to create awareness of sexual assault by introducing a poster campaign. But how influential can a poster be?

In the documentary “The Invisible War,” the film accuses the military of failing to act effectively. Opening with heart wrenching stories of victim’s abuses, it moves to veterans’ suffering of post-traumatic stress disorder and their failure to be granted disability aid from the military.

To his credit, General Welsh spoke to the Air Force’s wing commanders and sat them down to watch “The Invisible War.” Will this have a difference? Or will Lackland scandal and other sexual assault stories end as just another scandal?

With new gains made to women’s equality in the armed forces with the lifted ban on women in combat roles, the military needs to take a stronger stance on sexual assault. The military must look after all of its personnel, not just its men. To continue to tolerate sexual assault, the military will lose the American people’s trust and respect.

More than a handful of men who fight for our nation are sexual offenders and rapists. Men, who as soldiers, fight for our nation and the rights of its people are actively taking away the rights and human dignity of other American soldiers by sexually assaulting them. This is an eerie irony that the military department needs to address swiftly and vehemently.

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