The University of Wyoming’s general education review process is under the spotlight from lawmakers this year.
The UW Next Generation General Education Committee had its first meeting this week about the school’s general education program. There are 26 members from across the university on the committee. English professor Susan Aronstein, law professor and School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice Director Jacquelyn Bridgeman and senior lecturer in English Rick Fisher are the committee’s co-chairs.
The meeting is part of the longer process of reformulating the general education program. That happens every 10 years. The university last reviewed its general education requirements in 2012. It put in place the current requirements in 2015.
The current program has 30 required credit hours. Every student has to complete these credits to graduate. These requirements are meant to equip students with the basic skills and knowledge to engage with the world.
This time around, the process is under heightened scrutiny from lawmakers.
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Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, introduced an amendment to the budget bill this legislative session that took aim at the funding for the university’s Gender and Women’s Studies Department. Steinmetz said the department is “training activists.”
But legislators reached a compromise and ended up scaling back the amendment.
Instead of removing the department’s funding, they approved a provision that requires the university to report on its general education program to the Joint Appropriations and Joint Education committees. The university will also have to outline any policies or regulations that might incentivize or disincentivize students from taking certain courses outside of their majors.
One legislator pointed, for example, to UW’s required alcohol education and sexual assault prevention training onboarding material. These onboarding materials don’t count for academic credit, but students will generally get a hold on their registration if they don’t complete the modules. Both trainings are standard practice in many other universities. The latter is required under Title IX.
UW Vice Provost for Strategic Planning Anne Alexander said an internal group will meet next week to talk about the reporting required under the new provision. It’s not clear at this point what the next steps will be or what exactly that report will look like. But the university will deliver some kind of report to the Joint Appropriations and Joint Education committees by June.
The committee heading the process is gathering feedback about the new general education program. People can submit a first round of comments and learn about other opportunities to give feedback at www.uwyo.edu/usp/next-gen/index.html through April 29.