Taking up a full six quarters and covering the full length of recorded history — from the earliest of neanderthals right up to the new millennium — Making of the Modern World has never been for the faint of heart. The program is known to demand sweat, tears and energy drink/Adderrall-fueled memorization binges around two or three times per quarter.
It asks for half a dozen academic papers and countless homework assignments over the span of two years — no small order, especially for those saddled down by make-or-break lower-div major requirements — and in return spits out around a thousand students a year with a tenuous-at-worst grasp of the history of humankind.
So when ERC Provost Alan Houston announced in an e-mail on Wednesday that the program will, effective immediately, only require five quarters of incoming freshmen and
two of junior-year transfers, many rejoiced.
MMW represented the most stringent of college requirements — runner-up Revelle College’s Humanities program requires a paltry five quarters — and had finally caught up with the supposed next-worst of the GEs
But make no mistake: This is no case of faculty members relieving students of a quarter’s worth of all-nighters for the almighty sake of relaxation. These are budget cuts at their most pervasive, affecting about one in every six students on campus.
Many students noticed something was up a few weeks ago in registering for classes. This Spring Quarter, only two MMW6 courses will be offered — a drastic reduction from the usual three, which, prior to yesterday’s announcement, left dozens of ERC students on
13-person waitlists (for a 20-person section) for the requirement.
Houston said that the reduction was made in anticipation of the announcement, as ERC sophomores likely to enroll in the class would no longer be required to take it. At
press time, only a handful of MMW6 sections had a waitlist, and none of
more than three.
MMW Program Director Matthew Herbst figured the cut was coming even before word trickled down through the university. He said the program’s been working
out the changes for over a year, and that they’ll mostly consist of combining the first two quarters of material into one, apparently leaving the remaining four of the sequence
But regardless of how successful Herbst has been at minimizing losses to the program, this is about as blunt a statement of university priorities as we’ve seen. For all the administration’s claims of intellectual and cultural diversity, UCSD is no liberal arts school in science school clothing: We are first and foremost — and have been from our 1960s
founding — a research institution.
The Academic Senate’s swift approval of cutting our campus’s furthest-reaching humanities requirement on Tuesday, if anything, reminded us of just that. While MMW represented, to
some, an object of resentment — a never-ending stream of memorization and busywork — for others, it was important exposure to nonwestern perspectives glossed over in high school; a first contact with the Qur’an or Confucius.
To all, it now represents the first UCSD general requirement to get the axe.
It’s unlikely to be the last.