I had a particularly bad experience when I was denied a rightful spot in the purely meritocratic capped electrical engineering major due to Revelle Advising delaying the processing of my Quarter-by-Quarter plan. Why was Revelle involved? Because the major transfer system is wired in a way such that colleges need to approve students with over 150 credits to make sure they can fulfill the college requirements to graduate.
Contrary to their original intentions, the UC San Diego colleges create a layer of bureaucracy that should be removed to give students more flexibility in choosing courses and housing and allow counselors to better serve students.
According to UCSD, the college system is modeled after Oxford and Cambridge to supposedly “[combine] the academic advantages of a large research university with the finest features of a small liberal arts college.” UCSD also claims that colleges provide “tight community,” “attentive advisors,” and “inspiring amenities,” though my denied transfer to Electrical Engineering is a direct refutation of “attentive advisors.” To prove my point, I have at least 31 emails illustrating a strained and understaffed advising team working under a stiff bureaucratic system. As of now, I have yet to be admitted to electrical engineering. I don’t blame them. They too are victims of a system in need of change.
Overworked counselors are only part of a complicated problem. It is well known among UCSD students and affiliates that college GE’s are unequal. In fact, I recently had a HUM professor joke about Sixth College being easy. Concretely, according to a previous article from The UCSD Guardian, “the average class GPAs of each HUM course from Fall 2007 to Spring 2017 is 2.918 [as opposed to] Sixth’s 3.231.” Because of this inequality, it is easy for students in one college to be envious of those in other colleges, whether it is the desire to seek a more rigorous course, or more often than not, the desire to avoid bothersome courses.
The current situation locks students into their college by making it hard for them to transfer. UCSD’s policy on inter-college transfer gives a list of restricting criteria that can easily prevent students from switching. It certainly prevented me from switching. Also, the document explicitly states that, “Petitions for inter-college transfers based on general education preferences or the intention to double major or minor are not considered.” This is UCSD blatantly telling students that once locked in, they no longer have a say in their general education.
One may argue that students freely chose a college while applying so students should be held responsible to carry through their decision. UCSD even has a page to help students choose. This argument is flawed in many ways. First is that simply not all students get into their college of first choice. Second, it is hard to tell something’s true nature until one tries it out. Even if UCSD has a page to help students compare, nothing beats taking the course for even just a week, which is not something prospective students can do until they are already enrolled. Third, the college system fails to account for the fact that people change, especially during their formative college years. Even if the student likes the college coursework at first, that opinion may change later on.
By abolishing colleges, students won’t have to deal with two types of GE’s in addition to major and minor requirements, and will have more flexibility to take GE courses that will benefit them most. For example, if colleges are abolished, an engineering student may take a course covering the Western tradition, find that they don’t benefit as much as they’d like, and be able to switch to something different like a world history class. Furthermore, abolishing colleges frees students from a rigid sequence that demands them to make a tradeoff between taking a course or missing it and having to wait an entire year to take it, bringing the added benefit of simplifying graduation requirements. With less schedule conflicts arising from rigid college GE obligations, students can take potentially life changing courses that they never would have been able to take under the pressure of two GE types.
Going back to the problem of overworked counselors, currently it is hard for students to book a quality appointment. For example, Revelle’s VAC page on myTritonLink is filled with disclaimers including “Due to high volume, it may be necessary to close Drop-in Advising early” and “In-Person Sign In (not encouraged during Weeks 1–2 and Week 9 due to longer wait times).” By abolishing colleges and simplifying graduation requirements, counselors are freed from doing avoidable paperwork such as processing my Quarter-by-Quarter plan. This allows counselors to do more fulfilling jobs like better assisting students in finding courses that are valuable to the students, making career choices, and more.
Another issue of UCSD’s college system is housing. Colleges have housing units clustered together. This is great if you’re an engineering student in Warren, but not so if you’re in Revelle, which is farther away. UCSD’s large campus also means it will be less convenient for a student to meet in-person with another student in the same major and course but different college to study together, which may lead to the meeting not being considered at all to the detriment of both students’ learning. Abolishing colleges lifts UCSD’s self-imposed restriction to group students by college and allows UCSD to house students in a rational manner that will be most convenient and intellectually stimulating for students.
An alternative to UCSD’s current college system is to have only university-wide GE and major-minor requirements and to group students by discipline. UCSD is conscious of this, acknowledging that “many university campuses in the United States have a separate college structure, in most cases, these colleges are designed to serve specific disciplines, such as engineering or business administration.”
There is a good reason why the alternative (traditional) system is popular, in contrast to UCSD’s relatively rare arrangement of colleges “not based on a student’s major.” UCSD pushes hard to sell its brand of colleges to attract starry-eyed students who have perhaps been exposed to too much Harry Potter. Nevertheless, it is apparent that colleges are detrimental to UCSD students. UCSD has plenty of positive things that can be used to brand itself, but as a public university, UCSD first and foremost has a duty to do what is in the best interest of the students it serves, and that means abolishing the colleges.
Image courtesy of Sean Yen on YouTube.