OPINION: I helped convince my school to de-bloat gen ed requirements
During the interview, Arthur asked me about my firsthand experiences with leftist bias from professors, including one professor who looked at Trump on TV and said, “Why can’t somebody just assassinate him?”
Instead of 55 and 40 gen ed credits being required of liberal arts and professional students, respectively, for graduation there will be “one gen ed package with 43 credits.”
The Andrews University provost says the school is simplifying its gen ed policy “concurrent” to an article I wrote in the student newspaper on the topic.
Editor's note: The views in this opinion editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Campus Reform or of its parent organization, the Leadership Institute.
Academic rigor is to be expected at an institution of higher education. However, when institutional requirements are so cumbersome that students do not graduate on time, there is good reason for concern. Having heard claims that my school, Andrews University, would be adjusting its requirements for general education (gen ed) credits, I sat down to interview Andrews University Provost Christon Arthur on Jan. 13 to get the scoop on the changes, and also shared with him my experiences with leftist biases on campus.
The provost said that these changes have been in the making for “the last five years or more,” but that an article I wrote in the school newspaper “helped” with drawing attention to the “cumbersome” gen ed burden on Andrews University students, saying, “I think those things rather happened concurrently.” Before that, the school had been dragging its feet on making those changes. Arthur told me that while universities like Andrews typically analyze and revise their policies after ten or so years, Andrews had waited about twenty years to act on this issue. Needless to say, Arthur commented, “Higher education works very, very slowly.”
Arthur explained that the changes being made are a simplification of an unnecessarily complicated system. “Our liberal arts gen ed package had 55 credits,” and, “If you were a student in the professional areas...then your gen ed package was 40 credits.” That has changed. Instead, Arthur says, “we [now] have one gen ed package with 43 credits.”
This is particularly helpful for students who want to switch fields of study. Arthur said, “our students” often “transfer between those two areas.” He continued, “It was very confusing to our students,” adding, “And it was a complexity that...I thought [was un]necessary.”
Arthur rightly assessed that Andrews University’s multiple sets of requirements were too rigid, stating, “we have students who are here who are aged thirty or aged thirty-five because the number of credits for each part of the degree…was so large that it was impossible for you to do your degree in four years…”
I especially like how Arthur analyzed the school’s decision, “By reducing the number of credits for the gen eds, we’re not making the degree less, ...but we’re making it more flexible.”
Arthur said, "this is what the new General Education requirements look like. We have kept the same broad disciplines."
He also told me that the university plans on reducing credit requirements for Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and History. Other areas like Mathematics, English, and Religion will retain their current General Education requirements.
Arthur made clear that the move would promote academic liberty for students “to pick up a second—maybe even a second major—or a minor, or to do electives in the areas that they love. And so, it becomes a lot more energizing. ‘You know, I have some freedom to move things within my degree.’ That flexibility for us is key.”
Upon learning of my work reporting leftist bias and abuse in higher education with Campus Reform, Arthur took the conversation deeper, “But let me ask you this. [It is] your second semester here. Have you encountered bias?” I then shared with him instances of leftist bias I have witnessed, including when a professor in my department looked at President Trump on television and said, “Why can’t somebody just assassinate him?”
After overcoming the initial shock at hearing that, Arthur then said, “please know that—and I’m speaking for the president as well—that as a student here at Andrews, our doors are always wide open to talk with you, to listen to your concerns, and to give us advice. I won’t presume to know the best solution for everything. And I think that as situations arise, you may have suggestions that I need to listen to. And I know that I will listen to them. So, know that my doors are open.”
Arthur went further by affirming the importance of knowing that “Andrews University is a place for young Republicans,” adding, “I think persons of different political persuasion[s], points of view, different belief systems, should be able to find at Andrews a place to call home. We have to learn to have conversations and even disagree, but do so graciously, and do so with respect, and do so in a way that we may argue about ideas and challenge ideas, but not make you feel less than or inferior or evil because [of] your motives [or] ideas. And that’s what we want for Andrews.”
“I want to talk about a place that has, that values diversity. It’s not simply ethnic and racial diversity, but diversity of thought. And I hope that we’ll make safe for you and for all of our students that those who are [from] the conservative point of view will say, ‘This is my home,’” said the provost.
Arthur told me to let him know when this does not happen, and to “Keep up the good work.”
This is wonderful news for anyone here on campus who is not a leftist. Classical liberals recognize that tolerance for diverse viewpoints is important in a free society. Leftists, on the other hand, have little to no regard to your rights as an intelligent, self-governing individual.
For example, the left believes that if you are a “person of color” (ignore that the term itself is “nonsensical,” according to Jeffrey Mann, Ph.D.), then you must be a leftist. I have witnessed several of my conservative and libertarian friends shamed by fellow members of their own ethnic groups just because they decided to think for themselves instead of falling victim to the groupthink of identity politics.
I have observed with inner shock as Black friends of mine get criticized for “acting White,” when all they are doing is adopting recommended habits to be successful and personable, habits which all young people would do well to adopt if they want to get ahead in life.
As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy, it is important to remind ourselves of a reality which should be considered obvious: the left does not believe in “the dream.” King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Whether affirmative action or segregated college dorms, the left definitely does believe in judging individuals based on skin color. The problem I see is simple: you cannot defeat racism while you continue to deliberately use inherently racist means.
Fellow Andrews University students have also complained that the co-curricular programs, which students can get fined for missing past a certain number, very often lean left politically. For example, one speaker challenged students to use their churches to hide illegal immigrants from ICE. Another one compared illegal immigrants to the Biblical Hebrews going to the “Promised Land,” saying, “You haven’t made it until you’re all across the river.” There was even one who called for reparations for slavery.
In an age where America’s college campuses are routinely dominated by dogmatic leftism, it is refreshing to have affirmation from my own school’s provost toward myself and all other peaceful political dissidents in the Andrews University community. There is still lots of work to be done, but hopefully, students who experience hostility from professors and peers will soon be able to say, as King reiterated from a song, "Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last."
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Jonathan_M_Jr