This article is also available in print: Quaker Campus, Volume 19 – Issue 6, dated Nov. 17, 2021, on the Whittier College campus.
Students are frustrated with how outdated many of Whittier College’s majors seem to be, and for good reason. WC is a liberal arts college — that means placing an emphasis on humanities (subjects such as Literature, History, Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology, and others dealing with creative art and thought), and should include promoting these majors and minors in interesting ways. While most professors do make an effort to modernize these subject matters in class, this is often very unclear to students when registering for classes.
The Schedule of Classes is not just for finding out when your required classes are being taught for the upcoming semester; it should be a place for you to find classes that you genuinely want to take. College is supposed to be interesting! When scrolling through the Schedule of Classes, though, everything seems very arbitrary; explaining the content of a course in its title really isn’t necessary, especially because each course is designated a description to explain what it’s all about.
That is not to say that Whittier College classes are not interesting; they just often aren’t eye-catching, and that gives the impression that they won’t be fun to take. Most of the eye-catching classes are being taught in WC’s last JanTerm for the foreseeable future — which, considering JanTerm is meant for more fun, laid-back classes, ought to be true anyways. Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Brody Albert’s class, “Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?” is an example of a catchy, makes-you-curious course title, versus courses like “Drawing Workshop” or “Ceramic Sculpture Workshop.” The latter titles definitely tell us what the class is, but don’t give much hope for a genuinely interesting course. I know we’re here to learn, but I think we should be able to expect to have fun doing so.
A couple of Spring Term classes jump out at us as well — i.e. Professor of English dAvid pAddy’s “What Are Humans?” and Associate Professor of English Language and Literature Sean Morris’s “Beowulf vs. Ironman: Why You Love the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” It’s understandable to not have every single class be something eye-catching, especially when it comes to the requirements for a major (which students should be able to identify easily), but certainly electives like the aforementioned classes can have a little more fun!
Again, this is not to say that classes being taught at the College are not interesting, or not in line with the goals of a liberal arts education. Just as an example: multiple diverse and exciting classes have joined the English and Art majors recently. In JanTerm, Professor Douglas Manuel II is teaching “The Poetics of Hip-Hop,” which will focus on hip-hop songs and their meanings. This sounds particularly interesting because it’s so modern; we don’t get to study hip-hop in other English courses, for the most part, and it’s nice to have a break from centuries-old literature.
The Art & Visual Studies Department now has a major and minor track entitled Visual Culture / Visual Media, which, as described by an email Kate Albers sent to students on Nov. 11, “is primarily designed for students who wish to go into a creative or cultural field with primary skills in writing and analysis, complemented by a smaller number of foundational courses in making and design.” Each year, Whittier College offers more and more classes that allow students to express themselves and think creatively; this is true of all four years I have been a student. All we really need now is for more classes to look interesting when it comes time for registration.
Often, the mundane presentation of various courses comes down to the fact that professors may not think to update the title and/or description of the courses they are teaching. Some professors essentially “inherit” courses from previous professors, and we can’t always expect them to worry about updating the existing presentation of the course. But, it would be beneficial to students looking for classes they might enjoy taking.
It’s not just the professors, though; the course titles/descriptions go through quite the journey before being granted approval for the Schedule of Classes. It starts with the professor, goes to the department, and then to the Educational Policies Committee, who have the ultimatum in approving or denying these titles and descriptions. This is only not true when courses are offered to students on a pilot basis — these are courses that end in ‘90’ (i.e. AFBL 290), meaning they are not (yet) permanent, and only will be if they are successful among students.
Essentially, the titles and descriptions of WC courses will only change if professors submit course change proposals to the EPC. The line of approval will be the same as if the course is brand new — from professor to department to EPC. If it is approved all the way through, the course will have a new — and hopefully more interesting — presentation in the Schedule of Classes.
Personally, I feel like most classes should use the function of having both titles and descriptions to their advantage. Why not have the title be something eye-catching to appeal to student interest and leave the course description to talk about the actual content of the class? This could even be functional for required classes, considering the course numbers (i.e. CHIN 120, PSYC 214) are there to guide students, alongside DegreeWorks, to find our need-to-take courses. After all, students need 72 credits outside of their major discipline(s) in order to graduate, and it can be especially hard to fill up our schedules if nothing outside of our main course(s) of study appeals to us.
Featured Image: Katarina Estrada / Quaker Campus