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Trinity releases matrix showing course distribution

The extent of Curriculum 2000's readiness for the incoming freshman class became apparent last week with the release of the first filled-out matrix, showing what number of current courses fit into the curriculum's required areas.

As far as administrators are concerned, only two of the eight columns of the matrix have too few classes-Writing in the Disciplines and Science, Technology, and Society.

"We ended up with a really nice matrix," said Robert Thompson, dean of Trinity College. "I'm very happy. It was not knowable the extent to which our current courses filled the areas students needed..., and I was pleased to see the natural yield."

During the summer and fall, faculty reclassified their courses according to the categories in the matrix; about half of the requests were sent back for revisions so they would fit the categories.

As for the two areas that are yet to be filled, Thompson has already sent out requests for proposals for new courses, offering research support for professors who either modify or create a course to fit the Science, Technology, and Society criteria. Writing in the Discipline courses are not required until a student's junior and senior year, so they won't be needed until 2002. "We knew all along we wouldn't have enough Writing in the Discipline courses," Thompson said. "We don't need them for two years, so we've got time."

Thompson calculated that 400 courses would be needed in each column to give every student the opportunity to complete the assigned curriculum component. "I'm looking for 400, minimum 200," he said. "[For] anything with 200 or more, we have more than enough for students to meet the requirement."

This calculation is based on the idea that at the smallest class size, a seminar, about 93 courses would need to be offered each semester for all students to be able to meet the requirements over four years. Offering 400 courses provides cushion room. "Four hundred is just an approximation.... They can't all be seminars," Thompson said.

If an area becomes difficult for students to meet, then changes will be made, said Thompson. Currently, however, he doesn't think they'll be necessary. "We wanted a system that didn't need exceptions, or even substitutions," he said. "If we look at this and we're requiring students to do something they can't, we'll fix it."

Edna Andrews, chair of the Arts and Sciences Council's curriculum committee and a professor of Slavic languages and literature, said the faculty has been very responsive in developing courses and reiterated Thompson's praise of the matrix.

"We got a real nice spread across the codes. I think this is a really exciting curriculum.... We'll see how it's going to get played. We're going to have to be postured to give outstanding advising."

One area of the matrix that worries Thompson is that natural science departments like chemistry and biology are having trouble offering courses that meet some of the required areas. Currently there are no natural science offerings for the Cross-cultural Inquiry requirement, foreign languages, or Interpretive and Aesthetic Approaches.

"It's harder for the natural sciences," Thompson said. "I'm trying to figure out how to encourage [course development] in ways that the faculty will find interesting.... It's not something you can force."

Thompson added that since the creation of the matrix, new courses have already been proposed that may help to ease the problem. John Simon, chair of the chemistry department, said he does not foresee the lack of natural science courses as an immense worry.

"It imposes a little inflexibility, of course... but I don't foresee a big problem meeting course requirements," said Simon, the George B. Geller professor of chemistry.

He added that if natural science majors are forced outside of their area of expertise to meet Curriculum 2000 requirements, then the curriculum is working effectively. "I'm a pretty big fan of Curriculum 2000," he said. "It provides a good breadth of discipline."


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