By: Elie Lipnik  | 

Dean Jacobson on the Revitalization of Minors & Cross-Listed Courses

There have been many drastic changes to Yeshiva University lately, some good and some bad, and others simply confusing. Whether it be the merge between Yeshiva College and Stern College faculty, the complete renovation to the Wilf Campus Library, or the removal of First Year Seminar from the Core Curriculum, there seems to be constant chatter around the Heights of what is coming next. Currently, murmurs of particular interest are the revitalization of minors and cross-listed core/major courses.

Ever since the core surfaced, but increasingly in recent months, students became aware of cross-listed core/major courses. That is, certain classes are listed both under a core requirement and a major. For instance, the course Intro to American Public Policy, taught by Professor Jamie Aroosi, is listed both under HBSI (Human Behavior and Social Institutions) and Political Science.

Seemingly, this is a great idea because it allows YU to offer one class for two separate and distinct requirements. However, some students are wary and apprehensive of this system for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, it allows students to circumvent the system, by allowing them to sign up for a course under the major CRN and then post-facto switch into the “full” core by way of a YU administrator. Although this may benefit that specific student, it limits the space in a class available to students within the major, who may now get closed out come registration. In addition, students in these courses who register for them as a major course generally feel that having non-major students dilutes the rigor of the course along with the in-class discussion. Students feel most upset because it appears to be yet another instance of YU negatively impacting their education due to budgetary constraints.

After relaying these issues to Yeshiva College’s new Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Dean Joanne Jacobson, she seemed to be acutely aware and responsive to the matter. Although she acknowledged that this setup was created in part due to YU’s precarious financial situation, she truly believes that there are positives to the current manner in which core classes are cross-listed with major courses.

Dean Jacobson firmly believes that non-major students in cross-listed courses do not take away from the rigor or in-class conversation because the only courses that are cross-listed are introductory ones. And, even before the core curriculum was designed, non-major students would register for such introductory courses because they do not have any pre-requisites. Moreover, Dean Jacobson made it very clear that students attempting to maneuver their way into core courses after they register for the major CRN will not be allowed or tolerated in the future. In fact, during registration for the fall semester in the spring, e-mails from the registrar warning students such registration would not be granted “post-facto” switches and students would not be satisfying their core requirements if they registered under the major CRN.

Originally, Yeshiva planned to hire more faculty to staff the core, but obviously they were not able to do so. The core curriculum was the first major revision to YU’s general education in over 20 years. Dean Jacobson admits that there are issues with the core, but “even without the pressures from budgetary restraints, there is no question that [we] would have wanted to return and ask ourselves what problems have emerged and find solutions for them.” Next semester, things will stay, for the most part, how they currently stand. Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, however, the core revision will be completed, with hopes that it will be even stronger then it is now and here to stay for an extended period of time.

Another area that the dean’s office hopes to revive is the culture of having a meaningful minor. As it currently stands, many students at YU do have minors and it certainly is not a requirement nor a dominant ideology of the institution. Dean Jacobson views this as a “missed opportunity,” especially because one of the goals of the core curriculum is for students to find hidden interests and pursue them. Dean Jacobson wants to see minors more as something “students want to think about” and hopefully “create a situation in which core classes can also count towards a minor requirement.” This arrangement could really allow students to develop the interest incited within them by the core and give them a secondary area of expertise when they graduate.

Dean Jacobson believes that creating minors by combining core classes with a few classes in a certain sphere of study would be extremely beneficial to students. She does not want to create another requirement; rather, she wants to create another opportunity for students to further develop their skills in a particular area, while changing the academic culture on campus to one that embraces multifaceted academic pursuits.

Of course, as always, budgetary issues are at play in the conversation, so spending money to create completely new curriculum is unlikely. Therefore, what is great about this idea is that the university already possesses all the materials and resources that would be needed. Another advantage would be that students could get creative and construct their own, unique minor, tailored to their personal specifications and interests. Additionally, it would create more camaraderie among staff, since members of different departments would have to communicate and work together to create these minors. According to Dean Jacobson, “this could only be value added to a degree and to one’s college experience.” Although these ideas have not been approved by the faculty and administration yet, they will be under discussion during the current academic year. With the hope that these updates get passed, Dean Jacobson foresees great academic achievement among students in the near future.