According to an ongoing Wesleying poll, as of Feb. 21, 85 percent of 255 students wish the University offered the option to minor. As major declaration descends upon the Class of 2010, students of all years are voicing concern over the University’s lack of minors.
“As a senior interviewer this year, I have spent a lot of time trying to explain to prospective students why Wes doesn’t have a minor program,” said Hannah Junkerman ’08, a French and government double major. “I’ve never had a satisfactory answer, though.”
By not offering the option to minor, students have found that taking a breadth of courses is a difficult task to accomplish during senior year, when the majority of upper-level courses are only open to majors.
“I think Wesleyan has two critical issues it needs to address in its desire not to offer a minor: it’s a liberal arts school and it’s small,” said Holly Wood ’08, a government and sociology double major. “Because it’s a liberal arts school, students are drawn to taking a variety of courses in a variety of subjects. However, since many of these courses are only open to majors, students are often prevented from taking them. So students…are forced to pursue the major if they want to take upper-level courses.”
“I think this problem is also caused by having too few faculty members teaching upper-level courses that aren’t restricted to junior and senior majors,” she added.
Other students have been quick to cite the pressures that come from double majoring.
“I definitely think people are pressured to double major because they can’t minor,” said Ilona Kramer ’08, a government major. “A lot of times this means that senior year you end up taking classes only in your major, and many seniors end up burnt out and unable to take on other classes.”
Mike Whaley, who was recently appointed Vice President for Student Affairs, noted that one of the University’s concerns lately has been the influx in double, and even triple, majors on campus.
“Mainly, the Dean’s Office is concerned about the number of students double majoring and the academic pressure it brings,” Whaley said. “We have no official position, however, on offering minors.”
Although the Education Policy Committee (EPC) discussed the topic of minors last year, it was not well supported by both student and faculty members of the group.
Student chair of the EPC Sam Ruth ’08, who meets weekly with faculty EPC members to communicate student opinion on issues, explained that there are many reasons for not introducing minors. One issue is whether students would have minor faculty advisors, since advisors are already overburdened. Ruth also noted, however, that not having advisors would also be problematic. Without the resources of an advisor, students would be on their own to make decisions about courses, internships, and future plans.
ion on issues, explained that there are many reasons for not introducing minors. One issue is whether students would have minor faculty advisors, since advisors are already overburdened. Ruth also noted, however, that not having advisors would also be problematic. Without the resources of an advisor, students would be on their own to make decisions about courses, internships, and future plans.
“Perhaps the most significant reason why minors might be requested is so students could put it on their transcript,” Ruth said. “The EPC’s mandate, however, is to deal with issues of pedagogy, or basically, how Wesleyan can best educate its students. So the committee members are reluctant to make changes to the curriculum that are mostly based on non-academic reasons.”
Ruth also noted the difficulty of shifting to minors, which would be a time-consuming process. The effort it would take to design new programs of study, to change WesMaps to reflect new minors, and to decide new regulations concerning minors would take enormous time and effort.
“It’s not an impossible task, but it’s also not one that we were interested in taking on unless it would be a really, really beneficial change,” he added.
Ruth asserted that any pressure students face to double major is a result of their own ambitions, not the University’s policy.
“I don’t think any student is pressured into double majoring, or at least not by the University or faculty,” he said. “We’re all anxious about getting a good job, and of course that puts pressure on us to try to pad our resume, but that’s always going to be true, minors or not.”
The University is not alone in only offering majors to its students. Williams College does not have minors either. According to Charles Toomajian, Associate Dean of the College at Williams, their faculty has discussed the issue two or three times in the last 20 years, but it has consistently been met with little enthusiasm.
“We allow students to double major, and about 20 percent to 30 percent do that,” he said.. “We also offer the option of concentrations, which are not minors, but similar in that the number of courses are fewer, and the subjects offered are not in any department that offers a major.”
Toomajian gave the example of the International Studies Concentration, which replaces the need for minors. He stressed, however, that offering minors would only add to the credentialing that Williams’ students are already worried about.
“Departments, such as economics, are already overrun with majors, and a lot of them are double majors,” he said. “I had a student who double-majored in art and econ say, ’The art is for me, the econ for my parents.’ If in addition to that our school offered a minor, then even more students would be taking courses in econ…the oversubscription would kill the department.”
Similar to Williams’ concentrations, Wesleyan’s alternative to minors is its certificate programs, which include certificates in Environmental Studies and International Relations.
“The certificate could be looked at as ’Wes’s minor,’ as it fulfills a fairly similar function,” Ruth said. “If there’s a difference, it’s that a certificate might be created in a program because there aren’t enough faculty resources devoted to it to justify it being a major, whereas a department could presumably have a major and minor in the same subject at once.”
Some students, however, feel this program does not suffice as a replacement to minors.
“I have personally been very frustrated,” Kramer said. “While the certificate programs are certainly a good alternative, there are very few, and they are not a good substitute for a minor.”
It remains unclear whether the University will offer the option to minor any time soon.
“I don’t regret going to a school that doesn’t have minors,” Kramer said. “But in retrospect, I do think that had I realized Wesleyan didn’t offer minors, it would have made my decision to come here a little harder.”