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College 60 program’s intention good, fails in execution

The news that passing a College 60 course, or interdisciplinary sophomore seminar, is no longer required will probably excite many Mills College students. The classes, which featured topics as varied as World Religions West and The Greening of Mills, were designed to be discussion-based courses limited to 20 sophomores. While many will still be offered, the College 60 program will no longer exist.

The College 60 courses were poorly rated by many students in evaluations and generally complained about in informal conversations around campus.

Although some students have enjoyed their classes and believed them to be useful, many think the seminars did not fulfill their purpose, which, according to the College’s Web site, is to “examine the very ways in which different academic disciplines frame and answer questions about human enterprises or the natural world.”

Though the goals and intentions of College 60 were good, the program failed in execution. Some were lecture-based rather than seminar style; some did not provide an interdisciplinary perspective, taking on the tenants of only the department in which they were housed; nearly none of them ever had only sophomores enrolled.

Many had a lot of homework assigned to them, in contradiction of some students’ views that College 60 courses were supposed to have lighter workloads. It seemed less like the enlightening “experience” the College envisioned and more like any other class students are required to take. The Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) is deciding what program to implement in place of College 60. The new program should accomplish what the old program did not: It should create an experience unique to sophomores.

The second year often represents a transition to the in-depth academic rigor of junior and senior years, and the new program should achieve just that. Since the formal class structure has failed, we wonder how the concept will evolve into a structure that educates students with interdisciplinary methods and without an increased workload for students.

One possibility is replacing College 60 with a quarter-credit seminar held only a few times per semester. One public policy class, Economics of Policy Analysis, accomplished the same concept by meeting only three times per semester. The grade for the course was solely based on participation in class discussions rather than on papers or journals.

A non-required seminar is another potential idea. Although it is often difficult to motivate students to engage in anything not required, making the sophomore seminar like Mills Life 101, a program with incentives to participate, could make the program appeal to more students.

The sophomore seminar is a good idea, but students and the faculty should work together to improve the program.