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Sunday, November 28, 2021
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

The UB Curriculum is convoluted and ineffectual

Fulfilling your general education requirements should be easy and meaningful, not the opposite

It’s Week 11 of the semester. 

You have back-to-back exams, due dates are piling up and you can barely manage to complete your homework as you are consumed by stress. 

As you finish assignment after assignment, flashcard after flashcard, you breathe a heavy sigh of relief — you are finally nearly caught up on your work.

Then, you remember, you have an assignment due for UB Capstone. It’s a meaningless assignment, more busywork than anything else.

But this time, your sigh isn’t of relief; it’s of frustration.

You don’t need more work, certainly not an assignment where you spend an hour writing an “About Me” page.

The UB Curriculum can and should be heavily critiqued, from its imbalanced requirements between STEM and non-STEM degrees, to its failure to deliver on the ways a UB Seminar will benefit you. 

However, some of the most obvious flaws of the UB Curriculum are found in its Pathways and subsequent Capstone.

As part of the SUNY system, UB must follow certain guidelines for its students to meet general education requirements. This includes required credits in basic communication, mathematics, critical thinking and information management, along with credits in either American history, other world civilizations, foreign language, social sciences, humanities, the arts, natural sciences or western civilizations.

Pathways generally addresses the latter of these subject areas, in what UB describes as “the building blocks of liberal arts education.”

However, rather than allow you to fulfill these requirements on your own, Pathways forces students to take courses via Global and Thematic pathways, creating a limiting and confusing system for the same students it claims to help.

One of Pathways’ most consequential problems is that it scantily allows students to apply AP credits to their general education requirements. 

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With Pathways, one can only apply AP credit if the credit is directly articulated to a course or is taking the form of a generic UB departmental course.

It’s incredibly frustrating to put time and money into getting ahead at school, only for the university to set you behind again. 

More than making it difficult to transfer AP credit, Pathways also creates a system that limits a student’s scheduling options.

With an emphasis on the liberal arts, the courses included in Pathways often occur at a single time during the semester. This means there is less mobility in adding them to your schedule, often forcing students to work their other courses (sometimes those counting toward their majors) around the Pathway course.

Schedule flexibility is even further limited when completing a Pathway topic, which consists of only a handful of classes per list (each topic has three lists and from each list, students must complete one course). Once students have reached “List 3,” the number of available courses dwindles further, with around half of the courses offered in the list needing prerequisites.

These limitations often cause students to have to switch topics multiple times during their time at UB (I know I had to). If one switches topics (even out of scheduling necessities), they may find  previous pathway courses no longer fit their new topic, making these courses meaningless to their degree.

After finishing these Pathway courses, students are awarded with, in my opinion, the epitome of UB’s nonsensical and time-consuming curriculum: UB Capstone. 

Capstone, on paper, is a one-credit course that aids students in making “connections across different academic disciplines and perspectives,” among other things.

In reality, it’s five weeks of busy work. Students will create an ePortfolio with “About Me”, “Learning Reflection,”  “Foundations” and “Pathways” sections — fairly benign-sounding topics that are actually nightmares in practice. 

Rather than give students a meaningful look back at their educational experience, Capstone essentially tests their ability to rattle off whatever gibberish that will get them an A. 

After all, it’s hard to put your heart into a reflection on courses that you didn’t care about that much, anyway. I find it particularly un-enriching to be forced to make a connection between MUS 204: Music and Money and DMS 333: World Cinema.

UB either needs to get rid of the requirement altogether, or reform it into something actually worthwhile .

If there’s anything the UB Curriculum does well, it’s giving students work they’re not interested in, classes they don’t want to take, content they’ll forget the moment their semester is over and a major headache trying to navigate it all. 

It’s time to put an end to this practice altogether.

Kara Anderson is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at kara.anderson@ubspectrum.com

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