Culture courses on the chopping block

By Sean Willett

The University of Calgary’s department of communication and culture may be getting a little less cultured. As of next year, the department may be making many of the mandatory culture-focused courses in its undergraduate programs optional, leaving some students and professors upset with the change.

While communications and culture 301 will remain mandatory, 303, 501 and 503 may be made optional courses instead of degree requirements.

“This decision is based on the idea that these courses are no longer essential to the communications degree,” said U of C professor Ronald Glasberg. “[The department] wants to make the degree more professional and they feel that these older courses don’t contribute to that professionalism.”

Glasberg, who has taught culture courses at the U of C for over 20 years, disagrees with the proposed change. He thinks students will not take the courses if they are not made mandatory, due to inadequate information being made available on the content of these classes.

“Most of my colleagues say that if it is a good course, students will take it of their own free will,” Glasberg. said. “But this presumes that the students have been educated on what the course is actually about. There is this fundamental lack of belief in the realities of student life — students simply do not know what it is they’re rejecting, and they’re under so much pressure that I can fully understand why they might not want to do it.”

The interim head of the department of communications and culture, Barbara Schneider, would not confirm the changes. She insisted the existence of the culture courses is not in jeopardy.

“[The change] is not confirmed yet,” Schneider said. “All of those courses will continued to be offered, so there will be no change in what our offerings will be, but I can’t confirm any changes until it is confirmed by the university’s bureaucracy. These things are not just up to the department.”

On the contrary, Glasberg claimed the change came from within the department and that the decision has already been made.

“Some of this was supposed to have come from the dean, who doesn’t believe these courses to be central to a communications degree,” Glasberg said, “but I spoke to him myself, and he believes this is a decision that should be made by the department and the department made it.”

Glasberg’s courses have long been favourites of the U of C community. Glasberg was voted “best professor” in Fast Forward’s 2013 Best of Calgary poll and has won a number of teaching awards on campus.

“It makes me really sad,” said Jessica Roberts, a student enroled in communications and culture 503. “I feel like this is a course everyone should take. Students shouldn’t feel like they have to, but I think if more people knew about the course, then more people would take it.”

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