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General Principles

  1. Areas of Knowledge
    General Education should enable students to learn how natural scientists, social scientists, humanists, and performing artists think about their disciplines and how they view their work in relation to both history and contemporary society. While most General Education courses will probably come from departments in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, scholars in the natural sciences, social and behavioral sciences, humanities, and the performing arts exist across disciplines and administrative divisions.

  2. Instructional Quality
    General Education courses should do more than impart information and provide the skills deemed necessary to social or economic success. They should involve critical or analytic thinking and should provide contexts for questioning the larger society and the student's relation to it. The capacity for critical thought also includes the ability to imagine the consequences of one's choices, to articulate those consequences, and to increase understanding of one's relation to the world of nature, work, and politics. This relates to a basic goal of all General Education Programs: i.e., the development of an intelligent citizenry.

  3. Statement of Purpose
    The purpose of the General Education requirement is to stretch students’ minds, broaden their experiences, and prepare them for:
  • Their college experiences and subsequent professional training
  • Their careers and productive lives
  • Community engagement and informed citizenship
  • A diverse and rapidly changing world
  • A lifetime of learning

The General Education curriculum does this by engaging students in:


  • Fundamental questions, ideas, and methods of analysis in the humanities and fine arts, social sciences, mathematics, and natural and physical sciences;
  • The application and integration of these methods of analysis to real world problems and contexts;
  • Creative, analytical, quantitative, and critical thinking through inquiry, problem solving, and synthesis;
  • Pluralistic perspective-taking and awareness of the relationship among culture, self, and others;
  • Understanding and evaluating the consequences of one’s choices and the implications of one’s actions;
  • Opportunities to develop and practice the skills of critical thinking, reasoning, communication, and integration of knowledge and perspectives, including:
  • Communication persuasively and effectively orally and in writing;
  • Working effectively and collaboratively (in groups, across perspectives);
  • Developing information and technological literacy.


  1. Consistent with these principles, all General Education courses should adhere to the following guidelines: Courses should emphasize critical thinking. This means that writing and problem solving would be the norm rather than the exception and would be reflected in the evaluation and examination procedures.
  2. To promote the goals set in the preceding paragraph, faculty offering large General Education courses of more than fifty students should be provided with teaching assistants to help with the grading of essays and papers and/or the teaching of laboratories or discussion sections.
  3. Courses used to satisfy general education requirements may not be taken pass/fail.
  4. In order to limit the number of General Education courses, no more than 25% of the regularly taught courses of a department/program may have General Education designations. "Regularly taught courses" shall be defined as courses from the approved master course list taught at least once every three years excluding seminars, independent study, internships, practica, and laboratory courses. Since this limitation may pose problems for some departments/programs (especially small ones) because of the number or type of course offerings, it may be appealed to the Council by departments seeking justified exceptions.
  5. Both major and non-major introductory courses may be accepted as General Education requirements.
  6. Selected upper level courses may be allowed to fulfill General Education requirements. Students may count no more than one course in the major (as recorded at graduation) toward General Education requirements.

Course Requirements

The General Education Curriculum has three principal divisions: the Social World, Biological and Physical World, and Analytic Reasoning. These are general titles and reflect the idea that courses should be assigned to a category because of its content rather than because it is taught by a particular department. Thus departments may have course designations in more than one area.

Social World (AL, AT, HS, SB)

The Social World has three major subdivisions: The Arts, Historical Studies, and Social and Behavioral Sciences. Students must take one 4-credit AL/AT, one 4-credit HS, one 4-credit SB and one 4-credit AL, AT, SB, I, or SI. In addition, there is a Diversity component to the Social World requirement. All students must take two courses in the Social World that also have a Diversity designation.

Biological and Physical World (BS, PS) 

The Biological and Physical World has two major subdivisions: Biological Sciences and Physical Sciences. Students must take one 4-credit BS and one 4-credit PS.

The Analytic Reasoning has two major subdivisions: Tier I and Tier II. Tier I is a basic competency requirement. Tier II requires students to take at least one course in mathematical, quantitative, numerical, analytical or formal reasoning.

Integrative Experience

This new requirement is for a 3-credit upper-level course. [LINK TO POLICY]

Interdisciplinary courses (I, SI) In addition to the three principal division, there is an Interdisciplinary/Science Interdisciplinary category. Its purpose is to provide an incentive and a structure for faculty to develop alternate curriculum approaches to General Education. These courses may carry one or more major area designations. In the new system, a 4- credit interdisciplinary Gen Ed course (I or SI) or two 3-credit interdisciplinary Gen Ed courses (I or SI) may be taken as the fourth Social World course.

Diversity requirement

The diversity requirements will remain unchanged. Since most students fulfill the domestic (DU) and global (DG) diversity requirements by taking a course that also has another designation (e.g., SB DU), most students will fulfill the diversity requirements with 4-credit courses. The few stand-alone diversity courses (DU or DG designation only) will also fulfill the diversity requirement, even if they remain at 3 credits.

Transfer students

Students may satisfy General Education requirements under the terms of the Commonwealth Transfer Compact or MassTransfer. All other transfer students must complete the minimum number of courses required for each General Education designation (including Diversity), plus two additional courses with General Education designation.

To summarize, the proposed requirements for General Education courses are in three principal divisions:

  1. The Social World
  2. The Biological and Physical World
  3. Analytic Reasoning


Interdisciplinary Courses

The General Education curriculum as described in the foregoing pages is organized mainly along the existing departmental structure of the University. Some faculty, however, have interests in offering entirely different kinds of courses, and some students would be interested in taking them. Many of these courses would be experimental, multi-disciplinary, and issue focused, and would, by their very nature, speak to the basic integration of (many) fields of human study.

To create a mechanism whereby such courses could be offered and taken on something other than an episodic basis, a Interdisciplinary/Science Interdisciplinary section has been added to the General Education curriculum. In general, the point of this mechanism is to encourage pedagogical innovation and to provide multi-disciplinary undergraduate offerings.

Interdisciplinary/Science Interdisciplinary General Education courses might be of two types. One would be an interdisciplinary course offered and taught by a single instructor or by a team of faculty from different disciplines. Another would be a cluster of courses, which would be offered by faculty from different disciplines and be related to each other by a central topic or issue; the courses might be two or three, each of which would satisfy a different general education requirement.

One example might be a course or courses organized around the topic of evolution. Scholars in astronomy, biology, and sociology with a special interest and expertise in evolution might develop and offer a course or cluster of courses on the origin and evolution of the universe, the evolution of life, and social institutions. Another example might be a course or cluster of courses on the topic of cognitive science where a team of interested faculty in psychology, linguistics, and computer science would offer a course or cluster of courses in information processing, the semantics and syntax of language, and artificial intelligence. A third example might focus on major revolutionary movements of our time: feminism, Marxism, and black nationalism taught by faculty members in Women Studies, STPEC and Afro-American Studies. The course or cluster of courses would explore the similarities and differences among these movements. Clearly, the number of multidisciplinary topics and issues that might be offered by a faculty member or a team of faculty is boundless and limited only by the creativity and imagination of the faculty.

The distinguishing characteristic of all the courses sketched above is that they are recognizably different from usual undergraduate course offerings; they are focused mainly on issues or topics rather than on academic disciplines, and are deliberately interdisciplinary in nature. Courses of this sort, with the right mix of faculty and students meeting under the right conditions, could well be highpoints in a student's undergraduate experience, and they deserve encouragement.

Courses that are interdisciplinary across the areas of the Social World have the “I” designation. Courses that are interdisciplinary between the Social World and the Biological/Physical Sciences and/or Analytic Reasoning have the “SI” (for Science Interdisciplinary) designation.


IV. Review Procedures

There will be two review procedures: an initial review of General Education course proposals and a periodic review of existing General Education courses. To conduct both reviews the General Education Council shall create five subcommittees, one for each of the core areas

  1. Quantitative Reasoning
  2. Biological and Physical Sciences
  3. Historical Studies
  4. The Arts
  5. Social and Behavioral Sciences

The membership of each subcommittee shall include at least two members of the General Education Council and three faculty members affiliated with the appropriate core area and selected by the Council.

Courses for the Diversity requirement will be reviewed by the appropriate subcommittees of the social world areas – Historical Studies; Literature and the Arts; or Social and Behavioral Sciences.


Review of General Education Courses

  1. The General Education Council will develop a course proposal from which will require the inclusion of: course syllabus and outline, reading assignments, examination procedures, qualifications of instructors, etc. Each completed proposal will be submitted to the appropriate subcommittee for review; the subcommittee will make recommendations to the Council for ratification.
  2. For the Interdisciplinary/Science Interdisciplinary course options there will be a two-step review:
    1. As an “intent to plan,” faculty who want to propose an interdisciplinary course or cluster of courses shall submit a preliminary proposal to the General Education Council describing the conception and broad outline of the course(s) together with the qualifications and interest of the faculty to be involved.
    2. If the “intent to plan” statement is approved by the Council, the faculty member(s) would then prepare a formal course proposal, including a recommendation for which General Education core area(s) the course(s) would satisfy.
  3. All courses approved for General Education designation by the General Education Council will be sent to the Faculty Senate for official confirmation.


B. Quadrennial Review of Existing Core Courses

In order to maintain quality General Education Courses, there will be a “sunset” clause for all General Education courses. Each course will be reviewed and evaluated every four years. In order to stagger the evaluation process, some courses will be reviewed year 2, others year 3, and the remaining during year 4. In addition to existing guidelines, information such as student evaluations, grade distributions, how the course has been modified and improved, etc., will be solicited.


GENERAL EDUCATION PROPOSAL: An Overview of Requirements

  1. Social World – four courses, one each in the following subdivisions:
    1. Arts – at least one course in literature
    2. Historical Studies
    3. Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • All students must take two courses in the Social World that also have a Diversity designation. Students will be required to take a diversity course in their first year on campus. Courses that address DU are primarily (but not exclusively) focused on diversity within the US. Those that address DG are primarily (but not exclusively) focused on diversity outside of a US framework.
  1. Biological and Physical World – Two courses, one in each of the following subdivisions:
    1. Biological Science
    2. Physical Science
  • At least one of the courses must have a laboratory component associated with it.
  1. Analytic Reasoning – two Tiers
    1. Tier I – Basic competency
    2. Tier II – One additional course in mathematical, analytical, quantitative, formal or numerical reasoning
  2. Interdisciplinary/Science Interdisciplinary Courses – A 4- credit interdisciplinary Gen Ed course (I or SI) or two 3-credit interdisciplinary Gen Ed courses (I or SI) may be taken as the fourth Social World course.
  3. Students will not receive General Education credit for courses taken Pass/Fail.
  4. Students may count one and only one course in their major as a General Education Course.

Sources: Sen. Doc. No. 85-024B, 04-019, 09-060, 10-002A, 17-070