Students Advocate for Environmental GE
by James Mrohs


Whispers of another General Education course abound on campus, some say good and some say bad. Many may have heard either from speakers in their classes or simply through friends that there is an effort on campus to get an environmental GE requirement added to undergraduate degree requirements. This is in fact true, though the actual impact on students is unclear as of now. The truth is, the Environmental Affairs Board (EAB) on campus is trying to get a proposed environmental GE, that would hopefully add nothing to most students course loads, okayed by the university. As of now, the idea has a ways to go.

Were this new requirement to go into effect, little would really change for most students. The only adjustment would be a new special subjects requirement under their General Education requirements, effectively a new subject matter to look for in taking your existing GE classes. For most there would be no extra course to take, and certainly this would not require an additional science based course. EAB wants the student body to be required to take a class relating to the environment simply for the sake of being more knowledgeable about a topic which relates both to our everyday life, and to important issues of the day.

The main idea behind the proposal is to make sure that as part of a student’s liberal arts education, they gain an additional understanding of their environment and the issues currently surrounding it. The GE would work much like the current Ethnicity requirement; students take a course regarding one of the subjects while also fulfilling another GE. Thus, students would be required to make sure one of their classes, hopefully one that already fulfills another GE, has an environmental focus. While there is no list of acceptable classes proposed, it would not be limited to Environmental Studies classes. Instead, any course from any department that focused on the environment would work. While Environmental Studies courses could be taken, departments such as Anthropology, Political Science, and Art History to name a few, all currently have environmentally focused courses. EAB hopes that this new course requirement will allow students to more easily fit a class on the environment into their schedule.

Though no groups have expressed any opinions against the idea, it still has a long way to go. Many students fear the addition of another course requirement, though EAB adamantly states that it would be a special subjects requirement and not a new class. Additionally, the idea has yet to be proposed in a fully fleshed out form, and at this point is more of a push for consideration rather than a full-fledged proposal. Even when such a proposal is formed, the implementation of it will be entirely out of the student body’s hands.

EAB is leading the push for this proposal at the moment, though the idea originated with the campus Sustainability Coordinator, Katie Maynard. So far, EAB has collected over 500 student signatures as well as a large amount of faculty and Associated Students support. Their goal is to garner a total of 2000 student signatures of support by the end of this quarter, in the hopes that such a significant portion of the student voice will push this proposal through quickly.

In order for the requirement to actually be implemented, the board and the Chancellor would need to approve and implement a fully developed idea not currently available. Likely, the goal is to get the Chancellor to take this seriously enough to create and implement a new requirement under the guiding ideas put forth by the EAB.

There is still certainly a lot up in the air about the requirement at this point and thus little to get overly worried or excited about. The idea of implementing an environmental requirement has a ways to go before the proposal is solid and the Chancellor and UCSB board take it seriously.