Some of you at Otis may have already caught wind of the credit reduction that has been implemented for the incoming foundation students this fall semester. Some people are aware of this and some are not. For foundation students, you know that you are taking fewer classes than the students from previous years. Some of your classes have been squished into one and you might be wondering why and how it is impacting you. Although these changes will not affect the upper classmen, like myself, I was still curious why the curriculum was being changed. I’m sure that many students, especially foundation students are also curious as to what this whole thing is about.

I decided to interview Debra Ballard, the Liberal Arts and Science Department Chairperson, and ask her some questions that I felt other students might be interested in. After speaking with Debra, I learned about the school’s intentions behind the credit reduction and I feel it is something to be shared with the whole student body: not just foundation students.

Debra Ballard, Chairperson of LAS
To briefly explain what the credit reduction is to anyone who does not already know, a Bachelor Degree, by large, is regulated by the federal government and regional members. It can go anywhere between a minimum of 120 units to a maximum of 144 units in a four year degree. About 10 years ago, Otis reduced the credit requirement from 134 to 130. This year, it was decreased to 120. This equates to just a few less classes within a four year degree. It only applies to this year’s freshman and to the students to come in the following years, not upper classmen. The Foundation program has cut some corners and combined the form and space course with the drawing and composition course. The other departments have had to make some small changes. Debra explained that the departments maintained the same learning outcomes throughout the credit reduction and that it was really about prioritizing and discovering what’s been working and what has not.

When I asked Debra what provoked this, Debra responded, “The primary drive to do this was for the students and their workload. We saw students reporting that they were jumping from class to class to class to class and they wanted to do more, but literally couldn’t because they had to jump to their next class.” All the teachers and students know that they are supposed to keep the workload within the amount of units of that class, but everyone is so passionate about what they are doing that, sometimes it just expands and becomes too much. Anyone who has attended Otis for even one semester knows that the work can really pile up. Otis is famous for that. Debra states “When you are taking 8 classes for 18 units, it’s a very different experience than taking 6 classes for 18 units… It will give students time to do the things that they do more in-depth and to pursue other interests.” I find this to be quite true. When you ask for less classes but more time in it, you do more in-depth work. How often do you just wish that you had more time to work on a project? For me, this occurs frequently.

Last year, as a freshman, my classmates and I first got word of the credit reduction happening the following year. We had mixed feelings. Most students immediate reactions were to throw their arms to the side and shout.
“What?! Why do the freshmen get it and not me?!” Others were suspicious that it was a ploy from Otis to save money. Personally, I felt a little annoyed. There is a stigma placed around receiving an arts education – that it is easy and illegitimate. I feel that it costs so much to attend this college that we should really be challenged to reach our full potential. Cutting back the curriculum just because students complain about being tired was just taking the easy way out. But after reflecting back on the years passed at Otis, I have not had any additional time to myself to be creative. I know I can speak for other students too when I say that we are so consumed with school that we just barely find enough energy to complete our homework and we rarely find the time to pursue outside interests. So many of us, as artists, have additional hobbies and interests that are sometimes unrelated to our majors. My demanding schedule eliminates any chance to participate in those things.

I had to also ask her the question, “If there are students who are interested in taking the full 18 credits, would they get charged for that?” Debra responded clearly with, “Absolutely not.”

The maximum number of units a student can take in a semester without being charged additionally will remain at 18 units. The minimum number of units to still be considered “full-time” just dropped to 15. Some students will be perfectly satisfied staying at the basic curriculum, while others will want to explore more or work on their minors. I think this is great. Overall, this gives the students more choice and freedom.

With that being said, the foundation students should be reminded of the reason for the credit reduction and to utilize their free time. The foundation students of this year don’t necessarily know anything different. They don’t realize that the foundation program has been redesigned to give them more time and freedom because what they are doing right now is the norm to them. I think it is important to encourage both the new students and the upperclassmen to engage in outside activities and interests. Make time for yourself. No matter how eager you are, it might be a good idea to take a smaller number of classes, if possible. It will give you the chance to increase the quality and depth of your classwork. Being multi-faceted and having interdisciplinary skills is becoming a necessity in today’s world. Take this opportunity to dig in and make your college years count!

- Clover -


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