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Posted 3:33 am
January 31, 2011

Green classes in students' future

Recently approved general education requirements at SF State promise to better align the campus with its goal of sustainability and educate students on how to live a greener life both in and out of the classroom.

Undergrads entering the University as early as fall 2012 will follow a new GE path that requires students to take at least three units in classes concerning environmental sustainability.

The new requirement is among the first of its kind in the nation.

“I think it will increase student exposure to environmental sustainability and I would expect it might help students apply a consciousness of environmental sustainability within other disciplinary contexts,” said Academic Senate Chair Shawn Whalen. “It also creates a curricular emphasis that resonates well with our institutional commitment to environmental sustainability.”

The senate passed the requirement May of last year and in the fall, President Robert A. Corrigan approved it. The change is limited to the SF State campus and not set to go into effect throughout the CSU system in the near future.

“Faculty on this campus were interested in adding sustainability to the GE requirements, because sustainability is one of the most important issues of the 21st century,” said Carlos Davidson, director of the environmental studies program at SF State. “Graduates are going to have to make important personal and political decisions on sustainability issues.”

It is uncertain how many classes will satisfy the requirement as dozens of courses across multiple disciplines potentially meet the standard. The Academic Senate is currently forming committees to review proposals and determine which courses they will accept. They anticipate beginning the review process sometime this month.

The amended GE path falls in line with the University’s history of sustainable operation that has been nationally recognized. SF State even earned a¬†Green Star award for best-maintained grounds of an urban university in 2006.

“I think it’s really important because people do need to learn to live more sustainably,” said biology major Andrew Neisess. “That should be just as important as anything else we’re required to learn about.”

Though on the surface the new requirement appears to add three more units to a student’s course load, the new GE path will actually save students time by allowing them to take fewer classes in the long run.

“The sustainability requirement is part of complete overhaul of baccalaureate degree requirements that actually reduced GE requirements from 57-60 (units), to 48,” Whalen said. “The new policy also allows unlimited double counting that could further reduce the actual unit count for students by as much as nine more units to a total of 41.”

However, some students were less than enthused about the requirement making its way through the approval process, and believed it would only add to the already heavy financial and mental burden of earning a degree.

“It’s almost like more pressure than we’ve already got in order to graduate,” said Emily Steffensen, a junior majoring in international relations. “I’m not trying to be down on the environmental thing, but adding more classes is just stupid.”

Despite how students may feel about the upcoming changes, the administration saw the additional requirement as necessary in preparing students for their future, regardless of what they plan to do with their education.

“These issues are not just for those interested in the environment, but for all citizens,” Davidson said. “This ensures that all SF State graduates will have some basic knowledge of sustainability issues.”