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Commission on Undergraduate Education looks at distribution requirements

STANFORD -- A "very lively" discussion of distribution requirements dominated the Friday, Oct. 29, meeting of the Commission on Undergraduate Education, said commission member Geoffrey Cox, vice provost for institutional planning.

The discussion ranged over questions that included what the distribution requirements are, what should they be and whether they are fulfilling their stated purpose, Cox said.

The purpose of distribution requirements, as outlined in Stanford's Courses and Degrees, is twofold: "to introduce students to a broad range of fields and areas of study within the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, applied science and technology, and to help students prepare to become responsible members of society."

A third purpose of the requirements is "to introduce students to the major social, historical, cultural and intellectual forces that shape the contemporary world."

Commission members discussed the need to examine how the distribution requirements work, Cox said.

"There was a sense that we need to get down to the level of what actually happens," he said.

Although there was discussion of weaknesses in the current system, Cox said, commission members did not seem inclined to throw out the system "but to improve on what we currently have."

At its next meeting, Cox said, the commission will look at two questions: Is there an overarching vision of undergraduate education, and what is the role of undergraduate education in a research university?



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