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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Minors supported by campus, survey shows

<ir="ltr">A winter term survey on the possibility of academic minors at Carleton sparked discussion among students and faculty. The survey came out of a subcommittee of the Carleton Education and Curriculum Committee (ECC). After looking at 25 peer institutions and their minor programs, the ECC subcommittee created a campus-wide survey asking students and faculty about their interests and concerns with implementing minors. The chair of the subcommittee, history department professor Bill North, shared some of these findings.

Student response was relatively high. According to North, 879 students responded, approximately 45 percent of the student body, and this pool contained relatively equal representation of class years.

The primary question posed was, “Do you think minors fit well at Carleton?” Among the students who completed the survey, 73 percent supported minors at Carleton. Of the remaining percentage, 20 percent were unsure, 2 percent had no opinion and 5 percent did not think it was a good fit.

The faculty showed slightly different trends. 75 percent took the survey, but only 53 percent thought minors would work well on campus. Whereas, 16 percent did not think minors were a good fit for Carleton. The rest were unsure or had no opinion. Overall, these numbers provided “a good signal that the campus was interested,” said North.

Other questions from the survey showed the possible effects of adding minors to Carleton’s curriculum. Current upperclassmen double majors reflected on whether the ability to earn a minor would affect their choice to double major. 55 percent said they would still pursue two majors, but 45 percent would reconsider their path. The survey also showed the importance of terminology.

“There is widespread agreement that the term ‘minor’ would be more comprehensible to the outside world than the term concentration or certificate,” said North. North noted that even if the term ‘concentration’ disappears, the interdisciplinary fields currently offered as concentrations will not go away. However, their name, and potentially parts of the current requirements, may be changed.

One of the main concerns raised by respondents focused on the possibility of credentialing, and in the already rigorous coursework of Carleton, many worried about students being overwhelmed by requirements. “There was concern that in an already intense academic environment, adding one more thing to do would potentially intensify that in ways that were not necessarily positive,” said North.

An additional trend in the compiled comments highlighted the ability or inability of students to explore academic subjects after the introduction of minors. North said, “We had some students believe that it would encourage exploration and some students believing it would discourage exploration.” This disagreement undoubtedly stems partially from the lack of a proposed framework and implementation strategy for minors at Carleton. The subcommittee is not quite ready for a proposal.  

While many questions still remain unanswered, North assures, “Minors at Carleton, if they come, will not necessarily be in every department.” The majority of faculty agree with this sentiment. 88 percent of faculty respondents support the idea that departments should choose whether to offer a minor, as departments’ capacity to introduce a minor program range greatly. North speculated that, at its very earliest, minors are still two years in the future. The subcommittee needs to collect more research, especially from peer institutions who implemented minors in the past. A framework proposal needs to be introduced, and departments need to critically think about a minor’s consequences and benefits, he said.

North encouraged members of the Carleton community to contact himself or members of the ECC with their ideas. “I’d like the campus to know that this is still something that we are looking at actively. We’re working on it. We are continuing to view this as a live possibility.

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