The debate over UTSA establishing a General Studies Degree (GSD) continues after the Faculty Senate turned down the proposal at their Sept. 9 meeting.

Some have said the GSD is an unfocused degree fit for athletes and with little other use. But others have said it is an alternative for students that do not meet the requirements of the college they originally intended, which gives them a second chance at gaining a degree.

UTSA Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. John Frederick stood before the Faculty Senate on Sept. 9 and requested they reconsider the GSD proposal after voting against it.

“I’m going to ask you very respectfully to reconsider your decision on that proposal,” Frederick said. “Students will be admitted to a major only if they meet certain minimum requirements. Already, colleges are moving in that direction, but I cannot allow any college to have filters on their majors unless those who can’t get a major have a place to go.”

And with the establishment of the GSD, students who do not make the minimum entry requirements for certain colleges—but still meet the requirements for UTSA—would have a degree option that is broad and customizable. The GSD would allow pursuing students to choose three minors and customize those choices to fit the direction they originally wanted.

Dr. Lawrence Williams, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies, describes the options as an alternative for pursuing one major.

“Depending on the students’ interest and career goals, there are a lot of opportunities,” Williams said.

“One of the degree plans that the Associate Deans Council came up with was the combination of Business Administration, Spanish, and Communication.”

“One combination that I thought was good is Criminal Justice, Political Science, and Environmental Science.”

However, some Faculty Senate members expressed during the Sept. 9 meeting that the GSD is unfocused and notoriously populated with athletes.

As an example, Dave Gershman of The Ann Arbor News, Michigan, reported in 2008 that 49 percent of all undergraduates pursuing a General Studies degree at the University of Michigan were Athletes.

“Though they comprise less than three percent of the undergraduate population at Michigan, athletes account for 49 percent—87 of 176—of those enrolled in General Studies,” Gershman said.

Williams explained that UTSA’s BA in General Studies is not intended specifically for athletes but for all students.

“We didn’t design [the GSD] with athletes in mind. This was not our intention when we proposed the program,” Williams said. “This program has been in development from the Associate Deans Council since 2007, long before we knew UTSA would have a football team, for example. But it’s certainly something that our athletes can pursue.”

Another issue concerning the legitimacy of the GSD is that it has no focused major; however, it consists of students picking three separate minors, which make up the entire degree. This broad spectrum leads some to believe that the degree has little use in the job market.

Although a BA in General Studies is considered broad, the options for a graduate with this degree are many. In the proposal for the GSD, the UTSA University Career Center added an appendix listing jobs contained in their database that require a baccalaureate but not a specific major. These jobs range in pay from $10,000 to $85,000 per year. The list consisted of 307 different employers including names like American Cancer Society, J.P. Morgan Chase, and the CIA.

If the proposal passes in the Faculty Senate during the meeting on Oct. 8, then it has only a little further to go before it becomes an option for students.

“We have to get the university approvals: the Provost, the President, the UT system approvals,” Williams said. “There are a few steps, but I think we can do all that by Fall 2011.”

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