The University Seminar is a waste of time

Laura Nunez

The required University Seminar course is unorganized and needs to focus on creating a more strict and uniform way of delivering a true common experience to all incoming students.

Each year, university staff selects a new theme to dissect within the Common Experience program and chooses an accompanying book for freshman students to read the summer before their first semester. The theme for the 2019-2020 school year is “Truth” and the book titled, “What the Eyes Don’t See” by Mona Hanna-Attisha. The themes allow for the sharing and studying of different Texas State core values with incoming students.

Along with the theme comes a required one-hour credit course, called University Seminar (US 1100). The class serves to inform first-year students of important Texas State resources, provide advice on surviving college and discuss the Common Experience theme. Yet, the course fails to proactively deliver these objectives in an organized manner.

A majority of students complain about their underwhelming University Seminar experiences.

Student perceptions of the class—pulled from the Texas State website—deliver alarming responses. Some claim the class is efficiently organized and goals were made clear. Others say the exact opposite. For a program promising to deliver a unique and common experience, this disconnect is unacceptable.

US 1100 is supposed to create a commonality among incoming students and provide useful information they can carry throughout the rest of their college careers. However, the class does not enforce strict enough curriculum guidelines to create a similar experience within the freshman class.

The program needs to reevaluate the objectives and overall purpose of the course because currently, the dynamic is disappointing. If the class was designed to be an opportunity for faculty and staff to get a little extra cash and force students to pretend they are doing something productive, then it is succeeding.

As it currently stands, the course seems to embody the very definition of unorganized. Essentially, the class is a random group of twenty-something students shoved in a classroom taught by faculty or staff from a non-related department using an unspecified set of guidelines. These elements combined create what could loosely be called curricula.

US 1100 is required for all freshman students and the reaction to the course varies significantly, depending on who is asked about it. Here lies the very issue.

The students who participate in the promised common experience are robbed by a mediocre program not controlled enough to be mandated. If the class is meant to allow professors creativity in their teaching styles, then it should be marketed that way. Otherwise, US 1100 should deliver on its advertised objectives.

The University Seminar needs serious reinvention by all involved parties—students, professors, and mentors—or to be removed as a required course and encouraged as optional. The course does not have to yield the exact same results for everyone, but it should not be alarmingly different.

The procedures for selecting faculty to teach the course state any employed faculty member with at least a master’s degree and three years of teaching experience can apply. The reality is, US 1100 is a way for selected faculty to receive an extra $1,300 a semester. Times are hard and money is a constant issue, but the solution to higher compensation should not come at the expense of students.

Selected faculty teaching the course should receive a detailed list of materials to enforce. The text should be required for all students or specifically marked as an optional reading. The varying experiences freshman students report on the end-of-year evaluations about the course create confusion and discourage participation.

For a class already creating controversy on the basis of requirement, there should be nothing but uniformity within its teaching methods and requirements.

US 1100 has the potential to offer essential qualities for incoming students. In fact, it could be extremely resourceful and necessary to create an easy transition to the hectic college lifestyle. However, when a majority of the student body—having been forced to take an unorganized course—complains about its ineffectiveness, there should be immediate action into altering the program. Feedback needs to be prioritized by the school administration, not swept under the rug and ignored.

The University Seminar course is unstructured and randomly delivers varying content to incoming students. The integrity of the program continues to be severely questioned. Unless strict guidelines on effectively making the course cohesive for the freshman class are enforced, it should be optional and not required.

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