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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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University senate debates technological studies as part of new gen-ed requirements

There’s only one week left until the new general education proposal is passed, but questions still remain as to the role of technological studies in the proposed system.

Under the new changes, students choose classes from nine disciplines – English (WRT), Math (QPS), Language (LANG), Humanities (HCA), Natural Sciences (SNW), Sociology (HBS), Fine and Performing Arts (ARTS), History of the United States (USA) and Global Studies (GLO). Missing from the list is Technological Studies (TECH), a field currently covered as “DEC H”.

The new DEC system isn’t slated to affect Stony Brook University students until the spring of 2014. But for the university, there is little time to decide on whether or not TECH should be a tenth requirement or left out of the curriculum before the entire proposal is voted on next Monday.

A university senate meeting held on November 5th gave other senators an idea of the issues surrounding the TECH add-on. While some had reservations about teaching what they don’t know, others wanted to know what kind of technological issues should be taught and nearly all disagreed with how it should fit into the new system.

The new, emerging generations are the technological generations, said one senator. How can professors teach something they may know less than their students about?

“One of the deficiencies is that there aren’t enough contacts between departments,” said Lester Paldy, a professor and university senator for the Department of Technology and Society. Pulling guest speakers from other departments is one good way to shoehorn the technological requirement into the new system, while keeping professors informed and abreast of technological trends in their field of expertise.

But even with that, it’s hard to reach a consensus. “It’s much more complicated to define technological literacy,” said Scott Sutherland, the undergraduate council chair and an associate professor at Stony Brook University. “It’s not common in other universities. Some has it, but their requirement is ‘take one course out of all of these”, similar to our current DEC system. That’s not what we’re looking for.”

The TECH discussion was added on recently to the overall proposal, said Sutherland, and it was the difficulty in defining the term that caused the discussion and disagreements to flourish. “So far I have not heard a collection that everyone agrees with,” he said. “If you ask an engineer, you get a different answer from a music professor. But when you ask a physicist, you get yet a different answer.”

“It’s easy to say that we’ll put in a tenth requirement,” said Sutherland, “but there are ramifications.”

Still, Paldy had a different proposal.

“Technological issues should be embedded in all courses,” said Paldy. Instead of having classes specifically for technological issues, making technology and society an intrinsic part of most studies will allow students to be familiar with more than one aspect of technology.

“It will make a more informed citizenry and they’d make more informed choices,” Paldy said. “Right now there’s a tremendous lack of knowledge, and the results are clear especially with this recent hurricane.”

Prior to the Superstorm Sandy, there had been proposals for contingency items, i.e. surge gates and other preventative plans for New York City that would have cost the city less in clean-up and relief measures, said Paldy.

“What needed to be done to protect New York City was a technology and society issue,” he said. “But most people never even heard of it.”

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