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Humanistic studies program under third critical review

Humanistic Studies is once again under the microscope, and students and faculty are concerned about the program’s future.

Under review for the third time in half a decade, Humanistic Studies will be reviewed at the Academic Policy Committee of Senate this month, where McGill will decide if and how the program’s requirements will change.

Students had heard rumours that the program would be nixed, according to Aviva Friedman, VP Communications of the Humanistic Studies Students’ Association and a Daily contributor.

“It seemed to us a lot that they were going to get rid of the program,” Friedman said, adding that it no longer seems it will be cut.

However, Robert Myles, Director of Humanistic Studies, explained that previous reviews have highlighted students’ concerns that the program lacks focus and vigour.

While the program is organized around a theme of the student’s choice, it has only two mandatory courses, and 400-level classes are not required to complete the major.

While Myles conceded the concerns, he argued that the program allows students to pursue topics that interest them.

“Humanistic Studies places a lot of responsibility in the hands of students,” he said. “I have a great deal of confidence in students to make choices.”

The Academic Policy Committee of Senate will meet before the end of the month to evaluate possible changes to the program. Myles said he supports the addition of a capstone course – a class that all graduating seniors in a program must take.

It will also consider changes to the program’s advising program, and may consider capping enrolment.

Professor John Kurien, chair of the Faculty of Arts Curriculum Committee, was tasked with making recommendations for reforming the program two years ago. It recommended that it be expanded into a 54 to 60-credit major. It was never implemented, he said, because the university feared enrolment would drop substantially.

Kurien explained that many of the advising problems facing Humanistic Studies are endemic to interdisciplinary programs.

“This is true of almost all interdisciplinary programs. They’re large. They’re programs with probably one or two faculty members, and some administrative staff who are not people who are trained to say, ‘Is there an integrity of theme?’”

The administration has put pressure on interdisciplinary programs to clarify their structures, he said.

“It’s not just us, it’s all the inter-disciplinary programs. We’re all being asked to justify, to some degree, our existence,” Kurien said.