University News

Watson tweaks changes to IR requirements

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 17, 2011

About 75 students attended a meeting at the Watson Institute where changes to the international relations and development studies concentrations requirements were explained.

The international relations concentration requirements have been adjusted for sophomores, program directors announced at an open meeting yesterday. Many sophomores will now have more flexibility fulfilling core class requirements, and they will not have to align their regional courses with their chosen foreign language.

About 75 students, mostly sophomores, packed into the Joukowsky Forum at the Watson Institute for International Studies for a meeting with the leaders of the IR and development studies programs. Mark Blyth, professor of political science and director of undergraduate studies for IR and DS, and Cornel Ban, visiting fellow and deputy director of the DS program, presented the recently announced changes to the two programs.

The IR changes caused a stir on campus when they were announced Feb. 11. One of the three focus tracks was eliminated, the core courses were changed, an additional regional course is required and senior capstone experiences must incorporate students’ foreign languages of study, according to the IR website. These changes were to be effective for all students who had not yet declared their concentrations, starting with the class of 2013.

Many sophomores were outraged that they had already spent two years fulfilling a different set of requirements, The Herald reported Feb. 15. In response, some students created a Facebook group called “IR students against the new IR program” and put forth a list of grievances, which gathered about 65 signatures.

The “Facebook idea was genius,” Blyth said, because it allowed the program to get a sense of what upset students.

In response to feedback from students, the IR program decided to ease the requirements for sophomores. Student feedback was “invaluable” in leading to that decision, Blyth told The Herald.

The original concentration changes stated that HIST 1900: “American Empire Since 1890” would be required for all students, and SOC 1620: “Globalization and Social Conflict” would replace the previous requirement to choose from a list of five courses. A new required course, ANTH 0400: “Anthropology and Global Social Conflict,” will be offered for the first time this fall.

Now sophomores who have already taken a modern history course that qualified for the old core will be excused from taking HIST 1900. Those who have taken ANTH 0100: “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology” or ANTH 1232: “War and Society” will be excused from ANTH 0400, and those who have taken SOC 0150: “Economic Development and Social Change” will be excused from SOC 1620.

“We don’t want you to be in a position where you’re being double taxed,” Blyth said.

But sophomores who have not already taken those classes for the old core will need to take the newly required courses instead, he said.

The new changes also mandate that regional courses must tie into the foreign language that each student has used to fulfill the 600-level language proficiency requirement. Sophomores will be excused from this requirement as well.

Sophomores who already declared their IR concentrations will fulfill the old requirements, said Claudia Elliott MA’91 PhD’99, associate director of the IR program.

First-year students will use the new requirements regardless of what core courses they have taken, Blyth said.

“As a freshman, I think you’ll be fine,” Elliott said.

Some students were upset over the elimination of the “politics, culture and identity” track. Blyth emphasized that this track will not be brought back. He characterized it as “40 people doing whatever they want.” Students that were in that track still have “lots of options,” Blyth said.

There was little discussion about the DS changes. The Herald reported Feb. 15 that students largely seemed to be happy about the updated requirements to the program.

The DS changes included a new 600-level foreign language proficiency requirement. Most DS concentrators are already taking languages, but for sophomores who are not, individual accommodations may be made, Ban said.

At the end of the meeting, only a small minority of students raised their hands after Blyth asked if anyone was “still really upset.”

“I think it’s really reasonable,” Anna Makaretz ‘13.5 said. She said she is glad the IR program was able to accommodate sophomores, though she would have preferred if the changes had been announced before the semester.

Bo Grozdanic ’13 said he thinks most people were pleased with the changes, and he hopes the program will be able to make individual accommodations for those who are still dissatisfied.