Office of the President

General Education Program; Supercedes EM 91-005; Superceded by 99-005

Executive Memorandum 92-018 June 06, 1992

From: Robin S. Wilson, President

Subject: General Education Program; Supercedes EM 91-005; Superceded by 99-005.

Upon recommendation of the Faculty Senate, I am pleased to approve the following revised General Education Policy, effective fall 1992. This document supersedes EM 91-005.


California State University, Chico Program

Rationale and Ideals

In the words of the Chancellor's Executive Order 338, graduates of The California State University

  • Will have achieved the ability to think clearly and logically, to find and critically examine information, to communicate orally and in writing, and to perform quantitative functions
  • Will have acquired appreciable knowledge about their own bodies and minds, about how human society has developed and how it now functions, about the physical world in which they live, about the other forms of life with which they share that world, and about the cultural endeavors and legacies of their civilization;
  • Will have come to an understanding and appreciation of the principles, methodologies, value systems, and thought processes employed in human inquiries.

California State University, Chico has approached this mandate for a liberal education by grouping the fundamental skills--writing, thinking, speaking--into the CORE requirements of General Education. The study of math, natural science, literature, art, humanities, behavioral sciences, and social sciences is contained in the BREADTH requirements, while interdisciplinary skills and content are integrated in the CAPSTONE requirements.

The General Studies Advisory Committee is responsible for evaluating the courses and the program for integrity of purpose, vitality of presentation, and consistency with university goals. In every course, the skills of the CORE must be rigorously applied, recognizing the importance of process in mastering any content. The expansion of knowledge and the ability to deal with complexity are common goals of CSU, Chico's General Education courses.

Specific Program Goals

Skill and Content Goals

For most students, the main opportunity to engage in disciplined study of concepts and skills outside a general area of immediate interest is presented by General Education. General Education should have at least partly the effect of exposing the student to an overview of knowledge and thought different from that previously acquired or likely to be acquired in the remainder of his or her education.

A student successfully completing the General Education Program at California State University, Chico should have acquired skills resulting in the ability to Write and speak English with precision
  • Read, listen, view, and reason critically and synthesize information from varied sources
  • Apply qualitative and quantitative methods of problem solving;
  • Exercise facility in the application of both logic and imaginative insight
  • Relate the student's major to other seemingly unrelated areas of knowledge.

In addition, such a student should be exposed to a curriculum that embraces

  • The present meaning and development of the chief forms of artistic expression, in the broad sense, among the world's major civilizations
  • The features, natural forces, and life forms of the world in which we live; such subject matter should include consideration of the relationship between people and their natural and cultural environment
  • The development of the world's civilizations, including this nation
  • The aspirations and problems of other peoples and sub-cultures within our own nation
  • The manner in which technology and science affect and have affected people and their society and are likely to affect them in the future
  • The global issues which affect the culture of our nation and other nations.

Structure Goals

The structure of the General Education Program should

  • Include no more than 200 different courses (an additional 20 course slots will be used to encourage experimental offerings or test the efficacy of new courses between reviews. Such courses must meet the general and specific criteria for General Education and will be reviewed on a regular basis by the General Studies Advisory Committee. Courses that are not accepted for the General Education Program at the appropriate review will be dropped from the program).
  • Encourage diversity of majors in each of its courses
  • Allow for reasonable use of double-counting, making certain no skill or content goal of the program is systematically neglected for any group of students;
  • Encourage diversity of courses actually taken by the students
  • Establish the efficacy of the Advising Office in publishing the Guide to General Education and advising undeclared students
  • Establish the efficacy of faculty in advising both majors and undeclared students into General Education courses which best meet their individual needs and also meet the goals of the program.

Teaching Goals

Recognizing that the success of the General Education Program is dependent on professors and the manner in which they teach their courses, those teaching General Education courses should

  • Be familiar with the goals of the General Education Program that are specifically addressed by the course they are teaching
  • Be able and willing to continue their own participation in the students' sharpening of basic literacy, communication, quantitative, and critical thinking skills
  • Integrate the contributions of women and ethnic minorities wherever possible
  • Be able and willing to purposefully integrate the primary subject matter of the course with other related, secondary subject matters
  • Be able and willing to teach in a manner which encourages students to question, be curious, and wherever possible apply the course concepts to their own academic pursuits.

Criteria for all General Education Courses

All courses accepted as components of the General Education Program must meet the following criteria.

Internal Criteria

Each course must

  • Satisfy the criteria of some particular area (core, breadth, theme) in this program
  • If a multi-sectioned course, have each approved section of the course meet the criteria of the specific area, have multi-section coordination, and have its faculty meet regularly to ensure essential uniformity in the core of the course
  • Have either a substantial writing requirement (suggested as minimally 2500 words for a three-unit course), which is graded on form as well as content, or a comparable problem or laboratory set requirement, or a combination thereof, and such work must be returned to the student with an informative evaluation
  • Integrate contributions of perspectives of women and ethnic minorities wherever appropriate to the subject being studied
  • Focus on the major elementary concepts, methodologies, and value assumptions of the discipline or content area being taught
  • Reflect the fact that each course very likely will be the first and last formal college acquaintance a student may have with that discipline and not serve first the interests of the department offering the course
  • If a breadth course, deal with broad, general principles of the discipline or content area and be as rigorous as possible.

External Criteria

Each course accepted should

  • Typically evidence diversity of majors taking the course
  • Rarely have prerequisites
  • Be at the lower-division level or 100 level
  • Be taught at least once every academic year.

Core (Part A) Courses (nine units)

The primary purpose of core courses is to help students improve their communication and critical thinking skills, bringing those skills to a level that enhances the efficacy of the baccalaureate years and degree. Another purpose of these courses is to give students an understanding of the psychological basis and social significance of communication. Communication is an integrated whole; skill in writing or thinking or speaking is enhanced by skills in the other two. Therefore, to meet these purposes, the student must complete courses that lead to skill in writing, skill in critical thinking, skill in oral communication, and the ability to use each to enhance the others. Though the criteria listed below seem to call for three distinct courses, creative and integrative courses are encouraged. Students are strongly encouraged to take these in their freshman year, even in the same semester. Normally, only lower-division courses may be used to satisfy Part A requirements. Students are required to take one course from each skill area.

Oral Communication (A1)

Each course must

  • Devote substantial class time to student presentations, participation, and practice in oral communication, providing students the opportunity to improve their oral communication abilities through preparing for, engaging in, and receiving feedback about such communication. Such feedback should deal with both the content and the form of the student's oral communication
  • Include a rhetorical perspective upon oral communication, stressing reasoning, advocacy, organization, and accuracy; stressing the discovery, critical evaluation, and reporting of information; and stressing effective listening as well as effective speaking
  • Provide an understanding of the psychological basis and the social significance of oral communication, including how such communication functions in various societal and interpersonal situations
  • Frequently demonstrate the role of critical thinking and good writing in effective oral communication
  • Include a discussion of the impact of recent technology on oral communication

Written Communication (A2)

Each course must

  • Help students learn how to find worthwhile subjects to write about and how to generate interesting ideas about them
  • Focus on formulating a thesis, building support for it, and reaching an appropriate conclusion;
  • Teach how to use description, narrative, comparison-contrast, cause-effect, and other patterns of development effectively
  • Help students learn how to tailor writing to various purposes and audiences
  • Teach how to edit prose to make it more clear, fluent, and concise and to minimize errors in usage, spelling, and punctuation
  • Encourage students in the use of reading, reasoning, and organization as components of effective writing
  • Frequently demonstrate the role of critical thinking in writing
  • Include a discussion of the impact of recent technology on written communication

Critical Thinking (A3)

Each course must

  • Help students learn how to distinguish between correct and incorrect reasoning
  • Focus on criticizing, analyzing, and advocating ideas with logical force within human discourse
  • Teach how to recognize the distinction between fact and judgment and between belief and knowledge
  • Impart knowledge of and skill with elementary methods of induction and deduction
  • Help students discern alternative patterns of inference and reach factual or judgmental conclusions based on unambiguous statements of knowledge and belief
  • Focus on understanding the formal and informal fallacies in language and thought
  • Frequently apply critical thinking principles to oral and written communication.

Breadth Courses (Thirty Units)

The primary purpose of breadth courses is to introduce students to the basic disciplines of the natural sciences, the arts and humanities, and the behavioral and social sciences. Introductory and survey courses, both lower- and upper-division, will be used to satisfy the nine-unit breadth requirements in each of the B, C, and D categories. Additionally, a three-unit lifelong learning category E course is required to complete the breadth requirement.

Natural Science (Part B) Courses (nine units)

All students must take courses which inquire into the physical universe and its life forms, including a minimum of two courses with laboratory or similar activity, and a course which inquires into mathematical concepts and quantitative reasoning. The primary goal of this General Education requirement is to impart knowledge of the facts and principles which form the foundations of living and nonliving systems. Courses fulfilling these requirements should also promote understanding and appreciation of the methodologies of the natural sciences as investigative tools, the limitations of scientific inquiry, and the requisite features of scientific endeavors. In addition, particular attention should be given to the influence which the acquisition of scientific knowledge has had on the development of the world's civilizations, not only as expressed in the past, but also in the present. Contributions of women and ethnic minorities should be included wherever appropriate. A minimum of three units is required in each area.

  • The Physical Universe (B1). A course with a laboratory component or similar activity in the physical sciences which inquires into the physical universe; course content must include fundamental concepts of matter and energy or must emphasize these concepts in a study of some specific part of the physical universe.
  • Life Forms (B2). A course with a laboratory component or similar activity in the life sciences involving inquiry into the life forms of the universe; course content must provide an introduction to the fundamental concepts of life science as illustrated in plants and animals, e.g. , structure and function, heredity, evolution, and ecology, or course must emphasize these concepts in a study of some specific part of the life sciences.
  • Mathematical Concepts (B3). A course which has a substantial focus on one or more of the following mathematical fields: statistics, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, finite mathematics, or matrix theory and shows application of these concepts to a variety of sciences. The course must involve more than computational skills; it must also encourage understanding of basic mathematical concepts.

Arts and Humanities (Part C) Courses (nine units)

Humans, being aesthetic as well as rational creatures, should understand and appreciate the works of the creative imagination; taste, if it is not the mere expression of prejudice, needs to be given substance. Moreover, students should be encouraged to cultivate their own creative imaginations and aesthetic sensibilities. The sense of moral responsibility and commitment which General Education aims to foster in students is empty without development of the knowledge and skills that give substance to that sense of commitment; it is impossible without recognizing the universality of human experience to develop the sympathy and fellow feeling for all humans, whatever their culture, that should inform action. The study of the thought and feelings of men and women at different times and places and in non-western as well as western cultures is an important means for becoming aware of the universality of human experience. It must not be forgotten that the achievements of the arts, philosophy, and literature are the achievements of humans--humans whose lives and achievements may guide human endeavor fully as much as lessons abstracted from their work. Nor must the impression be permitted that the humanities are just the stuff of museums and library collections. Rather, the humanities must be shown to be alive and crucially involved in how everyone thinks and feels about the world. Course content in arts and humanities should be on the fundamentals of the area.

Students must take a minimum of one three-unit course in each of the following three areas. No more than two three-unit courses may be taken from any one department.

  • The Arts (C1). Each three-unit course must be one of the following:
    • A course in musical performance or musical appreciation or history to equip students to come to an intelligent understanding of a wide range of works of music
    • A course in artistic activity or art appreciation or history to equip students to come to an intelligent understanding of a wide range of works of art
    • A course in oral performance of creative or literary material or an appreciation course which is broad enough to equip students to come to an intelligent understanding of a broad range of aesthetic oral performances
    • A course in aesthetic dance activities, appreciation, or history which is broad enough to equip students to come to an intelligent understanding of a wide range of artistic dance
    • A combination of any of the above, e.g. , an introduction to more than one fine art.
  • Languages and Literature (C2). Each course, of a minimum of three units, must be one of the following:
    • A creative writing or a literature survey course to enable students to come to an intelligent understanding of significant works of literature
    • A language acquisition course which significantly involves exposure, for which students are accountable, to the linguistic culture.
  • Philosophies, Ideas, and Major Figures (C3). Each three-unit course, which must involve reading in primary sources, must be one of the following:
    • A critical history, covering at least a couple of centuries of either theistic or nontheistic metaphysical, epistemological, or ethical thought (social or individual)
    • An analytical study of several major problems in either theistic or nontheistic metaphysics, epistemology, or ethical thought (social or individual), which includes reference to the history of the problems
    • A course that deals with more than one major artistic, literary, or philosophical figure from any age in relation to a significant issue of either current public or intellectual import; such a course must include biographical information, development of the problems dealt with, and critical appraisal of the figures' achievements.

Behavioral and Social Sciences (Part D) Courses (nine units)

Human institutions and behavior are inextricably interwoven. Problems of concern to humans and human society are at once contemporary and historical. Power, tyranny, freedom, wealth, scarcity, and distribution are all issues humanity has faced for centuries; yet we face them again with each succeeding generation. Cultural variations on human pursuit of these issues exist; yet we often assume a patriarchal or Western mode of definition and solution. Students completing this portion of the General Education Program should understand these transcendent-verities and comprehend the relationship of individuals with their societies, the issues and operation of power and scarcity, the perspectives and contributions of various times and cultures, the methodologies and perspectives the social and behavioral sciences use in evaluating and constructing human society, and some of the complex issues individuals and humanity face.

Students must take one course from each of the following areas; no more than two courses may be taken from a given department. All courses must significantly deal with social institutions and social behavior, and they must give attention to social science methods and perspectives.

  • Individual and Society (D1). Each course must
    • Focus primarily on the nature and behavior of individuals and their effects on and adaptations to other individuals, groups, institutions, and their environments
    • Seek to address these matters so as to present several, rather than any single, theoretical and methodological approach
    • Include consideration of historic as well as contemporary perspectives and influences.
  • Political and Economic Institutions (D2). Each course must
    • Deal primarily with relationships between political and economic institutions and behavior and the roles power and scarcity play in the issues that face society, based upon social scientific perspectives and approaches
    • Reflect some of the diversity of approaches that are or have been used in addressing the political and economic issues in human societies
    • Include consideration of historic as well as contemporary perspectives and influences.
  • Cultural and Social Institutions (D3). Each course must
    • Deal primarily with the development and variation of cultural and social institutions
    • Demonstrate how cultural and social development and variations affect groups, institutions, and behavior
    • Include consideration of historic as well as contemporary perspectives and influences.
    Lifelong Learning (Part E) course (three units) All learning should have a relevance beyond the present moment. The human organism witnesses change in each of its moments through the life course, yet it is itself a continuous physiological, psychological, and social being. Part of General Education should provide instruction that fosters understanding of the self as a complex, integrated being that is at once physiological, psychological, and social. Each course, therefore, must
    • Address issues that are likely to be important to most of our students throughout most of their lifetime
    • Significantly incorporate and integrate theory, data, and perspectives from each of three broad areas of human life: the physiological, the psychological, and the social
    • Have substantial written projects that ask the student to 1) integrate the ideas and materials of the course and 2) apply the ideas and materials of the course to themselves and their own projected life course.

Upper-Division Requirement (nine units)

A good General Education should be more than an accumulation of skills and a mastery of content. It should also give students sufficient opportunity to integrate a variety of skills and content areas by applying them to issues and areas of life they will face as citizens of a complex world. Students should be able to "relate the . . . major to seemingly unrelated areas of knowledge. " Such an effort, after the completion of the core and breadth components of General Education, will be a contribution that this institution uniquely gives its graduates. The Upper-Division Thematic Program will provide opportunity to investigate such watershed issues in a manner that exemplifies the skills and knowledge that both students and professors can bring to bear. The only limitation on the number of courses and themes available for the general education thematic is that they be based upon the quality of the courses and their fit under the guidelines that follow.

Upper-Division Thematic Courses (nine units)

  • Theme courses will incorporate skills from Area A, and they either will be classified into one of three subject areas--natural sciences (B), arts and humanities (C), or behavioral and social sciences (D)--or theme courses will incorporate skills from Area A and substantial knowledge from at least two of Areas B, C or D.
  • Students must take nine units of coursework selected from a single theme.
  • Students may not take these courses before the semester in which they attain junior status

Criteria for Themes

  • The General Studies Advisory Committee shall approve themes established on topics or issues likely to be critical to students throughout their lives as citizens of this society and the larger world community.
  • Themes must encourage investigation by a variety of perspectives or disciplines and must integrate substantial content from the three subject areas (B, C, D).
  • Themes will be approved for an initial life of four years and will be reviewed once every four years. C. Criteria for Theme Courses. Courses participating in the Upper-Division Thematic Program must 1. meet the criteria of the General Education Program; 2. be wholly devoted to an integrative investigation or consideration of one of the several approved themes; 3. purposefully converge and bring to bear at least two areas or perspectives upon the theme
  • Specifically and systematically deal with the value assumptions and issues raised by approaching the theme from these two or more disciplines or perspectives
  • Have written assignments (or participation projects) that allow the student to integrate materials, deal with value assumptions or issues, and creatively speculate about the theme and its impact on humanity
  • Encourage various and creative ways of teaching, such as having faculty from two different disciplines or perspectives attend and participate throughout the course, having different faculty conduct modules of a course, or having a faculty member integrate presentations from knowledgeable guest lectures.

Ethnic/Non-Western Graduation Requirements

Because the majority of students on this campus have little experience with minority Americans or with people from non-western cultures, students are required to complete six units of coursework devoted to cultural diversity, with three units examining ethnic issues and three examining non-western cultural issues.

To be included in the Cultural Diversity requirement, a course must meet the following general criteria:

  • Examine ethnic and intercultural variations in thinking patterns, value systems, problems, lifestyles, and aspirations
  • Present a broad, as opposed to narrow, focus
  • Explore the relationship between ethnic or non-western cultures and the traditional majority American culture.

Each course must be categorized as either an ethnic or a non-western course.

  • Criteria for inclusion as ethnic:
    • Satisfy the three general criteria listed above with a focus on one or more of the ethnic subcultures in the U.S.
    • Focus on the interaction of one or more ethnic subcultures with the dominant culture in American history.
  • Criteria for inclusion as non-western:
    • Satisfy the three general criteria listed above with a focus on one or more cultures outside the U.S.
    • Focus on a culture or cultures that are not rooted in the Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman, or Western European socio-ethical philosophy or tradition.

The General Studies Advisory Committee

The General Studies Advisory Committee will be responsible for making recommendations to the Vice President for Academic Affairs or designee on the implementation, monitoring, and preservation of the University's General Education Program. Since it will advise the VPAA on the oversight of a major university program, it may either initiate advice or respond to requests for advice. This committee will have the following composition:

  • Six faculty--one selected from each liberal arts college and two selected from different professional colleges (four-year terms, renewable and staggered) and one selected from the Faculty Senate's Educational Policies Committee (one-year term, renewable twice)
  • One student (one-year term, renewable twice)
  • Two ex-officio members--one Vice President for Academic Affairs designee and one professional member of the Advising Office.

A chair will be jointly appointed each year from the faculty members by the VPAA and the chair of the Faculty Senate. Faculty members will be selected by the VPAA and Senate chair from a list compiled by the Faculty Senate, the college deans, and the VPAAs office. The Educational Policies Committee faculty member will be appointed by the chair of the Faculty Senate in consultation with the VPAA. The student member will be recommended to the VPAA by the Dean's Council.

Standing Committees

Each faculty member will chair a standing committee:

  • Part A - Professional College Faculty Member
  • Part B - Natural Sciences Faculty Member
  • Part C - Humanities and Fine Arts Faculty Member
  • Part D - Behavioral and Social Sciences Faculty Member
  • Part E - Professional College Faculty Member
  • Theme - Faculty Senate Faculty Member

In addition to the chair, each standing committee will have three members, with no more than two from any one college. (It is strongly recommended that a member from a college curriculum committee of the main disciplinary area be included. )

The members of each standing committee, other than the chairs, will be appointed for one-year renewable terms by the VPAA in consultation with the chair of the Faculty Senate and the deans of the academic colleges. Appointments should be from areas of relevant expertise.

Charge of the General Studies Advisory Committee

The General Studies Advisory Committee will

  • Conduct a program review of every section of the General Education Program every four years (Parts A, B, and C will be reviewed together, and Parts D and E and the theme courses will be reviewed two years later. The reviews will be designed to coincide with the catalog cycle. )
  • Conduct a bi-annual screening of new ethnic and non-western courses for possible inclusion on the designated list (Once every four years, each designated ethnic/non-western course will be reviewed.)
  • Recommend that the VPAA seek specified funds, grants, and support for the enhancement of the program and the aid of General Education faculty in teaching General Education courses
  • Recommend program revisions to the Senate and advise the VPAA concerning General Education
  • Recommend course approval forms to be used in the committee's deliberations
  • Recommend, with the Office of Institutional Research, means of evaluating General Education courses (The Office of Institutional Research should also provide the committee with such information that the committee deems necessary for monitoring the program.)
  • Recommend faculty who teach in the program for important honors and awards
  • Coordinate General Education advising with the Office of Advising and the colleges
  • Submit to the Senate requests for exceptions to the General Education Program (The Senate will make its recommendations on such exceptions to the VPAA. )
  • Promote faculty interest in, awareness of, and cooperation with the realization of General Education goals
  • Recommend to the VPAA courses for inclusion in and deletion from the General Education Program
  • Make an annual report to the Faculty Senate, including a list of all General Education courses and a summary of the recommendations on those courses to be included in or deleted from the General Education Program.

Course Approval Procedures

After a course has been approved by the relevant department curriculum committee, department chair, college curriculum committee, and dean of the appropriate college, it must then be submitted to the General Studies Advisory Committee for approval. The committee in turn will refer the course to the relevant standing committee, which will consider how well the course fits the General Education criteria and goals and advise the committee accordingly. The committee will rank courses for inclusion in the General Education Program and recommend the list to the VPAA or designee.

In order for a course to qualify for consideration in the General Education Program, the sponsoring department must

  • Demonstrate that the proposed course satisfies all relevant criteria and goals for General Education in the area with respect to which approval of the course is sought
  • Provide a description of the course objectives and requirements, course assignments, a reading list, a course outline, and sample examinations. The General Studies Advisory Committee may request sample graded papers or problem sets for courses under review.

In the course of its deliberations the committee may invite the faculty, the department chair, and the college dean responsible for a proposed course to discuss the course either with the committee or the appropriate standing committee.

Any course in the General Education Program may be reviewed at any time by the committee for compliance with General Education goals and criteria under which the course was originally approved. Any major change in an approved course must be reviewed by the committee. Among major changes are changes in faculty who teach the course when the new person makes substantial changes in the materials mentioned in Item 2 immediately above. Such reviews may include interviews with faculty responsible for the course, the department chair, and the college dean.