HALL-PALERM: Redistribute our requirements

I’m not planning on wasting anyone’s time talking about how stressful shopping period is. The few days before the first day of class, my schedule, like everyone else’s, is overcrowded with classes in my major, classes in my fallback major, classes that everyone says everyone else should take (I’ll miss you, Con Law) — the list goes on. But the single factor that has caused me the most stress is the ominous “Sc.” If I don’t take a science credit this semester, I don’t become a junior.

On principle, I’m a firm believer in distribution requirements. I was more than happy to keep up my math skills even as I slaved over my DS readings last year, and it was with excitement that I began to look through the Bluebook for a science class I might like.

In the fall, nothing seemed to work. Some classes were during others that I absolutely had to take for my major, some that seemed interesting had evaluations that sent me running and my pride was still too strong to let me take one of the legendary gut sciences.

Finding a science class this semester became my first priority. As I was looking, I was guided initially by my fair share of arrogance. I almost refused to put certain easier classes on my shopping schedule because, hey, I took AP Physics back in my day. If I’m going to take a science to fulfill a requirement, it should be a science I’ll enjoy and feel challenged by.

But after reading scary eval after scary eval, I also had to take my GPA into account. When I know that seminars for my major will take up most of my week, not even self-loathing can make me sign on to a class that will take away from those assignments — especially when I’m only taking the Sc for a requirement.

In theory, I understand why Yale isn’t wild about letting people take classes that count towards distribution requirements Credit/D/Fail. The point of making people take classes in disciplines they wouldn’t otherwise study is to make sure we all come out of college well-rounded, having spent some time working hard on something that isn’t our main area of focus. And I respect that. There’s no point in making someone take a science class if they can just enroll, Credit/D it, never go and call it a semester.

But at the same time, I do think there’s something to be said for taking (maybe even only one of the two) distribution requirements for just credit. After all, the point behind distribution requirements is to make sure that, even as we choose majors and delve deeply into them, we still find things that interest us in other disciplines. But this trend of humanities kids finding gut sciences — and scientists hunting high and low for the easiest writing credits — does us even more of a disservice than risking Credit/D slackers would. And we’ve all earned a degree of trust from the administration: Everyone somehow got themselves here. It seems safe to say that for the most part, we’re not here to slack.

I’m sure math majors would love to read some quality literature without panicking about when they’ll have time to work on their psets if they have to spend hours at the writing tutor working on a paper that doesn’t come naturally to them. Just like how I’d love to be able to take some cool-sounding science class without wondering how that’ll hinder my ability to invest time in writing good papers. If I could Credit/D my science, you bet I’d take something that I knew would be both interesting and also challenging. I’m not scared of effort; I’m just scared of being penalized for trying to take a risk in an area far from the one of my expertise.

Maybe letting us take intense classes we’ll actually invest in fulfills the spirit of our distribution requirements more than scaring us out of classes we want to take and into easier courses designed for non-majors that interest us less. In which situation are we learning more, more enthused and more motivated? I think the choice is clear.

Victoria Hall-palerm is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Contact her at victoria.hall-palerm@yale.edu .

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