Lab requirements too basic, need more topical focus

Jake Brennan, Contributing Writer

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

There is a point of view that many Tulane students, regardless of major, share. Few, however, come right out and say it. Whether they are someone in the School of Liberal Arts who is not scientifically inclined, a business school student trying to focus on finance or accounting, or even someone interested in certain subjects in the School of Science and Engineering, many have found that Tulane’s lab science system is illogical and broken.

It is clear that a holistic, well-rounded education is an essential part of the Tulane academic experience. Unfortunately, the way that lab science credits are designated and the courses that are offered simply do not encourage a truly broad experience. Students often feel compelled to find the simplest course that they can pass, so it can be checked off the requirements list.

The courses that most non-science majors tend to gravitate towards for their lab science include Heredity and Society, Diversity of Life, or Great Ideas in Science and Technology. Despite interesting names, all of these classes are boiled-down versions of standard science basics, barely above high school biology or chemistry. If Tulane were to actually focus on a varied education, lab science courses would be specific, topical and interesting. Moreover, the fact that science labs are three hours long and only count for one course credit is absolutely preposterous. Students who are in class Monday, Wednesday and Friday receive three credit hours for less time spent in the classroom than one lab science.

When compared to other graduation requirements like writing intensives, the lackadaisical attitude towards lab sciences is apparent. Looking at the course listings for lab sciences for non-science majors, one finds that they are all incredibly basic courses. On the other hand, writing intensive courses are highly specified classes that even a student who is not writing inclined would find interesting. If the idea is that all students should know how the scientific method works, students might as well be required to take Scopes and Methods of Political Science or a course on American government. An understanding of how to think critically about the basic functions of modern politics is certainly more essential than the ability to identify feldspar from a pile of rocks.

Another potentially overlooked factor against the lab science requirement is the cost. Tulane is currently running on a budget deficit and has made significant cuts to trim down the budget. There are currently sixteen different majors in the School of Science and Engineering, all of which require administrators, professors, support staff and a physical location to house all of it. The university should focus the funds allocated towards the School of Science and Engineering to maintain quality facilities and continue to attract renowned professors.

When compared to other graduation requirements and impact to the budget, the lab science requirement is illogical. If Tulane’s administration truly wants it to be an academically progressive university that provides a well-rounded education for its students, it has two options. Either it can dramatically overhaul the lab science system to emphasize courses that better teach scientific method and inquiry or remove it entirely in favor of other courses that focus quantitative reasoning such as personal finance or accounting.

Jake is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected].

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