In the WNY thread we recently had some argument over the usefulness of Williams’ requirements for graduation, namely the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) and Intensive Writing (IW) instituted in 2001, and the Foreign Language (FL) proposed but rejected then.

Not discussed as often is a fourth proposal then, that missed 2/3 acceptance by one vote: a Public Speaking (PS) requirement.

I’d like to reopen the debate on this issue. Should Williams have requirements for graduation beyond 32 classes and a major? David takes the con side of this.

For this argument, I’ll go pro for public speaking and division requirements but con for others. Prior comments show that others will take pro more generally, supporting FL if not other requirements. My opening points are below, and I’d love for others to join the discussion on this critical topic.


I argue that Williams must first ensure that it has a good product before it requires every student to buy it. My reasons for this are twofold:

  1. The more obvious one is that a person’s ability to choose what is best for himself should only be impinged in the name of a good when we are pretty sure we can actually serve that good.
  2. Less obvious I think is that when you require every student to take a certain kind of class, you put that class type under a kind of assault as some of those classes now shift to accommodate people who are there mostly to fulfill the requirement. The affected courses must be ready for this, and strong to begin with. By “strong” I mean “very good at improving selected student skills.”

I argue that the QR and IW requirements are bad products. This is not at all to say that the bulk of the classes that satisfy these requirements are “bad,” but I assert that the college, in creating the concepts of QS and IW created a kind of brand, and this was (in my time at least) a very weak brand. I won’t even touch the People’s and Cultures (PC) requirement (but go ahead and ask a few profs and students to tell you what makes something eligible for this brand).

In sum, I charge the college with imposing a modest burden on students without having, through them, a strong path to the improvement of the students, and while (possibly) weakening of the classes that draw students who would previously have avoided them.

If there is enough interest in this thread, I will present my case for the current divisional and proposed public speaking requirements.

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