Core Restructuring Committee Gathers Community Input

Alyssa Wend ’24 and Ellen Wang ’25
Editor-in-Chief and Copy Editor

On Feb. 16, Scripps sent an email to students calling for student representatives to join the Core Restructuring Committee. The email stated, “The goal of the restructuring is to modify the Core Program to address the issues with the Program that have been previously identified as well as those identified during the restructuring process.”

In spring 2022, the committee was formed with 14 people, including faculty and staff who have taught Core and two student representatives. The student subcommittee is currently composed of Chigozie Obiegbu ’23, Gala Lopez-Grado Salinas ’24, Anya Nyman ’25, and writing professor Adam Novy.

“We’re always talking about it as a student body like, ‘oh, Core was terrible,’” Nyman said. “I think it’s important that we have that collective catharsis about it. And also, I think that when there are opportunities, and when we can make opportunities to be like, ‘Hey, take us more seriously,’ that’s important.”

Nyman joined the committee officially this semester after Salinas left for study abroad, but she had been interested in changing Core since being in psychology professor and chair of the restructuring committee Jennifer Groscup’s Core Ⅰ class, where she first voiced ideas about restructuring with Groscup and sat in on committee sessions in the spring semester.

Most recently, the student subcommittee held a focus group for current students to share about their Core experiences. Despite students voicing a wide range of experiences, Nyman found that the focus group corroborated a general consensus regarding the need for Core to change. It also gave students a space to express specific issues for the restructuring process to focus on, such as the way Core positions students of color.

“[One takeaway] I think is really important for Core restructuring to be very focused on is the experience that students of color have in Core; the students of color that were there and my own experience tells me that it is not a fun experience … coming in and having to explain racism and your experience being tokenized in a lot of different ways,” Nyman said. “I don’t think anybody other than the students of color really recognizes just how pervasive the very ugly feeling it is to be of color and in Core.”

The focus group, like the other forms of input collection the committee worked on, allowed the students on the committee to turn the student body’s dissatisfaction into something tangible.

“I think that it’s really important that if any school wants to be anything positive, the students have to feel like they’re being respected and able to have agency in the institution,” Nyman said.

Groscup, who was chair of the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) in the 2021-2022 academic year, worked with the FEC to create a proposal outlining the goals of the restructuring committee, a proposed timeline, and a budget. The proposal was presented to and approved by the faculty in the spring.

Once the committee was assembled, they had weekly meetings all together with the subcommittees having additional meetings separately. These subcommittees include the faculty group, the student group, a group that designs surveys, a group that looks at past course evaluations of Core Ⅰ, a group that focuses on the history of Core and similar programs at other liberal arts schools, and a group of outside consultants.

The committee is currently in their first phase: information gathering. In the spring of 2022, the student subcommittee held a student focus group for graduating seniors as they were the last students who had Writing 50 as a required additional class for Core. This semester, the subcommittee held another focus group for current sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Next semester, the student subcommittee hopes to host another focus group for first-years and their immediate reaction of Core Ⅰ as the first class of the new cycle.

Next steps for the student subcommittee include taking the information from the focus groups and entering phase two where they will present the information to the Scripps community and solicit proposals for the restructuring of Core. Groscup hopes to dispel the notion that the restructuring committee will only make minor changes to Core.

“Our hope is that those proposals are going to be hugely varied and really out of the box thinking because we are interested in revamping the program totally if that’s what is necessary,” Groscup said. “What we really want to encourage people to think is … What would we do if we could create the best program possible? And maybe what that’ll be is something similar to what we have, but maybe it’ll be completely different.”

There are myriad opinions regarding the purpose Core serves at Scripps. On a conceptual level, many recognize the potential of Core’s interdisciplinary focus.

“The Core Ⅰ faculty really believe that if our students are exposed to the material we’re showing them that they will have the skills and the sensibilities and the confidence to take on their liberal arts education and to interpret this contemporary world,” Novy said.

The restructuring process has involved many different stakeholders, students and staff alike, as well as an immense amount of coordination and communication across the Scripps community.

“Sometimes as students it’s hard to see why things move really slowly, but I think in this role I’ve also seen that there is just so much that goes into a process like this that’s hard to see from the outside,” Obiegbu said. “I still think that the students deserve to see change sooner rather than later and that’s something I hope I can contribute to.”

The Scripps faculty have also shown a deep investment in the effort to change Core.

“I was really struck by the extent to which faculty have a stake and are really frustrated … It’s not as if the faculty are trying to rain hell down on the student community,” Nyman said. “[I’ve been] heartened by the energy there is to actually do something about it, and hopefully that pulls through ultimately.”

Nyman expressed the desire to continue the dialogue between students and faculty. As part of the collaborative effort, the committee’s student representatives urge the student body to contribute and engage with the restructuring process as much as possible.

“Whenever there are opportunities for students to contribute, for example surveys or focus groups, to really share their opinions, I just really hope as many students as possible take that opportunity … because at the end of the day, Core is for the students,” Obiegbu said. “Even if maybe your Core experience is over and you’re not going to see these changes that affect your personal academic training at Scripps, it obviously matters for the future generations of Scripps students.”

Despite the challenges, the Core Restructuring Committee hopes to create a Core where students and faculty’s wants and needs are reflected.

“This is something that us students on the committee are really committed to and that actually could make an impact … and is not just an email that people delete,” Nyman said. “Yeah, it’s an institution, and we’re in it … There is some power in being a student who has an experience because that’s the whole point of Core.”

Image Source: Core Survey