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Trinity Looks At Urban Focus

Proposal To Require Course On Hartford Fails In Close Vote, But It's Likely To Resurface

April 24, 2007
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer

For much of the past decade, Trinity College's community involvement in Hartford has been a selling point for the private college, but Hartford won't be a required piece of the curriculum - at least for now.

The faculty has agreed to bolster general education requirements, adding new provisions for the study of foreign language and writing, for example, but it has turned down a proposal that would have required all students to take at least one course focusing on the city.

The narrow defeat, by an 80-77 vote last week, surprised some students and faculty who had hoped the proposal would solidify Trinity's urban focus.

"I think it was a very poor decision," said Susan Botzko, a senior from Boston who directs an after-school youth arts program at the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford.

"You learn so much from interacting with the community around you," she said. "I was surprised at the decision because Trinity talks so much about community involvement."

Trinity offers a wide range of courses, internships and volunteer programs with links to the city. Its effort to revitalize surrounding neighborhoods, including the creation of a complex of public schools adjacent to the campus, has made the college a national model for urban higher education. Trinity also recently announced new grants of $5.5 million designed to strengthen its urban focus. Part of that money will fund operations in a new center for urban and global studies.

Officials insist the latest vote does not signal a retreat from Trinity's commitment to the city.

"No way whatsoever," said Trinity President James F. Jones Jr.

Rena Fraden, dean of the faculty, said the issue is likely to be taken up again by the faculty in the fall.

"To me, the Hartford connection is organic," she said. "Eighty percent of our student body already either have taken a course or done an internship for credit in Hartford. ... This is what Trinity should be proud of and should highlight and celebrate."

The faculty approved other curriculum changes, including a requirement for all students to take at least one course with a global studies emphasis. The changes were the first major revisions of general requirements in nearly 20 years. Some faculty members, however, reportedly felt the proposal on Hartford should have been more broadly focused on urban studies while others opposed the idea of making such studies mandatory.

"My life has been devoted to cities and the kinds of issues cities raise ... [but] I don't think of them as something every student has to engage in," said Andrew Gold, a professor of economics.

He added, "We provide opportunities you cannot provide in other places. I'm all in favor of making that more visible, but I'm not in favor of requiring it."

Philosophy Professor Dan Lloyd, co-chairman of a curriculum committee that proposed the general education revisions, said the intent of the proposed Hartford requirement was to reaffirm Trinity's identity as an urban institution.

"In fact, most of our students are already fulfilling this requirement," he said. The proposed change would have "made really clear to incoming students this is the kind of place they are coming to."

An editorial in The Trinity Tripod, the student newspaper, opposed some of the curriculum changes, including a new requirement to demonstrate proficiency in a second language.

"Speaking another language is undoubtedly a skill that ... is essential and beneficial, but it should not be forced on those that do not want it or cannot do it," the editorial said.

Although some students opposed adding more requirements, Katy Nolin, the student newspaper's editor-in-chief, said she was disappointed that the faculty rejected the plan to require students to take a course specifically related to Hartford.

"I really do like Trinity as a place to do a lot of work in the community," she said.

By not making a Hartford course a requirement, "I think it really does say something about our relationship with the community," she said. "Overall, I just think it sends a bad message."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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