A fresh take on FDRs

Nuoya Zhou

The Foundation and Distribution Requirements at Washington and Lee further students’ interests and encourage a wide breadth of study.

“I think FDRs are a good thing,” Anna Alexander, ‘18, said. “We have the opportunities to take lots of classes in different areas and that makes me a well-rounded person.”

Alexander said she also enjoys the wide variety of options that FDRs provide.

At W&L, someone who decides to avoid math can choose a computer science class instead. W&L has a wide variety of writing seminar topics that are updated each year.

There are some flaws. We are supposed to take most FDR classes in the first two years, because it is the time for students to explore. However, it is actually the time when first-years and sophomores have the biggest disadvantages during registration.

After seniors and juniors pick their last few FDR introductory-level classes, there aren’t many spots left for other students.

A vicious circle forms when first years can’t pick the classes they are interested in because upperclassmen have already taken all the spots and generated a long waiting list.

They can only get these classes when they become upperclassmen and have advantages in registration, which continuously puts incoming first years in a rough place.

In many history or humanities classes that fulfill an FDR, students are supposed to memorize most of the material for tests.

I learned about the sumptuary laws about women’s rights in Renaissance Europe my first year history seminar. This year, my friends and I were talking about women’s status in Europe at the dinner table, but I couldn’t contribute to the conversation because I forgot what I learned.

Maybe what we learned in these introductory classes transforms us into who we are today, but superficial study is definitely not what the goal of FDRs should be.

Introductory level classes at Washington and Lee move at a fast pace.

“I am taking this class just for my FDR,” a first-year calculus student said. “I spent so much time studying for tests but it still ruined my midterm GPA and discouraged me from further studies in math.”

Some students don’t understand why they are forced to take classes in areas they already disliked before coming to college.

“I have taken about eight different introductory classes and finally decided to be a politics major,” Yexinyu Yang, ‘18, said. “I took three of these introductory classes that sounded interesting to me, but they happen to be in the same category: Social Science. I took a few other introductory classes for FDR that I really didn’t like at the first place.”

Yang suggested that the school broaden its FDR categories. For example, she thinks Humanity, Arts, and Literature could all be combined to Humanities. Students should be free to choose four classes from this broader category.

This month, juniors Elena Diller and Caroline Todd started a petition to add a “Culture and Diversity” FDR. The goal of adding a C&D FDR is to raise students’ awareness of issues of gender, sexual orientation, religion, and race through an academic lens on this campus.

Currently, the petition is open to undergraduate and law students only. Faculty and staff can sign the petition in a few weeks.

The petition would add an overall requirement that could be satisfied by fulfilling other FDRs such as those which fall under Social Science and Humanities categories.

Diller and Todd also included a list of classes that could potentially fulfill a C&D FDR in the petition. So far, there are more than two hundred classes on the list. Most classes on the list are above 200- level, except for first-year writing seminars.