Butler Cultural Requirement needs improvement, students say

The Butler Cultural Requirement, a part of the core curriculum for freshmen, sophomores and juniors, may not be fulfilling its purpose, Butler University faculty and students said.

Butler students must attend at least eight cultural performances, seminars  or public lectures that the administrators of the requirement

Photo by Rafael Porto

specify.

Associate Provost Laura Behling came to Butler in the fall of 2009 and installed the Butler Cultural Requirement for the fall of 2010.

She said the purpose of the program is to help students realize the richness of cultural events here at Butler.

“Part of it is to help students understand essentially what is right on their doorstep,” Behling said. “Education doesn’t only take place in a class.”

Some students and faculty said they feel the available list of event options doesn’t allow for a diversity of culture that would interest a wider range of students.

English Professor Joseph Colavito  said that students should be able to talk to administrators about attending events outside the list of preapproved options.

“The faculty may have one idea about what constitutes culture, but they need to be open to what someone else might consider to be culturally interesting,” he said.

While students can fill out an application to receive credit for different events not on the requirement list, explained Behling, these events must take place at Butler.  Students cannot receive credit for cultural outings to the surrounding Indianapolis area.

Colavito said that the requirement should encourage students to find their own cultural interests, to embrace those interests and to become more involved.

To this end, he said the university should allow for a more diverse array of cultural events, including events located off campus, in order for students to truly benefit from the program.

“The requirement is a good thing, but I think specifying how you can fulfill it is problematic,” he added. “It’s like saying one thing is more cultural than another.”

Religion Professor Paul Valliere  said he questions the requirement’s effectiveness, although he does not view it negatively.

He said he would like to see an assessment of the program to see whether it is effective and worthwhile.

“Forcing students to attend eight events a year doesn’t add up to anything as far as I’m concerned,” he explained. “The point is to encourage students to develop the habit of going to events because they want to go.  I would like to see a study of whether the requirement succeeds in its purpose.”

Valliere said he would like to see students attend events because it is the right thing to do, whether students are supporting friends or acting as culturally-aware citizens.

“Student initiative is the best motivator,” he said. “There is something culturally interesting going on at Butler almost every night of the semester, so we have to be grateful for that.”

Sophomore Sofia Valdivia has completed three of her required events so far. While she is supportive of the program and its purpose, she said there are certain elements that could be changed to improve the program.

“I think that eight events is a lot,” she  said. “It’s hard enough to get some of my friends to come to even one choir concert.  I think one cultural event a year would be better.”

Valdivia acknowledged that the requirement encourages students to experience new forms of art.

Colavito said the program has the opportunity to become very successful if more opportunities are presented and more student input is integrated.

“I would like to see it become a venue for students to celebrate different forms of culture,” he said.

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