Faculty request changes to rewrite the “eight before you graduate” mentality regarding BCRs. Graphic courtesy of Butler University.
BEE PILARZ | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Eight before you graduate.”
This tagline is almost guaranteed to be said when discussing the Butler Cultural Requirement, or BCR, as part of Butler’s Core Curriculum. With the exception of those in the Jordan College of the Arts, every student is required to complete the Butler Cultural Requirement in order to graduate.
The requirement is fulfilled by attending at least eight events that have been approved to earn a “BCR credit” before graduation. Currently, students can track when events occur through the BCR Calendar available on Butler’s website.
Since its implementation in 2007, the BCR has changed very little. With such little precedence, there is potential for flaws in the system, especially as the program starts to age. Following a rise in faculty and student concerns regarding the program, administrative leaders created a BCR Task Force earlier this school year.
This group — consisting of faculty nominated by the deans of their respective colleges — was asked to investigate the current issues with the BCR and provide a final report including recommendations by spring 2023. The report has since been completed, and changes to the BCR program are expected to start rolling out as early as fall 2023.
Over the 2022-23 school year, the faculty task force used surveys, interviews, reports from the pre-existing BCR committee — the group tasked with approving events for BCRs — and examination of similar programs to organize the existing concerns and propose a series of possible administrative corrections. Ideally, these changes will streamline the BCR program and allow it to grow beyond the “eight before you graduate” system to encourage students to take it more seriously. With this in mind, here are the changes students should be on the lookout for.
Changing the culture
Over the years, the objectives of the BCR have become increasingly muddled. The BCR’s purpose has been to engage students in the valuable performances, seminars and public lectures occurring on Butler’s campus and encourage students to develop a habit of participating in these events beyond graduation. However, with students needing to hit a strict quota of events, the program has shifted from an opportunity for enrichment to an attendance checklist.
Hilene Flanzbaum, faculty director of the Core Curriculum, said she feels students are not taking the events they attend seriously, because attendance is the only requirement for receiving credit.
“[We hope to make] the experience more meaningful to people,” Flanzbaum said, “Students need a context. They can’t just wander in and wander out.”
One such change proposed in the report is the restructuring of the BCR committee, with a specific emphasis on including those who work in the First-Year Experience program, Student Activities and the Provost’s DEI Office. These three departments would work to increase first-year attendance at these events, address issues with BCR implementation and student engagement and strengthen the intercultural aspect of the BCR respectively.
In this vein, the use of the word “culture” has become a point of contention for the BCR because the program lacks a clear definition as to what constitutes culture. On the BCR webpage, culture leans toward an emphasis on the arts and academia, while the BCR committee’s criteria has previously emphasized intercultural and international perspectives and aimed to guide students’ interests beyond academic spaces.
“This program doesn’t police culture, but rather tutors students to see extensions of their curricular education in the events programming of the university, and to seek voluntary opportunities to experiment beyond their comfort zones at similar events throughout their lives,” the report states.
Additionally, no student survey data has been collected for the BCR since 2016. The task force repeatedly emphasizes that any further restructuring should include more student feedback in the form of surveys, administrative process involvement or implementation of a reflection component.
Restructuring BCR event approval
In the 2021-22 school year, 395 events were approved to serve as BCR credit events. For the BCR Task Force, this high number of events called into question the coherence of the program as well as the quality.
The qualifications for BCR credit are not always clearly communicated between organizations and the BCR committee. Taylor Budge, a senior psychology and race, gender and sexuality studies double major, is the president of dance club, and said miscommunication at dance club events led to false BCRs being accredited to their events, disappointing students who believed they would be receiving credit.
“I got emails [from attendees] at the beginning of this semester, and people [were trying to] contact BCR people, and they just either weren’t responding or they were telling them, ‘Sorry, there’s nothing we can do,’” Budge said.
This year, the BCR program has a pilot list of organizations and programs on Butler’s campus which automatically qualify for BCR credit, including Butler Ballet, the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement and the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series. This limits the number of events eligible to satisfy the requirement, with an aim of generating more deliberate attendance to the events offered.
According to the Butler website, the list of 14 approved organizations does not currently include any student-led organizations, but this does not mean such groups cannot apply for BCR credit. Flanzbaum said the BCR committee will be implementing a stricter BCR calendar, which will directly impact how students apply to have their organizations approved.
“One of the things we’re going to do is [post a schedule] in the beginning of every semester,” Flanzbaum said. “That is going to say ‘These are the approved BCR events. No more.’ The deadline for [submitting events for] the fall semester is August 15.”
Becca Mattson, a junior music and community development double major and president of Bulldogs for Universal Design, expressed her concern in regard to this timeline. Many student organizations host culture-related events, but may not be able to meet such a quick deadline.
“There’s some benefits to making BCRs more difficult to create in terms of ensuring the quality of events,” Mattson said. “I do think [changing how to get events approved] … can put an unnecessary burden on student organizations that otherwise could provide really great services and programming for our students.”
In addition to the pre-semester deadline, student organizations will also be expected to have their event sponsored by a faculty member in order to ensure the event properly meets the BCR learning objectives. The BCR Task Force hopes that faculty involvement will encourage student reflection as well as a more involved BCR program.
“We recommend an open, high faculty-trust standard for what constitutes a cultural event, having less to do with categories of culture and more to do with strong faculty sponsorship, opportunities for student preparation and reflection … attention to access issues, and provable contributions to the intercultural competencies guidelines,” the report states.
The 2016 student survey on BCRs reported an increasing concern with the accessibility of BCR events for commuters and students with busy schedules, as well as for disabled students. For some of these students, attending evening events is unfeasible, as it would require them to return to campus or stay late. For disabled students, many of the theater spaces on campus where BCR events are held are not easily accessible, creating a physical boundary to completing the BCR.
Mattson, an avid accessibility advocate on Butler’s campus, said she has received feedback from multiple students on campus regarding the inaccessibility of spaces where BCR events are usually hosted.
“If we’re going to expect that our students meet this requirement, and it’s going to be an expectation of attending this university … they all need to be accessible,” Mattson said. “[These events are] so valuable that we’ve made them requirements, so we need to give everyone access to them.”
In response to accessibility concerns, the task force has proposed hosting higher numbers of events during the day, as well as providing videocasting for certain events.
This report seeks to address some of the complications that have arisen since the BCR’s implementation. It is unlikely that the learning objectives or curricula will change in regards to the BCR, and those who have already completed all or a portion of their BCR will be unaffected.
The full list of changes suggested by the BCR task force will take longer than a single semester to implement, but Flanzbaum confirmed that changes such as the BCR calendar, as well as the limited list of approved BCR programs, will take effect in fall 2023.
Students can expect to see a decreased number of events that offer BCR credit, as well as more faculty involvement for those that do. They may also anticipate an increased BCR presence online and through Engage, as the task force wishes to generate more awareness for the BCR via its online presence.
Moving forward, the Butler Cultural Requirement is expected to expand into a program students can enjoy and learn from, instead of being reduced to a simple rhyme of “eight before you graduate.”