SWARTZ: Science requirements irk to the core

Matilda Swartz

I am, and have always been, a self-proclaimed nerd. In the days before I hit five feet, the classroom was an oasis. Notebook paper, binders and pencils never cared if I was too athletically challenged to capture the flag. Sitting in front of a whiteboard never glorified my lack of balance. I was the girl who had all good things to report to Mom and Dad about all subjects (with the exception of gym).

All that changed later on when “real” science was integrated into my curriculum. Ever since my first dissections in seventh grade biology, I knew that molecules, anatomy and all things microscopic were more dangerous than any projectile dodge ball. This trend held true throughout high school when I dropped out of AP Chemistry three days into the class and opted not to take a fourth year of an optional lab science.

I thought my battle with science was won around my senior year of high school when I pulled out the heavy artillery and set my heart on a future in communications.

Then I chose Villanova. Then the core requirements happened. At ‘Nova, those enrolled in the prestigious College of Liberal Arts & Sciences are subject to a laundry list of mandatory course requirements, ensuring that A&S graduates are well-versed in everything from theology, language and fine arts to social and natural sciences. Liberal Arts students, to my distress, are forced into a treacherous two semesters of a natural science, with lab, to be completed by the end of sophomore year.

To be honest, I set off on a relatively easy foot when I began my science track. This past summer, after a luckless job hunt and more free time in the Midwestern United States than anyone should be given, I enrolled in an online summer course in human physiology through Villanova.

The course, geared towards Arts majors, was a complete package of online lectures, online tests and the next best interactive tool since Facebook: online labs. When the directions told me I was tearing back the skin of a frog to reveal the vertebrae, I was actually just clicking a mouse button, watching an on-screen video. The bearable pain was condensed and over in one July’s time. Perfection.

I figured that due to my pleasant experience fulfilling the first 50 percent of my science requirement, taking How Microbes Rule the World this semester would be just as unproblematic, despite the fact that I would indeed be working in a three-dimensional, non-virtual laboratory.

Deem that the misconception of the year. I am not science-minded in any aspect. Ask me to sit for three hours and write you a short story, and I will sit quietly and contentedly the entire time. Ask me to inoculate agar filled petri dishes with samples of Escherichia Coli, and I will proceed to spill the bacteria over my workspace and lab worksheets. This is exactly what transpired when asked to do such a task on only the second week of lab.

In many ways, I understand the optimistic notion that students within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences are molded into well-rounded students in subjects across the board. Knowledge is wisdom and wisdom is both rare and golden. But as a communications major, I ignorantly fail to see how the preparation of stained Staphylococcus aureus is preparing me for a brighter future.

This skewed view is only further contorted when I see the School of Business population getting away with one semester of a non-lab science. How many more microbes could there be in the world of public relations than on Wall Street?

Business majors are left with more availability for courses that actually concern their fields of study and no credit hours wasted on preparing gram-positive bacteria stains.

Instead of two semesters of lab, it would be much more advantageous to demand only one for Liberal Arts majors, leaving us with more room to fulfill courses for our actual major, the things we want to be learning.

This could be a bit much to ask for. The rules are set to keep students on their distinct trajectories. Just think, if business majors had to attend lab, they would have to sacrifice suits for more manual labor clothes (sweatpants). A Bartley uprising would ensue, and not even Public Safety would be able to contain such chaos.

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Matilda Swartz is a sophomore communication

major from Longport, N.J. She can be reached at

[email protected]