A recent study conducted by CAS junior Drew Kogon found that Liberal Studies students tend to feel inferior to other NYU students. Kogon, originally an LS student himself, was prompted to orchestrate the study after he became aware that many of his peers in the program felt like “second-class students.” This sentiment is understandable, given the general sense of confusion surrounding the Liberal Studies program among many NYU students across all of the undergraduate schools. Until the fall of 2011, students were not even able to apply directly to the program, which in the preceding four years had shuffled names three different times — from general studies to liberal studies to the core program. NYU should become more transparent about the purpose of the LS Core Program in order to reduce this stigma and attract more direct applicants.
The LS Core Program requires students to fulfill two semesters of a writing class and three semesters each of Cultural Foundations and Social Foundations. Upon completing these requirements at the end of their sophomore year, students are guaranteed transfer into most of NYU’s other schools, including the College of Arts and Science and Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and can also apply for an internal transfer to Tisch School of the Arts, Stern School of Business or Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.
The LS website does little to quell uncertainty. Although it features a robust FAQ section — unlike the more traditional NYU schools — the site offers an ambiguous explanation for why and how students who applied to other schools were instead accepted to LS. While it does state that students are selected who would “thrive in an interdisciplinary curriculum with small, seminar-style classes,” there is no account of how admission officers make that decision. As Kogon explained, saying “NYU is making the decision of where they want them to go to school as opposed to the individual.”
There is negative chatter about this program on several college websites, only further increasing confusion among incoming LS freshmen. Many NYU students view LS as a way for NYU to increase enrollment, and therefore tuition revenue. This negative view contributes to LS students feeling stigmatized within the university.
NYU can begin improving the perception of LS by working to better integrate it with the other schools. In addition, they should work to more clearly explain the program’s purpose in order to alleviate some of the mystery. If NYU can clarify the program’s mission and why it would be attractive to certain students, they can promote it more heavily at high school admissions events, and perhaps then more people would directly apply. LS is a laudable program, and with some clearing up, students will no longer feel stigmatized.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 30 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected].