NYU Should Reevaluate the LS Program

WSN Editorial Board

The Core Program at NYU’s Liberal Studies Program is designed to give students a broad foundation for future education, and primarily concerns itself with writing and ancient cultures. “A true core curriculum experience, emphasizing the great works of the world’s leading cultures from antiquity to today,” describes the program’s online profile. This model, however, is frustrating to students because it wastes time, does not offer valuable curriculum and limits their options.

While the intention of a liberal arts education is to give students a well-rounded education, the structure of the program immensely limits students. During freshmen year, LS students only get to chose one class out of eight slots. The other seven slots are filled by four humanities classes, two writing classes and one science class. Furthermore, during sophomore year, LS students have to take two more humanities classes to finish the LS core. If this was not already enough, students then have to complete the core curriculum of the school they chose to transfer into. For example, if a student goes into the College of Arts and Sciences, they have to take a math class, another science class and other prerequisites for their major. Once this is all finished, students can finally focus on their chosen major.

While NYU acts as though the program gives undeclared students two years to figure out a given major, it actually limits students’ ability to explore multiple interests. Unless students plan on going into philosophy or art history, there is no reason they should need to re-read “The Iliad” or any other dry philosophical texts that have no application in business, law or science. If the university truly cared about letting students figure out what they want to do while obtaining an all-encompassing education, then it would give them room to take classes in many different departments. Instead, LS plagues students with endless core classes that leave very little room for classes that do not directly count toward their major. However, many LS students do not realize these limitations upon being accepted, which causes immense frustration.

The College of Arts and Sciences — NYU’s largest school — already prides itself on being a liberal arts college. The existence of a separate liberal studies program is simply redundant and unnecessary. Currently, CAS students have to take many core requirements — as in NYU’s other schools — but they still have room to explore varying disciplines to extend their education beyond requirements for the core program and their majors. The NYU administration should really reevaluate the structure of the LS program to see if it is truly producing students with knowledge of an array of topics or students who just wasted nine of their class slots on irrelevant information.


Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]



  1. I stopped reading after the first paragraph (yes, I eventually went back and finished it) — the Core program “wastes time”? No, it doesn’t.

    Not if you happen to think a college-educated person in the world today should be well-versed in the classics of literature & philosophy — the foundational elements of many forms of theory and political thought today.

    Not if you count yourself as one of NYU’s ‘global citizens’ who is expected to ‘engage with the world’ in a way that honors ethics & cosmopolitanism.

    And certainly not if you want to a be *journalist*, writer, professor, teacher, lawyer, doctor, politician….or any other sort of thinking person in the world.

    As a bunch of ‘aspiring journalists’, I would encourage you all to go read the myriad op-eds that have been published over the past few years praising the merits of a liberal arts education — specifically, as one that teaches students how to form arguments, engage with ideas, and how to think, in a way that is multi-faceted and nuanced. If any of you really want to be serious journalists or writers, at some point — ever — you will be expected to be well-versed in the classics of literature. You will be expected to know philosophy. You will be expected to know political history. You will be expected to be able to form nuanced ideas from a global perspective.

    What does that mean? You’ll be expected to take thoughts, ideas, opinions, and viewpoints that bump up against each other and figure out — how do I reconcile these? What do they have in common? Where are the global connections? Where are the nuances within those? And how can I combine these ideas and move them into a policy or initiative that will take action?

    Just as our former President Obama stated in one of his last NYT interviews on his favorite books, we learn from the great philosophers and literary classics of the past. That’s the whole point of them — to learn about the consistencies and commonalities of the human spirit over time. And when you’re in the workforce and expected to solve a problem or come up with an idea, you’ll be much more successful if you have all of human history to pull from, rather than your own 25 years of life only.

    So that’s not a practice that has “no application in business, medicine, or law.” It’s a skill that makes you employable. It’s a skill that makes you a smart person.

    I hope none of that is news to you. If it is, I instead recommend you turn around & go back to the classroom before penning an op-ed with your ‘opinions’ & insisting you should then be listened to by virtue of your status as a student.

    I started in LS & went on to GLS. I have had more rich experiences both inside and outside of the classroom than many other non-GLS students at NYU than I can count. GLS has sent me to France to study and to Africa for research last night.

    Additionally, I’ve taken journalism courses, and I’ve been lucky to have some of the best professors in that department that I’ve ever had. But frankly? I’ve been consistently unimpressed with many journalism students I encounter. While I was studying philosophy, literary journalism, cultural foundations, science, and approaches to theory as a freshman and sophomore, they were taking reporting classes or other similar ones that had a much more practical application. It only hurt them, because many times I see a lack of global perspective or theoretical awareness in my peers.

    I am most thankful for my LS/GLS education for teaching me the *POINT* of an education, and it’s the exact opposite to what you lay out here. If you’re lucky enough, it’s not about studying for a grade or learning a ‘practical’ skill. If you’re lucky enough, it’s about learning for the sake of learning how to think, form arguments, and be a well-rounded person who contributes to the world. If you’re smart enough, you’ll figure out where in there lies the practicality.

    The structure and language of your argument is inherently troubling. I’m not sure if any of you are LS or GLS students but you make sweeping condemnations where there should not be. The value of an education tied to practicality is an opinion that many people take issue with. As stated, just read any of the op-eds published to reflect the ‘other side.’ I think your argument could have been made much stronger if you instead suggested that schools like CAS cut redundant core requirements for LS students who transfer in (is this even confirmed? with multiple counselors? otherwise it has no basis in being written unless one of you is a current LS student).

    In a time when our current President is a threat to free speech and free thought and could very well cut federal funding to universities, women’s and gender studies departments, or ethnic studies departments, I would encourage you to poke your head out of your bubble, look around, and figure out how best to propose concrete suggestions, if you must, rather than disparaging the nature of an entire field of study of which you clearly and inherently do not understand.

  2. Clarifying a few points here — 

    1.) I love the journalism department and am not disparaging the program nor the students in it in any way. I worked in that department for two years. And as stated, some of the best professors I’ve ever had are from that department. Additionally, I have many great friends I’ve met through NYU journalism who I am consistently impressed by. But I’ve also been in courses in which student-led discussions quickly and frequently devolve and I’ve encountered students who do not think within the global nor the theoretical frameworks required to be a journalist today. That’s not necessarily their fault, and it’s not unique to them, but my reasoning for bringing that up is based on the assumption that members of the ‘editorial board’ are journalism students. My intent is to encourage some introspection of your own program and the ways that you could benefit from a liberal-arts based program like LS or GLS, and the ways that the foundations of those curricula strongly benefit journalists and writers today, instead of disparaging it.

    2.) If the writers were first or second year LS students, I recognize the validity of your impressions and I’d encourage you to stick it through, because as someone who went through the program and has seen its concrete benefits in my life, I can say it will benefit you in the long run and you’ll eventually recognize its benefits and the way it formed your educations and your minds. I should have explained more in my response above that this thought process is common and even valid if you’re a freshman sitting in a science course who’d prefer to be in a media course, but a.) that still does not give you the right to disparage the existence of the program because it doesn’t serve your imagined purpose, and b.) that doesn’t qualify you to disparage it publicly, in something that you call an op-ed. This piece doesn’t turn on a news peg, or any current issue. It’s as impulsive or reason-less as a Trump tweet. There is no current university-wide, public issue (that I’m aware of, at least) that would warrant a dressing-down of the LS program under the guise of an op-ed. The piece reads like an angry rant. That’s not responsible journalism. If WSN wants to be taken seriously as a student publication it needs to produce serious journalism.

    Make no mistake of my support of free speech and a free press, but this is just plain irresponsible. It has a basis in neither current events nor quantitative or even qualitative data, which you’d need to even begin to make a public dressing-down of an entire university program as you’ve done here.

  3. Hey perspective student, don’t accept this article as your only impression to NYU Liberal Studies! LS is so much more then what this author wrote.

    If you want to contact a current NYU LS student with any questions or comments, shoot me an email at [email protected]

  4. I’m a current Liberal Studies student, and I believe this article is scattered with false assumptions and statements (also, please note the myriad of grammar mistakes, which demonstrate the need for a program focused in writing). Yes, this program is not for everyone, but that does not mean that “it wastes time, does not offer valuable curriculum and limits their options.” The author is assuming the feelings of over 1,250 students in the freshman class alone.

    PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS, please reach out to a current Liberal Studies to receive authentic insight on this program.
    You can email me at [email protected].

  5. NYU LS has so much to offer and I don’t think this is an accurate representation of our school. I am a better person and more well-rounded, critical thinker for being in Liberal Studies. To any prospective student– don’t one person’s critique form your thoughts on what is the second largest school at NYU. We are not only an impressive student body as the core, but GLS (the four year program through Liberal Studies) has a 98% employment rate within six months of graduation– this is the second highest rate just after Stern and is well before CAS and the other schools. We are a group of thoughtful, intelligent critical thinkers and are lucky to have the wonderful foundation Liberal Studies offers its students.

    If you would like to contact a current NYU LS student for real and accurate information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me: [email protected]

  6. I agree with all of the above comments. To paint LS in such a reductive light is to belittle the world of opportunity such an amazing program provides. A liberal studies background is a multidisciplinary foundation that shows educational and emotional maturity because it is an investment in yourself, your future career, and your community. I am a senior in my last semester of GLS, so in a way, I am a product of this program from beginning to end. I have had so many opportunities give to me that are UNHEARD of anywhere else. I have never had a class larger than 25 students, most of which were discussion based and less than 10 students. I have been able to take courses that have informed my personal passions and interests, some of which I never would have found for myself. I have had professors that cared about me and my academic career deeply. I have been given countless opportunities for global travel, often to areas I would otherwise never have been able to see. This is an education like no other. When I was a newly accepted freshman at NYU doing research on the school I had been accepted to I saw plenty of critique, both of the LS program and the GLS major. It made me doubt my choice, and shook my confidence in pursuing something that was so loosely defined. I don’t want any incoming student to look at this program, and think it wouldn’t set them up for a future. You are in control of your own career path in this program, and to falsely say that it fails its students in its ability to prepare for the real world post-graduation, is an enormous detriment to any student who was like me, and is nervous about what it means to join LS. I’m here to tell you that it will make you your best self. It will give you an unparalleled foundation, and from there you will be able to cater to your interests and your academic aims. If any incoming student or LS freshman/sophomore wants to talk to me about my experience my email is [email protected]

    I am happy to share, and provide encouragement! All the best LS-ers. Keep on keeping on!

  7. When I first got my acceptance letter from NYU, I was utterly confused when it said “Should you accept your offer to attend NYU, you are required to study in Paris the first year as part of the Liberal Studies Program.” I wanted to go to NYU but had no idea what the Liberal Studies Program was, and dreaded the idea of studying away as a FIRST YEAR. Flash forward, I’m a sophomore year on the Washington Square Campus. I can wholeheartedly say that being in LS has been a life changing experience. Having the opportunity to study away my first year showed me the meaning of “global.” From growing up in a small town in New Jersey to then being able to travel to different European countries at the age of 19, I finally understood my existence in relation to the bigger picture: the world. The classes were extremely engaging and trained me to look at things differently–to analyze more, to think deeper, to question all. I was almost positive that I would transition to another school after LS, but I chose GLS last semester because I fell in love. My peers are brilliant, my professors really care for all of their students’ well being and academic success, and the curriculum as a whole is something special. GLS has certainly changed who I am as a student and person and if you would like accurate information from a current student please contact me at any time at [email protected]

  8. This editorial is really disappointing in a number of ways. Liberal Studies and Global Liberal Studies are both programs that are quite young, and as any program of study (especially newer ones), it definitely has its problems. This analysis however, does not actually discuss the problems within LS, but instead decides to tear the entire program down based on opinions, which read as though the authors have never actually experienced the program.

    For one, the mention of the difficulty of how many core classes one must take and how it prevents from a speedy transition into the desired major is misguided. The majority of my peers from LS (who are all seniors now) have gone on to pursue degrees in other schools, including Journalism, Politics, International Relations, Economics, Social and Cultural Analysis, Business, Computer Science, Music, Game Design, Fine Arts, you name it. I can assure you the issues of core classes and the classes your major requires is not as big a deal as these authors have decided to make it. Successful transition into your major of choice is both facilitated and encouraged in the LS program and academic advisors exist for this very reason.

    Secondly, it is important to say that their critique of the curriculum as being overall useless unless you pursue philosophy and art history is blind and shows a complete lack of understanding of not only the texts they read and studied, but also the very foundation of most fields of study. The texts you will read in LS are texts that are expansive, inter-disciplinary, and literally the bases of most academics. To claim that Aristotle (one of the first thinkers to focus on economics), Machiavelli (deep importance in political theory), Plato (literally authored The Republic), Homer (wrote about wars, myths, and history), and many others, to claim that they’re useless in most academic pursuits shows that maybe this editorial board needs an LS foundation more than most of us.

    Again, LS has its problems, no one would deny that. But to claim the entire basis of its curriculum is a problem shows a lack of awareness on the authors’ parts. Their argument that what one Studies in LS is useless is a clear sign that the entirety of their argument is incorrect, poorly thought out, and even more poorly argued. I would urge anyone considering going into LS or GLS to talk to current students because they will have much better and more useful insight.

    As an additional note, LS provides you will the opportunity to study abroad your freshman year and really to experience learning in a global environment which most other majors are lacking (if you want to talk about how requirements prohibit studying where/what you want, just look at other majors and their limited study abroad offerings). The GLS major is one that actually asks that you take classes in a wide range of schools and topics. It is probably one of the least restrictive majors in NYU (second only to Gallatin). I have been able to take classes in Tisch, CAS, and Steinhardt. Many majors do not promote this type of interdisciplinary learning, nor do they require that you spend a year abroad, truly learning about what “global context” means. It’s upsetting that these authors decided to knock something that they clearly don’t understand, and that they did it in a completely unbalanced way.

  9. I completely agree with everything that has been said. LS and GLS has been an absolutely transforming personal and educational experience. Without GLS, I never would have studied in three cities, done research on two different continents, or had one-on-one attention with EVERY professor I have had over the course of my four years. The LS program and faculty has prepared me for my next steps after graduation, and I never would be where I am without it!

    For anyone interested in hearing an accurate account of what the LS department is really about, email me at [email protected]

  10. I want to thank my peers above for outlining the ways in which this op-ed is misleading and inaccurate; as a GLS senior, my experiences certainly echo the comments of my peers and therefore deeply contradict the “limitations” this article prescribes to the LS program.

    Not only am I immensely grateful to have been a part of the LS program itself, but I would also like to add that being a GLS student has allowed me to take my undergraduate education much further than I could have ever anticipated. At this point, I will be graduating in May of this year as a double-major in GLS and Art History. Not only that, but I have also started my Masters early in the BA/MA program and will therefore graduate in May 2018 with a Masters degree in Museum Studies. The completion of three degrees in a span of five years (without any J-Term or summer classes, I might add), plus a full year abroad in Berlin and extensive research trips to London, Stockholm, and back to Berlin, PLUS two full internship experiences in the arts and now a real-life paying job in the arts? Sounds like the opposite of “limiting” to me.

    I share these experiences because I want potential students to know that LS & GLS are not only incredible programs education-wise, but also that LS & GLS are extremely supportive. This program cares about its students—a fact that should not be overlooked. With the support of the LS community, I have far exceeded any expectations I had for myself in regard to my university education.

    The thing is, you’re going to run into required “core” classes in nearly any program. Lucky for me, the core classes in the LS program have made me a better candidate for real-life employability and have made my academic production far more interesting, intersectional, and unique. And as you can tell from the comments above, it is not just me. Considering these lived experiences in the LS program as evidenced in the comments, I hope that prospective students will see that this article does not do the LS program justice.

    Feel free to contact me at [email protected] if you have any further questions about this program!

  11. I agree with all of the previous statements. Liberal Studies provides courses that allow students to be independent thinkers and innovators. Reading about ancient and modern philosophers expands our knowledge allowing us to formulate our own ideas and perspectives. It is an invaluable program filled with professors who are well-versed in their different fields, and I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the most intelligent and engaging individuals there.

    Also, please reach out to me at [email protected] with any questions or concerns. I would be more than happy to talk!

  12. I have to agree with all of my peers commenting above. Perhaps the most infuriating sentence (if you made it to the end of this poorly written rant) reflected on the “irrelevant” required classes. How is exploring the history and culture of both your homeland and locations abroad irrelevant? The lessons I learned in Liberal Studies helped me to become a more global and knowledgeable citizen of the world. Oh, and if you think The Iliad is dry philosophy that only needs to be read once, you are sorely mistaken. The lessons in the classics, and The Illiad in particular, can readily be applied to the 21st century and offer us insight into fundamental ideas like humanity and compassion. Comments like these are not only damaging to incoming students, but also belittle the achievements my LS peers, who are some of the brightest students I have encountered in my four years.

  13. Once again, feeling so much love and enormous admiration for my brilliant, passionate, and unbelievably articulate peers. I truly don’t know anyone else at this school who is as in-love with school and learning as me + my classmates. The past three and a half years have been spent in tiny, engaging classrooms with professors whose guidance, support, care, and intellect continue to astonish me, as I’ve learned beside the most invested, hardworking, interesting, and interested peers I could possibly imagine. GLS/LS is the best-kept secret at this university, and it’s sad that it’s continuously painted in a less-than-desirable light. I don’t know of any other undergrads who received a grant to conduct thesis research + fieldwork in Senegal, Paris, Poland, Prague, Tel Aviv, or Sweden, who spend a year writing cutting-edge theses with unbelievable guidance, who have professors and classmates who are so invested in them as students and as people. And, I don’t know what other program would inspire its students who are all in the middle of insane theses to take the time to write these kind of responses. Proof of the kind of community this program fosters. I would be more than happy to speak/rave to anyone about this incredibly unique and important program—[email protected]

  14. I must express my honest view that this article is fundamentally distorting some facts in support of this argument that NYU Liberal Studies Program is a “waste of time.” First of all, with the integrated learning of political, philosophical, sociological, historical, argumentative, and interactive learning, Social Foundation is probably the best interdisciplinary learning for those who are currently undecided or want to learning something cross-cultural or cross-historical. The foundation is complemented by the cultural analysis in CF of which you can explore the different cultural context in different regions and histories. There, I was literally enlightened by many passionate professors and teachers in Liberal Studies. The author of this article claims that only one slot is open for elective. Wrong! Technically, after SF 1,2 and CF 1,2, and science(s), you have at least two or more slots based on your academic fulfillment of collegiate credits you previously had. If somebody needs a practical application, as the author claims, the person might as well transfer to different school, for they are very clear of what they want to learn. Liberal Studies provides a holistic, unique perspective to view the world in a global perspective, with a sound mind and, by God I claim, ethical consideration. Liberal Studies makes you a human not an information-memorizing robot. I dare to claim that I have an equal pride of Liberal Studies to be the frontier of New York University Violet Pride. If you need any additional information, contact me via [email protected].

  15. I graduated from the LS program, and yes, it was a waste of time. I also found that the courses were not as challenging at the ones I took in the College of Arts & Science which I transitioned into after 3 semesters in LSP. I am a Physics major and between LS (which has NO overlap with Physics) and my Physics courses + Foreign language requirement, I do not ever get to take any electives which may be of interest to me. Instead I have to jam-pack my schedule to finish everything in my 2 years of CAS.

    HOWEVER if you are a liberal arts/humanities major then LS is not a waste of time, I would think it is very beneficial.


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