Conner McCullen
Contributor

Why Comets to the Core needs reform

If you’re a freshman or junior, at the start of the semester you probably noticed an extra class listed in the menu of eLearning: UNIV 1010 or 2020, respectively. This is Comets to the Core, a project meant to assess the effectiveness of UTD’s core curriculum. Since its implementation in the fall of 2017, CttC has been poorly executed and is in desperate need of reform.

On Sept. 9, students received the prompt for this year’s project: A Multi-Faceted Approach to Solving Childhood Poverty. CttC admittedly takes each year’s prompts from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and even the UN’s website recognizes that it is a “call to action by all countries … to promote prosperity.” The solution to this problem requires a global effort in which politicians in all countries, backed by the funding of billions of dollars, will be able to initiate the massive amount of change necessary. In other words, a project on such a large scale is far too big of a problem for a small sample of students to tackle. And the discouraging thing is that UTD knows this. For the fall 2017 semester, the prompt was to find solutions for the global water crisis, in which some students took the time to film 5 minutes of a water tap running, preceded by a sign that read, “Don’t do this.” They passed. UTD clearly isn’t taking this project seriously, and with many of the students on campus taking 15 or more hours of classes amidst studying for midterms, why should we? 

Frustrated with the project, I opened a thread on UTD’s subreddit page on Reddit to discuss CttC with other students. I did not do this to provide much of an argument, but rather to vent, in a comedic manner, to any others who felt the same way. However, naturally, some people took what I had to say seriously, leading some to defend my points and others to rebut them. I feel it’s necessary to address the point of those who held the counterargument. A user on Reddit asked an interesting question: “Is it a waste of time? Only as much as any other assignment. You don’t think your calculus professor is using the answers on your homework to make major mathematical breakthroughs, do you? No, it’s being used to benchmark your calculus skills.” While I can’t help but agree that the purpose of homework and CttC can be somewhat similar, I don’t believe they are properly analogous to make a complete argument in this situation. In homework for our courses, the assignment is meant to track our learning so that the professor may know whether we are able to apply the knowledge we’ve gained in the future (exams, careers, etc.). With Comets to the Core, whether or not we will ever be able to use the knowledge we acquire is unknown; and as evidenced by UTD’s 2017 CttC grading habits, it is likely we won’t. Furthermore, the class offers students 0 credit hours. So, while a homework assignment may be given as work to be completed outside of class, it can still have value contributed towards overall completion of that course — a value nowhere to be found in CttC. 

Students at UTD want to be involved in something bigger than themselves, as I’m sure most people would. The problem that most of us have with CttC is not that it is extra work. It’s that we will not have a direct effect on the task we’ve been given. Our time would be far better served if we could take the funding that’s available to us and apply it to projects that we are the experts in: projects centered around strengthening our communities and campuses for future generations. 

Discussion of potential project ideas has already begun on the subreddit. Some of these ideas — which could be meaningfully researched and explored by our students — include the increasing suicide rates in high school and college students, the predatory student loans being offered to 17-year-olds with little-to-no financial literacy or even the difference in educational opportunities offered to inner-city Dallas youth versus to suburban Dallas youth. Please take the time to consider these and maybe allow them to inspire you for any other ideas.

UTD could be a leading cause of change in our city, addressing problems close to home and serving as a pilot program for many ideas that the university actually has the power to fund. This could give the students something bigger than themselves to work on and something that they could see measurable effect on in their lifetimes.