Three weeks ago, USC sent out an email, which ten people read, asking for feedback on some suggestions for a new GE program.

I am as glad as a plastic trash bag that I took the time to read these and mad that there is no Internet equivalent of a plastic trash bag for me to shovel the committee’s crazy bull!@*& into.  While I respect that the committee members are wise and knowledgeable educators, the attitude towards the USC community displayed here is remorseless, coldhearted, self-centered and manipulative under a veneer of charm.  If you’re into insanity, you’ll recognize these as common traits of psychopaths.

With Michael McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths about to release, I thought it would be appropriate to match up each of the seven main recommendations with the appropriate nutcase character as laid out in the trailer.  Enjoy.

Recommendation #1 vs. Psychopath #2: The Best Friend

The Gist: Eight GEs, @#%$ers!

Our current GE program goes something like this:

Category I: (Mostly) Dead White Guys

Category II: Everyone Else

Category III: How to Science

Category IV: Why to Science

Category V: ‘A’ is for ‘Arts’ and ‘Awesome’

Category VI: #&@$ Happens

Let’s go ahead and break down what we’re actually adding based on this recommendation.

  • Category V counts for the art,
  • Categories III and IV wrap up the two obvious sciences,
  • Category VI covers one social science,
  • and Categories I and II cover the humanities,
so what we’re actually getting in addition is
  • another social science (or maybe a humanity, they overlap)
  • and quantitative reasoning, a.k.a. straight up math.
That’s eight credits that I didn’t need to study.  Or pay for.  Or worry about.  Social sciences can be interesting, and I love math, but in general we can all agree that
8 GEs > [but not better than] 6 GEs.
Sam Rockwell’s character Billy stole a mob boss’s Shih Tzu, named Bonny, and this recommendation steals the student mob’s metaphorical Shih Tzu, named Open Credits.  And we don’t like people who mess with our Shih Tzu.

Recommendation #2 vs. Psychopath #4: The Hot Girlfriend

The Gist: Major and minor classes should fulfill GEs.

Well, this is just terrible, because… GEs are meant to be exclusive to student critical thinking development… and we like having lots of irrelevant credits…


I can’t even pretend this isn’t cool.

The most rigorous majors have no spare credits after GEs and sanity breaks.  If core classes count as GEs, you open the busiest students up to the academic pursuit of their side interests, which, what do you know, promotes academic breadth.  I could write Campus Basement articles in Japanese!  Wouldn’t you love that, dear readers?  You’d hate it?  Aww.  But the point is that we’d theoretically have more freedom than William Wallace.

Even though Recommendation #1 means that one major credit GE and one minor credit GE still leaves you with six GEs, Recommendation #2 is still pure awesome.

Olga Kurylenko, most famous for her role as the Bond Girl in Quantum of Solace, is a slender-but-curvy green-eyed lips-meant-for-kissing bombshell so smoking that the Surgeon General once considered tattooing a warning label onto her forehead.  Recommendation #2 is the same.

OK, figuratively.  But I’m still turned on.

Recommendation #3 vs. Psychopath #6: The Passive-Aggressive Girlfriend

The Gist: We don’t care if schools beside Dornsife offer GEs.  Why would we be mad about that?  We just teach all those classes, NBD.

Why should anyone care if twelve of the 22 committee members are professors who teach the Three D’s (David, Dana, and Dornsife)?  I mean, they’re just college professors.  It’s not as if they have human instincts like self-preservation and lust for power and money.  Why would we worry that they were anything less than completely sincere about offering GEs to other programs, hmmm?

I feel so unclean writing like that.

Is the control of liberal arts education some sort of Iron Throne?  Does House Dornsife fear an incursion by House Theater and and House Gerontology?  Whatever the case, this petty egocentrism bodes ill for cooperation between Dornsife and the other schools, which is kind of the basic principle beneath several of these recommendations.

Like Abbie Cornish’s character Kaya, this recommendation may become a great thing, but only if it learns to play nicely with others.

Recommendation #4 vs. Psychopath #1: The Seemingly Normal One

The Gist: Category V, Arts and Letters, is popular because it fulfills Four Fs: Fun-Size Fun For Freshmen. Let’s keep it.

At first, this seems like a fine idea, just like Colin Farrell’s character Marty seems like a fine, average guy.

Wrong. Taken with a few of the Other Recommendations, this means that all students would take WRIT 140 and two GEs their freshman year as a requirement.  If they can require you to take two GEs freshman year, they can require eight GEs in the first two years without breaking a sweat.

What little flexibility I have is precious to me, and if some individuals can contort their schedules to fit their personal ideal, I vote that they continue to enjoy the luxury of choice.  Like Neo.

Capstone courses, another Other Recommendation, destroy that choice by forcing GEs earlier to accomodate preparation for and execution of massive final projects.  Add in WRIT 340 as a ‘GE capstone’, and it becomes more like planning your own funeral.  More like headstone courses.

The paranoid nadir of this extrapolation is that all of USC turns into UCLA’s undergrad film program, which forces you to take your GEs and then apply to the film school during your sophomore year for acceptance as a junior.  If you don’t make it, sucks to be you.

Come on, USC.  Don’t be UCLA.

Recommendation #5 vs. Psychopath #3: The One with Issues

The Gist: Have a GE Oversight Committee of mostly Dornsife professors make sure that GE courses are good enough, hard enough, and liberal arts enough.  Make sure professors don’t give all good grades.  Oh, and encourage creative classes, like interdisciplinary team-taught classes that can count for either of two GE categories.

In three words: “No easy GEs.”  In a classic case of academic rigor mortis, Recommendation #5 clings stiffly to the mummified maxim that professors must force students to fight like dogs for a handful of As.

You know what?  Dogfights end in two ways, and whether the students crash and burn or die in the ring, they still end up as stiff as the bureaucrats that put them on the slab.

Yes, the team-taught GE classes are a good idea.  They may well be the saving grace of the math GEs.  That isn’t enough to redeem the Oversight Committee of its intent to institute academic Battle Royale by bullying professors.  Oh, and because the Dornsife majority are clearly reasonable people, everyone will be bullied equally.  Some may be bullied more equally than others, but that’s just Orwellian and liberal artsy, right?

Charlie Costello, played by Woody Harrelson, recently lost his Shih Tzu, and he will hurt people to get Bonny back.  The GE Oversight Committee, played by a motley cast of Dornsife professors, recently lost their exclusive license to kill students’ time, so they applied for a license to kill students.

Recommendation #6 vs. Psychopath #7: The One with the Bunny

The Gist: The schools should encourage their professors to teach undergraduates by leaping through hoops of red tape to make their courses qualify as GEs.

Like Tom Waits’s bunny-bearing psychopath Zachariah, it’s hard to tell from the trailer what kind of crazy Recommendation #6 is going to be.  Will USC professors gladly shoulder the burden of teaching the unenlightened and cultivate GEs, or will they treat the whole thing as a big yoke and shrug it off?

Recommendation #7 vs. Psychopath #5: The Non-Violent One

The Gist: Let’s call GEs something else so students don’t know that they hate them.

I find it hard to believe that USC accepted us on our academic merit if it thinks we’re this dumb.  A GE by any other name would smell as dull and unnecessary, like a new textbook that costs $200.

This proposition worries me more than any other about the future of USC, and it upsets me that the character I identify it with is my favorite character from Seven Psychopaths, Christopher Walken’s Hans.  He won’t put his hands up with a shotgun trained on him, and he radiates confidence.  USC spat on the undergraduate program and gave us the opportunity for sawed-off commentary.  Why do I feel like they’re laughing?

In Conclusion

For SC, the comedy is all in the timing.  If you’re reading this, the odds are overwhelming that your GEs won’t change as a result of this committee.  The class of 2016 would feel it at the absolute earliest, and it probably won’t take hold until the class of 2018 or even later.  So the people it matters to will never read these papers.  Ha ha.  Ha.

So, the question is, “If I’m grandfathered in, why should I join the interested masses?  It doesn’t matter to me, so why force myself to care?”

Personally, I’ve come to the decision that posterity isn’t just some 2D slogan to stick up on my bedroom wall next to the Dark Knight Trilogy.  When I’m a USC alum looking for interns and employees,  I don’t want to come back to a pack of learning-loath, world-weary, battleworn psychopaths.  That sounds like the setup of a horrible horror movie (28 Years Later?).

To avoid this, please take a minute to give USC some feedback.  Seriously, if you agree with me, you can cut and paste from this article, or even just throw the hyperlink in the additional comments with a little “I agree.”

Or disagree with me.  That’s fine too, as long as you get your opinion in there.  They want feedback by October 1st, a.k.a. Monday.

Let’s make SC Fight On in the way that we want, instead of SC fighting us.