In Fall 2019, the Physics department will change the requirements necessary for a student to graduate with a degree in Physics. “We have basically reorganized and streamlined the way that material is presented in the introductory set of four physics courses, and in doing so, we have reduced the total number of credits required for the Physics major by three credits,” said Professor of Physics Glenn Piner. This means first-years coming to Whittier next year will have one less course to complete in order to receive a Bachelor’s of Science in Physics.
These changes will not affect students currently pursuing a Physics major, as these students will have to fulfill requirements that were in place the year they enrolled. “Whenever [students] enter Whittier, they come in under a particular catalog,” said Registrar John Hill, “[and they are] held to those standards. If the requirements change within a major, [the College] cannot hold you to the newest requirements.”
Whittier College is a private institution, meaning course requirements are determined by their respective departments and Whittier faculty. However, Whittier still has to adhere to the standards of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which the College is partnered with. “Most schools, in order to receive financial aid, must be accredited, and [Whittier] is accredited by this association. [WASC] is the only association we answer to as far as accreditation,” said Hill. In order to stay accredited by WASC, the College must routinely update courses to keep up with new technology and areas of study.
The process of actually changing a major’s requirements is, according to Hill, laborious. It requires that the potential changes be discussed by a committee, and voted on by faculty. “I [would not] say difficult, but it is a vetting process,” said Hill.
Hill explained that three years ago, the College made a number of changes to the requirements for the Anthropology major. Prior to this change, Whittier only offered an Anthropology/Sociology major, because Anthropology majors had limited course options. Since then, more Anthropology courses have been added, and students can now graduate with a degree purely in Anthropology. However, some students who were at the College before the change was made are still working to fulfill the requirements for the combined major, as it was available to them when they entered Whittier.
Whittier College’s major requirements are constructed by the various departments on campus to help students graduate within four years. To this end, the requirements a student must fulfill at the start of their college career remain their requirements up through their fourth year. Students can choose to change their catalog to the updated one if the newer requirements seem more appealing; however, this change is irreversible. “[Students] can always go up a catalog; [they] just cannot go backwards,” said Hill.
Departments will sometimes have to change their requirements due to factors outside their control, such as professors leaving mid-semester. Regarding this, Hill said, “Even if there is a change, and they discontinue a class within the middle of [a student’s] matriculation, then [the College] would do what we call an alteration, or a substitution of courses that [a student has] already taken.” The College will never place new requirements on a student while they are earning their degree.
Past and current catalogs are available on the College’s website, my.whittier.edu.