What Students Think of PACS
Students who have been here at the University of the Pacific since freshmen year are all too familiar with Pacific Seminars (PACS) and have mixed feelings about the general education course. I have heard my peers here at Pacific call PACS “a waste of time”, “pointless”, “unimportant” and other similarly negative terms. With so much disdain toward PACS from Pacific students, one has to wonder: Is PACS necessary? And how can PACS be improved?
Under the general education page on the University of the Pacific’s website, PACS is meant to “develop students’ critical thinking skills about significant personal, social, and political issues by means of extensive writing, reading, and class discussion” or in other words, PACS is supposed to teach students how to be productive members of society who are engaged in number of issues or at least know how to discuss those issues in an appropriate manner.
PACS I is titled “What is a Good Society?” and opens the freshman class to a discussions of social justice, environmental issues and politics through a collection of essays, novels and other readings. PACS II is topical, meaning that Pacific Students can choose which subject will be the foundation for which they explore questions about ethics and society. Students have choices that range from “Global Diffusion” to “Mathematics and Social Issues” to “Media & Pop Culture Critique”. And finally, there is PACS III, which students will take in their senior year. PACS III is titled “What is an Ethical Life?” and is the opportunity for students to put the result of their entire education at Pacific into addressing ethical and moral issues.
PACS definitely has a valuable goal but some Pacific students do not feel like they are benefiting from the way PACS is taught. An anonymous education student who will be graduating here at Pacific this year believes that PACS does not always accomplish its goal amongst students “I have heard stories from some people who took PACS I and said they had a great experience and had
professors who let them talk about whatever and in my PACS I class the professor believed that there was only one right answer.” The professor of PACS seems to be one of the deciding factors as to whether a PACS class succeeds or fails, and one of those factors is based on how open professors are to the opinions of the students. “The professor I had was not great at it…it was basically, her opinion was right and your opinion was nice.”
So, what can be done to improve PACS? Maybe PACS should be restructured and more open to class discussions and supportive of student opinions, no matter what they are? Or perhaps, the professor should be more of a moderator than a teacher? Or maybe PACS classes should be taught by professors who are actually invested in the subject of the humanities and social justice, because too many students see PACS as a waste of time that they just want to get over with, meaning that the important values that PACS is supposed to be teaching are ending up wasted and lost.