Opinion: Why AUx Should Be Replaced With A Public Policy, Economics and Civics Course

We live in a world where news is readily available, yet there are still so many nuances you wouldn’t know unless you’ve taken public policy and economics. Every time a politician comments on the state of the economy when you haven’t taken an economics class, you just have to believe them. What if I told you there is more to the economy than just unemployment and the stock market - And what if I told you the stock market wasn’t all that important? 

AU has committed to “the development of thoughtful, responsible human beings in the context of a challenging yet supportive academic community,” according to the University mission statement. AU’s mission also claims that “its distinctive feature, unique in higher education, is its capacity as a national and international university to turn ideas into action and action into service.” If we are committed to creating a group of thoughtful and responsible human beings, shouldn’t we be teaching our students how to be active members of society? AUx, while it might be helpful for some students to help them navigate college, does not create students who are active members of society.

In 2016, American University debuted a new course meant to help first-year students navigate their first year at AU. There have been complaints since the first semester of AUx was created that it was unnecessary and a waste of time, but until this semester, it has been an optional class for most incoming freshmen. Now, there have been rumors circulating that the class of 2022 is revolting against AUx. I surveyed the classes of 2021 and 2022 via Facebook to see who liked and disliked AUx and 83% of around 200 respondents said they didn’t find the class helpful. 

The University hasn’t released specific numbers for how many people have benefited from AUx. Instead, they have published answers to some common questions about AUx including how students have benefited from the course. According to their website, “Students who have participated in AUx have a greater sense of belonging, which makes them more willing to engage with and contribute in their new learning environment.” This is a vague statement which if I were to guess didn’t come out of a student’s mouth. What student describes one of their classes as giving them a greater sense of belonging? Probably not that many. 

There should be a required class which teaches civics, public policy, and basic economics in order to fulfill the American University mission statement. The course could replace what is now the first semester of AUx as the class is unpopular and unhelpful for most. This change would allow all of our students to engage with the world around them. 

AUx is helpful to some students who have never learned basic skills such as how to seek out help from your professors or how to write a professional email. However, learning those skills could take place in college writing, the only other required class for first-year students. A lot of the material learned in AUx could be bundled together into one lesson for college writing instead of having a whole semester dedicated to these skills. In addition, there could be mandatory office hours for every first-year student in all of their classes, especially college writing. Most of the curriculum of AUx could be covered in just one or two days of another class.

Why is it important to make public policy and economics a requirement? American University committed to creating engaged citizens and it is essential to learn in this world of constant bombardment of the news. American should be providing all of their students with the necessary foundation needed to read and respond to the news. Taking public policy and economics has taught me that I did not truly know my way around the world.

We live in a digital age. Information is readily accessible to us, but many of us do not know what it means or how to understand it. If American University wants to create engaged citizens that do good in their communities, they need to establish a basic understanding of economic, and political concepts for their students. 

Ultimately, AU does a great job in preparing students for life after college. 92% of graduates are working or in grad school in the first 6 months after graduation, and 89% of students participate in at least one internship. Making this one change to a course in the first semester of freshman year could make this university even better. 

Reach out to the Vice President Fanta Aw and Dean of Students Jeffery Brown to make your frustrations about AUx known. Suggest they replace it with a new class to create engaged students. Since this is such a big change to the curriculum, I see this class being taken away and replaced with an entirely new class which is why students seeking a to get rid of AUx should go above the people who currently run the class.

(Images taken by the author.)