Should psychobiology fulfill SMC’s scientific understanding requirement?
By Joshua Suhaimi
Visiting opinion columnist
At Saint Mary's College of California, all students are required to take a "scientific understanding" core requirement course which is any course that is designated as "scientific", and includes a lab and lecture. All psychology students are required to take the psychobiology course, which includes a lab and a lecture, but the course does not fulfill the scientific understanding requirement. Instead, psychology students are expected to take a "real” science or "hard science" course which does not include psychology. Psychology is sometimes called a “soft science” because the study of behavior, the mind, personality, and cognition are intangible, and often associated with humanities and/or liberal arts. Courses that fulfill the scientific understanding requirement include biology, chemistry, physics, kinesiology, and biochemistry, but often require prerequisite introductory courses that do not fulfill the requirement. Classes like geology or astronomy can also fulfill the requirement, but have limited availability with only one class section usually being offered per semester, at best. More often than not, there is one section in Fall and none in Spring, and they are always filled quickly, leaving no room for other students.
Psychobiology arguably includes multiple disciplines of science, including but not limited to: psychology, biology (cellular, molecular, genetic, evolutionary, health/medical), chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and neurology. It is trivial and simply absurd to require a "hard science" course such as geology or astronomy because psychobiology doesn't count as "scientific understanding". Psychology alone is a science, as it is a part of the school of science, but with the inclusion of biology and other sciences it should undoubtedly qualify as a science course. The decision to not count psychobiology as a scientific understanding course was made a decade ago by the administration at Saint Mary's and is an outdated and flawed choice based on an outdated perspective. In this day and age, with the growing usefulness and popularity of the field of psychology this ideology is unsensible.
Many psychology students are forced to take courses unrelated to their major to be able to graduate which, to many of us psychology majors at Saint Mary’s, feels like a waste of a course, especially when there are only four classes students are able to take in a typical semester. Typically, the only options that do not require prerequisites are geology and astronomy, both of which are at less than ideal times for most students (8 AM), and both of which are often full and waitlisted for registration. As a student who will be graduating this semester, any changes to this system would not personally affect me, but I would not want anyone else to have to experience what I and so many others had to go through, both currently and in the past.
The decision on this matter is out of the reach of the psychology department faculty, however, many psychology professors agree that psychology, and by extension, psychobiology, is certainly a real science. After all, psychology at SMC is in the school of science! As it stands, many students have to take a course completely unrelated to their major in order to graduate, and the other science classes have less space for students who actually want to take those courses. The current system reinforces the idea that psychology isn't a "real science", which is detrimental to not only the hundreds of current psychology students at SMC, but also to all the future psychology students who decide to attend SMC, and the development and progress of society as a whole.
Madison Sciba '24,