Berkeley offers credit for learning 'how to solve the Rubik's Cube,' applying tattoos

The University of California-Berkeley is offering students more entertaining ways to earn credit toward graduating but, while these alternatives might make students happy, some conservative scholars are anything but thrilled. 

How to Solve the Rubik's Cube" and “Henna Art: Application and Cultural Perspectives” are both courses offered to UC-Berkeley students for credit toward graduating. According to the course descriptions, they teach students "how to solve the Rubik's Cube, [or] get faster at solving it" and to understand the “theoretical basis of the transnational meanings of Henna tattoos." 

Campus Reform reached out to UC-Berkeley to further inquire about these course offerings and their academic value. A spokesperson explained that the classes are creations of the school’s “DeCal” program. DeCal stands for “democratic education.” DeCal classes are "legitimate university classes run by students,” the university website explains. 

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“The responsibility of such courses rests on the department chair, faculty member, and student facilitator, who all sign a contract of understanding before the DeCal is reviewed by [the Committee on Courses of Instruction] / the Academic Senate. Grades are only offered as Pass / No Pass, and the academic credit for each class typically range from 0.5-2 units," the DeCal program's website states. 

While Campus Reform has reported on other courses,  such as “Cal Pokémon Academy," "UC Marvel Cinematic Universe," and "UC Hogwarts: The Wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter," which are also part of the DeCal program and worth as many as two credits, "How to Solve the Rubik's Cube" and "Henna Art: Application and Cultural Perspectives" are each worth one credit. 

UC-Berkeley runs more than 150 DeCal courses, which are taken by 3,000-4,000 students. The university says DeCals are “an excellent way of meeting the University’s minimum unit requirement” and that “and all students are encouraged to consider taking a course!”

Neither of the students in charge of the Rubik’s cube or Henna classes were available for comment.

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While students might see these courses as fun alternatives to conventional classes, some conservative scholars warn of dangers. 

National Association of Scholars Director of Research David Randall commented on UC-Berkeley and other colleges offering credit for such courses, telling Campus Reform that they create a “moral hazard.” American Council of Trustees and Alumni Johnathan Pidluzny also weighed in, saying that schools offering these courses are not challenging students, but "giving them a lollipop." 

UC-Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor of Communications Dan Mogulof, while commenting on DeCal courses to Campus Reform,  said, "the campus administration has no connection to or control over these [course] offerings." Mogulof referred Campus Reform to the academic senate, which approves DeCal courses, for any further questions. 

The UC-Berkeley academic senate has not responded to Campus Reform's request for comment. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @KyleHooten2