By: STEPHEN M. SALISBURY
The Academic Senate meeting that began this past Friday with a moment of silence for colleagues who had recently passed quickly digressed into a debate over issues that many in the monthly meeting thought had been settled quite some time ago. In an effort to meet the Fall 2020 deadline for a report that is due to the Higher Learning Commission, which is required to maintain university accreditation, work has been ongoing for several semesters to review campus-wide requirements for General Education.
Interim Chancellor, Jann Joseph, highlighted the decrease in enrollment numbers and the trend of fewer high school graduates being produced in Indiana in the next ten years. The possible effects that could have on our campus were discussed with the bulk of the remaining time being devoted to discussing any possible revisions to the part of degree programs that help make IU South Bend a liberal arts institution.
Professors Lyle Zynda and Jim McLister, in their roles as co-chairs of the General Education Task Force, refereed a discussion that began with an appeal from several professional programs on campus to not increase or make significant changes to the current requirements. These concerns are mainly because they have very little flexibility in what they are required to expect students to complete to maintain their individual program accreditations. Adding more General Education required courses or revising the program extensively could have a negative impact on their ability to meet those requirements.
The task force was commissioned two years ago by Interim Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Linda Chen. According to Betsy Lucal, professor of sociology and co-chair of the standing Faculty Senate Committee on General Education, “The charge of the task force is to review the existing General Education program and make recommendations about revising it.”
The process of revision began incrementally last month when a resolution was proposed to, “Keep the four current fundamental literacies: writing, oral communication, quantitative reasoning and critical thinking…as fixed according to their current definitions, as approved originally by the Academic Senate in 2003.”
As was reported in Friday’s meeting, this proposal passed with overwhelming support in an electronic vote conducted by the faculty.
Friday’s meeting began to derail when the motion was made to support the proposal to retain, “The four Common Core areas: literary and intellectual traditions, the natural world, human behavior and social institutions, and art, aesthetics, and creativity as fixed according to their current definitions.”
The arguments began among faculty members when it was suggested that additional language should be included in the resolution that would mandate a certain number of credit hours within these areas of study. What many thought was simply a formality in passing the resolution as originally written got bogged down in parliamentary procedure with one professor even calling for a secret ballot to vote on the proposed amended language.
Ultimately, the amendment to the resolution was added and now will be voted on by the entire faculty much like the previous resolution had been. Another part of the heated debate was fueled when the question was asked as to why they were voting on pieces of the proposal and not the whole thing at once. The consensus was that as hard as it was to get these two smaller parts approved, attempting to get an entire policy passed all at once was not realistic.
Approaching the process this way allows for more discussion on the aspects of the proposal that have greater resistance. Given the cumbersome methodology involved, it appears that the faculty have a lot of work to do to meet the looming deadline ahead.