Tag Archives: general education

Editorial: Is General Education A Scapegoat?

There’s been a lot of debate over what the University should do to fix our general education system. Some parties are saying that we should eliminate various courses that seem unnecessary to further a student’s education.

The SGA President at this University has presented his ideas to the general education ad hoc committee. He seems to think that it needs to be broadened to give students more options. That is the opposite of most of the drafts from the committee itself. They seem to agree on the fact that the system should be reduced slightly to keep students moving through their education and out into the real world.

It seems that the major talking point for a system overhaul is the graduation rate. The concern makes sense. We should be pushing for students to get through the University in four years. Instead, some of us are struggling to get out of here in six. Adding two years of student loans to the pile of debt that a graduate has already accumulated is nothing to take lightly, but we might not be looking at the whole picture.

Is the general education program really to blame? Have we settled on that as a definitive cause or is that our scapegoat? The system might need a small tweak, but only if we are addressing the closely related issues, which assist in holding back students, as well.

Take, for example, our advising system. Too many students have no idea what they should be taking when the add/drop period rolls around. This isn’t due to the fact that they haven’t had a meeting with their advisor, but it seems that some of those doing the guidance might not have all the answers either.

The degree evaluation system is too screwy. It’s complicated enough to figure out that you’re supposed to be taking a course when you are, but telling whether or not you’ve fulfilled an entire study area is another. Then what happens when the advisor is correct in their suggestions, but the student cannot get into the desired class?

Block scheduling. This was supposed to happen a long time ago, but we’re still stuck. For some reason, people cannot get what they want when it comes time for them to register. Where that problem stems from is irrelevant; it needs to be fixed. Students still have courses during the “university hour”and classes are over booked. With a fix to an online system that controls scheduling, this could easily be avoided.

Even with all the systems in place, the students should be held responsible completely. It’s their education and if they want to get out of here, it would behoove them to research what it takes to do so.

General education has opened a lot of doors for many students at this University and a scalping of the system would certainly take away from the exposure that someone gets to a new major. It’s a program that can turn a communication major into a business major. Letting a student experience a new discipline should always be a priority.

A well-rounded education is what differentiates a college from a trade school. Before we are quick to point the finger at general education, and subsequently wait to see if its reform changes anything, let’s make sure that we tackle any other existing issues as well. When the committees meet to decide what our programs should be, we hope that they take into account all sides. We should not just do what makes more sense financially, or somehow visually, for our university.

General Education Proposals Raise Concerns

By Rachael Bentley

The Thursday before Connecticut got hit with an unusual October snowstorm, a different storm was already brewing in room 231 in Copernicus during a campus-wide meeting for the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee for General Education.  The whole point of this meeting was to discuss the initial ideas for the revision of general education.

There are four proposed plans thus far. Plan A changes nothing and keeps the current general education curriculum as is. Plan B has minimal changes to current program.

Plan C makes significant changes, including the removal of FYE classes and implementing a first-year critical inquiry seminar, and the need to complete a 112 language course or take a placement test to demonstrate that the student is already at a proficient level.

Plan D would give the current program a complete over-haul and would require students to complete a language 125 course (or place out with testing), would require a first year critical inquiry seminar, a senior year experience seminar and a course abroad experience, as well as greatly changing what would be required in math, science and other courses across the curriculum.

There were many parts of these revisions that I thought were major improvements, but some I did not agree with.

I do not believe that at a university should require all of their students to take a gym or health class. Are we not all adults and in control of our own bodies and minds? If we don’t know by now that we should maintain a healthy lifestyle, practice safe sex and drink responsibly then that is an issue that should be addressed by giving students the option of taking a class like PE 144, not force it upon them.

However, I thought the idea of implementing a critical thinking requirement for every student could in fact benefit everyone and allow for students to have more of a choice in what they are learning.

One of the main issues that is evident about the current curriculum is that many students see classes as a box to check off at the end of each semester, and I personally feel like this every time I do my own degree evaluation.

It would be in the students’ best interest if the committee designed a curriculum that would allow students to take classes that focus more on their major and helped prepare them more for the professional world.

My greatest concern focuses on what was said during this open forum. I was surprised and disturbed by the amount of faculty that spoke against requiring students to do more rigorous and challenging classes, such as taking more languages or requiring a critical thinking class.

Whether they meant to or not, I got the general vibe that they did not believe that CCSU students could live up to these requirements.  And to be honest, I’m sure that a lot of students would turn their noses up at the idea of having to take a semester or two of a language.

Looking at the bigger picture, making these changes to the current program would in fact make CCSU a better school. How would future employers of CCSU graduates feel if they knew they could speak more than one language or use critical thinking skills?

Companies that hire CCSU graduates experience first hand what a CCSU student can bring to the table, and pushing students to work harder for their degree will reflect in their work ethic later on.

These changes may not affect us directly, but the credibility of what college or university you graduated from can follow you your whole career. Higher education is supposed to be a time in your life where you are pushed academically, and is supposed to be a challenging experience. Perhaps it is time that CCSU started pushing their students a little harder, and expected more from them.

Faculty Senate Debates General Education Plans With Committee

By Jonathan Stankiewicz

The Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee for General Education has four plans that would reform general education from its current state. The “goal program” is the most radical of the four and would take away the first-year experience classes for freshmen and English 110.

Those are just a few examples of what “Plan D” on the draft proposal changes. It gets rid of all of the major categories for general education that we know today and changes or eliminates them.

Students would be able to pick classes from categories like “human cultures,” “ethical and civil engagement,” “physical and natural worlds,” “mathematics and statistics” and “writing across the curriculum.”  These are much different categories from the current “arts & humanities,” “social sciences,” “behavioral sciences,” “communication skills” and “mathematics.”

The committee is made up by Thomas Burkholder, Robert Wolff, Mary Anne Nunn, Olga Petkova, Paul Resetarits, Thomas Burkholder and Rachel Siporin of CCSU. They saw from the online polling of faculty on campus that it’s time for a look at general education on campus, said Wolff. Wolff mentioned that the general education system in place hasn’t been changed for more than 13 years. Burkholder added that the committee only has 44 credits to work with, at least one-third of the credits in an undergraduate degree, due to a state mandate.

Two weeks ago an open meeting was held and faculty were able to ask the committee questions about their draft proposals in an open discussion.

Under the “goal program” mathematics and statistics would still be a six-credit minimum, with a 12-credit maximum, but would require students to take at least one calculus class.

Stephen Cohen, English Department Chair, asked the committee if they were prioritizing mathematics in the “goal program” by placing the “six credit minimum” on mathematics and statistics while only requiring a “three credit minimum” for all of the other categories in the plan. Burkholder quickly said that from the polling, faculty want students to have “good quantitative skills.”

That question sparked a debate about the category in the “goal program” requiring students to take at least one calculus class. Faculty in the room didn’t take that addition lightly, but Burkholder was quick to respond.

“The traditional calculus class has multiple pieces to it,” said Burkholder. He maintained that understanding those types of concepts is very important and that students need to have the ability to interpret graphical information. His thinking is to have more of an understanding than students just understanding algebra concepts.

The proposed “first-year critical inquiry seminar” was explained as a course to substitute English 110 and to allow students to choose a course that they would be interested in. It would be a writing course for freshman and incoming transfer students, but would have to be tailored by the faculty member teaching the course. Transfer students would have a separate section since they aren’t first-year students. The committee said that the course would be taught by faculty from many areas of study so that students would actually be able to pick a course that they would like. The goal is to allow students to get a well-rounded education, but keep them interested in the subjects that are being taught.

Another open meeting is scheduled on Nov. 17 for the General Education Committee. Any further discussion, comments or questions can be addressed at the committee’s blog at www.you.ccsu.edu/gened or email committee member Robert Wolff directly at wolffr@mail.ccsu.edu. In order to comment you have to register for the site.

General Education Blog Will Allow For Campus Input

By Justin Muszynski

The Faculty Senate’s Ad Hoc General Education Committee announced Thursday that they are running a blog allowing members of the campus community to give their opinion about general education and what it should consist of in the case of a redesign.

The committee says that the blog site has existed for some time now, but that the first post about general education and a possible revision to it was put up on Wednesday and the email letting students know this went out the next day. They hope to get everyone’s ideas about what general education should be and this is one way that they can do that.

“The committee hopes to facilitate a campus-wide conversation about general education at CCSU,” says Robert Wolff, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee. “The blog format allows all members of the campus community to share their ideas.”

The blog will be active all the way through finals but will more than likely not be used in the summer. Wolff says he hopes to reactivate it in the fall for a couple of weeks before the committee puts a draft together. This is just one of the several steps they have taken to gather input from the campus community.

They conducted a survey amongst faculty this semester that showed of the 230 members surveyed, 61.3 percent either agree or strongly agree that the general education system should be redesigned.  They also hosted several open meetings in Founders Hall that allowed people to voice their concerns in person.

Any draft of a general education redesign would be put together by the committee in the fall. They hope any draft will be approved by the spring of 2012 and begin to take effect in the fall of 2013.  If this were to happen, any student coming in prior to the fall semester of 2013 would have the option to either fulfill the requirements of the current general education system or the new one.

The current system was put in place in 1998 and requires a minimum of 44 to 46 credits in general education studies, not including the foreign language department, and has four study areas and four skill areas.

As far as what’s next for the committee in the informational gathering phase that they are in, it’s uncertain at this point.

“It’s an important step in gathering info but I can’t say now whether it will be the last,” says Wolff. “That will depend upon what we learn.”

Gen Ed Ad Hoc Committee Compares Program to Other Schools

By Justin Muszynski

In the midst of a possible general education reform, the Central Connecticut State University Faculty Senate General Education Ad Hoc Committee is now looking at the curriculum of other universities to get an idea of which systems work most efficiently.

Their goal is to see what’s out there and what works best, but to keep the curriculum unique to the campus and students of CCSU.

“We’ve looked at a lot of different models but we have to remember that we’re not other schools,” says Thomas Burkholder, associate professor of chemistry.  “General education has to be a product of the faculty and the students you have in order to make it unique to us.”

The committee is still in the information-gathering phase, but Burkholder said a draft of any proposed changes to the system should be completed by the fall semester. They hope that those approved by the spring 2012 semester will take effect in the new course catalog beginning in the fall of 2013.

As far as the committee’s opinion on what changes should happen to the current general education system, Burkholder said they are trying to remain neutral for the purpose of gathering as much unbiased input as possible from faculty and staff. They are planning on sending out a survey to faculty within the next few weeks that would ask them to rank certain aspects of the current system and to express what they like and what they don’t like. As far as student input, they have several ideas on how to get them involved.

While they are pleased with the turn out of the open meetings they hosted in Founder’s Hall, they say it could have been better. One idea they have would be to host small focus groups that would consist of students and faculty collectively expressing their views and concerns.

They are also in the process of expanding their website in order to allow more places for feedback and opinions about the committee’s ideas. Another thing they are considering is to use Facebook as a tool to gather student input.

Burkholder also warns that any suggestions made should keep in mind the budget deficit that the state is currently facing.

“Any suggestions we come up with should be revenue neutral,” Burkholder said. “Having said that, we can still reorder priorities.”

Burkholder also said the state of Connecticut regulates the minimum amount of credits that have to be a part of general education for a university, and that number is 43. Any new system would have to stay consistent with those state regulations.

Any proposed changes would also have to be approved by the curriculum committee, the Faculty Senate and CCSU President Jack Miller before taking effect. Burkholder said that the committee believes the university would most likely stick with the current general education system they use now should their proposal not make it through the approval process.

A recent survey distributed to 230 faculty members about CCSU’s general education program found that of the 230 members surveyed, 61.3 percent either agree or strongly agree that the program should be redesigned.

The current system was put in place in 1998 and requires a minimum of 44 to 46 credits in general education studies, not including the foreign language department, and has four study areas and four skill areas.

General Education Redesign Talk Heats Up Despite Empty Open Forum

By Matt Clyburn

CCSU professors Thomas Burkholder (left) and Robert Wolff at the open forum. Photo: Matt Clyburn

A public hearing was held Wednesday in Founders Hall by the Faculty Senate General Education Ad Hoc Committee to field comments and suggestions from students and teachers on a possible redesign of the program.

Robert Wolff, associate professor of history and assistant to the dean for the School of Arts and Sciences, opened the hearing by announcing a “clean slate” in the committee’s approach to redesigning the program.

“One of our goals today is to have enough questions and comments to write another survey…and go back to faculty and students for more feedback,” Wolff said.

A recent survey distributed to 230 faculty members about CCSU’s general education program found that of the 230 members surveyed, 61.3 percent either agree or strongly agree that the program should be redesigned. Wolff told The Recorder that the hearings and surveys are one step in a long process. Any changes to the program would have to be approved in several committees and the Faculty Senate as a whole with the ultimate approval coming from President Jack Miller.

“As part of the process, we’re holding open meetings, we anticipate more survey work and we look forward to as much input and participation as we can possibly obtain,” Wolff said. “With that in mind, we really would just like to hear what the campus community…thinks about general education and what they would like to see.”

“We are limited in our deliberations by a few things, one of which is that the state of Connecticut mandates that one-third of the credits in any academic degree be dedicated to this thing called general education,” said Wolff. “We have been asked to try to develop a plan that is resource neutral, meaning that it does not imagine that we expand the size of the faculty. We assume that at some level all of the work that we do in creating a gen ed program will have to be validated for our accreditors through some form of student assessment yet to be determined.”

Ray Perreault, professor of manufacturing and construction managements, suggested that a current events course be added as well as “one three-credit course where five weeks would be dedicated to each of the professional schools.”

Perreault added that such a course could help to relieve the requirements of one or more general education courses already in place. Perreault also pointed out that when the program was first restructured in 1991 students were required to take 62 general education credit hours rather than the 44 to 46 required now.

“I think that writing across the curriculum is so important that I would vote for some sort of writing requirement outside of the English department. Students might take a writing-intensive course in a discipline outside of English,” said Dr. Kristine Larsen, physics and earth science department professor and former director of the CCSU honors program. “The other skill that our students need is information literacy, they have to be able to judge who are reliable sources, who are not reliable sources and that can also be built into numerous courses around campus.”

Guy Crundwell, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said that “Ultimately, [students’] gen eds make no serious impact on their academic life…it’s just icing for the cake.”

“I find it odd that for gen eds we create these checklists telling them which icings are good for you, which icings aren’t. You know, students may have certain flavors that they want to try themselves,” Crundwell said. “I’ve always had the most liberal and open sense of general education – that it’s general, it’s their choice because it’s their dime and it will round them the way they want to be rounded and not constrict them if they want to change majors.”

Faculty members discussed a proposed idea where individual schools would determine general education requirements rather than the university. Supporters argued that it would help similar majors maintain similar courses of study and prevent those students from taking classes unrelated to their majors, while detractors argued that giving individual schools such power would prevent students from getting a well-rounded education.

“Is general education designed to give students some basic fundamental skills or is general education designed to give faculty members something to do?” asked Dr. Jacob Kovel, chairperson of the manufacturing and construction management department. “There are certain skills that every student should have when they graduate. Beyond that, what is the philosophy of general education supposed to be?”

Dave Blitz, professor of philosophy, who participated in the general education design of the 1990’s, said that “Resources are not infinitely expendable and indeed we can expect in the next few years that they are going to be contracting.”

“It was a tragedy [in 1991] that we had more and more of these good ideas and objectives without taking into account priorities, resources and constraints, and I would like to see that done this time around with general education reform,” Blitz said.

Jason Jones, president of the CCSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, believes that the proposed higher education system restructuring at the state level could negatively influence plans for general education changes if those concepts are not taken into account.

“One of the things we have heard is that they want to have the [proposed] Board of Regents identify the general education standards for the CSU schools,” said Jones. “I think that the [higher education proposal] could possibly trump our hopes for reorganizing general education. It’s possible that there would be no meaningful campus control over curriculum.”

The current system was put in place in 1998 and requires a minimum of 44 to 46 credits in general education studies, not including the foreign language department, and has four study areas and four skill areas.