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Calendar change up for vote Tuesday

September 2, 2011

 

 

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September 6 may change the fate of Monmouth College. Then again it may not. Next Tuesday, Monmouth’s faculty senate will vote a proposed calender change that could take effect as early as next year.

The proposed calendar change will shift Monmouth from its current semester-hour schedule to a 4-4 schedule where students would normally take only four courses per semester. The proposed courses would be the equivalent of four-credit courses under the current system.

The proposed academic calendar would also reduce current general education requirements by dropping the number of required art courses and the number of science courses from two courses each to one course each. The proposed calendar drops the human societies requirement entirely.

Under the proposed program, students would only be required to take 32 courses to graduate, with courses required for their major being limited to between 12 and 14. Ten courses would be required for general education requirements and the remainder would be open for electives or a second major.

The purpose of the proposed change is to enhance Monmouth’s academic quality by allowing students and faculty to more deeply engage in their studies, according to Dean of Faculty David Timmerman, who served as the chairman of the calendar committee that authored the proposal over the summer.

“It’s about doing fewer things better,” said Timmerman. Less courses will allow students and faculty to devote more time and energy to courses because they’ll have more time to dedicate to each class, said Timmerman.

Another motivation for change comes from looking at other schools in Monmouth’s academic consortium, the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) and similar liberal arts colleges affiliated with the Great Lakes College Association, more than 80 percent of which have an average course load of four courses or fewer per term.

“We’re actually going toward the norm,” said Timmerman. “Monmouth is the only school left in the ACM that has students taking more than four courses at a time.”

The calendar committee worked over the summer to try and hammer out the practical details of the 4-4 calendar that the faculty voted for last spring by a vote of 29 to 27. Some of the concerns they tried to address were how to allow students to double major while taking fewer courses.

The magnitude of the proposed change has raised some concerns around campus.

Howard Dwyer, professor in the mathematics and computer science department,  recently wrote a statement encouraging his fellow professors to vote against the current curriculum proposal. He listed seven reasons to vote against the proposal, including re-opening discussion about an additional term in January or February and continuing discussion on other issues regarding the possible curriculum change.

Dwyer expressed personal concern about the practical implications of the proposal’s statement that “Faculty will normally teach 6 courses a year, typically three courses a semester,” which he felt was too vague. He also voiced concern over limiting all majors to 12 to 14 credits. There is currently a wide range of credit requirements between majors. Accounting currently requires 50 semester hours and biochemistry requires 68 semester hours while art requires 39 semester hours and communications requires 36.

Professor Hannah Schell, who served on the summer’s calender committee, said other concerns she had heard faculty raise included concerns that dropping the human societies requirement might harm social science programs, that reducing lab sciences may hamper students’ quantitative reasoning, that the process is proceeding too quickly and that part of what currently makes the current Monmouth experience special is the wide variety of classes students can take.

Students have also expressed their concerns.

“I don’t feel like the students have had any say in it,” said sophomore Kyla Quigley. “There hasn’t been a discussion with the general student body and that’s been kind of a shame.”

Freshman Andrew Shiakallis didn’t even know about the possible calender change until a fellow student told him about it.

Shiakallis, who hopes to triple major, expressed concern about the reduction in student course loads. “I think students should have a choice. If they want to take an extra class, or maybe get an extra major or minor, they should be able to do it.”

Schell said that the committee made allowing students to double major and to graduate in four years a major priority of their proposal.

“Were not going to create a system that makes it impossible for students to graduate in four years” said Schell.

“There’s a lot of haggling and a lot of anxiety and that’s totally appropriate,” said Schell. “I’m hoping we can soon get to the stage where there’s a lot of excitement, because there’s reasons to be optimistic about what this massive change can make possible.”

The proposal will be voted on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at the next faculty meeting. The vote will allow for the additions of amendments and subsidiary motions to the proposal.

Wesley Teal
News Editor

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