Students, faculty are the core of core curriculum

"Each of you can make a choice; you can either join with us (the administration) and influence the development of the core courses or you can stand on the side lines and not participate." Provost Paul Sypherd in a letter to faculty members.

On Aug. 30, the UA administration announced plans to develop a "university college." We liked much of what was proposed assigning faculty mentors, ensuring opportunities for senior research projects and changing the tenure structure to reward efforts in undergraduate education. But we raised some concerns about the "core curriculum" proposal (Staff Editorial, "A new (good?) idea," Sept.1).

The core curriculum proposal calls for incoming freshmen to take two year-long courses in three areas: natural sciences, arts and humanities, and individuals and societies. We asked questions about how many class sections will be offered, class sizes, how the courses would be organized, etc. We didn't expect instant-o-matic answers to our questions. We expected any changes in the general education requirements to be a slow, pragmatic process filled with compromises by students, faculty and the administration.

Well, it's two months later and the questions haven't been answered. The administration seems too high on the proposal to concern themselves with the prospect that core courses may not be the solution to the university's undergraduate education woes. If you listen to the rhetoric of Provost Paul Sypherd, the core curriculum proposal will happen with or without faculty and student support.

In September, the Arizona Board of Regents approved a $16.9 million building intended to house the new "university college." The "university college" building was approved before faculty committees were even formed to discuss the proposal. Maybe it's just us, but we have a problem with the administration making monetary requests even before consulting with faculty members on the viability of the proposal.

The administration set a dangerous precedent last week when it decided to recommend cutting the journalism and statistics departments without considering any student feedback. When we say feedback, we don't mean one token student who sits on the committee which makes recommendations on what to cut and keep. The administration should actively solicit students' opinions and concerns before making any decision which would have a substantial impact of their educational futures. Sypherd's excuse that it was taking too much time to get student's input on the departmental cutbacks is unacceptable.

The "core curriculum" proposal will affect all students and faculty members. A hastily implemented program could make the University of Arizona into an overglorified community college. Imagine an incoming freshmen having to take three 500-person lecture hall classes every semester for two years. Imagine courses which would give brief overviews in areas, but never explore anything in depth. Imagine having a course with three different professors with three different teaching styles and three different testing methods. Not a pretty picture.

Sypherd has said the details of the "core curriculum" are open for discussion. That doesn't cut it. The whole "core curriculum" proposal should be open for debate. The administration should launch an aggressive campaign for widespread student input. Sure, it might slow the process, but we're the ones paying to go to school here and we should have a voice in the course of the university. The administration also better be willing to listen to faculty members who are not only for the proposal, but also against it. To ignore faculty members because they don't agree with the basic proposal would be a sign of the UA administration's unwillingness to compromise.

The verdict is still out on "core curriculum," but the verdict on the UA administration is in. Read the letters in the Wildcat over the past week. The students are demanding that their voices be heard.

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