Dissolution of committees limits curriculum debate

Provost Paul Sypherd announced Monday that the 11 committees of 350 faculty members and some students discussing core curriculum will be disbanded. He said most of the planning will be placed in the hands of the central core curriculum group of 35 members.

The committees and subcommittees were dealing with a fairly loose framework regarding the core curriculum and there were complaints that the meetings were often chaotic and lacking in direction. Sypherd's move to have the central committee provide more direction makes sense, but eliminating the subcommittees and committees is a mistake.

First of all, Sypherd gave the 11 committees a very limited amount of time to produce results. The committees were suppose to give substantive written and oral reports on their findings by Nov. 30. The Provost asked for the committees to come up with findings on how to completely overhaul the general education requirements within less than three months. Time was not on their side.

In addition, by eliminating the committees, core curriculum critics are effectively silenced. Even while core curriculum proposals are being drawn up, there should be open debate on whether core curriculum is feasible. In June, a faculty committee studying general education requirements released a report that deemed the core curriculum as "unworkable in the environment of a large, public, land-grant university." How would the administration react if faculty members did not support the proposal which will come from the central committee? Would the core curriculum be completely scrapped?

Sypherd said one of the reasons why the committees were dissolved was the reluctance of many faculty members to back away from their specialty areas and teach "more broadly." The administration needs to address this reluctance as much as possible rather than sweep it under the rug. The perception of the administration bulldogging the core curriculum through is not helped by getting rid of the committees before even preliminary findings could be announced.

The committee process was chaotic, slow and may have forced administrators to compromise certain areas of the core curriculum. Then again, that is democracy in action. By dissolving the committees, the administration has limited open debate on the core curriculum. It's sad that more than 350 faculty members volunteered to participate on the committees and they weren't given the time or a chance to announce even their preliminary findings.

Hopefully, Sypherd will bring back the committees after the central committee irons out more details so the proposal can be openly discussed. Pacheco and Sypherd may be standing firm on implementing core curriculum, but then again administrators aren't the ones teaching classes.

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