Millersville University, Faculty Senate

Attachment A
Faculty Senate Minutes
4 February 1997

Second Response to Task Force Recommendations
by the General Education Review Committee

The position of the GERC is that the general education task force was put in the impossible position of being asked to recommend changes to improve the present general education curriculum without having available a clear and adequate account of the objectives of the system within the university. Without such objectives, there is no reasonably objective way of setting priorities, nor of deciding how to balance the costs and benefits of possible changes.

Over the last couple of months, our committee has had several opportunities to discuss the task force recommendations and we have received considerable input from both individuals and departments. Virtually all of this input has been negative. This second response, therefore, represents the committee's more considered opinion about the recommendations:

A. Overall, we find the recommendations to be premature, and in some cases, ill-consideres. The task force does not offer support for its claims that any of these changes will actually save any money, which was its original charge. Further, it seems possible that some of these changes might have a negative impact on the quality of the general education program, and the committee offers no evidence to the contrary. Neither common senses nor empirical studies back up these recommendations, nor did the task force consult knowledgeable individuals and departments who could have provided them with information they lacked. For example, they did not ascertain the original rationale for C and Q courses, they did not consult the English Department about the rationale for its teaching advanced composition courses, nor did they check the catalogue to test their assumption that all QARC courses are math and computer science courses.

Some of their recommended changes would undoubtedly simplify advising students, in the long run, assuming that they were adopted on a long term basis and not likely to be changed again in the near future. Even these, however, would temporarily make things less simple for advisors, just by virtue of representing changes from the present system.

B. Phase 1:

RECOMMENDATION: The committee is generally opposed to making any immediate changes in the curriculum, other than those which represent continuing already functioning modifications of the curriculum on an ad hoc basis. (Such modifications include deleting the 10 pages of revised prose requirement from "w" courses, premitting students to replace one "p" course with another gen ed course, and permitting up to four required related courses to count in the gen ed blocks.)

The GERC has been, and will continue working on the task of revising the goals and objectives of general education, as part of the university's move towards outcomes assessment, as mandated by the SSHE and Middle States. Within the next two years, this task must be completed to a significant degree, and will clearly result in a number of recommendations regarding how the general education curriculum should be altered to meet these revised goals and objectives. For this reason, any changes implemented by the faculty and administration in the next year may end up being in conflict with curriculum modifications eventually agreed to as part of the outcomes assessment effort; any substantial changes made at this point, then, are likely to lead to at least some, and perhaps a significant amount of, wasted effort and money.

C. Phase 2:

RECOMMENDATION: The committee believes it is especially ill-advised at this point to attempt to tie the hands of those working on modifying the general education curriculum as part of the outcomes based assessment effort. While we have no problems with general guidelines for change being formulated by the task force, faculty senate, administration, or faculty as a whole, it seems premature at this time for us to mandate any specific recommendations, such as "Eliminate labels!" or "Farm out advanced composition courses to departments." What would be in order would be recommendations such as, "Let us find a way that doesn't involve the use of the cumbersome label system?" or "Costs must be considered when recommending curricular changes. We must find ways to reduce the cost of the average general education class."

In conclusion, Millersville University presently lacks the knowledge necessary to make specific recommendations regarding changes in general education. With its completion of the Performance Review of General Education, the GERC has begun the process of obtaining some of the required knowledge, and members of the committee have accumulated some expertise. As reformulating general education objectives and stipulating how our general education curriculum achieves, or fails to achieve these objectives, is precisely the task on which our committee is now working, it stands to reason that it is unrealistic to attempt any real reform of our system, large or small, until this task is complete.

RECOMMENDAITON: We recommend voting against the task force recommendations at this time.

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