Faculty senate approves changes to gen-ed

Nick Jahnke, Staff Reporter

Next year’s batch of incoming freshman may be in for an underclassmen experience unlike that of their predecessors.

On Nov. 14, the Faculty Senate General Education Committee (GEC) voted in favor to implement a new general education program that will begin by fall of 2019. The program includes updated requirements to the criteria for what courses may be considered general education, as well as changes to the way general education courses are organized.

The GEC also passed two other motions: one intended to clarify instances of confusing language in the general education program plan the second to change the majority vote requirement for amendments to the plan from a two-thirds majority to a simple majority. This means there must be a majority of at least 51 percent going forward.

According to GEC Chair Rebecca Pearson, the new program is geared towards offering students more diversity in their courses by encouraging interdisciplinary courses and getting students excited about general education.

“Students should be interested in what they’re doing academically from the moment they walk through our doors,” Pearson said.

Pearson said that the new program opens general education up to numerous departments that previously never had any courses that fit the current program criteria. She explained that the impact of the changes won’t be clear until the program is implemented, but that CWU will provide funding for the next three years to support the program while issues are worked out.

Associate professor Jason Dormady said he had a concern that the new program will encourage professors to teach courses they are not trained to teach. He also mentioned that departments like philosophy rely on their larger share of general education courses and now that they are losing a portion of them, layoffs are possible.

History professor Daniel Herman said he and the chairs of the College of Arts and Humanities wanted to delay implementation of the program for another year. The main change Herman wanted was to bring back the “W” requirement from the current program.

The “W” refers to “writing across the curriculum,” which required students to take courses with writing elements in different areas of study. Herman said improving how writing is taught in general education courses is something he brought up with the GEC previously, but it was left out of the curriculum.

Herman was also concerned that the criteria for general education courses lacks definition. He referred to the new program as a “huge amorphous mess” that allows any and all departments to propose courses in any subject area.

Senior lecturer Ruthi Erdman represents all of the non-tenure track faculty at CWU. At the faculty senate meeting she said she was worried that the proposed changes to the general education English requirements will lead to non-tenure faculty members losing their jobs.

“The new general education program farms out what they call academic writing two across campus; any department can teach it,” Erdman said. “This is taking the jobs away from people who are qualified to do it, and just handing it off to people whether they are qualified or not.”

Erdman said she had to take two years of intensive composition training before she could teach English 102 (what is now called Academic Writing II). She doesn’t think the GEC realizes how much training is required to teach writing composition. Erdman believes that the GEC plans to compensate for the loss of English 102 courses with the addition of new freshman seminar courses, but she doesn’t think there will be enough of those courses to make up for the loss.

Pearson said that it’s hard to say exactly what the next steps will be now that the faculty senate has voted to move forward. She does know is that there will a lot of work ahead to get everyone on campus ready for the programs official launch next fall.