Cal State LA: Upper Division General Education
This petition is to protest both the substance and the process behind the Provost’s recent announcement regarding the suspension of the general education breadth requirement for transfer students beginning in Fall 2017. The details of this policy and the process through which it was “approved” with the “consent of the Senate Executive Committee” raise a number of serious concerns:
- These proposed policy changes—even if temporary—put Cal State LA out of compliance with the Executive Order 1100 (https://www.calstate.edu/eo/EO-1100.html) and California state law (Title 5, Section 40405.1, which can be found here: https://govt.westlaw.com/calregs/Document/I306405C07D8511E29091E6B951DDF6CE?viewType=FullText&originationContext=documenttoc&transitionType=CategoryPageItem&contextData=(sc.Default)&bhcp=1). This lack of compliance is no mere legal technicality, for Title 5 of the California Education Code and EO 1100 articulate a core belief of higher education, that a university degree is more than professional and vocational training, that breadth requirements “will assure that graduates from the several campuses in the system have made noteworthy progress toward becoming truly educated persons. Particularly, the purpose of the breadth requirements is to provide means whereby graduates: (a) will have achieved the ability to think clearly and logically, to find and critically examine information, to communicate orally and in writing, and to perform quantitative functions; (b) will have acquired appreciable knowledge about their own bodies and minds, about how human society has developed and how it now functions, about the physical world in which they live, about the other forms of life with which they share that world, and about the cultural endeavors and legacies of their civilizations; (c) will have come to an understanding and appreciation of the principles, methodologies, value systems, and thought processes employed in human inquiries” (Title 5, 40405). We have been told that “Temporarily deferring the breadth requirements for transfer students was not an easy decision, but, in the end, many agreed that Civic Learning, Race & Ethnicity, and Diversity are what make Cal State LA’s common requirements distinctive, set our graduates apart from others, and reflect the values clearly articulated in our Strategic Plan.” We agree that this is not an easy decision and, in fact, insist that such a difficult decision deserves a properly reflective and consultative process and not be decided contrary to consultation for purposes of expediency.
- EO 1100 and Title 5 exist to ensure the quality of our students’ education. The changes proposed by the Provost compromise the quality of this education, which is definitely not in our students’ best interest.
- These changes to UDGE policy were rejected by both the General Education Subcommittee (GES) and the Educational Policy Committee (EPC). The Academic Senate Executive Committee, however, agreed to this change, ignoring the recommendations of its curricular review committees. This is a terrible precedent to set in regard to such important policy.
- As stated in our Faculty Handbook, responsibility for the development of the curriculum rests with faculty. In addition, faculty through their service on standing committees of the Academic Senate are solely responsible for the review of curriculum and educational policies related to curriculum. Given the professed difficulty of this decision, the ready availability of data on course offerings and upcoming enrollment, it is unclear why this very important matter was not raised earlier in the academic year when it could have been studied, debated, and resolved through the normal faculty governance processes. Urgency and expediency are inadequate explanations when all of the facts have been known for some time. To many, the fact that this was done at the very end of the academic year when most faculty are preparing to leave for the Summer is highly irregular, and some see such moves as part of a larger pattern of attempting controversial changes with minimal faculty input so as to blunt faculty attempts to organize any substantial dissent. Regardless of the veracity of this perception, these kinds of top-down, last-minute policy making are seen by some as an insult to the concept of shared governance, and send the message to faculty that collaboration is neither necessary nor desired.
- These changes to policy will create uncertainty for a number of departments and faculty. Fall 2017 schedules were created and approved months ago with the current policy in mind. As such, the changes proposed by the Provost would lead to widespread cancellation of classes and widespread reassignments for tenure-track faculty, in addition to the potential for widespread loss of work for lecturers. This would severely damage departments in a number of ways (e.g., FTES, SFR, budgets, and the many other ways departments are measured). It will lead to the loss of quality lecturers, and it will erode the quality of instruction by forcing tenure-track faculty to be reassigned to courses they have never taught and in some cases, that lie beyond their specific areas of expertise. It will also have a lasting negative impact on faculty morale. None of this is in the best interest of our students.
Instead of the radical and potentially damaging changes that would result from abandoning our commitment to the value of breadth and diversity, changes that were only approved by one segment of the Academic Senate Executive Committee, we propose the alternative temporary changes in UDGE policy listed below. These policies will minimize the damage to departments and to our faculty while relieving some of the perceived bottleneck for students caused by current UDGE requirements:
- Reduce the Writing Intensive (wi) requirement for all transfer students to one class that can be satisfied by the existing writing intensive courses in their majors (disciplinary writing requirement) until a revised General Education policy can be created through normal curricular review procedures.
- Suspend the Civic Learning (cl) requirement for all transfer students until a revised General Education policy can be created through normal curricular review procedures.
In addition, we propose the following be considered through normal curricular and governance procedures beginning in Fall 2017:
- A policy change for the (cl) requirement that would allow for it to be fulfilled by major-specific courses in the same manner as the (wi) requirement for both transfer and “native” freshmen students.
- Course modifications for existing UDGE courses that are revised in such a way that they can legitimately meet the (cl), (wi), (d), and/or (re) requirements.
- Course modifications for existing major-specific courses that are revised in such a way that they can meet the (cl) and/or (wi) requirements.