By Bleah B. Patterson
The Northwest Vista College Faculty Senate has sent a letter asking the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to reject a request to make EDUC 1300, Learning Framework, a new student development course, part of the core curriculum because the district did not follow procedures for making curricular changes.
The letter points out a discrepancy in in the process of proposing a core change to THECB and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which accredits the Alamo Colleges.
The letter, sent from Northwest Vista’s faculty senate is attached with 131 signatures from NVC faculty, staff, and administration, including President Jacqueline Claunch.
EDUC 1300, Learning Framework, is being added as a mandatory student development course in the social and behavioral sciences section of the college core for all arts and sciences degree plans at district colleges beginning in fall 2014. To make room for this course, the additional humanities requirement is being removed.
It also is required for the core of applied science degrees.
The decision to make the course mandatory for all students was made before a small group of faculty and staff members was assembled districtwide to discuss content and learning outcomes for the course, according to an email sent to Chancellor Bruce Leslie Wednesday to inform him of the email to the THECB.
In the email sent by Neil Lewis, a member of the NVC faculty member, he wrote that faculty were not included in meetings discussing this curricular change and could not even get minutes of the meetings.
On Jan. 27, “the first official word of this proposal was presented to the curriculum team … They were told to approve it, even though it has already been submitted to the state,” he wrote.
Mike Burton, chair of English and reading, said Friday that faculty had discussed the options of requiring EDUC 1300 as an elective in the major for arts and sciences degrees. They expected it to be added to a 60-hour degree plan as required but not transferrable. They did not expect it to be a required course in the core of the 60-hour degree plan.
To the disapproval and bewilderment of Alamo faculty and staff, the district deemed the core the most suitable option, he said.
The THECB and the accrediting agency require that curriculum comes from faculty and not administration.
Lewis quotes these requirements in the email to the chancellor:
“According to the THECB FAQ for Faculty and Administration in Preparing their New Core Curriculum, ‘Each institution will determine its own process and procedures for course approval, but best practices and accreditation guidelines generally place the faculty in a position of responsibility for curricular decisions.’”
Also, “According to the Southern Associations of Colleges and School’s Principles of Accreditation, ‘The institution places primary responsibility for the content, quality, and effectiveness of the curriculum with its faculty.’”
The signers of the email to the THECB find it “disappointing and disturbing on many levels,” that in the THECB proposal for the course it “implies that faculty were involved in this decision,” Lewis wrote.
Faculty believe that replacing an academic course with a student development course is a disservice to students, Burton said.
Jo Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of academic success, said in a phone interview Friday that she has no opinion on the e-mail.
“We just really want to imbed leadership in our students,” Fabianke said. “We have started investing in training faculty through the ‘Seven Habits’ program.”
She referred to the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” a leadership program by Stephen Covey. The chancellor discussed at district convocation in the fall his vision of every student in the district benefiting from learning this program.
“I don’t know anyone who isn’t disturbed by how this course circumvented the process,” Burton said. “I am in full agreement with Northwest Vista’s letter.”
Lewis’ email encouraged other Alamo Colleges to send their own letters to the THECB.
“It is a very powerful letter,” Burton said. “It addresses faculty input and clearly explains districts violation of SAC/COC’s as well as the Coordinating Board and district’s policies.”
“I think it says a lot that Northwest Vista’s president signed off on the letter.” Burton said.
“A lot of us didn’t want this,” Thomas Billimek, psychology and sociology chair, told The Ranger Friday in an interview. “We have concerns about what’s happening to the general population.”
“We’re watering down the quality of education by taking away the broader experiences of life through languages and culture,” Billimek said. “We don’t train you to enjoy the nobler things in life, we’re training people to get jobs.”
“They’re watering down education,” Burton said echoing Billimek, “It seems to be a trend.”
“Schools are now being, led at a national level, by businessmen not educators who are trying to cut back and make more money,” Billimek said.