11-page letter from chancellor addresses history of latest core change

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Faculty were unaware that the core change had been approved until they read it in The Ranger.

By Bleah B. Patterson

During the Northwest Vista College Faculty Senate meeting Friday, members were shocked to read in The Ranger that a core change they opposed had already been approved by the state.

“My stomach dropped,” Craig Coroneos, NVC humanities professor, said.

The NVC’s Faculty Senate asked the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in a petition with 131 faculty signatures to deny approval for replacing a humanities course with EDUC 1300, Learning Framework.

Peebles said he could not comment on the Northwest Vista Faculty Senate’s letter because it is still going through the “internal process.”

At 4 p.m. today in Room 218 of the nursing complex, the Faculty Senate of this college has called a town hall meeting to discuss the core change.

In an 11-page response to the Faculty Senate action, Chancellor Bruce Leslie detailed the history of the development of the core change.

“We have had the voice of the faculty consistently expressed over several years of their opposition to changing our humanities requirement,” Leslie wrote.

During a Dec. 6 PVC meeting to make the final decision regarding the change, Leslie chose to avoid additional faculty input and submit the core change for approval.

“I indicated that I understood faculty would oppose this decision … but in order to initiate the course in 2014 and in the best interest of the students, I was making the decision to include it in the core and ask the group to support the decision,” Leslie wrote.

He continued, saying, “The presidents are expected to communicate decisions made at the PVC with their leadership, faculty and staff, and there was no reason to expect otherwise about this particular decision.”

He did, however, note Northwest Vista College President Jacqueline Claunch’s most recent protest to the core change.

“I accept that she has done her due diligence and is accurately representing the views of her faculty,” Leslie wrote. “We recognized that there is a difference in opinion across the Alamo Colleges … I had to make a decision that I believe is in the best interest of our students.”

Meanwhile, the status of the core change is in question.

In an email to NVC Faculty Senate member Neil Lewis, James Goeman, assistant director, academic director of academic affairs at the Coordinating Board, questioned whether the core had been approved.

“I went and consulted my staff person who is the ‘point person’ leading the new core curriculum project, and according to her, the Alamo District’s new core has not received final approval,” Goeman wrote in an email to Lewis.

However, in a Feb. 6 phone interview conducted with his superior, Dr. Rex Peebles, assistant commissioner of workforce, academic affairs and research at the Coordinating Board, expressed surprise that The Ranger was not already aware of approval, saying, “I received it in my office a couple of weeks ago and approved it.”

Coroneos worries that Goeman was unable to communicate with his superior in a timely fashion for updates because of internal software issues at the Coordinating Board Goeman told Lewis about.

Today, the Coordinating Board has not returned calls and a public affairs spokesperson has been insisting on seeing questions via email before sending responses.

The Ranger has a policy banning email interviews except in the most extreme cases, such as military deployment in an area with transmission difficulties.

Regardless, Leslie reminds NVC on Page 2 of his letter that ultimately curricular decision-making rests with the administration, not with faculty.

Leslie refers to the ACCD decision made during the 2011-12 school year to reduce the core to 42 hours, to allow for students to take more electives related to their major.

As a result, science labs and kinesiology classes were removed from the core.

“This, in my opinion, is when the chancellor realized he couldn’t remove humanities without faculty getting up in arms, so he removed labs and P.E. instead,” Coroneos said. “That’s why he knew he couldn’t include the vast majority of faculty in this most recent core change process because he knew they wouldn’t go for it.”

The PVC, a meeting of the five vice chancellors, five college presidents and Leslie, is “determined to integrate the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” into the culture of Alamo Colleges … the Learning Framework course, required for all students, was the ideal place to introduce the foundation of Principle Centered Leadership and begin the integration across the curriculum.”

In light of the faculty opposition to the course, the PVC decided that it would be up to them to make the decision to change the core, according to Leslie’s email.

When college vice presidents were approached with the core change they sided with the faculty, suggesting that the course be offered in the 18 hours required outside of the core, according to Leslie.

Leslie closed the letter, stating that “My hope is that those opposed will move beyond using ‘process’ as the basis of their opposition and instead direct their argument to address the best interests of our students.”

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