Initiative to update general education curriculum is promising but raises concerns

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In December, members of the President’s Council announced a comprehensive review of general education curriculum that will occur in 2018, but some members of the UVU community, specifically some faculty members, are concerned about how the review and possible changes are being pursued.

President Matthew Holland, Craig Thulin, the faculty senate president, and Rob Smith, the student body president, all signed the letter that announced the plan involving a 40-person committee and potentially significant adjustments to general education curriculum.

Rick McDonald, an English professor and secretary of the UVU chapter of American Association of University Professors, sent a letter to Holland, Thulin, Smith and Jeff Olson, the vice president of Academic Affairs, expressing concerns about the initiative. That letter was also signed by an additional 38 faculty members.

McDonald’s letter primarily addressed two concerns: the proposed timeline for the process and the lack of involvement or input from the incoming university president.

Holland, Thulin and Smith stated the goal of the committee in the announcement letter, which could result in significant changes.

“Their goal will be nothing less than a comprehensive evaluation and set of recommendations in the light of our dual mission model and our commitment to being a serious, inclusive, and engaged teaching university,” the announcement letter reads.

For members of the UVU community, such as McDonald, it might be difficult or even unrealistic to achieve that goal in the time that was identified in the announcement.

“President’s council believes that this work can be accomplished before the presidential transition this summer,” the announcement states.

The letter explains that despite the ambitious timeframe, much of the work and research has been done by the long-standing General Education Committee and other faculty and administration efforts.

Changes to curriculum, even the addition of one class, usually take over a year, so making changes to general education might require more than the six months provided in the plan, according to McDonald.

“A committee to study General Education with an eye toward improving our delivery of such courses seems a useful process, but attempting to rush such a process is irresponsible and counter to informed decision making and shared governance,” McDonald wrote.

Smith and Thulin expressed more flexibility to the goal and timeline than the original announcement implied. Both said that there is not a particular part of general education that is being targeted and that this plan is simply to see what areas, if any, might be improved.

Thulin was also concerned with the timeline and its implications when the plan was first proposed.

“In that meeting when I heard that suggestion, I voiced the concern that this may not be enough time to get as far as we might like to get with that,” Thulin said. “I was told, we were all informed that there is no demand to get to a certain point by a certain time, but just to do what we can in the time that we have.”

Thulin and Smith confirmed that the goal of the initiative is to provide students with a general education experience that will help them to meet their goals efficiently, while still providing them with the strong foundation that should come from a university education.

Since the announcement was made, the committee has been assembled and has started to examine the general education curriculum, as well as existing research on the university’s current structure. The committee members have also started to identify more information that will be needed to make informed decisions.

Committee members will meet weekly to learn about the current general education structure and to determine if any changes should be made to help students become more well-rounded and successful. The committee will also conduct forums to get input from the UVU community.