Staff Editorial: College Senate must have final say on four-course plan

The last few years have been marked by great uncertainty and multitudinous challenges for Geneseo. Not the least of these challenges has been the enormous burden placed on decision makers at our school to find ways to save money in the face of drastic funding cuts while still maintaining, and even improving, the quality of students' academic experiences.

Talk about an impossible task.

In response to the demands of these challenging times, President Christopher Dahl unveiled his Six Big Ideas, one of which was "Re-thinking the Course Load." That idea has materialized to the point where Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Carol Long has charged academic faculty with constructing departmental models that would accommodate such a change.

It has not yet been decided that the college will definitely make the shift to a four-course model. We are still in a stage of discussion.

When the decision is actually made, though, we believe it must be made through a vote of the College Senate, an organization in which administrators and faculty alike are represented.

Long, in her Oct. 6 letter to faculty, wrote, "I will work with the Executive Committee of Senate to find the best ways to communicate the proposal and discuss it openly with the college community. Curricular proposals will work through the existing faculty governance review system."

This language, especially without further clarification in the letter, implies that the question, "Will Geneseo shift from a five-course load to a four-course load?" will be answered with either a "yes" or "no" by the administration, which will in turn strongly consider the thoughts and opinions of faculty.

This would be unacceptable. Since a decision to make the shift would mark a drastic change in curriculum, faculty - who hold the most important voice when it comes to curriculum - must be part of the actual decision. The College Senate must act as a voting body, not merely as a big advisory committee.

Having said that, the entire decision-making process should not be left to the College Senate without direction from administrators. Long has taken the correct approach in charging academic departments with the project of imagining models of how they would restructure their curricula if such a holistic change were to take place. Only after such a thought experiment is completed can the College Senate make an informed decision.

Both administrators and faculty are working with the interests of the students and the college in mind, and we commend and thank both groups for that. As to whether we should actually move to a four-course load or not, we are not sure yet. What we are sure of is that the decision to do so, or to not do so, must ultimately rest with the faculty.