Department chairs submit four course proposals to Provost Long

Two weeks ago, academic departments across campus submitted proposals detailing how they would adjust their curricula if the college were to make a shift to a four course, four-credit curriculum model. Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Carol Long charged all department chairs with this task earlier in the year as discussion of the potential shift to such a system gained momentum.

Discussion of a possible transition began two years ago when President Christopher Dahl commissioned the Six Big Ideas task force committees, one of which was focused on reconfiguring the curriculum. This past summer, Long asked the psychology, math, English and geological sciences departments to create hypothetical proposals. The remaining departments were charged with a similar task last semester.

"We have a curriculum which is bigger than we can afford to offer," Long said.

The initial idea for a four course, four-credit curriculum sprang from the Six Big Ideas, a reaction to drastic budget cuts. Looking at the possibilities of such a change now, Long said, reveals that such a transition would save the college approximately $500,000 per year. Geneseo's current structural budget deficit is $7.2 million.

There would also be initial costs related to start-up, Long said. She added that the college hopes that should such a curriculum overhaul occur, the start-up costs could be funded by withdrawals from the college's reserves, fundraising and grants that are available for curriculum restructuring.

While economics is a piece of the discussion, Long said it should not be the focus; pedagogy is also a major focus of the hypothetical change.

"We do a good job here," Long said, "but we can do an even better job."

Some faculty members have questioned whether there are indeed pedagogical advantages to making this kind of a transition, and Long has said that these concerns are welcomed into the discussion that is going to unfold. "You don't make this change overnight," she said.

From here, the next step in the plan is for Long to set parameters about faculty workload, the sizes of individual majors and the size of general education requirements and then send these along with the departments' proposals to the general education committee and other faculty and College Senate committees.

Ultimately, the decision to either change or not change the curriculum will be made by both administrators and members of the faculty. Technically, Long said, questions regarding structure are decided by administration and questions regarding course content are decided by faculty. "But there's really no point in doing it if the faculty doesn't want it," Long said. "That wouldn't happen."

Details surrounding the potential transition are not finalized and in many cases hazy, according to the provost and all of the department chairs.

For example, in her charge to the individual departments, Long did not specify how the fourth credit hour for each course should be used.

"Given our working environment, it seems to be difficult to have extra work equal another hour [of class time], but at the same time I don't believe seating time equals learning," she said.

Some departments in their proposals looked to transform three-credit courses into four-credit courses by adding seating time, and others attempted methods such as increasing required reading or counting work that is usually thought of as "outside the course" to be counted within the official course requirements.

Some colleges have abandoned Carnegie units that define whether a course is worth one, two, three or four credits. The regulations that govern the State University of New York system as well as federal laws responding to issues related to for-profit colleges will make it difficult for Geneseo to move away from Carnegie hours entirely.sizes of individual majors, and the size of general education requirements and then send these along with the departments' proposals to the General Education committee as well as other faculty and College Senate committees.