Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Review of graduation requirements opens up to community discussion

<ring the discussion of the new graduation requirements, which will go into effect starting with the class of 2012, has been introduced to Carleton students and faculty. The Education and Curriculum Committee has opened up its three-year discussion of the curriculum review to the larger Carleton community through student forums, faculty meetings and Moodle postings.

The review examines Carleton’s graduation requirements and the philosophy behind them in order to make sure that the requirements keep up with changes in the world. The recent discussion focused on three proposals made by the Curriculum Review Committee. The faculty expects to reach a decision by the end of Fall Term 2008, but there are still certain points that are unresolved.

“I think that we left some hard questions for our colleagues to help us sort out,” said Professor Michael Hemeseth, a faculty participant in the proposal group led by Professor Deborah Gross. “The RAD requirement isn’t given much clear definition in any of the proposals and the writing portfolio is another one that we punted on a little bit. The RAD and the writing portfolio were such complicated issues that we needed to have the whole faculty’s input.”

Surprisingly, despite some new ideas that are emerging on the national level, none of the three groups proposed changes to the language requirement, nor did any suggest an ethics, civic engagement or oral presentation requirement. The pressure to make an appropriate set of requirements was a constant issue during the initial process.

“It’s a hard job,” explained Professor Jeffrey Ondich, “…doing the right thing, when you don’t know what it is.”

A Moodle discussion site has been set up as a way to invite the community into the process. The site states each group’s proposed changes to the curriculum and include a place to post comments and questions. As another way to invite students into the discussion, the ECC student members hosted a forum the night of April 3, allowing faculty curriculum proposal designers to present their recommendations. Approximately fifty students were there. The proposals were presented to faculty at the February 2008 faculty meeting.

“Students are the best thing we have that allows us a perspective on what it means to be the one that has to take four terms of language”, said Dean Scott Bierman. As of April 15, thirteen students have weighed in on the proposed changes to the curriculum. Some professors, however, contend that the issues affect faculty even more than students, regardless of student interest.

“[The faculty] has to live with the changes for many years,” says Hemeseth. Moreover, a there is the risk that a few students who feel passionate about a particular piece of the curriculum may outweigh a majority of students who are content with it. “Maybe intensity of preference and emotion are a good measure on the student side,” noted the professor, “Their incentives are more complicated. I would make a plea for the students who don’t feel passionate to weigh in some small way”.

Carleton began reviewing the curriculum three years ago in response to a general sentiment among faculty and administrators that, while the curriculum is constantly evolving in a decentralized way – by adding classes, hiring faculty and adding new program allocations – all the changes since the last review, more than 30 years ago, needed to be explained and synthesized into a more coherent curriculum.

“[At the moment] we don’t have a good articulation of why it is students for example have to take three science and math classes,” said Dean Bierman. With the objective of articulating Carleton’s liberal arts philosophy, the process aims to involve many faculty, administrators and students, and the curriculum design portion is just a part of a larger conversation.

The actual review process started last spring when 27 faculty members were charged with reflecting on and building on Carleton’s liberal arts philosophy in order to rearticulate it for the next generation of students. 90% of the faculty designers volunteered for the task last spring, as a way to fulfill their prerequisite to be on a committee each year. Another 10% were asked to participate in order to ensure balanced teams in terms of things like discipline and gender. The three groups of six professors each were lead by Professor Jeff Ondich, Professor Deborah Gross, and Professor Louis Newman.

Student members of the ECC created a forth team, not to design a proposal but to act as a resource to the faculty teams. The faculty teams were also provided survey data taken from Carleton and national reports as resources and encouraged to examine other universities’ curriculum. Teams met with the ECC 4 times over the fall and winter term and the team chairs meet with Dean Bierman 4 times.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *