In Our August, 2017 Issue:

Faculty study general education requirements

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As fall semes­ter begins, fac­ulty will resume their eval­u­a­tion of the impact of gen­eral edu­ca­tion require­ments on students.

In Jan­u­ary, the Fac­ulty Coun­cil, the lead­er­ship of Metro State’s fac­ulty union, directed the Gen­eral Edu­ca­tion Com­mit­tee to study the credit require­ments of Gen­eral Edu­ca­tion and Lib­eral Stud­ies (GELS), accord­ing to the committee’s chair, Dr. Patri­cia Borchert. She also serves as depart­ment chair of Man­age­ment, Entre­pre­neur­ship and Human Resource Management.

All under­grad­u­ate stu­dents must com­plete the 48-​credit GELS require­ments, regard­less of major or pro­gram. The cred­its are spread across 10 goal areas, includ­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion, nat­ural sci­ences, human­i­ties and fine arts. Eight of the cred­its must be in 300-​level or higher lib­eral stud­ies courses, and may over­lap with one or two of the goal areas.

There is a per­cep­tion that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of stu­dents are hav­ing trou­ble com­plet­ing the Gen Ed require­ments in 120 cred­its,” said com­mit­tee mem­ber Mark Matthews. Matthews is the committee’s Col­lege of Lib­eral Arts rep­re­sen­ta­tive and a pro­fes­sor of Phi­los­o­phy. “We will be look­ing at this anec­do­tal infor­ma­tion and try to find more sys­temic infor­ma­tion. Because I don’t know how bad the prob­lem really is. I don’t really know who has the prob­lem, or why they’re hav­ing the problem.

The com­mit­tee began its work in Jan­u­ary by ask­ing for input and com­men­tary from fac­ulty in every col­lege. By April, com­mit­tee mem­bers knew they needed more time. Their motion for “the nec­es­sary time for delib­er­a­tion, study, and suf­fi­cient reflec­tion upon this mat­ter of exis­ten­tial impor­tance to the Uni­ver­sity” was approved by the Fac­ulty Council.

Once they fully under­stand the issue, Borchert said any num­ber of pro­pos­als may come forward

I have no idea if we’re going to come up with one pro­posal. It could be keep it at 48 [cred­its]. Move it to 44. Get rid of lib­eral stud­ies. Allow majors to have to have lib­eral stud­ies courses in their major, which they’re not allowed to right now, and keep it at 8 [cred­its] or move it to 4. All sorts of pos­si­bil­i­ties,” said Borchert.

When the com­mit­tee set­tles on a pro­posal, it will be sub­mit­ted to the Fac­ulty Coun­cil for con­sid­er­a­tion. If the coun­cil approves it, the pro­posal must be dis­cussed at “Meet and Con­fer,” a monthly meet­ing between the fac­ulty union and uni­ver­sity admin­is­tra­tion, before it can become uni­ver­sity policy.

The growth of GELS

Gen­eral Education/​Liberal Stud­ies (GELS)

48 credit

Min­nesota Trans­fer Cur­ricu­lum (MnTC)

40 cred­its + Lib­eral Stud­ies (8 credits

Major require­ments

2464* credit

Min­i­mum total cred­its to graduate

20124 credit

Min­i­mum upper-​division credits

40 credit

Min­i­mum cred­its com­pleted at Metropolitan

State 30 credit

*In an analy­sis of the under­grad­u­ate cat­a­log, and in con­sul­ta­tion with aca­d­e­mic advi­sors, The Met­ro­pol­i­tan found that the low­est major require­ment was 32 cred­its (Eng­lish Teach­ing BS) and the high­est was 78 cred­its (Account­ing BS)

Source: Met­ro­pol­i­tan State Under­grad­u­ate Catalo

The committee’s work comes in the wake of the addi­tion of two new require­ments to GELS in recent years. Newly-​admitted stu­dents will need to take addi­tional cred­its of lab­o­ra­tory work to meet Goal 3, the nat­ural sci­ences requirement.

We hadn’t been doing [lab work] here because we didn’t have the facil­i­ties. With the cre­ation of the sci­ence build­ing, the fac­ulty voted to meet the gen­eral edu­ca­tion require­ment for nat­ural sci­ences that is present typ­i­cally at other state uni­ver­si­ties,” said Matthews.

Stu­dents admit­ted since fall 2016 must com­plete the Racial Issues Grad­u­a­tion Require­ment (RIGR) by tak­ing at least 3 cred­its from approved courses that address racism and racial injustice

We’re still say­ing 48 cred­its but those two things got added

And the rea­son why this motion came up in the first place is ‘when is this going to stop?’ Our stu­dents aren’t going to have any choices any more. If you have to do 48 cred­its but you’re putting more things in, everyone’s going to have to over­lap more,” said Borchert.

The who, what, why

As part of the process, the com­mit­tee first will col­lect data on the num­ber and majors of stu­dents grad­u­at­ing with over 120 cred­its, and under­stand why they took addi­tional credits.

One of the ‘whys’ could be is that they’re enrolled in large credit num­bered majors. But they could also have this prob­lem because they made bad deci­sions. Like for exam­ple when they were pur­su­ing their associate’s degree, they made choices that didn’t do well when they trans­ferred to Metro State and that they should have known about. Is it that they changed their mind about their course of study?” said Matthews.

Borchert said the com­mit­tee must also con­sider the effect of new Trans­fer Path­ways devel­oped by the Min­nesota State Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties sys­tem. The path­ways guar­an­tee that stu­dents with cer­tain associate’s degrees can trans­fer to a Min­nesota State uni­ver­sity, like Metro State, and com­plete a bachelor’s degree in 60 cred­its. “We don’t fully under­stand the impli­ca­tions of the path­ways yet because they are so new,” she said

After ana­lyz­ing the col­lected data, the com­mit­tee will draft pro­pos­als that address any prob­lems iden­ti­fied in their analysis.

The national context

Some fac­ulty are con­cerned that this delib­er­a­tion over gen­eral edu­ca­tion is really an effort to elim­i­nate the 8-​credit lib­eral stud­ies requirement.

In April, social sci­ence pro­fes­sor Jose San­tos pub­lished a com­men­tary enti­tled “Why we need lib­eral stud­ies now more than ever” in Min­nPost, a Min­nesota online news­pa­per. “I wrote the op-​ed in response to con­cern that peo­ple were com­ing for lib­eral stud­ies to solve their prob­lems,” he said. “At the national level, the sac­ri­fice has been we don’t need this lib­eral stud­ies stuff. It’s been easy to attack that.

San­tos sees lib­eral arts as essen­tial to devel­op­ing stu­dents who can write, think and read crit­i­cally. Lib­eral stud­ies courses illu­mi­nate the “cul­tural shifts” that will help stu­dents nav­i­gate in the work­place and world, he said.

A major con­cern, and a valid one, is the num­ber of cred­its required to grad­u­ate. Is that a bur­den on stu­dents? I don’t want us to have a zero sum men­tal­ity. That if stu­dents are tak­ing that [course], then they’re not tak­ing courses in my depart­ment. But, what courses are off-​limits [to elim­i­na­tion] because they are cen­tral to what we’re try­ing to do as a uni­ver­sity?” said Santos

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Matthews also sees the work in a larger con­text. “It is a big issue. It is a national issue. There’s pres­sure on all sides on what is the rel­e­vance and impor­tance of the lib­eral arts. And that’s the way it’s express­ing here at Metro State,” he said.

If the place some peo­ple want to make a cut is lib­eral stud­ies, that assumes a lot of things we don’t know yet,” said Matthews. “I want to know how many are hav­ing this prob­lem. If it’s 1 per­cent then I’m not very moti­vated to change gen­eral edu­ca­tion. If I’m going to change a whole sys­tem, it can’t just be a few peo­ple who are hav­ing problems.

Chair Borchert acknowl­edges the con­cerns over lib­eral stud­ies. “But this is not an attack on the 8-​credit lib­eral stud­ies require­ment. This dis­cus­sion is one hav­ing an eye to reduce the impact of the 48-​credit-​hour,” she said

The com­mit­tee did not meet dur­ing sum­mer semes­ter. Its com­po­si­tion may change as new rep­re­sen­ta­tives are elected in August. The com­mit­tee aims to make a pro­posal to the Fac­ulty Coun­cil by the end of the fall semester

We owe the fac­ulty a pro­posal,” said Borchert. “It’s a com­pli­cated issue and process. But it’s been a long time since the over­all require­ments have been eval­u­ated. That’s a large task. No one is tak­ing it lightly.

There are strong opin­ions. As there should be. But what’s great about Metro State is peo­ple here are not afraid to talk about things, to face dif­fi­cult sub­jects. And in a well-​reasoned way,” she said