Runaway Train of Change Awakens Sleeping Bear of Cleveland State University Faculty Senate

no confidenceFrom Cleveland.com (4/3/13):

 Cleveland State University’s administration got a vote of no confidence Wednesday from faculty leaders who don’t think they’ve had an appropriate role in the decision to convert the undergraduate curriculum to primarily three-credit-hour classes.

The Faculty Senate voted 31-11 despite assurances by CSU President Ronald Berkman that the faculty would be an integral part of the curriculum conversion and that the process would not be rushed nor harm any students.

(Read the entire article.)

It’s hard to  know exactly how to read this situation just yet. On the one hand, anyone who’s ever been a faculty member at a university becomes a bit queasy when shared governance seems to be getting short shrift in conjunction with sweeping changes in curriculum. On the other hand, CSU converted from the quarter to semester system around 1999 so revamping the number of credit hours for degree programs has been in the works for a while despite faculty response to it now. If we had to venture a guess, we’d say that significant change happens at universities so seldom–despite the fact that there is an unending amount of relentless churn going on all the time in lieu of actual action–that probably faculty are justifiably surprised that anything is actually happening at all.

No matter what, now that this situation is on The Ivory Tower’s radar, we’ll be watching with interest from this point forward.

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One comment

  1. EngLitProf

    Although recent decisions of the Trustees and the administration surely violate Faculty Governance, the decisions are particularly objectionable because they violate the principles behind Faculty Governance, even as they validate those principles. Recent events just confirm the adage that the faculty are best qualified to evaluate the form and the effects of the curriculum.

    Everyone at Cleveland State agrees that the university must work to improve its student retention and graduation rates. (For one thing, there probably is no way of getting the governor or Board of Regents to understand that Cleveland State’s six-year graduation rate must lag behind that of Toledo or Kent if CSU is fulfilling its mandate as an urban commuter university.) The university has undertaken some valuable initiatives, and the administration deserves credit for supporting them. The administration is wrong, however, to hold that a wholesale conversion to three credits is necessary. It is not certain that such a conversion will improve student retention and graduation rates. The university’s Committee on Undergraduate Student Success did not think so. The University Curriculum Committee did not think so. The Faculty Senate did not think so. As the University Curriculum Committee said in its carefully-researched report to Senate, “No data has been provided to support the assertion that conversion to a three-credit hour standard will benefit students in terms of graduating faster and with fewer credits.” Furthermore, the benefit of the doubt belongs to the status quo: you should never make such a change unless you are confident that the benefits of a new system outweigh both the disadvantages of old system and the costs of the transition itself.

    The fact that other Ohio universities have a three-credit norm (they do) does not mean that a three-credit norm is suited for Cleveland State. There is a good argument that longer class sessions and fewer courses benefit our specific constituency: working students, many of them first-generation college students. Some administrators evidently do not recognize that our students might find a five-course load more onerous than a four-course load, even if the former is 15 credits and the latter 16 credits. Not only may students need that extra classtime in each course, but they also will be reluctant or unable to take on what faculty call an extra “prep.”

    Readers should distinguish the wholesale conversion to a three-credit standard from two other changes, both of them endorsed by the Faculty Senate: the conversion of lower-level General Education courses to a three-credit standard (which will deal with most of the transfer issues) and the university’s adoption of a 120-credit-hour standard for degrees (thereby helping with time to graduation).

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