The University Curriculum Council (UCC), the committee that oversees all curricular changes, recently introduced possible changes to the class scheduling grid. These changes are supported by some members of the UCC, but opposed by others.
Duane Coltharp, associate vice president for curriculum and faculty development, explained the responsibilities of the UCC to the Trinity community.
“If a department wants to revise an existing course, create a new course or revise requirements for the major, those are fairly routine things,” Coltharp said. “Creating a new major would be bigger. The biggest sort of thing that the UCC considers would be like, when we created the Pathways curriculum. Routine things are voted on by the UCC and usually do not require a vote from the faculty. Bigger things actually go to the faculty assembly for a vote.”
The proposed changes to the scheduling grid are to create a common time during which no classes are held.
“I was involved in that effort,” Coltharp said. “There was an ad hoc committee that was charged a couple of years ago by the UCC to look at revisions to the whole class scheduling grid. We came up with a model that did involve clearing out some time in the midday on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, where classes would not be offered, which could be used in a variety of ways “” organizational meetings, committee meetings, guest lectures “” and that was one of our goals.”
Another goal that Coltharp has been involved in initiating is the implementation of more 75-minute time slots outside of Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“The issue there is simply that we tend to have more sections offered Tuesday and Thursday than on Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Coltharp said. “A large number of faculty members feel that it’s best to use those larger time slots, so if we could carve out some more on Mondays and Wednesdays then we could even out the distribution. We brought that model to the UCC this past Friday. There was discussion, there were some students there who offered their perspective, and ultimately the UCC decided to do some further study.”
Coltharp does not know when these changes will be seriously considered again, but he is personally in favor of the changes. He explained that the decision is now dependent upon the ad hoc committee that was organized for further study.
“My personal goal was to bring something to a vote by the UCC this year,” Coltharp said. “The problem with any sort of change is you can create unintended consequences and so I want to listen to anybody who has concerns about any change because ultimately I would like to make things better, not worse. I take it seriously when people have concerns about certain consequences so I’m trying to be balanced in the way I look at it. Personally, I am still in favor of some change along the lines that I’ve described.”
Coltharp recognizes the difficulties of implementing such a large change at Trinity and acknowledges that the decision process will take time.
“A lot of people have lots of opinions, and as I said, we want to be careful so that we don’t introduce unintended consequences,” Coltharp said. “That takes time. I would hope that we would have something for a faculty vote by the end of this academic year.”
Glenn Kroeger, associate professor of geosciences and vice chair of the UCC, serves as a disciplinary representative for the biology, chemistry, geoscience and physics departments. Kroeger will chair the UCC next year and has chaired in the past. He also explained the continued process of considering changes to the scheduling grid.
“The proposed changes have been under consideration for many years by a variety of ad hoc committees, some appointed by the UCC,” Kroeger said. “The issue is now in the hands of the UCC, and we have formed our own subcommittee to refine the proposal. More 75-minute time slots and some midday common times are key goals, but we are also very aware of student interest in activity blocks. 30-hour days would solve all the problems, but since that isn’t going to happen, we are going to try our best to bring forward a proposal that solves as many problems as possible.”
Aaron Delwiche, professor of communication and chair of the UCC, explained that the UCC itself cannot implement the proposed changes to the scheduling grid.
“Those changes could only be implemented by the vote of the faculty at the faculty assembly,” Delwiche said.
“We were considering whether or not this proposal should be brought forward to the faculty assembly. We chose not to bring it to the assembly.”
Delwiche opposes the changes, but he does understand that those trying to implement them are trying to make positive change.
“I do think that we need something like an activity block,” Delwiche said. “I think it should be possible for students to do more than one thing. The proposed schedule would have limited people’s ability to do that. Students were being asked to pay the price for it.”
Delwiche also opposes the loss of the 50-minute time period because he believes it is a necessity for certain types of classes, specifically those that involve cumulative information building up.
“There are some people who say, pedagogically, you have to have a 75-minute time period and I think there are many students who prefer the longer classes too,” Delwiche said. “But there are also certain types of classes where the 50-minute time period makes a lot more sense. If you don’t have the Monday, Wednesday and Friday time slots, you lose people between Thursday and Tuesday. I love having those 50-minute periods for some of my classes.”
Delwiche also spoke about the current lack of student involvement in the UCC’s decisions and what can be done to get students more involved.
“I think it is good that the SGA [Student Government Association] has appointed someone,” Delwiche said. “The UCC is required by the laws of the handbook of the university to send out the minutes and everything that will be considered to all of the faculty a certain number of weeks before the meeting. It seems to me that the Trinitonian should be on that list and the SGA. It would be awesome if students could continually be paying attention to curriculum issues. It could easily happen that we notify students. I would personally be in favor of that, and then students would have the opportunity to know what’s happening.”
UCC meetings are open to the public and students are welcome to voice their opinions at these meetings.
“It’s very important that students feel they have the right to speak,” Delwiche said. “The idea of the UCC is that faculty own the curriculum. We don’t want the administration to just come in and say, “˜You have to teach this.’ It’s a really democratic system that all of your professors are represented in this and have control over the curriculum. Students’ voices do matter. I have seen many times at the UCC that the faculty is leaning one way, and one of the student representatives speaks up and it really is effective. I think students have to pay attention to it.”
The next UCC meeting will be on Friday, Nov. 17, at 2:30 p.m. in the Center for Science and Innovation, room 205.