Faculty struggles with Gen-eds

The general education requirements at Northern Kentucky University are under a swift change as the university prepares to reduce the amount of General Education requirements. Students currently average’ 47 to 52, but that number will be reduced to around 37.

This led to heated conversation between Provost Gail Wells and several faculty members at the Jan. 25 Faculty Senate meeting. Wells declined comment to The Northerner
Although the university looks at geneds every so often, faculty feel this time around the university is rushing the process, so they can appease the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Dr. Paul Tenkotte, current chair of the History department, says ‘Change is always difficult for people.’ He says that GenEds (general education requirements) are typically thought of as the ‘Third Rail of a university.’ In other words, people are afraid to touch the thirdrail because they are afraid they will die, much like in a subway system.

Faculty primarily fit into two camps concerning changes to the GenEds: For and against. Some departments feel that their creativity and ability to teach students properly is being squelched because of the rush for implementation in fall 2010. However, in the against camp, it is interesting to note that the faculty is not necessarily against the entire process, some merely oppose the rushing of the process and the lack of faculty involvement.

Jeffery Williams, former chair of the History and Geography department, and current faculty member, said he hasn’t seen the faculty of Arts and Sciences so ‘demoralized,’ since the 1970s when the faculty were at odds with the university administration over numerous issues. He said the core of a college education is the geneds, which makes universities stand out from trade schools and prepares students for a lifetime of learning.

‘Reviewing our Gen Ed curriculum from time to time to insure it is doing the best job it can for students is a necessary and valuable process,’ Williams said in an e-mail to The Northerner. ‘And the current review process began a year-and-a-half ago as a thoughtful self-analysis in which a large number of faculty and students were engaged. But in the last six months, the administration has accelerated the process by promising our accrediting agency (SACS) that Gen Ed reform would be up and running by this coming fall.’

But why have GenEds, classes that are supposed to produce a well rounded student, caused such a split in the faculty.

‘Most of the faculty I know in A&S feel that the faculty have lost control of the process and that the haste with which decisions have been made and are being made about the Gen Ed curriculum is depriving us of the time necessary to arrive at well-conceived and creative curriculum changes,’ Williams said.

Tenkotte offers a different perspective completely. He says that NKU is changing to meet students in a modern world-that we are moving from a distributive model to a core competencies model that emphasizes analysis, critical thinking and active learning, which can be taught by many different disciplines.

Tenkotte does admit, though, that ‘it is a very short amount of time’ for the next step to be completed, which is to train the faculty to teach the new GenEd system.