Proposed curriculum changes to face faculty vote

After nearly two years and dozens of revisions, the Learning Programs Working Group submitted a change of curriculum to the Educational Policies and Curriculum Committee, who then unanimously approved the curriculum change be moved forward to the faculty.

The changes range from defining the liberal arts education to discussing whether or not there should be a language requirement, and altering the cornerstones. However Mark Juffernbruch, associate professor of accounting and chair of the EPCC, doesn’t believe that it is really possible to compare and contrast the changes.

“I don’t think you can look at it and try and say, ‘here’s where the differences are in the current cornerstone program and this new proposal that’s out there,” Juffernbruch said. “They are fundamentally different systems, or curricula. So really, it’s (the proposal) this stand-alone, new document for the general education program.”

The LPWG submitted this proposal to EPCC after almost two years of working and reworking the proposition to meet the approval of EPCC. From EPCC, the proposition goes to faculty for a 28-day waiting period.

“The proposal will be presented to the faculty at the March faculty meeting and put on the 28-day waiting period,” professor of mathematics Rick Spellerberg said. “During this period, the entire faculty will have the opportunity to have any questions answered about the proposal as well as voice their opinions. EPCC plans to hold a special meeting of the faculty before the April faculty meeting, which will allow an open forum for continued discussion. If things go as planned, the goal is to have a faculty vote on the proposal at the April faculty meeting.”

However, Mark Gammon, assistant professor of religion, has concerns with the proposal from LPWG and EPCC.

“The two major issues [I have] are philosophical,” Gammon said. “First, the proposal would not require students to be exposed to the appropriate disciplinary breadth for a liberal arts education. A number of students come to Simpson planning on one major, but after exposure to the unfamiliar in the cornerstone program find their interests take them in unexpected ways. That is much less likely to happen with this proposal, which itself seems not to have any grounding in educational philosophy.”

Gammon also has concerns about the “cultural heritage” that Simpson notes in its mission statement.

“There is inadequate attention to the traditions that convey the wisdom of intellectual history required to sustain a participatory democracy,” Gammon said. “There is only the thinnest grounding in the history of the ideas that make us who we are.”

While Gammon doesn’t agree fully with the proposal, he did say that a change is needed for the Simpson curriculum.

“To be clear, I believe it is time for a curricular reform at Simpson, but to fail to build on the strengths of the current curriculum and the wisdom of centuries of liberal education is the wrong way to go,” Gammon said. “I’d much prefer to see a leaner, more efficient version of something like cornerstone than a needlessly complicated shake-up for the sake of doing something different.”

If these changes are passed by the majority of faculty, EPCC and LPWG will meet again to take a closer look at the criteria and the courses that will fit into the new curriculum. After they revise it again and hammer out the details, the revision will be put up for another vote from faculty in Fall 2009.

Spellerberg suggested that students with concerns or suggestions find a member of the student senate.

“Members of the student senate are in place to be a voice for the student body,” Spellerberg said. “I believe that students that have questions or opinions should use the members of student senate as their sounding board. There has been student input in the process along the way.”