ASR’s Town Hall pushes curriculum changes forward

On Monday, Dec. 1, the Association of Student Representatives hosted a town hall meeting for students to discuss the most recent proposal in the ongoing curricular review with a panel of faculty and staff members who are familiar with the updates. Now, the curriculum review moves through the faculty assembly and discussions continue about the possible curriculum changes in Trinity’s future.

The panel consisted of Erwin Cook, the T.F. Murchison professor of the humanities and the chair of the Coordinating Committee for Curricular Review, Mark Brodl, associate vice president for academic affairs, and Lisa Jasinski, special project coordinator in the division of academic affairs and tri-chair of Trinity Tomorrow.

For the first portion of the meeting, Cook explained the recently completed curriculum proposal that features a controversial switch from a course load of five three-hour courses per semester to four four-hour courses per semester.

The switch has raised a number of questions among students, many of which were voiced and addressed Monday night.

As explained by Cook, the 4:4 model has been adopted by many of Trinity’s peer institutions and is designed to allow students and professors to take an more in-depth look at subject material. The 4:4 student course model would most likely be accompanied by a shift from a faculty course load of 3:3 to 3:2. This shift would mean a slight decrease in the actual number of courses offered at Trinity.

Some students worry that a reduction in the number of classes offered will have a negative impact on their Trinity experience.

Sophomore Ben Whitehead voiced concern about the effect that cutting courses would have on undecided students who are trying to choose a major.

“I came in as a very undecided student, so I’m always concerned about other people who come in that way,” Whitehead said. “I sort of pitter-pattered about in the beginning and kind of explored things, and I really enjoyed that because I have a multitude of interests. So reducing the number of courses that you can take in a semester and over the whole course of your time here? It’s a little worrisome.”

According to the panel, when designing the current curricular proposal, number crunching found that the number of hours students would have to take courses unrelated to their major remained about the same. Over all, the number of hours required to graduate will most likely fall due to proportional differences related to a 4:4 class load.

In addition to worries about a decline in the number of classes offered, students also voiced concerns about how the new course load would affect specific programs, specifically engineering.

Cook explained that some departments, like engineering, would remain unaffected by the course load change due to their particular requirements.

The panel also responded to student concerns about how the change would affect upperclassmen unable to complete the new requirements in time to graduate. Students would only be held to the requirements of the curriculum that were in the year that they arrived at Trinity.

Overall, the panel was encouraged by the student participation.

“I thought this was a great turnout, and I was also really excited because it is a busy time of year””there is no one good time to have this””so, to have so many students in the room was great,” Jasinski said.

At the faculty assembly, faculty either supported or opposed a proposal allowing Michael Fischer, vice president of faculty and student affairs, to form a committee that will further research the possibility of shifting to a 4:4 course load.

“A good amount of the faculty want a 4:4 model, but it comes down to whether or not they want a strict 4:4 or like a hybrid model,” said Joe Moore, ASR president. “More of the faculty seem to be leaning towards a hybrid”¦The ASR president two years from now will be there when [the faculty] actually have a plan voted on. Then there is going to be a whole other complicated mess.”

Should the assembly support this proposal, the committee, made up of members of the University Curriculum Council, CCCR, Faculty Senate  and a handful of additional administrators, will look at the requirements associated with making a change in the course load.

Before teaching loads can be changed, the Board of Trustees must be consulted. Before Trinity can adjust the student course load, it must consult its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Jasinski believes a change in course loads would positively impact all involved.
“Change is hard,” Jasinski said. “But it’s always interesting to play with [the course load]. I think that people could do really cool things with it, and, also, I don’t think it would inhibit anybody from being successful.”