Some faculty worried by gen. ed program

By Jackie Nevarez

Professors at Faculty Senate voiced their concerns over the implementation and requirements documented in the NIU Progressive Learning in Undergraduate Studies report, a general education reform program, Wednesday.

Faculty Senate President Bill Pitney motioned to endorse the report and initiated discussion of the NIU PLUS program report, a report which includes recommendations to reform general education and include high-impact practices in undergraduate studies. Pitney opened the floor to comments on the baccalaureate program portion of the report.

Associate geology professor Paul Stoddard said his department disagreed with the six-hour requirement in the nature and technology domain of the NIU PLUS program, which would change the requirement from the current science requirement of seven to 11 credit hours, which encourages students to take a laboratory credit with their science class, Stoddard said.

“If I read this correctly, I think it allows [students] to avoid any science class whatsoever … which means they would not get any introduction to the scientific method, which is one of the cornerstones … of what we’re trying to teach here at NIU,” Stoddard said.

A decline in laboratories would mean a loss of five or six teaching assistants, Stoddard said.

A review of laboratories from 2009-2014 showed non-science students preferred to take three courses, worth three credits each, than to take two three-credit courses with a laboratory, Pitney said, according to information provided by general education coordinator Michael Kolb.

Associate English professor Doris Macdonald said the English Department was concerned with the stipulations of Second-Year Writing in the Domains, which would largely impact staffing, room assignments and lab assignments. Associate biology professor Joel Stafstrom, a member of the NIU PLUS task force, said the implantation of these changes in general education are in the process of being assembled.

Associate sociology professor Robin Moremen said the departmental advisers’ role in the program was her concern, as well as the pathways, which she said were not clearly defined and described.

Advisers are “the ones who are gonna shepherd [students] through this combination of gen. eds and departmental requirements,” Moremen said. “How is that gonna happen all before next fall?”

Stafstrom said including the NIU PLUS program into the catalogue and having it operating by fall is ambitious, but the program will follow the proper steps to do so.

Pitney’s motion to move the discussion of the NIU PLUS into unfinished business passed, with two abstentions, and will be continued at the next Faculty Senate Oct. 29.