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Faculty Senate Considers General Education Changes


The Faculty Senate will consider three proposed changes to the College’s General Education (GE) requirements that would give students more freedom to choose electives.

After receiving campus feedback in late 2012 and 2013, the senate’s General Education Committee has endorsed the idea that students’ ability to complete their curriculum by taking preferred elective courses is a vital feature of a liberal arts education.

“The changes that were requested by faculty were to reduce the natural sciences by one course and to allow freedom of choice within the social science categories,” said Brooke Burk, recreation, parks and leisure studies, the GE committee chair.

“Faculty and staff expressed a need to make these changes,” she said. “They felt that students had few choices within course offerings and among (GE) categories. Often their choices to take courses outside of G.E. were not possible, so their ability to take minors, to pursue electives of interest or to study abroad is limited.”

Senators will discuss under Old Business the proposed GE changes, the first major ones made since 2006, at the next Faculty Senate meeting at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, in the Park Center Hall of Fame Room.

That afternoon the Senate will conduct an open meeting on the GE Committee proposal following the President's Report. The 27-page draft proposal is posted on the Faculty Senate website. All members of the campus community are invited to attend.

Also at the meeting, senators will consider a new, fast track proposal to change the College Handbook to require a faculty referendum on GE Committee proposals.

If senators decide to proceed with the changes, they may follow past campus precedent and conduct a referendum involving the entire campus community. If a majority of campus voters approves it, the GE Committee recommends a Fall 2015 implementation.

The current state of the College’s GE requirements is the work of the 2006 General Education Taskforce, which integrated SUNY GE and Cortland GE learning outcomes.

The GE Committee began soliciting opinions about potential GE changes in fall 2012 to address increasingly restricted curriculum choices for students, according to Burk.

An initial campus email survey in Spring 2013 resulted in 65, mostly faculty, respondents. A second survey captured 160 student responses to the same open-ended questions.

The feedback led to the current draft proposal. In Burk’s opinion, additional viewpoints about this change would be desirable.

The specific changes that the GE Committee unanimously approved are:

  • Reduce the natural science requirement to one laboratory course by eliminating  GE 13 — a second natural science course;
  • Allow the 3- or 4-credit hour laboratory natural science courses to fulfill the natural science requirement; and,
  • Allow students to complete, for a total of six credit hours, any two of the following three categories: GE 3 — Social Science, GE 4 — United States History and Society, and GE 5 — Western Civilizations.

While retaining the GE program’s original purpose, the proposed revisions would required a 3- or 4-credit natural science course with a lab, as well as 3 credits in quantitative skills, social science, United States history and society, Western civilization, contrasting cultures, humanities, the arts, foreign language, basic communication, prejudice and discrimination, and science, technology, values and society.

The changes also would fulfill the SUNY-wide general education requirements that aim to foster transferability of courses among colleges and universities within the system. The GE Committee, however, will need to continually monitor compliance with requirements of the SUNY Provost’s Memorandum to Presidents on Seamless Transfer.