Friday, December 20, 2013

Thank you so much Harriet for providing all of us this opportunity to discuss the core proposal.

One of the issues that I'm concerned about is the interaction between the LLC program, the preceptorial program and the new core. 

I think it would be very useful to hear from current precptors about their experiences in the LLC program, what is working, what isn't working, what might improve the program.  I think it would be also useful to hear how faculty feel about the changes proposed.

Please note, it is possible to comment on this (or any post ) on this blog anonymously.

Jane Friedman

Monday, December 16, 2013

Core Revision Proposal: Discuss!

Here is the Core Curriculum Planning Committee's notice to USD faculty, with links to reports for discussion! Anyone can comment below. If you'd like me to put you on as a contributor, so that you can initiate discussions, please email me, I've asked Kristen Moran, Chair of the CPC who sent this notice, to send a further notice to faculty to make them aware of their forum for discussion and encourage participation.

It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that we present to you the Core Planning Committee’s recommendation for the new core curriculum at the University of San Diego. Please click on the following links to access the reports: Summary Core Proposal.pdf , Academic Integration Report.pdf, Breadth Committee Report.pdf , Catholic Intellectual Tradition Report.pdf, and Core Competencies Report.pdf. In addition, you may review the report from the Task Force on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and the Core from Fall 2012 (Task Force Report.pdf).

Over the past three years, faculty from undergraduate programs across the units have worked diligently to research various structures of core curricula at many universities. Keeping in mind the mission of USD and our commitment to the liberal arts, faculty weighed options for the best core curriculum for USD students.

The proposed core model is a product of much deliberation, taking into account many possible variations as well as intended and unintended consequences of various scenarios. The majority of faculty on the CPC agree that this proposed model is the best approach for USD students at this time. It offers significant changes, but is conscientious of the traditions of USD.

The new core curriculum presents exciting opportunities for students and faculty. Students will be empowered to make choices that fit within their interests, but are also guided to ensure exposure to the foundational knowledge that is key to a liberal arts education. Students will have opportunities to integrate and synthesize core knowledge and experiences in ways that will deepen their learning. The smaller core will allow students to choose more electives, alleviating the pressure to make sure everything “counts.”

Faculty will have more opportunities to offer courses in the new core by changing the breadth categories to “modes of inquiry” and by identifying competencies that are already present in many courses. Further, the new core will allow faculty to connect with others through the integration seminar. There will be support for faculty as they engage with the new core.

We firmly believe that the new core curriculum will enrich the undergraduate experience at USD.

During the next few months faculty will have many opportunities to offer feedback to CPC representatives regarding the recommendations. The proposal will be formally reviewed by the appropriate governance bodies including curriculum committees in each unit, faculty bodies in each unit and the University Senate before being forwarded to the Board of Trustees and the President.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Welcome to the Alcalá Country Club!

A growing number of colleges are choosing to fingerprint new employee hires, including faculty members. But what about being fingerprinted every day, to make sure professors are on the job? That could be the new reality for faculty members in the City Colleges of Chicago system, and they are speaking out against the possibility. 

Everyone is whining because higher education has become so expensive. So the idea is to cut the waste, that is humanities disciplines, and to supervise faculty so that we meet standards imposed by accrediting agencies and teach to tests. It's industrialized education, imposing factory discipline on faculty. Here's the brave, new world: instead of humanizing factory work, we've industrialized faculty work.

The idea that productivity should be maximized is unquestioned and the assumption is that to achieve it you have to put everybody on the assembly line and run a university like a business. So we got into "accountability" and, endless, endless "assessment." And, given the business model, students were the customers so the university had to offer products that would attract them and keep them. We went into debt expanding the Student Union to add game rooms, restaurants, and other entertainments. and having gone into business USD has to behave like a business and invest even more in goods to please the customers.

So there's a vicious cycle of spending more and more, and being less and less able to afford to support faculty research or other items that don't go toward pleasing the customers. Is this the future? To please the customers you set up in the resort business. Instead of going to classes, students will do classes online. Imagine a student sipping a margarita on the beach, doing a course on their laptop.

Should students have a good time at college? Of course they should. They should party, as students have always done, drink themselves silly and hook-up: no time is better for sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll than when you're young, and can experiment in a relatively safe environment. 

But we faculty should have fun too. That's why we got into this business, isn't it?: because we were willing to take on risk and sacrifice virtually everything, including money, the choice of where to live, and years of our lives living in student poverty, for job satisfaction: for the chance to do research in the areas that interested us. And if we have fun, students might get the idea that in addition traditional undergraduate entertainments, intellectual activity is also fun.

It isn't faculty salaries or the time we "waste" on research in humanities disciplines that have cranked up tuition. It's the implementation of the "business model" that was supposed to make colleges cheaper and more efficient, and reduce faculty to service workers--surveilled and supervised by an growing cadre of administrators--and the expenditure on non-academic student services and infrastructure aimed at attracting, pleasing and retaining customers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Elephant in the Room

Let us be blunt: Core Curriculum revision means more work and less autonomy for faculty. It means an increase in work that does not contribute to our own professional development or research. And it means more supervision and surveillance, as we are forced to define our aims and to structure our courses and programs to conform to the pedagogical agendas mandated by Core Curriculum Commissars.

This is the elephant in the room that many faculty are too polite to acknowledge. We are (at least officially) idealists, committed to giving students the best possible education, even at our own expense, and so recoil at the idea of promoting our own professional self-interest. We are, whether male or female, "such gentlemen" (as Iris Murdoch once put it) that we recoil from the crass statement: "This program will crap up my life."

That it will--and that it will undermine research, as we sweat and break our backs to comply with the pedagogical demands of the Core Curriculum agenda--is a fact. It is however speculative whether, if implemented, it would benefit students--or rather whether it would provide the benefits we would like to convey rather than vocational training, entertainment and test prep for our "customers."

It's too easy to lose sight of the fundamental flaw of the Core Curriculum revision program because of its unwieldy complexity. But the bottom line is the: Core Curriculum will make our professional lives much, much worse. is this where we're headed?


Thursday, November 14, 2013

A call to simplify Core governance

Thank you for putting this together, H. E. I'd like to a share a letter I wrote concerning the governance structure proposed for the new Core Curriculum. I first became concerned when we received a survey a few months ago proposing different governance models -- all of which were more complicated and cumbersome than what we have at present. I shared these concerns with Kristin Moran during her meeting with the Music Department, and she asked me to draft those in the form of a letter to share with the committee. This letter has also been shared with members of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

I note also that the Oct., 2013 report from the Catholic Intellectual Tradition working group that we were encouraged to examine at the most recently Assembly meeting presents three variations all of which seem to call for a complicated governance structure. The report is here:

My letter follows below. (In the letter I use the acronym "CC" but I probably should have used
"UCC" for the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee so it remains distinct from the
Core Curriculum Committee, "CCC".)

--- Christopher Adler, Dept. of Music

Date:   Sept. 22, 2013

To:       Kristin Moran, Chair, Core Planning Committee

From:  Christopher Adler, Music Department

cc:        David Harnish, Chair, Music Department
            James Gump, Chair, CAS Curriculum Committee

Re:       Core Curriculum governance

Dear Kristin,

            Following up on our discussion in your meeting with the Music Department, this letter summarizes my thoughts about the governance of a new Core Curriculum. I am concerned that the creation of new standing committees would add unnecessary and cumbersome bureaucracy, would be burdensome for departments seeking approval for new courses, and would consume the limited time of too many faculty. Once a new Core Curriculum is approved, with clearly defined learning outcomes and menus of current courses that meet those outcomes, the CAS Curriculum Committee (CC) is fully capable of overseeing the approval of new courses into the Core Curriculum, and revisions to existing courses. With members from every department and program, the CC is the most representative body in the College besides the Assembly and can fairly consider the interests of every department.
            The creation of special committees to oversee individual learning outcomes, especially with representation biased towards individual departments, is contrary to the spirit of a Core Curriculum that should serve the College first and represent a shared vision of the Liberal Arts. If learning outcomes have been stated clearly, they should be comprehensible by everyone in the College, and the CC should be capable of assessing how individual courses fit those outcomes just as well as any other less representative body. The CC already overviews every new course created in every department in the College, and gives attention to how learning outcomes are met and how the course and the outcomes coincide with others from the same department.
            With the new Core Curriculum, we have the opportunity to remove the redundant and confusing structure that currently exists, whereby new courses intended for the Core must pass both a Core Curriculum Committee and the College CC. Once a Core Curriculum has been established, subsequent changes will be incremental, such as new courses being added to existing menus of options, and existing courses being revised or removed. Using the menus of courses approved by the Assembly, the CC will be able to gauge the consistency of newly proposed courses with the learning outcomes and the existing menus of courses. Therefore there would be no rapid erosion of departmental privileges with respect to certain learning outcomes or Core categories.
            The Core Curriculum should represent the values that are widely shared among departments in the Liberal Arts, and should have the broadest possible acceptance from faculty in every department. If the Core does indeed represent these qualities, then the College-wide representation of the CC provides the best forum for maintaining the spirit and intellectual integrity of the Core Curriculum.
            I note that, having served as a member of the CC for well over a decade, the committee has ample time to consider new courses for the Core Curriculum once it has been established. At present, the CC already reviews every new course from every department in the College, including Honors Courses that come from the School of Business, and including all courses intended for the Core. Therefore, eliminating a standing Core Curriculum Committee once the new Core Curriculum is approved will not pose an undue burden on the CC.
            Finally, I want to stress that my proposal is for the CC to oversee new courses and revision to the Core Curriculum after the new Core has been approved by the Assembly, including full menus of courses fulfilling all categories/learning outcomes/etc. I am assuming that the Core Planning Committee will develop complete menus of courses and that the job entrusted to the CC after College-wide approval will be one of ongoing maintenance and revision, with the approved learning outcomes and existing menus as guide and precedent.



Monday, November 11, 2013

A Faculty Initiated Discussion of Core Curriculum Revision!

This forum is devoted to discussion of Core Curriculum Revision at the University of San Diego. It is however of wider interest since the current agenda reflects national and, indeed, global trends.

Core Curriculum revision at USD was initiated by the administration and, though there is a vast array of committees and discussions, controlled by administrators and a minority of faculty recruited to push through the agenda, faculty have had little opportunity for genuinely open discussion.

This is the place for that discussion!  Among the topics we need to consider are:
  • USD's 'business model'
  • Procedural issues and faculty governance
  • Specific recommendations for Core Curriculum requirements and programs
Anyone can comment in response to posts on this blog. And you can comment anonymously. If you would like initiate posts, please email me at and I'll get you on as an author.