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Originally published: 2012-09-13 17:59:43
Last modified: 2012-09-13 18:03:35

Don’t reduce ASU science requirements, some faculty say

by Anna Oakes

 Some science faculty members at Appalachian State University say a proposal that would reduce required science credit hours by one hour is headed in the wrong direction.

The ASU Faculty Senate on Monday voted to table until October any action on recommended changes to the university’s General Education curriculum, which is required for all undergraduate degrees.

ASU is currently revising the General Education curriculum to ease the transition for transfer students, provide greater flexibility to students and simplify the process for advisors. Because the changes have significant implications for some academic departments, senators asked for more time to review the recommendations.

The Faculty Senate has been asked to weigh in on proposed changes crafted by the General Education Advisory Group, which was appointed by Provost Lori Gonzalez in December 2011 following campus surveys and a task force report.

One issue is the proposed reduction of required credits under the science component area from eight required credit hours to seven or eight credit hours.

Introductory science courses, along with their corresponding lab classes, are counted as four credit hours at ASU, but many other four-year institutions count similar courses as three credit hours.

According to the offices of Transfer Articulation and Academic Advising at ASU, many transfer students come in with three or seven credit hours of science courses, meaning transfers often have to take an additional four-hour science course or two to satisfy ASU’s requirement, putting them over the required number of credit hours.

“These additional hours will become increasingly problematic for the institution as the UNC system moves to a performance-based funding model with transfer graduation rates as one of the performance metrics,” according to the advisory group’s June 19 report. “These additional hours also prove problematic for transfer students who face the increased likelihood of incurring additional expenses due to a tuition surcharge, which was increased in 2010 from 25 percent to 50 percent.”

But some science faculty at ASU resisted the notion of reducing science requirements.

Mathematical sciences professor Eric Marland presented a statement of unanimous opposition to the proposed General Education changes from his department. In 1960, he said, ASU required four science courses for a degree, which has since dropped to eight hours (two courses), he said.

And the president has emphasized the need for more education in science and math to maintain America’s competitiveness in the global economy, Marland said.

“It seems an odd time to reduce them,” he added.

Libby Puckett, chemistry professor, asked, “What is so wrong with making something more rigorous?”

Puckett asked if the vote on the recommendations could be postponed until December, but Jill Ehnenn of the Faculty Senate Academic Policy Committee said it’s important for the Faculty Senate to give direction now before the recommendations are considered by several administrative bodies at ASU. Ehnenn assured senators that faculty would have the opportunity to consider any significant changes to the proposal later in the year.

If approved this academic year, the revisions to the General Education curriculum would take effect in fall 2014.

The current General Education Program was implemented in fall 2009 after a four-year design process.

“The current proposals under consideration are revisions to this program,” said Paulette Marty, director of General Education at ASU.