Month: February 2014

Inside Higher Ed author compares Chancellor Bruce Leslie to Machiavelli

Another Inside Higher Ed article has been published on our core curriculum change:

As Inside Higher Ed reported last week, the newest round of curricular mayhem instigated by Bruce H. Leslie, the chancellor of the Alamo Colleges, is to replace his district’s second three-credit humanities course requirement with a class based on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (Leslie might have suggested Machiavelli’s The Prince, which seems closer to his style of governance.)

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed

SAC Faculty Senate urges THECB to reject core curriculum change

Letter sent to Dr. Rex Peebles at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. From the letter:

Because faculty members have not had the opportunity to participate fully in the process of curriculum design and review and Dr. Leslie has unilaterally disregarded the procedures we have in place to allow for us to best advocate for the needs of our students, we urge you to reject the amendment to the core curriculum. We ask for the time sufficient to vet this course, ensure its curriculum is of highest quality, and work with our administrative and faculty colleagues to determine the optimal placement of the course in our programs.

Attached to the request were two flow charts which clearly show the channels of communication, levels of deliberation and procedural steps which are required in order to approve a new program or a new course.

More Ranger articles on core curriculum: synergy, students, university opposition

1. Chancellor complains faculty is disrupting his ‘synergy’

He explains his actions further saying, “With no purposeful arguments other than ‘no’ presented not to include EDUC 1300 in the core, I acted.”

Throughout this process, Leslie has stressed the importance of Covey’s Habit 6: Synergy, the idea that “two heads are better than one.”

This is from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” which will be included in the course.

“It is difficult to find synergy when there is little to work with other than ‘no’,” Leslie wrote.

2. Students oppose core change

“It’s like they’re trying to create American workers, robots, not American citizens,” Taylor said.

“They’re taking away our critical thinking and replacing them with habit training,” she said. “Adding classes like this is just a roadblock for students who are actually trying to take major-related classes. This is college, not high school. Honestly, it all feels too reminiscent of preschool.”

3. Universities oppose humanities cut

“The Alamo Colleges are absolutely wrong,” Dr. Larry Carver, English professor and director of liberal arts at UT-Austin, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Taking humanities from the core will prevent students from thriving in this world, and they’ll be poorer for it.”

From Russian conflicts and terrorism prevention to climate change, drought and ecological degradation, Carver said none of the day’s vital issues can be solved without exposure to the humanistic disciplines of literature, philosophy and basic humanities. “The humanities are absolutely central to everything we do,” he said.

Carver said people have an abundance of scientific expertise, research, equipment and technological advances, which will be futile without courses that put the human experience back into society.

“Imagine politicians, engineers and scientists without a sense of our past or ideals of our culture,” Carver said. “As far as business and life skills go, learning frameworks courses cannot do justice to the writing and communication skills you gain in courses like literature.”

SAEN article: Chancellor Bruce Leslie’s amendment

After a curriculum change proposal for 2014-15 was received by the THECB late last Fall, Chancellor Bruce Leslie then submitted an amendment to the proposal. The amendment contained the mandate to include EDUC 1300 in the core. When exactly was this amendment sent to the THECB and were faculty and college administrators notified? Does the THECB have to accept the amendment as a part of the total curriculum package or can they consider the amendment on its own? Tick-tock goes the clock. There is a March 1 deadline for a decision from the THECB.

Alamo Colleges faculty unite against proposed curriculum change

By Jennifer R. Lloyd

February 17, 2014 | Updated: February 17, 2014 11:08pm

SAN ANTONIO — The faculty senates at all five Alamo Colleges have united to oppose a core curriculum change, saying the community college district’s administration proposed and pushed it without adequately including faculty and college administrators.

Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie asserts that faculties were involved in the process and the new course would help students succeed in college. But for some instructors, the controversy is the second of two recent dustups over what they see as the chipping away by central authority at their ability to make decisions in the best interests of their students.

The district wants to drop a humanities course requirement and replace it with an education course, EDUC 1300, a learning framework course with a heavy focus on leadership strategies — including lessons outlined in Stephen R. Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

“Community colleges have a huge issue that students are not prepared. They struggle. They often drop out. So we have a whole set of strategies that are designed to help students stay in school and complete their degree and this is one of those,” Leslie said.

Administrators last month asked the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to approve an amendment to the district’s course curriculum request for 2014-15, which outlined the swap. The coordinating board will issue its final decision by March 1, a THECB spokeswoman, Kelly Carper Polden, said last week.

Faculty leaders, including Dawn Elmore, an English professor and faculty senate president at San Antonio College, say they aren’t opposed to the learning framework course, but don’t want it in the core curriculum and felt “excluded from the decision-making process.” A process in place for changing the core curriculum wasn’t followed, she said.

“What will stop the chancellor from making other core changes?” said Celita DeArmond, president of the San Antonio College Chapter of the American Association of University Professors. “This is something he knew he’d experience pushback on, so he decided not to engage at all.”

The Alamo Colleges Super Senate is slated to meet with Leslie on Friday to discuss the matter, said Gregory Hudspeth, an associate government professor and president of St. Philip’s College’s faculty senate.

“There has been opposition to this change from Day One,” he said.

In a letter to faculty, Leslie acknowledged their opposition to including the course in the core but said they have been “intimately involved” in discussions on it.

He said he had to make a decision in the best interest of students before January and that including EDUC 1300 in the core requirements makes the credit transferable to other schools. Because community colleges are “legislatively limited generally to a 60-hour degree, we can’t just add it on top of everything else,” Leslie wrote.

In 2009, the Alamo Colleges started offering a common 45-hour core to make it easier for students to transfer among the district’s colleges and move on to four-year schools, the letter said.

Later, when faculty and administrators couldn’t reach consensus on how to cut the core to 42 hours, a committee of college presidents and district leaders made that decision and EDUC 1300 was brought into the core using the same process, the letter said.

In an interview, Leslie said the core only needs one humanities course — not two — to meet state requirements, which created “a wonderful opportunity here to create the course that our students really do need that’s proven to be impactful on students.”

Hudspeth suggested the learning framework’s lessons be wrapped into existing coursework instead.

“The real fear we have now is that the colleges are losing control of the curriculum,” he said.

The controversy follows on the heels of a push by the district toward electronic learning materials, which could eventually identify one set of instructional materials per course to be used across the district. Faculty has opposed the move, saying it might reduce educational diversity and students’ purchasing options. Leslie said the change could drive down the cost of textbooks.

Taken together, the two issues have led faculty to feel restricted in making decisions they believe are best for their students, Hudspeth said.

Hudspeth said he did not anticipate a discussion of the curriculum issue at a meeting of the Alamo Colleges trustees Tuesday night.

Trustees are slated to consider a new policy adding a non-voting student trustee to their ranks and whether to authorize Leslie to investigate developing a proposal to offer training and technical services to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to the agenda.

Twitter: @jlloydster