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.

jlloyd@express-news.net

Twitter: @jlloydster

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