Slow down, you move too fast

Chancellor Bruce Leslie spoke to the Express-News about his decision to back down on implementing EDUC 1300 and the etextbook policy. He says we are just not willing to move as fast as he is. That we aren’t ready. Let’s clarify who he’s talking about: students, faculty, staff, at least two college presidents, community members, board members, board candidates, local and national media, and SACS.

Slow down and follow established procedures, Chancellor Leslie. Stop making decisions based on what you think is right right now. Putting our accreditation at jeopardy is not a best practice.

Alamo Colleges chancellor backs away from controversial changes
Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie notified employees and students on Tuesday.

SAN ANTONIO — Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie notified employees and students of the five schools Tuesday that the district has backed away from controversial efforts to place a new education course in the core curriculum and to require students to buy instructional materials during the registration process.

The addition of EDUC 1300, a “learning framework” course that emphasizes leadership strategies, would have reduced the number of required humanities courses to just one and was unpopular with faculty members, who said their consultative process was ignored, and with some administrators.

“While it troubles me to write this, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the Alamo Colleges to redirect our efforts to place the EDUC 1300 course as part of the core,” Leslie wrote. “The controversy and divisiveness surrounding this issue have simply outweighed the necessity to push ahead at this time. For the same reason, we will not be linking all IM (instructional materials) purchases to the registration process in the upcoming term.”

A celebratory mood ensued among faculty and students at multiple colleges, who have said they were not adequately involved in either decision and have spoken out repeatedly against both.

“It came like a bolt of lightning,” said Celita DeArmond, president of the San Antonio College Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, referring to Leslie’s email. “This is a win for students because that is going to allow us to restart the process.”

Karen Truelove, a Palo Alto College sophomore, said students were elated but “the fight is not over, just postponed.”

“We need to be very vigilant and take whatever actions we can to try, to make sure that changes are not forced upon us in the future,” she said.

Despite faculty objections, the Alamo Colleges received word in March that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board had approved including EDUC 1300 in the core curriculum for incoming students starting this fall.

But the colleges’ accrediting body — the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges — sent letters last month requiring four of the five Alamo Colleges to submit reports by April 15 explaining how the change met accreditation standards and provide evidence that faculty approved it.

Northeast Lakeview College still is seeking independent accreditation and did not receive a letter.

“The challenge was that we were moving faster than many were ready or willing to move,” Leslie said in an interview. “The board and I and many others are very anxious to bring to bear what are proven to be best practices as quickly as possible so students can get the best advantage. But, in this instance, I think people just weren’t ready.”

Leslie acknowledged the queries from the accrediting body factored in his decision but said there also were issues with whether the district would be ready for a fall semester roll-out.

“I’m sorry, in a way, that these components took such a large place in the visibility of what we’re doing,” Leslie said, in light of larger efforts — like a new advising model, meant to boost student success.

Leslie said the district now is striving to offer EDUC 1300 outside of the core in the fall.

Rex Peebles, an assistant commissioner at the coordinating board, said about 25 Texas institutions have fall 2014 core curriculums that include a course similar to EDUC 1300.

To remove it from Alamo Colleges’ core would require the district to submit a written request — “and we’ll accommodate” it if it meets requirements, Peebles said.

Leslie said the bulk of the new instructional materials strategy, including a move toward electronic materials and evaluating which might work for courses across the district, remains in place.

But students will have the option of purchasing the materials where they want, rather than being required to buy them during the registration process. That will cut into the scale of the purchase, which means the district might not be able to cut the price of materials in half as planned, Leslie said.

jlloyd@express-news.net

Twitter: @jlloydster

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