Changes to general education requirements spark protest from CSU Academic Senate

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When the Academic Senate of the California State University reconvened at the end of summer, senators were shocked to find that revisions and executive orders had been made to statewide curriculum and graduation requirements without their consultation.

“We’re sitting there thinking ‘Wow, you should have consulted with us.’ The curriculum is up to faculty as a whole, and we need more input,” said Mark Stohs, Ph.D., Cal State Fullerton finance professor who serves on the ASCSU.

Normally the Academic Senate would work together with CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White to come up with ideas before sending executive orders back to the campuses for feedback and eventual creation of statewide policy, said ASCSU Senator Jon Bruschke, Ph.D., and CSUF human communication professor.

“The phrase that the faculty uses is ‘shared governance,’” Bruschke said.

This shared governance never happened and some Senate members are considering taking a dramatic stance in response.

“The statement made on the floor of the Senate was, ‘This is such an egregious bypassing of our functions that maybe disbanding in protest would be appropriate,’” Bruschke said.

Stohs said he isn’t sure if that will happen, but that it is a possibility.

“People, I’m sure, are thinking about it, and some of the faculty are probably upset enough that they’ll argue as long as they can,” Stohs said.

On the issue of shared governance, Bruschke said the CSU Chancellor’s Office has remained quiet.

“The Chancellor’s Office is more or less acting like none of that has happened and is just saying we’re going forward,” Bruschke said.

The Chancellor’s Office was unable to be reached for comment.

Bruschke said the changes made by the Chancellor’s Office were twofold. Executive Order 1100 was revised, changing the general education requirement to 48 units systemwide, allowing general education requirements to fulfill or double count for major requirements and eliminating history section D2 of general education requirements.

The general education requirement at CSUF stands at 51 units.

Executive Order 1110 was also put in place on Aug. 2, 2017. It removed standardized testing in math and English for high school seniors and the subsequent remedial college courses that those tests placed students in.

Both orders are intended to bring “equitable opportunity for student success” across CSU campuses and ensure more efficient graduation rates according to an Aug. 23, 2017 memorandum from White. The policies will be effective as of fall 2018.

The ASCSU and 11 of the 23 CSU campuses have passed resolutions stating that they either do not support the executive orders, or at least need more time to implement them.

Cal State Northridge resolved to do away with the executive orders altogether, while CSUF’s resolution states that “the timeline for implementation will be impossible to meet based on CSUF policy, procedures and traditions.”

On Friday, Oct. 12, Executive Vice Chancellor Loren Blanchard responded to these resolutions with a memorandum that allotted more time for the implementation of Executive Order 1100 but only by specific request and in small allotments.

An FAQ sheet from the Chancellor’s Office stated “it would be difficult to justify delaying the benefits afforded by these policy changes, which increase opportunities for student success and facilitate efficient degree completion.”

Brent Foster, Ph.D., CSUF interim director of Undergraduate Studies & General Education, said he agrees.

“I believe that we have the ability to roll our sleeves up and make it happen if everyone can accomplish what they need to,” Foster said. “If not, we can be strategic about how we accomplish things.”

Foster also believes the changes will greatly benefit students, including his own family.

“My son is going to be here in fall 2018 and I would like to see him have the opportunity to have the benefits of Executive Order 1100,” Foster said.

However, Foster said he knows how vast the changes will be.

“It’s a complex implementation that involves many moving parts. Some of those moving parts involve rewriting policies. Some of those parts involve rewriting our catalogue, rewriting student and faculty handbooks, shuffling and moving courses around,” Foster said.

The shift in general education courses, along with the removal of remedial courses, could potentially result in a loss of jobs for non-tenure track lecturers, specifically in the English, history and, potentially, math departments, Bruschke said.

“It could just mean when someone leaves they’re not going to rehire in that position. That’s up to departments,” Stohs said.

Bruschke said other faculty concerns about the executive orders include students not experiencing the full breadth of education and the potential downsizing of smaller departments like ethnic studies and women and gender studies. Some faculty across the state believe the executive orders have the potential to actually slow student graduation rates.

“The big problem is that this was done without consultation with any campus in the system and its impacts are potentially enormous,” Bruschke said.

In this instance, the campuses are strongly united in their opposition.

“We think that virtually all of the campuses will go on record having a resolution saying that minimally, the executive orders should be delayed at least a year for implementation,” Stohs said.

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