General education requirements in CSU system could create faculty layoffs

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Gayle Brunelle addresses her concerns with executive order 1100 at academic senate meeting thursday
(Aurielle Weiss / Daily Titan)

Chancellor Timothy P. White issued an executive order in August 2017 requiring colleges in the CSU system to change general education requirements. The restructured requirements were recommended by faculty, students, administrators and the Academic Senate CSU “regarding how systemwide general education policy can better,” according to the order.

Executive order 1100 claims to “clarify requirements, ensure equitable opportunity for student success and streamline graduation requirements,” according to the CSU website.

The new requirements took effect this fall semester. According to White’s memorandum to the presidents, enforcing the policy is the responsibility of Cal State University presidents.

At the Academic Senate meeting Thursday, faculty took the opportunity to address Fram Virjee, Cal State Fullerton’s interim president, with their concerns.

Robert McLain, CSUF history professor, said the changes will negatively affect CSUF professor jobs stating, “there will definitely be layoffs of our part-time lecturers if the GE changes go through.”

History professor, Robert McLain, expresses his concerns about the changes in general requirements.
(Aurielle Weiss/ Daily Titan)

“It troubles me that I’ll probably lose colleagues. Mainly because of the loss of the second half of (World Civilization) in the GE category, which was listed as a strength of our school over other Cal States. That was what made us different,” McLain said.

Virjee said the policy changes are correlated with the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025, a CSU effort to increase graduation rates for all students while keeping “opportunity and achievement gaps” in mind, according to the CSU website.

The executive order states that if a student decides to change their major having already finished their general education requirements, those units will “double count” toward their new desired major.

Virjee said when certain classes are no longer a requirement, students may stop taking them. Although these classes will still be offered, less professors will be needed to teach the now elective classes, but Virjee said the results of this are still unknown.

“We haven’t done anything yet so we have to see. We don’t know what the effect will be. It may very well be that many students take those courses even though they aren’t required,” Virjee said.

However, Virjee said that no professors have been laid off and the 2025 initiative will most likely lead to the hiring of more faculty.

“It could lead to professors being laid off. But it could also lead to the hiring of more professors. In order for us to graduate students sooner, that means we have to offer more classes,” Virjee said. “To make more classes available to do that, we have to hire more faculty.”

Gayle Brunelle, CSUF history professor, said the requirement changes will lead to uneven outcomes as some of the smaller departments largely depend on students taking their general education classes.

“The impacts of them are very uneven across the campus and certain departments and certain colleges are going to lose a substantial amount of (full-time equivalent students) and resources,” Brunelle said. “That will result most likely in impacting jobs as well as impacting the quality of student education.”  

Virjee said the general education reorganization will not only be easier for students to navigate, but will also reduce the number of course categories the student is required to take.

McLain said he worries that intellectually, this initiative will come at a price.

“Another aspect that I don’t hear is the intellectual cost of losing some of these. It seems to be only a numbers game,” McLain said.

The 2025 initiative also calls for course redesign efforts to improve student grade outcomes, especially in courses with historically high failure rates, according to the initiative factsheet.

Virjee said by removing bottleneck classes, which he said were entry-level classes, students will be able to move through to graduation by “not making (class requirements) easier, but finding a way to teach (them) better.”

The rate of graduation is just a number. What we’re looking for is student success,” Virjee said. “We want our students to succeed that means we want them not only to graduate but graduate prepared. I would rather have students graduate in five years or six years and be well prepared for the future than four years and not know what to do. So it’s a balance.”

Ben Burkhardt contributed to this report.

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