Evaluating the core

Some Butler University students may soon have different core curriculum requirements than the rest of the student body.

A proposal that would give Butler’s colleges the power to exempt students who entered Butler before the end of the 2011-12 school year from completing the Speaking Across the Curriculum requirement passed Faculty Senate’s curriculum committee. It will be brought to a vote at the meeting on Nov. 27.

The motion was created because there may not be enough speaking courses  offered in all colleges to allow students to meet the requirement before the May 2014 graduation date, said Bob Dale, curriculum committee chair, in an email.

“I hope that, by the summer, there will be enough new courses to meet the need,” Dale said. “If so, there will be no need to suspend (or waive) the requirement for anyone.”

Dale said the course deficiency is most prevalent in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Unlike other colleges that may offer one speaking course for the majority of its students, Jay Howard, LAS dean, said his college would need to offer 15 to 30 different courses for the approximate 30 different majors in the college.

“Are we going to tell hundreds of students, ‘Well you can’t graduate because you didn’t take this course. And the reason you didn’t take this course is because we didn’t offer it.’ ?” Howard said. “That would not go over well.”

Janis Crawford, the Speaking Across the Curriculum coordinator, said she expects the senate will approve the proposal because the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences needs it to be approved in order for their students to graduate.

“Whether or not I agree with it, I get it,” Crawford said. “There’s just not enough courses. My hope is that we can get more courses, so that there will be enough, so that we won’t have to do this again.”

The curriculum requirement must be satisfied by an upper-level course that requires students to give three presentations, one of which must be revised and presented again.

Diane Timmerman, Faculty Senate member and professor in the Jordan College of Arts, said the reason the requirement was made for a 300 or 400 level course is because upperclassmen have more to say than they did as underclassmen.

“Unfortunately, the professor also has a lot to say, and a lot of course material to cover at the 300 or 400 level,” Timmerman said. “So people are finding it difficult in some areas to get the students’ speaking time to mesh with the rigorous course demands of a 300 or 400 level course within the majors.”

The requirement is the only core course that requires prerequisites, meaning the class often becomes a part of students’ majors.

“It’s nice that it’s good and effective as part of your major,” Crawford said. “And I think people feel like it applies more if it’s part of your major, than just a basic public speaking course.”

Howard said that was not the original idea, and students were supposed to be able to take classes outside their major that would fulfill the requirement. Students cannot do so because of the prerequisites required. Howard said the requirement has changed in other ways since it originally passed the senate.

Howard said the curriculum committee has implemented and enforced a restriction unapproved by the Faculty Senate that does not allow for the speaking requirement to be fulfilled by courses that also fulfill the Writing Across the Curriculum core requirement.

“You can’t meet both requirements with a single course, even if all the expectations for each of those requirements are fulfilled in that course,” Howard said.

Howard said eliminating this restriction would go a long way to solving the problem and ease the burden of LAS professors who teach the majority of core curriculum classes.

Dale said the curriculum committee has been examining this restriction.

“It was thought that meeting both sets of criteria in a single course would occur at the cost of losing too much other course content,” Dale said. “We are currently re-evaluating that opinion.”

The issue of whether or not colleges have the authority to suspend a core requirement for a limited period of time will be debated by the Faculty Senate and determine the fate of this requirement, Dale said.

If the senate approves the proposal, Howard said LAS would suspend the requirement for the applicable students and said it would buy Butler time to fix the problem. Howard said some students would miss out on the opportunity to refine their public speaking skills because of such a decision.

“Students really need the opportunity to get up and give presentations,” Crawford said. “If they don’t get that opportunity to have some sort of integrated experience, they may not get it until they have to go out and have a job.”

Timmerman said she does not think anyone wants to eliminate the requirement and all faculty members understand the importance of having students who can speak effectively, but she thinks a resolution remains unclear.

“I really don’t know what’s going to happen—stay tuned,” Timmerman said.

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