Faculty Senate discusses new core requirement

Matthew Fleckenstein | Staff Reporter


The Butler University Faculty Senate voted Sept. 15 to create a subcommittee to further research the Social Justice and Diversity proposal for a new requirement in the core curriculum every student is required to take.

The SJD committee is comprised of chair Chad Knoderer,   Amy Peak, COPHS, Susan Adams, COE, Lisa Brooks, JCA, Terri Carney, Elise Edwards, Carmen Salsbury, Ania Spyra, LAS, Ann Kelley, COB, Ann Savage, CCOM and Sally Childs-Helton, Library.

The original proposal would require students to take two SJD designated courses and attend two SJD designated Butler Cultural Requirements.

The proposal was first brought to the senate April 21. It was not published on the agenda but was emailed to the full faculty two days later.

Faculty Senate Chair Elizabeth Mix said this upset the faculty because they did not have time to talk it over with their respective colleges before the meeting.

“We expect that documentation for anything that is going to be brought up at a senate meeting is sent out to the senators in advance to review,” Mix said. “It’s sent out to all faculty to review so the faculty can give input to their senators about which way they’re going to vote.”

Senators were unaware that the SJD proposal was on the agenda, Mix said.  That and the lack of clarity in the five-page proposal caused anxiety among the senate.

“This new requirement would use approved courses from all areas of the core and any potential major programs, without adding credits to any existing programs. All students must take two SJD-designated courses, at least one at 300/400 level, and attend two SJD-designated BCR events,” according to the original proposal.

Although the proposal stated there was no set structure, Mix said some senators were afraid that if there was a “yes” vote, that structure would become the set structure.

Terri Carney wrote the proposal and brought it to Mix.  From there, it was taken to the Core Curriculum Committee, who unanimously voted to bring it to the Senate.

Faculty Senate originally passed it, but the CCC recalled it July 13, due to “the lack of process for introducing changes to the structure of the core curriculum,” CCC co-chairs Chad Knoderer and LuAnne McNulty stated in a withdrawal letter.

Carney said there would be no additional BCR requirements added to the eight in existence now. Students may have to take a class they would not have taken otherwise.

“The faculty has to adopt the spirit of this and then we make it happen, that was my original charge and that’s what I did,” Carney said. “I tried to get them to commit to the idea thinking we would work out the details.”

Some senators believe social justice and diversity are already addressed in the current core curriculum. One faculty member who voiced his concern was Olujide Akinbo.

“I believe that right now the core courses that are required of students are already plenty heavy, we shouldn’t be expanding that,” Akinbo said. “Whatever way we want to highlight matters of social justice and diversity can be woven into the present structure beautifully and implemented in a zero sum approach that does not increase the burden of the students.”

Although he supports the idea of bringing awareness to social justice and diversity, Akinbo said he does not think adding a class will help to increase the awareness; it will just put more information out there.

“If we want to teach values in classrooms people will tend to see it more as something they need to study for an exam and not something that they need to abide by and incorporate and live in their life,” Akinbo said.

Mix said there are two things that need to be considered: whether students will be able to graduate in four years and if there is already a diversity requirement.

“I think that given the liberal arts university that we call ourselves, I hope we have been bringing attention to this through the core,” Akinbo said. “If we have not through the various things that we are doing in the core then we need to look into that. Otherwise the GHS students should have been exposed to some diversity matters there. If we are not exposed to issues of social justice issues in that place we need to look into that.”

Both Mix and Akinbo suggested a change, but in different ways.

“The easiest way to do it would be to take something out of the core, at the same time that you put something in,” Mix said. “That would be one way to do it to make sure that the result is exactly the same.”

However, Akinbo does not see a reason to make any changes to the core, but rather just infuse the ideals of the SJD proposal into the current core.

“I think it’s a good idea to bring awareness to the matter of social justice and diversity, it’s a very good idea,” Akinbo said. “However it must be implemented in such a way that it is meaningful and that it does not harm the very students that we are trying to help.”

During its past two trips to the university, the Higher Learning Commission, the accrediting body for Butler, has given the school low marks in diversity.

“Diversity, the way they define it, I think, is like, do we have any people of color here, do we have any Latinos. And another measure is they look at our curriculum,” Carney said. “Because they know that in order to attract a diverse student body and diverse faculty, you have to offer curricular initiatives that attract them to support proportionately.”