Faculty Senate passes First Year Seminar requirement, pending general faculty approval


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Faculty Senate passed a proposal at Monday’s meeting that would require incoming freshmen to take a First Year Seminar course during one of their first two semesters starting in the 2021-22 academic year. The proposal, which passed 19-10 after spirited discussion, will now go to a vote at the April 29 general faculty meeting.

First Year Seminars, which could be proposed and developed by all six of Wichita State’s academic colleges, would count towards a tier-two general education requirement in the arts, humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences — as determined by the Gen Ed Committee.

Proponents of the proposal say requiring First Year Seminars would promote retention while exposing students to subject-specific expertise early on in their college careers.

“I’ve read the proposal very carefully, and I can’t think of one that would do a better job of unifying a university to bring its students this type of an experience,” Health Sciences Sen. Ray Hull said before the vote.

Music Sen. Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn said he supports the idea of such seminars, but worries that the implementation of the proposal could compromise fine arts- and LAS-specific experiences for students.

“I’m worried that [students] are going to get an experience in my discipline not taught by anyone in my discipline,” Sternfeld-Dunn said.

“There’s a historian on the faculty that deals with rock ‘n’ roll music a lot. Let’s say he designs a First Year Seminar, History of Rock ‘N’ Roll, classifies it as a music or a fine arts First Year Seminar, and it gets through . . . Now, a student can take that History of Rock ‘N’ Roll class and never have to have stepped foot in the College of Fine Arts.”

Provost Rick Muma said the Gen Ed Committee, which reviews course proposals, has representation from all colleges.

“If there’s any concern, then they can say, ‘Hey, we need some support from whatever department,” Muma said.

After the proposal’s first read last month, LAS Dean Andrew Hippisley said he felt that faculty from other colleges were equipped to teach courses that count towards humanities credit requirements.

“At a level of generality, I think anyone can teach humanities, so I don’t think that’s encroachment,” Hippisley said.

After Monday’s meeting, Gen Ed Committee Chair Shirlene Small said she was encouraged by the senate’s lively discussion and ultimate passage of the proposal.

“I think that what we’ve seen is that there are still some concerns about how we are going to implement the First Year Seminar, but that faculty is still very engaged in student success and wanting to move in this direction. They want to make sure we’re doing it in the right way,” Small said.

She said the Gen Ed Committee will host several town hall meetings before the general faculty meeting later this month so that faculty can weigh in on the proposed requirement.

“We want to maintain the requirements and objectives of general education requirements, as well as allow our faculty to have academic freedom on the way that they want to teach that course,” Small said.