Faculty Senate renews debate over dropping 3 gen ed classes


The Wichita State Faculty Senate renewed an impassioned debate Wednesday over a proposal to cut the university’s general education credit-hour minimum from 42 to 33 hours starting next academic year.

The proposal would retain a 12-credit-hour minimum for basic skills subjects but reduce the number of required fine arts, humanities, social sciences, and math/natural science classes to one each. Students’ three additional courses could be either introductory-level or advance fouses.

All undergraduate degrees at WSU require students to complete at least 120 credit hours. Cutting down on gen ed requirements would not lower the overall number of credit hours students have to take.

Music Sen. Aleks Sternfeld-Dunn argued that quality and content of classes are better measures of general education than a composite number of credit hours students take.

“There’s not a science to, ‘Oh, it’s at 36 credit hours or 39 credit hours that [students] suddenly become a functional human being for our society,” Sternfeld-Dunn said.

Philosophy Sen. Susan Castro proposed an amendment to keep the minimum at 42 credit hours, arguing that it’s WSU’s responsibility to give students a strong liberal arts education.

“The purpose of a university undergraduate education is very different from a technical school or a graduate program,” Castro said.

Music Sen. Pina Mozzani countered that cutting back on core classes while maintaining gen ed requirements is doing a disservice to WSU students. 

“We have to consider our students more than the philosophical aspect of having this number of general education courses,” Mozzani said. “We are cutting our core curriculum.”

Castro’s amendment to maintain the 42-credit-hour threshold failed. So did an amendment to lower the required number of hours to 30, the Higher Learning Commission’s bare minimum.

The Kansas Board of Regents requested in 2017 that universities cap degree programs at 120 credit hours to promote on-time degree completion. As a result, several of WSU’s engineering and music degrees had to cut back on core classes.

Art and Design Sen. Jeff Pulaski said he knows lowering the gen ed credit-hour minimum will disproportionately affect Liberal Arts and Sciences, but that other colleges felt the pain when they had to cut back on degree requirements.

“We had to drop stuff that we felt was very important for our students to learn, but we couldn’t touch gen ed,” Pulaski said.

Provost Rick Muma said the Regents deny any appeal for an exemption to the 120-credit-hour rule for a degree that another university already offers at the preferred credit-hour maximum.

Engineering Sen. Roy Myose said it’s unfair to ask professors to combine the curricula of multiple core classes into one.

“If that’s the case that you can’t stuff two classes together, how do we retain the [gen ed] goals and outcomes by chopping the gen ed curriculum?” History Sen. Jeff Hayton asked.

“As the chair of the [Gen Ed] committee, we grappled with that,” Faculty Senate President Jeff Jarman responded.

“We don’t think that the students at other universities who take less than 42 credits are somehow unprepared to be citizens in the world.”

Faculty Senate received a resolution from the Student Government Association last spring in support of cutting back on gen ed credit hour requirements.

Sternfeld-Dunn spoke in open forum at last Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting to give senators an update on the proposal and a chance to ask questions.

At-Large Sen. Lauren Peterson asked what would happen to students who have already taken the required 42 gen ed credit hours.

“Students who are here now would have a choice,” Sternfeld-Dunn said. “They could either stay in the current catalogue they’re a part of . . . or you can choose as a freshman or a sophomore, you might choose, ‘Okay, I’m going to switch over and take advantage of the reduction of general education.”

Asked how students can best voice their opinions on the proposed gen ed scale back, Sternfeld-Dunn said they should email himself or Jarman.