Faculty accepts new gen ed program that would cut required credit hours

For the first time in three years, the entire faculty body was called for a “general assembly” to vote on a new general education program proposed by the Faculty Senate, who received the plan from the Kansas Board of Regents.

The faculty voted to accept the program without any amendments from the Faculty Senate. Around 140 faculty members were present and voting at this meeting.

Prospective (or future) students can expect to see required gen ed credits to go from 36 credit hours to 35-34. The plan will be implemented no later than fall 2024.

Although none were passed, two proposals were put on the table by the Faculty Senate in regards to First Year Seminars. 

First proposal

The first proposal would essentially remove First Year Seminars as a university-wide requirement.

Roy Myose, an aerospace engineering professor, spoke in favor of this proposal, citing data about student success following the implementation of First Year Seminars (FYS).

Myose quoted the rationale for the FYS proposal from an April 29, 2019 general faculty meeting, which cites introductory data from 2016 when FYS were first introduced.

In the 2016 data, students in an FYS were 5% more likely to return to an institution between their first and second year and were 7% more likely between the second and third year.

He also cited data from the appendix of this proposal that showed 2016 and 2017, students required to take an FYS in the fall semester were 2% less likely to return to school in the spring and 3% less likely to return in the fall of their second year.

“(First Year Seminars) are negative, not positive,” Myose said. “It does not improve things. If it is negative retention, I do not see why we should be, effectively, fighting over FYS.”

Myose suggested that student success classes, like FYS, be left up to departments so they can cater to their students.

Both Elizabeth Heilman, an education professor, and Rachel Showstack, a Spanish and linguistics professor, disagreed with Myose’s use of data. Heilman called it “spurious.”

“I think First Year Seminars are extremely valuable for supporting students from less-privileged backgrounds,” Showstack said. “I had a lot of privilege coming into college, and something I think Wichita State should be very proud of is supporting students from minoritized backgrounds.”

Some faculty spoke on their own experience in teaching an FYS and how they help students. Toni Jackman, who teaches an FYS, said she spends more time on getting students ready for both their college and professional careers.

“College students are coming (into professions) without the ability to think analytically, to communicate, to have initiative,” Jackman said. “These are the things I’m working with with my students (in a FYS).

After nearly 30 minutes of discussion, the floor was closed and the amendment was rejected with 58 in favor and 85 not in favor.

Currently, a FYS resides in its own category within general education.

Second Proposal

The second proposed amendment the faculty needed to vote on would only count FYS as a disciplinary course under the social and behavioral sciences and the arts and humanities sections. 

Both John Hammond, a faculty senator from the math department, and Neal Allen, a political science professor, argued that FYS courses cover more material than a focused course in the social sciences or arts and humanities and should not count towards those requirements.

“A First Year Seminar can not be a wholly disciplinary class,” Allen said. “If we allow FYS to move into (the social sciences and humanities), we move very, very far away from the idea of general education.”

In February, the Faculty Senate passed an amendment that would only allow First Year Seminars to count in their own disciplinary area. Myose, who served on the General Education committee that originally allowed FYS to count for multiple areas, disagreed with this amendment when the Senate passed it. At the general assembly, he argued that moving FYS into social and behavioral sciences or arts and humanities sections gave students the most flexibility. 

After brief discussion, the amendment failed to pass with 29 in favor and 117 not in favor. Since the amendment failed, FYS will only count in one area: an area that allows each university to require specific classes.

Further Discussion

After these amendments failed, the floor was open for suggestions and any further discussion. George Dehner, an at-large senator from the history department, moved to reject KBOR’s recommended plan entirely and keep the current general education program at Wichita State.

Faculty members raised concerns about not fulfilling KBOR’s requirements and the possibility that KBOR may pull funding from the university.

“I’m sympathetic to the arguments that George is making but I’m not confident that it’s compatible with the requirements that are being handed down by the Regents,” Chase Billingham, an at-large senator from sociology, said.

As the faculty reached their time limit on the meeting, they were forced to motion to extend the meeting or vote on the new gen ed plan and end the meeting. 

After the vote for a time extension failed, the general faculty voted to accept the KBOR recommendation as is with 102 in favor and 36 not in favor. The new general education program can be viewed below. 

Members also voted on whether or not the faculty could meet virtually. This proposal passed with a majority of the votes.