Committee announces proposed general education changes

By Cari Griggs, Senior Staff Writer

Jeff Poulin, entertainment business junior, discusses proposed general education changes March 22 in the Great Hall in Tom and Brenda McDaniel University Center. “The goal shouldn’t be what classes," he said. "It should be what way can students engage themselves to achieve their own objectives." Photo: Brooke Yancey/The Campus

Students and faculty had an opportunity to voice their opinions on some proposed changes to the general education requirements for obtaining a degree from OCU.

An open forum on general education was hosted from noon to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 22 in the Great Hall in Tom and Brenda McDaniel University Center.

Andrew Spiropoulos, chairman of the general education committee, presented the proposed changes. They consist of eliminating the public speaking requirement and replacing it with a liberal arts seminar, reducing required science credits from seven to four, and altering the values and culture credit.

The committee must now react to the feedback received at the forum, Spiropoulos said. Members then will try to get an approval of the proposed changes by the end of this year or beginning of next semester. It will take an academic year to begin working on developing the new courses and determining criteria to review them, he said.

The liberal arts seminar would be an interdisciplinary course that involves public speaking and communications. The subject would be something that fit within the passion of the professor. There would be many different options and versions of the course.

Instead of requiring students to take Science, Technology and Society and a lab science course, a four-hour course called Science Inquiry will be required.

The values and culture requirement was consolidated into one directed philosophy and ethics course.

With these changes, the general education requirements would equal 43 credit hours, down from 46.

The changes were in response to a number of concerns voiced from the students and faculty, Spiropoulos said.

“The point is to develop two distinctive, innovative courses to introduce students to the liberal arts,” he said.

Robin Meyers, professor of rhetoric, and Jacob Stutzman, assistant professor of rhetoric and forensics director, presented statistics on the importance of public speaking.

“Principle and objective number three splits human communication in half, into orality and written communication,” Meyers said. “If we drop the public speaking requirement, we put ourselves out of step with our own objectives.”

Stutzman said he researched studies done by the National Association of Colleges and Employment.

“Verbal communication skills are the No. 1 most desired skills and the No. 1 weakness among students,” he said.  “The way to reduce communication apprehension is through training.”

The central purpose of the liberal arts seminar would be to teach these skills, Spiropoulos said.

Ciera Terry, design theater design/production junior, said she had a difficult time understanding specifics of this proposal, because committee members seemed to be having communication issues.

“Something that the chair of the committee continued to say over and over again was that he wanted to bring unity for the university because he wanted more students to have classes in common,” she said. “But I have so many classes that I have in common with other students.
“I have sociology, sci-tech, both my compositions, Spanish —  I mean is that not enough? I could still knock out four or five of those credits in my own major and have more time to spend doing my outside assignments.”

Dr. Jody Horn, chairwoman of sociology and justice studies, said she there wasn’t much difference in the new requirements and there should be more options for students to choose from. She questioned who was consulted when the changes were made.

“If you are going to acquire critical thinking skills, students should be able to choose from classes that interest them,” she said. “This is a globalized world and we should offer classes reflecting that.

“Cultural perspective classes seem a big stretch.”

The changes were based off the premise of what is right for OCU, Spiropoulos said.

“We do not have the resources to deliver quality experiences on every course on that list,” he said. “Each course listed is a promise to students.”

John Starkey, professor of religion, said it is hard to look at classes for the skills they teach versus the subjects.

“Though I have to question the rationale for limiting the values and culture credits to a philosophy class,” he said.

Students and professors said choices in curriculum would allow for students already enrolled in a certain major to take courses that teach the objectives and also pertain to their field of study.

The reason for not permitting this is to create a common experience among very fragmented OCU students, committee members said.

President Robert Henry said he appreciated the forum and agreed yet disagreed with many of the points.

“What’s important is that when we decide what the foundational requirements are, we must make them great.” Henry said.

Contributing: Amanda Alfanos, Web Editor

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