Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Faculty senate considers B.S./B.S.C core exemption

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Faculty senate is in the throes of debating a new core proposal. This proposal would allow students pursuing a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or a Bachelor of Computer Science (B.C.S) degree to be exempt from the second year of foreign language as well as the Persons in Community requirement.

The Core Curriculum Committee (CCC) as well as the Education Policy Committee (EPC) have been working on a revised core proposal since the full core revision was voted down by a full faculty assembly in May 2016.

“Ever since the core was introduced there have been discussions on who should receive exemptions,” said Stan Haan, dean for the natural Sciences and mathematics. “What we’ve done is to go program by program with exemptions and that’s led to a bit of a multiplication of cores, which can raise problems for students who want to move from one [program] to another.”

Haan lists the length of programs as one of the main drivers behind this proposal. According to a survey of peer institutions by the committee, no other school has a bigger core. However, a memo from the political science, economics and sociology and social work to the CCC stated that “only a minority (25 percent) of Calvin peer institutions have differentiated educational requirements for students pursuing a B.S. degree.”

Haan continued, “The other [driver] is students who start in a program that has core exemptions and then want to leave. Those students can face real obstacles with the world language core in particular because they can find themselves with a multi-semester sequence of courses that they need to take,” he said.

Although the memo from the aforementioned departments acknowledged this as a problem for some, “we should be pleased that these students now get the full core education we always thought they should be receiving.”

Haan also brought up the issue of students who do not have the advantage of AP credit or extensive high school experience in areas like world language which makes it more difficult for them to finish long programs in the normal amount of time: “The students that come in without those advantages should be able to get through in four years, too.”

However, many academic departments are unconvinced by this argument: “It is surely the case that many of Calvin’s major programs could identify core categories that they deem as less relevant than another course in their major; however, such action violates the liberal arts project,” the memo stated.

Some faculty have not seen convincing evidence. “I have yet to see evidence that the size of the core holds students at Calvin beyond four years. The proponents of the measure ought to be able to quote these numbers,” said Mark Williams, professor of classics.

The proposed reduction of the foreign language requirement is particularly concerning to some faculty. The proposal would reduce the requirement to the 102 level for those exempt, which is the equivalent of two years of high school language with a C or better.

According to this proposal, if a student has completed the required amount of high school language, “Calvin will consider that they have fulfilled their college language requirement,” said French professor Jolene Vos-Camy. “This proposal works towards making the World Language core category a phantom category in the core.”

Another concern is the potential future implications of these reductions: “It seems a step toward making Calvin College into Calvin University,” said Williams.

“These decisions have very real consequences for what classes students choose to take,” said Vos-Camy. The fewer classes a department can offer, the fewer faculty they can justify. “Some departments will survive and some won’t.”

“In terms of global politics and in the context of world Christianity, it is puzzling and troubling that Calvin would consider reducing the portions of the curriculum most critical to the development of global citizenship,” said a second, concurring memo from the classics, French, German, history, political science and Spanish departments.

By approaching core exemptions from a more degree-oriented angle, Haan hopes to avoid a “piecemeal” approach: “We thought it simplest if we could establish a baseline for exemptions that would apply regardless of program for the Bachelor of Science degree,” he said.

However, Williams disagreed. “Individual departments must make their own case … I don’t know if all departments support [the proposal]. Each department needs to be considered separately.” According to Williams, using the engineering department as the precedent for these reductions is not representative of the differences in programs. “We have nine cores at Calvin, really,” he said about the numerous different exemptions for the various programs.

Haan pointed out that this proposal is not an unfamiliar one: “This isn’t the case of something all new and different,” he said. “What is new and different is doing it across the B.S. degree instead of programs. We have a lot of students who already have core exemptions and I would see this as being able to offer a layer of stability within the B.S.”

Although the faculty fall into a wide variety of positions on the matter, most appreciate the discussion so far. “The conversation has been good. In diplomatic language, it is what we call ‘frank.’ The sharp disagreements are to be expected,” said Williams. “If you don’t have sharp disagreements every once in awhile, you do not have opinions or commitments.”

Faculty senate will vote on the proposal at their next meeting on Tuesday, April 25.

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