Core Revision at UDM: A Timeline

INTRODUCTION

The following timeline and linked material are meant to be an unofficial history of a decade-long effort to revise the core curriculum at the University of Detroit Mercy. For a first-person interview, click here. To the best of my knowledge everything posted here is true. I welcome corrections.


2005-2006  The Core Curriculum Task Force (CCTF) is charged with revising the core curriculum at the University of Detroit Mercy, a Catholic university co-sponsored by the Society of Jesus and the Religious Sisters of Mercy. The CCTF holds its first meeting in November 2005.


2006-2007  Near the end of the second year of its deliberations, a majority of the CCTF decides to adopt the practice of speaking of the new core strictly in terms of learning outcomes and not credit hours. A minority points out that this practice will make it impossible to address the total size of the new core, which is of manifest concern to professional programs with stringent accreditation requirements. The minority also argues that this will make it impossible to discuss how credit hours will be allocated to different disciplines within the new core. The majority carries the day and there is no substantial discussion of core credit hours for the duration of its existence. This can be verified by the committee’s minutes.


2007-2008  The CCTF continues to deliberate with no substantial discussion of credit hours.


2008-2009  The CCTF continues to deliberate with no substantial discussion of credit hours.


2009-2010  The CCTF continues to deliberate with no substantial discussion of credit hours.


2010-2011  The CCTF continues to deliberate with no substantial discussion of credit hours and delivers its final report on March 14, 2011. It makes no mention of the total number credit hours in the new core, or how credit hours will be allocated within the new core. Significantly, it makes no one-to-one equivalency between learning outcomes and courses. The CCTF is dissolved.


2011-2012  The McNichols Faculty Assembly (MFA) debates the charges and make-up of the Core Curriculum Implementation Committee (CCIC), which is tasked with using the learning outcomes produced by the CCTF to create a mechanism for populating the new core with courses.


2012-2013  The CCIC holds its first meeting in January 2012. In subsequent meetings a majority decides to adopt the CCTF practice of speaking of the new core strictly in terms of learning outcomes and not credit hours. A minority again points out that this practice will make it impossible to address the total size of the new core, which is of manifest concern to professional programs with stringent accreditation requirements. The minority again protests that this will make it impossible to discuss how credit hours will be allocated to different disciplines within the new core. The majority once again prevails and there is no substantial discussion of core credit hours for most of its existence. This can be verified by the committee’s minutes.


July 2013  The CCIC delivers its “Guidelines for Proposing a Course for Inclusion in the University Core Curriculum.” Like the final report of the CCTF, this document makes no mention of the total number credit hours in the new core, or how credit hours will be allocated within the new core. Significantly, it makes no one-to-one equivalency between learning outcomes and courses. A university-wide call for core course proposals is issued.


Fall 2013  The chair of the philosophy department, a member of the CCIC who also served on the CCTF, becomes concerned that an unstated assumption had crept into the core revision process: that there would be a one-to-one equivalency between learning outcomes and courses in the new core, despite the fact that this equivalency is never made in any of the committee reports generated by the revision process. Since this would negatively effect philosophy, religious studies, and the departments in the social and natural sciences, in November 2013 the chair of philosophy makes his concerns known to the relevant department chairs in his capacity as a member of the MFA.


January 2014  The chairs of chemistry and biochemistry, philosophy, political science, economics, psychology, religious studies, sociology, and the director of Catholic studies finalize “A Letter of Grave Concern” in case the core revision process moves to reduce students’ exposure to these disciplines.


July 2014  In his capacity as a member of the CCIC, the chair of philosophy confirms that a reduction in exposure to these disciplines is an unspoken assumption of many members of that committee. In response, he places this issue on a CCIC meeting agenda so it can be openly discussed. After debate and discussion the following motion passes by majority vote:

That the current level of exposure to philosophy, religious studies, the natural sciences, and the social sciences be retained in the new core.


September 4, 2014  The unwillingness to discuss the size of the core in terms of total credit hours persists. At an MFA meeting devoted to discussion of the new core held on this date, it is pointed out that, if a one-to-one relationship was assumed between each set of learning outcomes and a single course, this would result in a core with 54 credit hours. The faculty member making this comment is told by the president of the MFA that the new core is not a collection of credit hours but is comprised rather of sets of learning outcomes. This exchange is not included in the minutes of the meeting.


September 18, 2014  At an MFA meeting on this date devoted to collecting “reconciliation” reports giving each program a chance to report on “how the new [core] outcomes would work (or not work) in their respective programs,” philosophy and religious studies register their concerns about the proposed reduction in exposure to the study of these fields in the new core.


October 16, 2014  The MFA approves the final report of the CCIC, including its recommendation “that the current level of exposure to philosophy, religious studies, the natural sciences, and the social sciences be retained in the new core.”


November 6, 2014  The MFA Executive Committee (MFAEC) appoints a five-member Core Curriculum Reconciliation Committee (CCRC) charged with “evaluat[ing] and resolv[ing] reconciliation issues toward the goal of implementing the Outcomes-based Core proposed by the CCIC.” Precept 2 of these charges indicates that the CCIC recommendation to retain the current level of exposure to philosophy, religious studies, the natural sciences, and the social sciences will be taken up by the CCRC. According to the CCRC minutes, its meetings are attended by MFAEC members and chaired by the president of the MFA.


December 4, 2014  The president of the MFA announces that the MFAEC/CCRC has decided that the new core will be capped at 48 hours. This is the first time in approximately eight years that there has been any substantive mention of credit hours in the new core. This cap is to be met by requiring that F1 (Reading, Writing, and Research Across the Curriculum) outcomes be fulfilled through individual majors/programs, and by requiring that students take only one or the other of the Spirituality and Meaning outcomes (F5/F6), not both. Though it is not made explicit by the president, this decision also has the effect of reducing the level of exposure to philosophy, religious studies, the social sciences, and the natural sciences in the new core, against the recommendation of the CCIC. According to the CCRC minutes, this recommendation was never discussed by the committee.


December 5, 2014  The chair of philosophy communicates to select members of the MFAEC/CCRC the negative consequences that this decision will have on both the mission and identity of the university and his department. The chair of philosophy receives a reply from the president of the MFA two hours later, but according to CCRC minutes his email was never discussed by the committee as a whole. The department of religious studies also communicates its concerns to the MFAEC.


December 9, 2014  The chair of religious studies and the director of Catholic studies deliver “A Letter of Grave Concern” to the academic vice president and provost on behalf of the departments of chemistry and biochemistry, philosophy, political science, economics, psychology, religious studies, sociology, and the Catholic Studies program.


December 22, 2014  The chair of philosophy meets with the dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Education and the academic vice president and provost to discuss the mission, programmatic, and procedural dimensions of the MFAEC/CCRC decision.


January 9, 2015  A letter expressing concern about the diminishment of the Spirituality and Meaning outcomes and the reduced exposure to philosophy and religious studies is delivered to the MFAEC/CCRC and the academic vice president and provost, signed by 19 members of the Society of Jesus and the Religious Sisters of Mercy.


February 13, 2015  While discussing the appeal of a rejected core course proposal, the MFAEC/CCRC “agreed that, in general, learning outcomes are a valid criterion for rejection, while questioning the qualifications of the instructor is invalid.”


February 26, 2015  A “sense of the body” discussion at a college-wide meeting of the College of Liberal Arts & Education reveals a high level of concern over the December 4 MFAEC/CCRC decision, with only four abstentions.


March 2-6, 2015  A thorough review of the CCTF final report and the CCIC “Guidelines” by the department of philosophy confirms that neither document suggests a one-to-one equivalency between learning outcomes and courses.


March 9, 2015  Deanna I. Howes, Director of Communications for the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU), distributes a survey of the philosophy and theology/religious studies requirements at AJCU institutions showing that if the MFAEC/CCRC decision stands UDM will have one of the weakest requirements in these disciplines among Jesuit universities.


March 17, 2015  The president of the MFA distributes the Report of the Core Curriculum Reconciliation Committee (CCRC) to the McNichols Faculty Assembly (MFA).  The reduction in exposure to philosophy, religious studies, the social sciences, and the natural sciences in the new core is retained, against the recommendation of the CCIC. The report also recommends that the next core committee, the MFA Core Curriculum Committee (CCC):

. . . be the sole entity responsible for the Core Curriculum including the review of Core course proposals. This will require a revision to reflect the dissolution of the RCIT’s and the elimination of the respective College Curriculum and Standards Committees as a required step in the process of approval. The MFA CCC should avail itself of subject area expertise outside of the committee on an as needed basis.


March 19, 2015  The MFA announces that the Spirituality and Meaning outcomes have been fully restored, and calls for reconciliation reports. The department of philosophy delivers its second reconciliation report to the membership of the MFAEC/CCRC. The report requests a meeting with the MFAEC/CCRC so the department can communicate its concerns directly.


March 25, 2015  The Varsity News publishes an article entitled “Proposed change to core curriculum divides faculty.”


March 31, 2015  A joint letter of concern about MFAEC/CCRC decision, signed by the chairs of communication studies, computer and information systems, counseling and addiction studies, economics, education, English, history, performing arts, philosophy, political science, psychology, religious studies, and sociology and social work, is delivered to the president of the MFA, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Education, and the academic vice president and provost.


April 1, 2015  The chair of philosophy receives an email from the president of the MFA in response to the department’s March 19 request for a meeting with the MFAEC/CCRC. The president invites the chair of philosophy to arrange a meeting if he so desires, but informs him that since the CCRC has completed its work and delivered its report on March 17, its members technically have no obligation to continue as a committee.


April 2, 2015  Departments and programs orally deliver their second reconciliation reports to the MFA, including the departments of philosophy and religious studies.


April 7, 2015  The Varsity News publishes a letter to the editor from the chair of philosophy that points out that proponents of the new core do not dispute the fact that there will be fewer philosophy, religious studies, and science requirements in the new core.


April 8, 2015  At the request of some CLAE faculty, the chair of philosophy distributes the links to this website to the CLAE listserv, which prompts this response from the president of the MFA.


April 9, 2015  At an MFA-sponsored open forum on the new core, members of the MFAEC and CCRC publicly state that the concerns of philosophy, religious studies, and other departments have been “red-lighted” and will be taken up for discussion by the MFAEC.


April 30, 2015  At an MFA-sponsored open forum on the new core, the MFAEC distributes a chart of “red-lighted” programs and publicly stated that it would initiate discussions with these programs to address their concerns before the core would be implemented.


May 8, 2015  The MFAEC responds to the joint letter of concern that was signed by the majority of chairs from the College of Liberal Arts & Education and delivered to the president of the MFA, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Education, and the academic vice president and provost on March 31, 2015.


Summer 2015  The departments of philosophy and religious studies hold a series of meetings with the MFAEC to discuss the “red-lighted” status of these programs.


August 24, 2015  An agreement is reached with the MFAEC that the philosophy/religious studies shared elective will be restored for all UDM undergraduates.


August 31, 2015  The philosophy and religious studies departments receive word from the president of the MFA that nursing will be unable to honor this agreement, despite MFAEC assurances that they would be able to do so.


September 3, 2015  The president of the MFA abruptly resigns.


September 10, 2015  The acting MFA president informs the departments of philosophy and religious studies that “a number of [programs]” would be unable to accommodate the restoration of the shared elective, seventeen days after these departments had been assured by the MFAEC that all programs would be able to do so, prompting this response from the outgoing chair of philosophy.


September 17, 2015  A new president is elected to the MFA. A suggestion is made from the floor of the MFA to explore the feasibility of mapping the new learning outcomes over the current core curriculum while retaining as much work as possible from the last decade. After discussion the body endorses this suggestion and forms a Core Curriculum Finalization Committee (CCFC) charged with undertaking this task.


October 1, 2015  The CCFC delivers its preliminary findings to the MFA and reports that mapping the new learning outcomes over the current core curriculum is very feasible. Featured in this presentation is a document outlining possible alternative credit hour arrangements, and identifying two of these alternatives as the most promising. After discussion of these findings college representatives are charged with reporting this new initiative to their constituents and gauging their level of support.


December 3, 2015  After two rounds of reconciliation reports, the CCFC makes its final recommendations to the MFA. After discussion the MFA accepts these recommendations by a vote of 19 in favor, 2 opposed, and 1 abstention.


January 21, 2016  The MFAEC presents an “Outcomes Based Core Curriculum Final Report” to the MFA. After discussion the MFA unanimously accepts the report with only minor amendments.


March 3, 2016  The Office of the Academic Vice President and Provost circulates a document entitled “Shared Governance Structure Modification Proposal.” On page 26 of this document there is a recommendation that would make the number of representatives from CLAE a minority on the Core Curriculum Committee, despite the fact that CLAE staffs the vast majority of core courses.


March 29, 2016  Representatives from the Shared Governance Task Force and the Academic Vice President & Provost hold an open meeting on the McNichols campus seeking feedback on the “Shared Governance Structure Modification Proposal.” A number of faculty in attendance make the following points in regard to the Task Force’s recommendation to reduce the number of representatives from CLAE on the Core Curriculum Committee:

– That the recommendation  was at odds with Task Force’s stated goals of respecting subject matter expertise and the primary place that faculty should retain in matters concerning curriculum;

– That the recommendation was at odds with the practice of the fourteen schools deemed comparable to UDM by the Core Curriculum Task Force, where the core committees are mainly comprised of humanities and social science faculty;

– That the recommendation was in violation of Article Seven of the MFA Constitution and By-Laws and the Task Force’s own Final Proposal for Shared Governance, which was approved by all relevant stakeholders, up to and including the Board of Trustees;

– That worries about CLAE-induced logjams were unwarranted given that the vast majority of courses submitted to the relevant CLAE committees for core approval had been approved.


June 2, 2016  The Academic Vice-President & Provost and her academic deans vote to approve the new Core Curriculum.


June 24, 2016  The Board of Trustees vote unanimously to approve the new Core Curriculum.


Originally posted March 10, 2015
Last updated June 26, 2016

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