University senate votes down Rowan Core

A new general education curriculum, called the Rowan Core, that aimed to add more multidisciplinary courses to students’ education failed to pass through the university senate. The final vote was 25 for, 29 against and four abstaining.

Many faculty members who attended the special senate hearing on Feb. 14 were divided on whether or not this proposed model would be the best way to revamp the general education system.

One of the biggest controversies surrounded the removal of specific stand-alone courses.

The Rowan Core still required college composition I and II, but no longer required a math or a lab science. Individual departments would decide if students should be required to take a math or science course as part of their mid-career courses that included the six literacies.

“I am extremely opposed to dropping the mathematics course requirement from the proposed general education model,” mathematics professor Janet Caldwell wrote in an email to General Education Tactical Team Co-Chair Janet Lindman. The email was published in a faculty response packet given out during the senate meeting.

Caldwell’s main concern is that if math is integrated with another subject, students will only use math they already know without learning any new concepts.

“Mathematics is sufficiently difficult to merit its own course and it requires a syllabus focused on the development of understanding of mathematical concepts,” Caldwell wrote.

Older versions of the Rowan Core required a stand-alone math course, but it was removed after faculty members expressed concern that the model was favoring math over other subjects.

“We tried to make this a very transparent responsive process,” Lindman said. ”We’ve been trying to respond to people’s concerns instead of pushing them out.”

Lindman said that the idea of the proposed curriculum was to give students courses that would be “unique to Rowan.”

The General Education Tactical Team picked six different literacies that would have been the basis of students’ education. Courses would have combined any two of the six following literacies: artistic, communicative, global, humanistic, quantitative and scientific.

Lindman said blending multiple literacies would help students see the connection between their general education classes so they don’t feel that they are just taking them to “get them out of the way.”

“The biggest complaint among students is ‘why am I taking this? It doesn’t make sense. I’ve already had this. [These courses are] all the same,’” Lindman said.

Negative feedback from students was one of the main reasons the General Education Tactical Team was formed to reconstruct the curriculum. The Middle States reaccreditation report of 2009 encouraged Rowan to evaluate student learning and use that assessment to rearrange and revitalize the curriculum.

The final version of the Rowan Core was changed to require six mid-career courses instead of the three after faculty members told the tactical team that there weren’t enough liberal arts aspects to the model.

Lindman said that faculty members told the tactical team that they were worried students were not getting enough opportunities to be exposed to courses outside their majors.

While the debate among how to improve the current general education system is far from over, the Rowan Core’s future is uncertain.

“It is unclear at this point whether we will be given the chance to propose a revised model to the senate,” Lindman said.

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