Four faculty and three administrators will meet on March 31 to vote on a proposed change to the Liberal Arts and Sciences core curriculum. The change would be the first significant revision in the last 35 years, and it would theoretically deepen students’ understanding of “fundamental” skills — mathematics, speech and writing.
According to the proposal, the foundation of the core would remain primarily the same, but it would add a required oral communication course and some form of a global perspective course. The vertical integration aspect of the proposal would require further practice in fundamental skills by having students take two additional courses that are writing intensive, one additional course encouraging quantitative literacy and a second course that involves oral communication — all of which would ideally be satisfied in their major, minor or even the core.
It’s important to note that these changes wouldn’t affect current sophomores, juniors or seniors. If approved, the phase-in process would begin in the fall of 2017, thus affecting the class of 2020.
Here are some of the key points on each side of the discussion.
PRO: Rider students could use the extra practice in those three fundamental areas
The core proposal’s chief merit is its effort to give students additional practice in “fundamental” skills — quantitative, oral and written. The proposed core will theoretically allow students to practice those skills. We agree with the committee’s attempt to require students to gain more experience in those areas throughout their Rider careers. Taking just one or two courses in each of those areas, and then moving on is not the blueprint for successful Rider graduates. Ideally, students would learn how to apply those skills to their area of study.
PRO: Middle States accreditation has changed, so Rider needs to develop with it.
Rider’s current core does not clearly satisfy everything current higher education accreditation is looking for. Middle States now expects students to obtain “technological competence, oral communication and scientific reasoning,” according to the Assessment Committee. Several of the proposal’s proponents suggest that when Rider is evaluated in 2017, it’ll be able to say that Rider is headed in the direction that Middle States is asking for, which should help with the evaluation.
CON: The core would significantly change major course offerings
In order for this change to work and add minimal required credits to the current core, the design of each department’s course offerings would have to change. Each major would have to offer sections that practice either math, speech or writing, so students would be able to double or triple-dip major courses or elective courses to satisfy the core.
As with any change, it will come fraught with unexpected issues that will need to be worked out.
CON: Rider is just beginning the strategic planning process
With Rider trying to develop a strategic plan, some of the proposal’s opponents suggest that if this change is approved now, it will need to be modified later. Therefore, implementing a new core now that may be changed in the future is not the best idea.
The bottom line is the 35-year-old core should change because the world has evolved a lot since the current core was established. However, despite the proposal’s good intentions, we wish there had been more student involvement in discussions and more done to assess the current core before moving forward.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Executive Editor, Thomas Regan.
Printed in the 3/30/16 issue.