At a lively meeting Thursday, the University of Minnesota Senate decided to prolong discussions around changing the University's liberal education requirements.
The Liberal Education Redesign Committee took several years to rethink the University’s liberal education requirements, bringing plans A and D to the senate to be voted on. Faculty and students expressed concerns about the level of student involvement in the redesign process, the cost associated with changing requirements and how they would be implemented. After discussion of these concerns, the senate ultimately voted against both plans over the current curriculum.
Plan A would eliminate courses that fulfill at least two liberal education requirements, commonly known as "double-dipping" courses, while plan D aims to maintain them. Both plans introduce ethics and quantitative reasoning as required fundamentals, among other changes.
Thursday’s meeting ended with a discussion about how to move forward, including a suggestion of the potential formation of a new committee under new Provost Rachel Croson sometime this spring.
Professor Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, chair of the now-disbanded LERC, said it is time to pass the baton. However, whoever works on the redesign next will likely build off of the committee’s work, she said.
University Senator Tabitha Grier-Reed suggested that the next step of the redesign should include more analysis of feedback from faculty and students, a process that could span over the next couple of years.
“I don’t think that whoever comes next should throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I do think that the redesign won’t be fast, and that it would involve getting and integrating feedback at multiple steps along the way,” Grier-Reed said.
Members of the Student Senate and the Minnesota Student Association expressed concern that their voices had not been involved enough in the consultation process from the beginning.
Kohlstedt met with several MSA leaders as well as the Undergraduate Advisory Group earlier this year, but some students said they were not content with this level of consultation. The Student Senate was not consulted during the redesign process.
Student senators issued a statement against the proposed plans, both of which they argue would not further their goal of making it easier and less expensive for students to graduate.
“Those are our two values, make it easier for students to graduate with as little debt as possible and on time, and making sure that students are full partners in the development of University policies that apply to everyone,” said Student Senate Consultative Committee Ranking Senator Isaiah Ogren.
MSA passed a statement supporting the Student Senate statement at their most recent forum meeting.
Grier-Reed said she thinks the curriculum belongs to the faculty, but that student perspectives are invaluable during the redesign process and should be included.
“I think for sure the student voice is essential to the process of developing something that feels like its relevant to their lives and their futures,” she said.
President Joan Gabel said she was happy with the outcome of the meeting, and that the senate made decisions in the spirit of continuous improvement, while still respecting the work that had been done up to this point.
Gabel added that this decision is an important one that faculty need to feel confident in.
“People need to feel really good about what we’re asking of our students when we fundamentally change the matrix or decision tree for how they become an educated person,” she said.
Dylan Anderson contributed to this report.