Faculty members cast doubt on draft for new core

Photo by Anna Delph.
Photo by Anna Delph.

Professors from the English, philosophy and religion departments say the new core draft does not make a good enough case to prompt changes to current core.

These faculty members argue the process of core revision was rushed and has left some major gaps in the core draft.

“One of the concerns I had was that the proposal generated a lot of changes to core without input across campus,” said philosophy department chair Ruth Groenhout.

The changes proposed in the draft include eliminating some current core classes and combining classes from different departments into the same categories. Many humanities professors say this kind of major change cannot be made rashly.

“There has been no real opportunity for faculty to sit down and talk about the current core and potential problems,” English professor James Vanden Bosch said.

According to religion professor Richard Plantinga, the process of revising core has so far seemed under-the-table and has not been an open discussion. This can “generate hostility among faculty,” Plantinga said.

The initial concerns about lack of transparency meant a lot of people had negative reactions to the draft, said Groenhout.

Some professors say there was no room for faculty input at all. “The faculty role in the creation of this proposal has been non-existent,” said religion professor David Crump. “It is a complete violation of due process.”

Moreover, many faculty members doubt the current core has major problems in the first place.

“I would like to be assured that we have looked at lots of different issues and problems with the current core,” said English department chair Elizabeth Vander Lei. “My fears have not been assured.”

Most of the problems presented in the core proposal do not seem carefully researched and based on facts, said English professor Don Hettinga. “I am not so sure that there is a demonstrated problem with the current core,” Hettinga said. “Much evidence seems anecdotal.”

According to Vander Lei, faculty members across departments need to work to identify potential problems with the current core, find evidence to support these perceptions and then examine all possible solutions before any decisions are made.

If problems are determined, it will take a significant amount of time to draft a new core, Plantinga said.

“Even if it is confirmed that Calvin’s core is too large, there may be other ways to reduce it,” Plantinga said. “We think things through carefully here [at Calvin], and we haven’t done that with this proposal.”

The process of core revision may be drawn out in light of faculty concerns.

“I can’t imagine how we could complete all the processes necessary to pass a new core by the end of this academic year,” said Vander Lei.

Faculty say the recently drafted core model may have too much criticism to become a reality.

“My main observation is that without that campus-wide discussion of the current core’s strengths and weaknesses, there is no reason to move forward with the proposal,” said Vanden Bosch.

Groenhout said the combination of concerns about losing faculty, good courses and the integrity of a core education at Calvin seems to mean this specific proposal does not have much of a chance.

“We [the philosophy department] do not think it is a done deal at all,” she said.

About the Author

Lauren De Haan

Lauren De Haan is Chimes Editor in Chief for the 2014-15 school year.

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