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‘Zero’ chance of passing new core by May, leaders say

Photo courtesy calvin.edu.
Photo courtesy calvin.edu.

A disagreement between academic departments over the need to revise the current core curriculum has delayed plans for a new core, according to professor Bruce Berglund, chair of the core curriculum committee.

Earlier this year, Berglund and Provost Claudia Beversluis were looking to present a modified core to faculty senate by May.

But now, Cheryl Brandsen, dean of social sciences and context disciplines and chair of the educational policy committee, said there is “zero” chance of a new core being pushed through this year.

The committees have yet to finalize a new timeline for the passage of a new core draft, but Berglund said it will probably not be for some time.

“It is very unlikely that any current Calvin students will experience a new implementation of core,” Berglund said.

Brandsen said the discussion of a revised core must be expanded before a new curriculum heads toward implementation.

“I think there needs to be a broader campus discussion about what core should look like. That means meeting with faculty and departments … and asking what kind of opportunities the new core should offer,” Brandsen said.

Berglund echoed Brandsen’s thoughts on the need for further discussion, emphasizing the disagreement in the Calvin community about the suggested changes.

“Both committees recognize that there are departments that see the current core as satisfactory and that think this is a bad time to have a revision of the core,” Berglund said. “On the other hand, there are people in other departments who want to see a revision of core soon because they’re really being burdened with limited staff.”

The two committees had a joint meeting last Friday to discuss core’s role in a larger educational framework and to think about whether or not to move the core discussion forward.

Berglund explained that both committees agreed to continue looking at a possible core revision and to investigate possible alternate models like the white paper the core committee produced last year.

“We’re happy the white paper from last year is doing its job in terms of spurring discussion,” Berglund said.

Brandsen was also glad for the work the core committee put into the white paper.

“The core committee worked incredibly hard on core last year and they did amazing work,” Brandsen said, “but now it needs a broader audience, and that’s where it gets tricky.”

Senior Katherine Vogel, a student representative on the core curriculum committee, expressed her concern about core remaining as it is.

“I don’t think students have any idea what would happen if core doesn’t change,” Vogel said.

Vogel said because of the growing student population, maintaining Calvin’s current core curriculum would result in professors teaching larger sections of classes, or professors teaching more sections and reducing the number of hours spent on research.

Either option would mean a loss for students and no financial gain, according to Vogel.

Brandsen said in order to begin a broader discussion about core, it’s up to the committees.

“I think members of the core and education policy committees will need to be very intentional about setting up times to meet with groups of departments,” Brandsen said.

In regard to the faculty pushback the core committee has experienced in recent weeks, Vogel said she understands their concern, but she is concerned some will remain reluctant.

“It’s not just faculty protecting their jobs,” Vogel said, “but it’s also that people are faculty members in these departments because they feel called by God to teach these things … I just wish there were more positive voices willing to speak up.”

About the Author

Ruthy Berends

Ruthy Berends is a Chimes on-call writer for the 2013-14 school year.

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