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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Centennial Hall opening for classes

    In response to growing enrollment demands and the current budget crisis, university administrators have slated Centennial Hall as a new venue for general education courses in the Fall.

    The classes will hold as many as 1,200 students, and will introduce technical innovations and peer mentor programs to help deal with the increased student presence.

    The classes will include multiple screens and video equipment, along with a podcast feature that will allow students and the public to review the lectures. Supplemental instruction will also be available in the form of smaller group sessions led by student preceptors who have already taken the course.

    While budget problems led to the university’s decision to implement the plan, administrators are optimistic that the new courses will not change the quality of education.

    Gail Burd, vice provost for academic affairs, stressed that the courses provide a needed step towards alleviating the school’s budget woes, while at the same time advancing the university’s educational mission.

    “”We had a 20 percent budget cut, so yes, we’re challenged for resources. We still don’t know what our budget is going to be next year,”” she said. “”So the budget was the instigator, but that doesn’t mean this will be a negative experience.””

    Burd said she is confident that the courses will turn out to be successful because of the highly regarded professors selected to teach them.

    “”We feel that by putting our best professors in these classes that our students will have a very positive experience,”” she said.

    Albrecht Classen, professor of German studies, is one of three such professors who will teach at Centennial Hall.

    To deal with the special challenges of the venue, his course on the Middle Ages will implement new methods of instruction.

    “”I’ll organize my class into lecture and teaching-answer sections. I’ll have two (Technological and Pedagogical Assistants) working with me intensively,”” Classen said. “”Most important, I will develop small sections of 10 students each who will be responsible for creating a portfolio throughout the semester.””

    Despite these methods, class size remains an uncertain issue for many.

    “”Of course I am very worried, but I was approached by the administration and accepted this challenge,”” Classen said. “”It might be bad for the class itself, which would collapse after this semester, because students might hate the size.””

    Juan Garcia, outgoing vice president for instruction, has argued that the decision to move to Centennial Hall represents a reversal of priorities on the university’s part.

    “”What they’re trying to do is meet growing enrollment demands in face of a budget crisis,”” Garcia said. “”The bottom line is to save money. I think that the quality of education is secondary to trying to find resources for budget cuts.””

    Garcia sees Centennial Hall as representative of a distressing trend.

    “”I think we will see other changes, because we haven’t hit the severest point of the budget crisis,”” he said. “”We are looking at even more stressful times in the future. Centennial Hall is just one of the warning signs along the way.””

    Garcia’s former role in the Centennial Hall plan has been relieved by President Robert Shelton, who has moved the project from Garcia’s office of instruction to that of student affairs. Melissa Vito, vice president for student affairs, now heads a team along with other administrative officials.

    Shelton chose not to renew Garcia’s contract last month after an exchange of emails between Garcia and Provost Meredith Hay.

    Garcia had expressed frustration that “”giving the Centennial Hall project to a non-instructional unit flies in the face of reason and practice,”” he said in one of the e-mails, according to a report by the Arizona Daily Star. In his e-mail, he called the decision “”heavy handed, insensitive, discriminatory, and unilateral.””

    “”At the very least, I should have been consulted on a decision that will profoundly affect and infringe on my main area of responsibility,”” Garcia wrote to Hay. “”This is another example of your lack of respect for me and for the Office of Instruction.””

    Following the exchange, Shelton asked for Garcia’s resignation, a request Garcia denied.

    Vito differs with the view that Centennial Hall is a cause for concern. A positive part of the large class size is that it provides a “”way for many students to get to the best faculty,”” she said.

    Vito noted that with the difficulties the administration faces in juggling enrollment pressures with budget cuts, “”it is easy to say that the sky is falling down.””

    Vito contends that with the quality of instructors and the successful precedents of other universities such as Berkeley, Missouri, and Michigan, “”we’ve got all the resources to make this really good.””

    Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated that an e-mail exchange between outgoing Vice President for Instruction Juan Garcia and Provost Meredith Hay was between Garcia and President Robert Shelton. The Daily Wildcat regrets the error.

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