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Faculty senate confirms it did not fully approve Gen-Ed curriculum passed by ABOR

The logo for the Arizona Board of Regents.

The logo for the Arizona Board of Regents.

On Oct. 4, the University of Arizona Faculty Senate passed a motion clarifying that it did not grant full approval to the General Education Refresh passed by the Arizona Board of Regents.

The regents passed the change on June 10, despite concerns voiced by some members of the faculty and faculty senators.

Faculty members voice concerns about curriculum change

ABOR is facing backlash from some UA faculty after it passed changes to the UA’s general education curriculum without full approval of the University of Arizona Faculty Senate. 

The UA Faculty Senate is a university governing body consisting of faculty representatives that make recommendations for curriculum and help form academic policies.

On April 5, the Faculty Senate met to discuss whether or not they would approve an update to the general education requirements for University of Arizona students. Ultimately, the senate passed a motion “continuing engagement” with the policy, but did not give it final approval.

Despite this, the curriculum update was put on the agenda for a May 27 meeting of the Academic Affairs and Educational Attainment committee of the board of regents. Seeing this, senators sent a letter to ABOR on May 26, concerned that this was put on the agenda despite lack of approval from the senate.

At this meeting, UA Provost Liesl Folks presented the policy to the AAEA committee and noted that some faculty were concerned.

“You will also recognize that this has not been without contention on our campus, and even this week, some of our faculty have brought forward some concerns,” Folks said.

It is unclear whether Folks was aware of the fact that the senate had not officially approved of the curriculum changes. The provost was contacted with a request for comment, but the Daily Wildcat received no response.

On June 9 (in advance of the official approval on June 10), some members of the senate once again wrote a letter to the board to stress that the legislation in question had not been approved, while also emphasizing that the policies presented to the senate and the Board of Regents were different documents.

“We restate, with emphasis: UArizona’s Faculty Senate has not approved the UA’s proposed new General Education program. The Senate has not even seen what was submitted to ABOR,” the June 9 letter stated.

The general education program update was approved on June 10, despite the concerns voiced in the letter.

A new aspect of this curriculum revision, detailed in ABOR 2-210, is the American Institutions program, a general education requirement that would focus on teaching students about U.S. government and history, political science, the founding documents of the United States, landmark Supreme Court cases, civics and basic economics. This program was not present in the documents presented to the senate.

The June 9 letter also emphasized concerns held by members of the faculty senate that the American Institutions program would potentially focus on ideologically and politically loaded topics, and that this could be detrimental to certain students who hold political beliefs different from those covered. The new general education program also lacks a lab science requirement, a decision considered controversial by some members of the Senate.

The future of the American Institutions program is unclear at the UA.

“Currently, there doesn’t look like much of a plan to respond to what that ABOR mandate has required, especially because, as I understand it, the UA’s current plan is to depend on assessments of what people have done in [Kindergarten] through [twelfth grade], which is going to be probably insufficient,” said Leila Hudson, a member of the faculty senate and an associate professor of modern Middle East culture and political economy.

This is perhaps due to the lack of approval by the Faculty Senate.

“While matters pertaining to courses, major and minor requirements, the kinds of degrees and  requirements for each will originate in the various colleges, the final formulation which is to be recommended to the Board of Regents shall be determined by the Faculty Senate,” the June 9 letter said, quoting the UA Faculty Bylaws.

The Wildcat first published an article on the Gen Ed curriculum changes on Sept. 21. After concerns of factual errors in the article were voiced by the Vice Chair of the Faculty, Melanie Hingle, the Wildcat took the article down as a precautionary measure. This article has now been updated with new developments and clarifications.

Hingle contacted the Wildcat on Sept. 21 after the publication of the original article.

“I am writing to alert you to factual errors in your recent article about Gen Ed,” Hingle wrote.

Hingle went on to make claims that the senate had in fact officially approved of the policy, which contradicted the main point of the original article.

The Daily Wildcat made a decision to remove the article from the Wildcat’s website as a precautionary measure as it investigated factual concerns.

The content of the original article was confirmed on Oct. 4, when the Faculty Senate affirmed, via a motion, that the vote taken on April 5 was not an official approval of the general education refresh.

The senate clarifies its original vote

On Oct. 4, Hudson, the faculty senator representing the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, put a motion on the floor of the senate to confirm the meaning of the vote that took place on April 5, due to some confusion and contradicting statements from members in the senate.

“The vote on the Gen Ed Refresh taken on April 5th, 2021 on Qualtrics was a vote in support of the continuing engagement but NOT FINAL APPROVAL of the program,” the motion stated. “That ABOR be formally informed of this clarification by the Senate; and that the Faculty Senate cannot grant final approval without seeing and discussing all plans developed in the Gen Ed Office, all program requirements, all versions of documentation presented and commitments made to ABOR about American Institutions and Civil Discourse, including with ABOR staff, and the organizational and budgetary implications of the Gen Ed Refresh and the new Gen Ed Office.”

The motion passed with a simple majority: 23 in favor, 10 opposed and 7 abstentions.

Hingle, who oversees the senate, was called on by her colleagues to notify the board of regents of the faculty’s lack of approval, with multiple senators claiming that the role of the chair was to convey the opinion of the senate, whether or not they (the chair) agreed with that opinion.

“It shouldn’t be like a petition where the senators who voted for something is sent to the board of regents,” said Marlys Witte, senator-at-large. “It is a report that at the faculty senate meeting, a vote was carried, a motion was carried, and that’s transmitted, and it should be transmitted by the chair, as the vote of the Faculty Senate, it doesn’t mean you agree with it.”

Hingle expressed frustration with this.

“I personally am not sending it from my email,” Hingle said.

“I think the chair should resign if [they] cannot execute the function of the chair,” said Johann Rafelski, representative of the College of Science in the Faculty Senate. “It’s as simple as that.”

“I agree,” said Lucy Ziurys, a senator-at-large.

It is unclear how the results of the Oct. 4 motion will be conveyed to ABOR at this time. Mark Stegeman, the parliamentarian overseeing the meeting, stated during the session that either the leadership should be the ones to convey the results of the motion, or it should be sent from the official Faculty Senate email.

“There was a great deal of ambiguity about the vote that was taken in April. I was uncomfortable with it at the time. I was, and many of my colleagues in the Faculty Senate were uncomfortable with it at the time,” Hudson told the Wildcat. “First and foremost, when we are exercising our obligation to actively participate in setting of university policy, and especially that part that is the explicit purview of the faculty, namely the curriculum, there is no room for ambiguity.”

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