Faculty Consultation on Baccalaureate Unit Limits
RESOLVED: That the Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU) express serious concerns that the current wording of the changes to Title 5 includes elements within Item 1 Baccalaureate Unit Limits on the CSU Board of Trustees (BoT) Agenda of the Committee on Educational Policy (November 2012) that removes authority from the faculty who are the most appropriate body to ensure curricular integrity; and be it further,
RESOLVED: That while the ASCSU support the periodic review of academic degree programs and the ability of students to achieve degree progression in a timely manner, we strongly oppose unilateral action to eliminate curricular elements in order to reduce unit requirements; and be it further,
RESOLVED: That the ASCSU unequivocally declare that administrative authority over curricular requirements ought to be limited to system requirements (e.g... General Education) or that required by state law (e.g. American Institutions); and be it further
RESOLVED: That the ASCSU request removal of the current mandated timeline within Item 1 on the November 2012 BoT Education Policy Committee and the establishment of campus-based timelines to be jointly determined by campus administrators and campus Senates so as to allow programs to engage in normal and well-established curricular review processes. and be it further,
RESOLVED: That the ASCSU reaffirm its commitment to AS-2820-07 (Distinctive Universities and Campuses: The Autonomy of Individual Institutions in a Multi-Institutional System) which recognizes that each of the universities of the CSU has developed areas of specialization, as well as programs, procedures, and philosophies that may differ from their sister campuses, and which justifies allowing campus administrators and Senates to work collaboratively toward baccalaureate unit limits; and be it further,
RESOLVED: That the ASCSU affirm that some programs must remain “high-unit majors” for reasons beyond external requirements; in particular that there may be cases where protecting educational quality and student success (e.g., university learning outcomes, internationalization, etc.) may provide a strong rationale for units beyond 120 (semester) or 180 (quarter) hours, and campuses are best positioned to make decisions regarding such “high-unit” majors; and be it further,
RESOLVED: That the ASCSU distribute this resolution to the CSU Board of Trustees, the Chancellor, campus Presidents, campus Provosts, campus Senate Chairs, the California State Student Association, and the leadership of the Academic Senates of the California Community Colleges and the University of California,
RATIONALE: The initial agenda item at the September meeting of the Board of Trustees Educational Policy Committee called for the elimination of upper-division General Education requirements as a statewide CSU graduation requirement. Following concerns addressed by the ASCSU regarding the wisdom of such a proposal as well as the lack of faculty consultation in its crafting, the agenda item was modified to refocus the issue from one that was focused solely on General Education to one that was focused on the number of units required for graduation.
The current information Item 1 Baccalaureate Unit Limits on the Agenda of the Committee on Educational Policy (November, 2012) is a much-revised effort, which now opens the door to a better balance of resource demands with issues of academic quality, curricular control, and honest shared governance. A generous mind could see wisdom in allowing “the chancellor” latitude in having a certain amount of discretion in approving modifications to statewide competency requirements – this is especially true when it is recognized that, in this context, the Title 5 language is unlikely to be referencing “the chancellor” as a sole individual, but rather as the delegating representative of the office of the Chancellor through which such modifications of requirements to either remove or acknowledge the educational benefit of exceeding local and system requirements would necessarily proceed. In this perfect world, the implementation of such a process would proceed naturally from the exchange between the requirements and desires of the local campus and the requirements and desires of the system. Sadly, the history of faculty relations and the history of unilateral action taken by or sponsored at the system level leaves the ASCSU asking that the consultative role, and some real power to protect institutional autonomy and educational quality be preserved within the text of the proposals rather than in the hopes of those that would like to see the system restored to a more balanced and healthy level of function.
The need for any action regarding unit limits can be contextualized by a Chancellor’s Office report indicates that approximately twenty percent (n=508 as of October 22, 2012 per Ed. Policy Item 1) of the undergraduate degree programs offered by the CSU required more than 120 semester or 180 quarter units for a student to graduate (the percentage of affected students is comparable to the percentage of programs). It is clearly an appropriate role for the system to request an assessment of whether these percentages are reasonable and and desirable.
In terms of the process to date, there are three issues. The first is the goal state. The second is the far-from-ideal method of policy development. The third is concerns about the timeframe for implementation. A consultative process will both decrease the perception and reality of interference in the curriculum and be more likely to yield improved curricular outcomes achievable while responding to unit constraints.
While the ASCSU is mindful that the focus of the potential Trustee action has moved from the number of units in (Upper Division) General Education a student needs to take to the number of units required for graduation, the ASCSU remains concerned that the graduation requirement is potentially being put into place without adequate faculty input on timing, process, or the desired goal state. In particular, the newly proposed Board of Trustees implementation plan (Ed. Policy Item 1, pp.3-4) suggests:
Degrees and Concentrations Requiring 121-129 Units (288 programs)
- January 2013 Campuses shall submit program-by-program confirmations that each combination of degree and concentration shall be reduced from 121-129 (181-192) to no more than 120/180 by fall 2013.
- Campuses shall report to the chancellor a listing of each degree program and concentration that requires from 121 to 129 (181 to 192) units that for demonstrated academic, licensure, or accreditation reasons cannot be reduced to 120/180. The program’s unit requirements, both before and after campus review, shall be specified, and the specific reasons for exceeding the maximum unit count shall be explained.
- Campuses with programs requiring from 121 to 129 units (181 to 192) and unable to reduce counts to the maximum number of units shall submit requests for a chancellor’s exception to the established unit maximum for each program.
- Programs that have not been reduced to 120/180 units and have not been granted a chancellor’s exception allowing higher unit counts shall be subject to chancellor’s action to reduce unit requirements, including:
- double counting requirements;
- adjusting the number of required major courses and units to achieve consistency with comparable CSU programs;
- adjusting campus-specific degree requirements (such as languages other than English, among others); and
- Adjusting course and unit requirements for upper-division GE courses.
While both the Title 5 proposed language and the BoT implementation plan clearly recognize that a number of degrees do require more than 120/180 units, it fails to acknowledge the centrality of the faculty decisions in assessing which other degree programs not otherwise explicitly called out in the proposal are also potentially best served by more than 120/180 units. The individual nature of the CSUs have permitted local curricular decisions that best reflect the needs of those campuses and programs – and often in a historic or cultural context. Both theBoT Title 5 proposal and the skeleton of implementation implicitly shift the rigor of the entire CSU community to match that of the lowest common denominator. This may be “adequate” and thus, in the current budget climate, may be seen as desirable. Such decisions should not be made lightly, nor without becoming informed of the likely full costs as well as potential benefits of achieving such efficiencies. More importantly, the provision in the proposed Title 5 change allowing for requirements for non-conforming programs to be reduced could be seen as inconsistent with prior CSU commitments and well-recognized tenets of shared governance in the absence of a requirement, and opportunity, for an appropriate curricular review (and appeal) associated with the central imposition of curricular changes outside the control of the campus faculty. Once again, and particularly in the context of the original proposal, the ASCSU remains concerned about the substance and procedures to be followed regarding the imposition of unit limits permitted within the reference Title 5 proposal.
While it is unclear that anything substantive in the proposal actual requires a Title 5 change, the urgency of wanting to do something to help a beloved institution survive in a state seemingly decreasingly committed to education at any level is understandable. Further, it is explicitly noted that the original proposal has morphed rather continuously, and it is still improving. It is not clear to this body that the pace of improvements and perfections to protect academic integrity while acknowledging fiscal realities has slowed enough to justify calling for action.
In short, the ASCSU acknowledge and convey the important lessons learned from the developments subsequent to the initial posting of the BoT Committee on Educational Policy's agenda item 3 (Upper Division General Education and Degree Completion) of September 2012:
- The critical need for, and reaffirmation of, faculty consultation and shared governance on all curricular matters at the campus and system levels,
- The continuing need for General Education Upper Division course offerings in the undergraduate curricula to facilitate student learning and success,
- The compelling need for, and promotion of, collaborative efforts and shared leadership, where appropriate, on academic matters using a proactive planning, implementation, and evaluation process, and
- The recognition that the diminishing resources provided to higher education generally, and to the CSU specifically, produces a tension between academic quality and the efficiency of producing baccalaureate degree holders needed by the State of California.
To this end, the ASCSU encourage faculty to engage in meaningful discussions concerning program requirements that may be desirable but not necessary to maintain the quality of a degree program. Similarly, the ASCSU encourage bothsystem and campus administrations to respect the statutory role of faculty in curricular decision-making and to remain cognizant that:
- A baccalaureate degree is an indication of learning achieved through completion of a program of study.
- Faculty, on long-standing principles endorsed by the Board of Trustees Statement on Collegiality and the American Association of University Professors’ Principles Statements, have primary responsibility for the curriculum and thus should be the ones making curricular decisions.
- Violations of shared governance (via legislature, Board of Trustees, or other administrative fiat) may produce expedited results, but the long-term costs are likely to produce a less effective instructional environment, poorer decision-making, a reduction in morale and unforeseen consequences.
Approved - November 8-9, 2012