Faculty decisively votes down four-by-four plans

At their most recent meeting, the faculty voted not to implement the proposed four by four curriculum change. Out of the 100 eligible faculty members, 65 cast ballots. The final vote was 54 to 11.

“It’s dead,” Walt Huddell, math professor and head of the natural sciences division, said.

Huddell, along with the other three division heads, had been exploring the four by four option since the beginning of the fall semester.

The four by four curriculum change was proposed by David Greenhalgh, the dean of the Arts and Sciences. While students now usually take five classes that are three credits each, the four by four plan would have changed it to four four-credit classes.

“The proposal was made with the desire to solve certain problems and to enhance the quality of the academic program,” Caroline Cherry, English professor and head of the humanities division, said.

The main topics of concern were faculty and student workload, space and, in Huddell’s words, “pedagogy and teaching and learning.”

According to the division heads and to members of SGA, who also explored the proposal, the four by four change was voted down because it failed to address those questions adequately.

SGA members wrote a white paper in the last few weeks that came out against the proposed change.

“There are some good aspects [of the four by four],” SGA president Adam Brittin said, “but nothing screamed out at me, ‘this is going to be a huge advantage to the school.'”

The white paper addressed topics such as the fourth hour, class sizes and the effect on this year’s first year students. It was distributed to the faculty on February 13. The faculty voted two days later.

“If the students came out and said that this [change] is a great idea, it may have had some pull,” Huddell said. However, he said, the students’ opinions reinforced the negative leanings of most faculty members.

“Without questions answered such as “what about class sizes?” and “what will happen to night classes,?”and “[what about] the fourth hour?” it’s hard to be for the four by four,” sophomore senator Emily Pfizenmayer said.

Huddell, Cherry, Eloise Meneses, head of the social sciences division, and Ron Matthews, head of the fine and performing arts division, visited Wheaton College in Illinois and Rosemont College, both of which have a four by four curriculum.

Huddell and Cherry said that while Wheaton is content with the four by four, at Rosemont the change had caused some problems because it had been implemented too quickly.

Cherry added that most of the schools that have the four by four, including Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore, are much wealthier than Eastern.

“They could provide release time for faculty,” she said.

Pfizenmayer agreed with her. “This is not going to be settled until the space problem and the need for more faculty are addressed. The four by four proposal is not a solution to those problems,”she said.

Huddell said that in the natural sciences, the fourth hour was a problem. Many science courses with labs are already four credits and would probably not be raised to five under the change.

While the change would not have affected the math department, “for the rest of the science department, it would have been detrimental,” Huddell said.

However, Huddell also believes that exploring the four by four option was not a waste of time.

“The process was a pretty good balance between trying to be efficient in decision making and trying to be collegial and empowering the faculty,” he said.

Greenhalgh agreed. “The process was open, transparent, and positive,” he said.

The process was sped up by the decision to close the topic at the February 15 faculty meeting. The faculty was scheduled to vote on the four by four on March 2.

“It seemed appropriate to bring it to closure in February,” Greenhalgh said. “There are other things we need to attend to as a faculty.”

Junior senator Kristi Daniels attended the faculty meeting. “I think that at this point in time, the vote went the way it should have,” she said.

When it came to the vote, Greenhalgh said that he was “a bit of the lone voice” advocating for the change; however, he recognized some of the problems with the proposal and the way in which it was framed. He said that he approached it from a pragmatic angle.

“It should have been more philosophical,” he said. “From the beginning, the question should have been, ‘we need to engage our students more. How do we do it?'”

While he is disappointed, he also said that he would encourage more “fresh options.”

“They’re planning on keeping the discussion open on what to do with the curriculum, and I think that’s a good idea,” Daniels said.

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