Faculty Affairs Committee Survey on the Four-Course Proposal

The FAC conducted this online survey during the last 3 weeks of the spring 2011 semester. The survey was intended for teaching faculty, both full-time and adjunct. The only access control prevented two submissions from the same browser on the same computer, intended to prevent accidental double submissions. There was no attempt to make this a random sample; it might be supposed that the responses came from those who had the strongest feelings on the subject.

There were 103 complete submissions, and 7 mostly complete submissions, for a total of 110 (very roughly, 1/3 of eligible faculty). Results for each question are reported using all reponses given from those 110 submissions. (There were 14 largely incomplete submissions, which are excluded from this report.)

q1 resultsThere were 10 responses from adjunct faculty members in various academic divisions. Responses from non-adjunct faculty were distributed as follows: 31 from Social Sciences, 29 from Natural Sciences (including Mathematics and Computer Science), 20 from Humanities, 14 from Professional Programs, and 6 from Fine Arts. In the following report, the results for most questions are broken down into these categories. The categories are always in this same order, (from greatest to smallest number of total responses).

The full survey is repeated here in order, including the introductory material and compiled results. For questions with responses that clearly indicate desirability, the less desirable end of the range is always placed on the left.

This survey is focused on two inter-related issues: (1) the quality of the educational experience for students, and (2) the impact on the effort required of faculty members. In order to keep the focus on those issues, we start by defining the following assumptions.
  • Courses will continue to be measured in credits. The majority of courses will bear 4 credits, including within your own department. (Although there have recently been suggestions that each department could opt in or out, for this survey we wish to assess a campus-wide switch.)
  • The typical faculty course load will change from six 3-credit courses per year to five 4-credit courses per year. (A change from 18 to 20 credits taught per year.)
    Faculty whose current course load is not well described by "six 3-credit courses" should imagine a similar change appropriate to their situation.
  • Class sizes will remain the same as currently.
  • The General Education course requirements will be reduced so that the total number of credits required is the same as currently.
  • The total number of courses offered will be reduced by 20%.
  • The level of non-personnel resources will remain the same as currently.
  • The number of full-time faculty will remain the same as currently.
  • The number of adjuncts hired will be roughly 1/3 of what it is presently (that is, 2/3 fewer than currently). This is made possible by the increase in credits taught by full-time faculty. This is where the financial savings is realized.
  • Clearly some people hope that the added credit in a course will be used for transformational learning, and some argue that this could even reduce faculty effort per credit taught. However, assume that course design will remain under the complete control of the instructor.
  • The number of students in each major will increase by 9%, as a consequence of the recent program closures.
Note that this is certainly NOT the only possible way that the shift in course loads might be realized. However, FAC considers this a plausible scenario. It provides a baseline, from which other possible outcomes can be considered.
Please answer the following questions assuming the above scenario.

Finally, note that this survey does NOT attempt to assess the extra work required to make the transition.
Please answer questions on faculty effort as they would apply after the transition is complete.

1. Which division of the College are you in?  [see introduction above]
q2 results2. To what extent did you participate in your department's preparation of the curriculum plan for the Provost?
3. Are you currently an adjunct instructor?  [see introduction above]

q4 results4. How do you expect that such a change in your courses (from 6 to 5 each year; from 18 to 20 credits each year) would change the effort required of you over the course of a year?

  • Greatly increase effort required
  • Slightly increase effort required
  • No change to effort required
  • Slightly decrease effort required
  • Greatly decrease effort required

q5 results5. For the courses that you typically teach, how do you expect that you would use the extra time?

  • additional content
  • greater mastery of existing content
  • high impact learning experiences (e.g., service learning)
  • recitation meeting time
  • no real extra time due to merging courses
  • no extra time because courses are already 4-credit

q6 results6. Some concern has been expressed that some courses would simply be relabeled as 4-credit, with no change in instruction. Do you have this concern?

  • I'm very concerned that this might happen
  • I'm somewhat concerned that this might happen
  • I doubt that this would happen much
  • I'm confident that this will not happen
  • I'm unsure

q7 results7. In the area of General Education, how do you feel that any added depth and decreased breadth will impact the overall educational experience?

  • Greatly detract from educational experience
  • Slightly detract from educational experience
  • Give same quality of educational experience
  • Slightly enhance the educational experience
  • Greatly enhance the educational experience

q8 results8. In the area of the majors for which you primarily teach, how do you feel that any added depth and decreased breadth will impact the educational experience within the major?

  • Greatly detract from educational experience
  • Slightly detract from educational experience
  • Give same quality of educational experience
  • Slightly enhance the educational experience
  • Greatly enhance the educational experience
  • I do not teach any courses targetted to particular majors

q9 results9. Given the scenario described above, by how much do you expect that the number of credits required by your department's major(s) would change?

  • Decrease by many credits
  • Decrease by a few credits
  • Very little change
  • Increase by a few credits
  • Increase by many credits
  • Unsure

q10 results10. For your majors, how do you believe that such a change will affect the overall quality of a Geneseo education? (Keep in mind the assumption that General Education requires the same number of credits as currently. Number of credits available to a student for electives or second majors will only be reduced if credits required for your major increase.)

  • Greatly detract from a Geneseo education
  • Slightly detract from a Geneseo education
  • Give a Geneseo education of the same quality
  • Slightly enhance a Geneseo education
  • Greatly enhance a Geneseo education
11. In your opinion, how reasonable are these assumptions for Geneseo? For each one, you may need to consider how feasible is it to achieve the assumption, and/or how likely it is that external forces will permit the assumption.
[Note that the FAC came to the considered conclusion that these assumptions were at least conceivable - that is, self-consistent, consistent with budgetary pressures, etc. There was no attempt to determine whether negative responses to this question indicated disagreement with that conclusion, or reflected perceived difficulties in achieving the assumptions.]
q11 results
12. How favorably to you regard each of the assumptions?
q12 results

q13 results13. To what extent does the expected effort to make such a transition affect your opinion on the overall issue?

  • The transition effort is my primary consideration.
  • The transition effort is a major consideration.
  • The transition effort is as important as my other consideration.
  • The transition effort is less important than my other considerations.
  • For myself, I believe that the transition would require very little effort.

14. What other comments or concerns do you have about this proposed curriculum shift? Please answer succinctly.


In an effort to make the comments easier to follow, they have been roughly categorized by topic.  Some individual comments that addressed multiple topics have been split up where feasible; the slight risk of something being out of context is hopefully offset by the structure permitted.

POSITIVE COMMENTS

  • Opportunities for transformational learning, at least at the level of our department, seem to go up with this proposed shift.
  • In some ways I support this move: I like the possibility of increasing the depth of the courses I teach and including transformational experiences. It makes sense that students have the opportunity to focus on fewer courses and actually graduate with useful skills-- a good grasp and ability to use theory, strong research and analytical skills, and ability to communicate effectively (orally and in writing).
  • [At end of otherwise negative comment:] By the way, transformational learning is NOT a bad thing, in fact, any other kind is temporary.
  • The main advantage I see in the transition is that it will allow students to take fewer courses and therefore be able to give more focus/effort to the courses they are taking. If a hybrid model ensues in which some departments do not participate, it is likely that this advantage will be lost, and students will be spread even thinner if they are still taking five courses (with some of them now having higher workload expectations).
  • The reconfiguration of the major and the gen ed requirements is a challenge that will require us to take a much closer look at the curriculum than we have in a long time. I see this as an opportunity.
  • Curricular reform is an exciting and positive opportunity for the college and my department.

NEGATIVE COMMENTS RELATING TO LOSS OF BREADTH

  • One thing our exiting seniors consistently say is that they wish they had more electives. Seems obvious that electives will decrease with the proposed shift.
  • Diluting the students education. Few courses directly impact the breadth of opportunities our students have. Businesses are looking for students to have a broad breadth of experiences ... they will train for the job.
  • hie biggest losers in this process will be the students in college programs with substantial required and related credits. Double majors, minors and just plain study of areas other than the major will be out of the question.
  • I do think departments can handle this for majors. But I think the decreased general education breadth is a huge issue. Also, forcing students to take 1/3 more R/ core as R/ core courses go to 4 units is a huge problem. Issue of getting rid of gen ed language requirement should be considered. In short, I think transformation in gen ed is main problem.
  • I feel as though it would significantly weaken our major. I don't believe that the number of courses overall will actually decrease 20%. The added breadth is much less valuable to our majors, than the value associated with the loss of depth.
  • I feel core will have to be reduced as well as the major watering down the liberal arts experience.
  • Decreased opportunities for students to try a variety of intresting courses is a major concern.
  • My first impression was positive-- students currently divide their attention too many ways. But this proposal will result in less instruction to save money. Students cannot get the same broad education this way, as witnessed by cutting the course offerings.
  • I am worried about a diminished range of offerings, both in gened and majors.
  • The reduction in breadth for students is antithetical to our mission as a liberal arts college. In my area there can only be a large increase in workload for faculty and a large reduction in elective courses offered to try to include any of the pedagogic benefits of other such programs with the number of majors we carry.
  • The resulting loss of breadth (fewer courses, fewer disciplines, fewer teachers, less exploration outside one's discipline) for most students is THE ABSOLUTELY UNFORGIVABLE downside of the proposed change! The loss of breadth is a major concern.
  • This shift is a bad idea. It decreases the strength of the Geneseo program and will limit the ability of students to explore and wander in different fields. That is the essential glory of the Geneseo program. Yes...clearly departments can create a plan that shows that the shift is feasible but that doesn't mean it is a good idea and worth pursuing. I do think that taking hard looks at our curicul. is a good idea. Stagnation is rarely healthy...however, shifting the entire campus to a new 4-credit system just seems to set us up to damage the benefits that are associated with a liberal arts education.

NEGATIVE COMMENTS RELATING TO CHANGE IN WORKLOAD

  • All 4 faculty from science programs in 4-4 schools that I have questioned asserted that the switch increased their work load in laboratories.
  • Workload will increase for our department.
  • I'm concerned about the increased load on faculty teaching. Can service & research expectations be reduced in the face of increased teaching expectations? Calculating full-time teaching is already difficult between 3 & 4 credit courses. As I understand it, when we count "contact hours" each semester, we are to have 125. If we teach 3-cr courses, we should have 5 classes with 25 students each to reach 125. If we teach 4-cr courses, a 75-student course with a lab counts as 100 contact hours, multiplied by 1.25 to account for the additional credit. We've used this in our department to justify teaching 2 courses in a semester rather than 3 based on the additional expectations of the 4-cr courses. The proposed system will land faculty at far more than 125 contact hours as a basic expectation of the job description This may also be in violation of our union contract.
  • My concern is that we will have to increase the number of directed studies and research opportunities for our students and end up increasing our work load. If there is a fair way of calculating and recognizing faculty's efforts this would help morale.
  • Perhaps I am biased because I will almost certainly lose my adjunct opportunities. Even if courses are available, I could not maintain 2 courses with 25% more time and content, so I would likely teach one and lose my benefits-- in today's economic climate, it may not be financially feasible to continue teaching at all. I'd like to think think this hurts Geneseo as well as me.

NEGATIVE COMMENTS RELATING TO EXTERNAL REQUIREMENTS

  • For reasons that have been extensively discussed over the past year, implementing a 4x4 will have enormous negative consequences for most professional and pre-professional programs. Since these programs constitute about two-thirds of the majors at Geneseo, the 4x4 is obviously a very bad idea for this college. The 4x4 proposal is easily the very worst idea I have heard in my many years at Geneseo. Furthermore, the great amount of time I have spent addressing it has definitely made it more difficult to meet my teaching and research obligations, something I do NOT appreciate. I understand that the administration has no money, but one thing they can do is NOT create unnecessary "time sinks" that impinge on the faculty's ability to do its job...
  • I believe changing to a 4-4 load will not be a big deal for students who plan on doing their entire undergraduate program here but will be a NIGHTMARE for those who want to transfer into Geneseo. Additionally, the nature of state requirements and accreditation will cause changes on our part to become very time-consuming and expensive! I need evidence that such a change is pedagogically sound.
  • When trying to increase enrollment the lack of ease for students transferring into undergrad and grad professional programs is a real concern.

NEGATIVE COMMENTS ABOUT THE TRANSITION PERIOD

  • Considering costs and efforts required to create a major curriculum shift with no tangible/quantifiable benefits seems like bad policy.
  • The additional effort required to make the switch will be huge, and the effort will not fall equally on all parties concerned. It will be high-cost or effort for relatively little gain and some major loss.
  • In all of the discussions I have heard so far no one has addressed the impact of the transition on faculty research. This is the primary reason I think the transition is a mistake. We will all waste 2 years going to meetings.

DISAGREEMENT WITH ASSUMPTIONS OF SURVEY

  • As faculty retire and lines are not re-filled, and if adjuncts are cut by 2/3rds, who will teach the courses? Can't see how class size increase is not a major consequence of this shift. If true, any gains in educational experience will be nullified.
  • Don't change teh number of credits
  • I really don't believe that it will save ANY money. At best there will be a redistribution of funds.
  • I also believe that class sizes will significantly increase because you are NOT reducing the number of students overall.
  • I have not been convinced of cost savings or academic value of suggested changes.
  • I must point out that if the number of adjuncts were reduced by 2/3, then class sizes for the remaining faculty would increase substantially. The intent of the proposed shift is clearly to increase the number of credits per course without increasing course content. The provost has stated that. I have spoken with faculty at the College of New Jersey who reported (without blushing) that the paradigm there was to add an hour of "out of class" activity by students as the model for supposedly increasing depth in the 3-credit to 4-credit shift. This is ludicrous and will only devalue the curriculum and the degrees awarded by the college. It seems to be part of a trend toward redefining college as a 4-year social experience. In that context, shifting the Geneseo curriculum to a 4-course, 4-credit system is highly undesirable. I received my own bachelor's degree from a university that has a 4-course curriculum, but each course there had 4 full credits of content, not 3 credits plus foam! To call the Geneseo 5-to-4 proposal an exchange of breadth for depth is simply false.
  • I simply don't believe the assumptions listed and do not feel that the numbers add up. With our faculty already cut to the bone, there's absolutely no way we will be able to teach just 5 courses a year and still offer the students the courses in our major. In our case, it will either involve hiring MORE adjuncts or watering down the major, making it impossible for our students to compete with people coming out of comparable institutions or to be accepted into graduate programs in our field. Ultimately I do not believe that this conversion will cost less except insofar as it allows the Administration to reduce the number of full-time faculty. I am 100% against the change.
  • I suspect that the assumption of a 9% increase in majors across the board is inaccurate. Some majors will clearly be affected more than others, and this needs to be taken into consideration in decisions about faculty positions--especially if adjuncts are cut as much as predicted.
  • It's nice to see that the whoever drafted this survey thinks that a "typical" teaching load is 3 courses/semester. Those of us who always teach 4 courses per semester would love to have some relief from this, whether or not courses become 4 credits each.
  • Many are already teaching more than 18 hours and going to 20 will be a reduction. That will eat up some of the perceived gains. Class sizes are also a concern because classes with recitations and other activities don't fit for class sizes of 150-250.
  • The "breadth" vs. "depth" dichotomy is a bit misleading, I think. In the major, the ability to include more content WITHIN certain courses (e.g., surveys) arguably enhances breadth. In gen ed, there are lots of models besides our distribution-oriented one; these don't necessarily add "depth" but may offer the opportunity to put learning in a more meaningful context - for example, by relating disciplinary content in the natural sciences to real-world social, political, economic, moral, and other issues.
  • The survey is a little confusing, sometimes my response to the question was not an option. I see the problem as a question of declining resources, and how to deal with that problem. A 20% reduction in students in our courses would improve the classroom ratio, which I see as a desirable outcome.
  • There is no evidence that this change can accomplish the goal of budget relief while also improving or maintaining academic rigor.
  • You assume that instructors have a lighter load than our department has ever had - many faculty who teach a 4/4 load now and were told we must instruct 95 - 120 students each semester feel that they have been disadvantaged - the shift would help relieve those of us who have had a heavier load. This lack of parity across departments as of now needs to be acknowledged and remedied if we are to move to the shift.
  • A 3/2 teaching load would be terrific, but I don't see how this fits with the desire to save money, which will only be achieved through shrinking the f/t faculty.

COMMENTS ADDRESSING ISSUES WHICH WERE NOT THE FOCUS OF THE SURVEY

  • "Don't fix what ain't broke." We have a great curriculum now; we should do all we can to preserve it.
  • 4 x 4 is a very bad idea. I have no doubt it will devalue the education that our students receive. I am totally opposed to it.
  • Extreme example of administration controlling curriculum rather than faculty. Dollars driving decisions about education.
  • I am opposed to the transition, particularly at this time. Following several years of severe budget cuts and the deactivation of three programs, moral is as important as finances, and the proposed transition will not realize significant cost savings.
  • This has been a truly divisive issue on this campus, and the one shining moment was when the Provost agreed to allow individual departments the choice to NOT require all courses become 4-credit hours. Thank you for offering up this survey.
  • I felt these were very poorly worded questions that do not begin to address the issues and concerns that we have discussed in my department.
  • Scheduling of required courses in other departments will be difficult (semester sequencing and overlap of course offering times)
  • I just wish there were more transparency and clarity from Administration re this idea...
  • IN a financially challenging environment, I think that the 4 x 4 proposal may (or may not) make sense for individuals in college #1, (smaller, less integrated programs with less course sequencing, less uniformity in program structure across institutions, and classes that are mostly talking and writing) but would be horrible for many of those in college #2 (larger, more complex programs with more uniform, course-based curricular standards and a more diverse course structure). I think that the 4 x 4 proposal would lead to increased friction between the colleges. Geneseo is unusual in having the two colleges at the same size, and, in general, it has a long history of supporting both of them. Should the 4 x 4 proposal go through without adequate consideration of its effects on college #2, I believe that it would be close to incendiary. The 4 x 4 course system does work for programs in college #2 IF they either have a robust graduate program to support labs and recitations OR have a very much smaller student faculty ratio. Because we fit in neither of these and because there is not nearly enough money to mitigate the disadvantages of the 4 x 4 model to those of us in college #2, I strongly argue against it.
  • In my opinion, it will be a mess to let some departments shift to the 4/4 course load while others stick with the current version. It makes more sense to either have the whole campus adopt the change or refute it (maybe the rule of majority shall apply). Consequently, the hybrid solution does not show consistency thus does not reflect a serious educational environment in my eyes (unless there are evidences of similar hybrid situations elsewhere where results were positive).
  • We have to adapt to the changing economy and work force needs. We should train our students to think independently and smartly; to be innovative and flexible enough to use the skills and tools we help them develop to take advantage of opportunities and even create opportunities for themselves. Traditional jobs are quickly disappearing and new markets, technologies, and needs are emerging. Higher education should keep abreast of these changes, adapt to them, and even be at the forefront.
  • It is a bad idea and should not proceed.
  • It seems like "something" has to give -- we can't continue to operate as we have been given the budget we are facing. If we don't shift from 5 to 4, I wonder what will happen instead?
  • It seems to be a solution in search of a problem. It has already wasted much time and diverted problem-solving resources away from other genuine problems. It has eroded my confidence in our top level campus administration.
  • More research into the success rate of 5/4 in colleges that implemented this structure.
  • Much ado about nothing
  • My main concerns are: 1. No unifying vision and rationale that faculty can buy into. 2. A one-size-fits-all approach when this clearly makes no sense for many departments (and not listening the first 20 times we said so). 3. First pushing for the change and then holding forums and surveys to get faculty opinions when the latter should have been the second step right after providing a clear, accurate, and honest rationale for the change that makes sense to all departments not just a few. 4. What other cost-saving measures are being implemented and why is this the best one? What about ideas such as shortening the semester to 13 weeks as other schools have done to save cost? 5. Why not have a task force that studies multiple cost-saving measures rather than what a select few think are Big Ideas? Why don't we build on Geneseo's strengths instead of blindly copying what others do. 6. The way in which this proposed change to 4/4 has been hnadled has eroded confidence in the college administration. By (a) dictating change and then asking for stakeholder opinions after they have raised concerns about 20 times, and (b) saying it is for better student learning and then later saying it is in fact to cut cost (so, the first time was a lie or just made up?) - This is a case-study in how NOT to handle change.
  • Reforms in education should be introduced because they will improve education overall, not to save money (and I fail to see how this saves money other than by reducing the faculty and/or increasing the workload). It night improve education, but this is unlikely if it is aimed at saving money or complying with someone's incentive. Frankly, I am offended that the Provost is offering large sums of money to people willing to do this at a time of extreme financial hardship and the closing of programs.
  • That the administration will consider that a change as great as this is acceptable if as few as 51% of the faculty think it's an OK idea. I believe that if 10-20% of faculty understand this to be a harmful transition to themselves and/or their students then it should not be done at their expense.
  • The notion that some majors can change, and others not, seems untenable - implementation of the credit shift would have to be at the division level. This then results in institutional chaos, as a 4-credit course for one student can not count as a 3-credit course for another, and there is a great deal of integration within programs. Thus the common classes would all become four credit and an ipso facto institutional shift to the 4-credit system of reduced courses. If it is the desire of the institution to go to a 4-credit system, please state that it will be done, get the resources to do it, and start the process. Asking the inmates to create the prison system is inefficient.
  • this is a boondoggle meant to keep our attention tied up and deflected from the pressing issues that face the campus - lack of leadership, major budget crisis and where is the college going
  • Would like flexibility within a department so some can teach 4 credit courses and others don't have to change
  • You didn't ask how we feel this would affect other departments. My department would be fine, but I strongly oppose imposing this on physical science or professional programs against their better judgment. It's still very hard to understand the administration's intentions and expectations.

INTERTWINED

  • It is difficult for me to form an opinion about the 5 to 4 change because no details have been provided. I can envision scenarios in which I would be very pleased - more time for in-depth discussion and enrichment activities in my courses, teaching 2 rather than 3 separate preps a semester, the Provost has mentioned opportunities for 1,2 and 3 credit modules which could be interesting, giving faculty more "teaching credit" for overseeing directed studies, internships and student research projects... I can also envision scenarios in which this would not be a positive change for me and my department - fewer course offerings which to me seems to counter the appeal of a broad, liberal arts education, our department desperately wants to create a senior capstone or senior seminar but we currently lack the faculty resources to do this. It would seem that reducing course offerings would make this even less likely. In addition, this change would create the challenge of managing interdisciplinary minors and majors, increased work load (shift from 18 to 20 credits per semester), no increase in department full-time faculty. I can see the appeal of "not letting a crisis go to waste" by using the budget cuts as a reason to rethink the Geneseo curriculum and I am not opposed to that discussion. However, in our department discussions, we mentioned that we have worked hard to create a curriculum that satisfies us. We don't see the point in fixing something that isn't broken. I understand the administration's decision not to dictate how this change will take place, but it is frustrating that we are being asked/forced to make changes that we did not request and then being told that we control the process.