While Cal Poly is still in the process of drafting a more “general” resolution in regards to unit count limits, the Statewide Academic Senate is offering its own advice to the California State University (CSU) chancellor.
On May 16, the Statewide Academic Senate and chancellor met to discuss unit count limits — specifically exceptions to Title 5. While many departments from CSU campuses are requesting to exceed the 120 semester and 180 quarter unit count limit, the process is taking longer than expected.
According to Cal Poly’s Academic Senate representative James LoCascio, the chancellor said the waivers “are in a big pile on my desk waiting for the next step” at the statewide meeting.
However, CSU spokesperson Michael Uhlenkamp clarified that because 22 campuses are engaging in the exemption process, there is much information to be reviewed.
“I can’t speak to what goes into each review, but there are a lot of people working on this to make sure students … are still able to graduate in a timely manner,” Uhlenkamp said.
In response to the wait of the exemption process, the statewide Academic Senate drafted a new resolution. It offers advice on how the chancellor should proceed, LoCascio said in an email to Mustang News.
To Statewide Academic Affairs Committee Chair Christine Miller, the new resolution does not indicate a fight or rivalry.
“It’s advice — just like the title of the resolution states,” she said.
Food science and nutrition professor Doris Derelian said that rather than rescinding the Title 5 unit count limit, the Academic Senate is aiming for the exception process to become more viable.
“When the rule was created and Title 5 was changed, there was an exemption process built in, but it has never worked,” she said. “Universities have not submitted the request for exception onto Long Beach to the Chancellor’s Office, and if they have, the Chancellor’s Office has dragged its feet in regards to responding.”
The resolution also refers to a letter from the chancellor himself — sent to the Academic Senate chair, trustees, executive vice chancellor and assistant vice chancellor — referencing the unit count issue.
In the letter, the chancellor said he wants to discuss the processes on how to make decisions about unit limits and exceptions to unit limits, Miller said.
“We took it upon ourselves to provide the advice,” she said. “The resolution that we passed picks him up on his offer to continue the dialogue on how to make these kinds of decisions and offers him specific advice for what we think ought to happen.”
The resolution also mentions objections to a “comparative standard” and “iterative process.”
The comparative process involves comparing a particular campus to another, instead of having faculty decide how the curriculum should be best constructed.
The iterative process concerns the number of times the Chancellor’s Office can go back to campuses and state the units they are requesting are uncharacteristically high.
“What we were afraid of is, for example, Cal Poly would put forward a request for exception, then the Chancellor’s Office would say, ‘Go back and look some more,’ repetitively,” she said. “So not putting any limits on that and just having to go back, and back and back 1,000 times.”
On May 16, the chair of the system-wide General Education Committee also asked the chancellor if the unit reduction to 120 semester units and 180 quarter units still includes a proper CSU general education program, LoCascio said.
“The chancellor’s response was a lot of words and not answer,” he said.
But according to Uhlenkamp, the Chancellor’s Office is simply putting forth a general education program that it hopes will benefit the students.
“What we’re seeing is courses getting put into the curriculum that have one course on critical thinking,” he said. “If that’s one thing campuses and faculty members think is really important for learning outcomes and student success, then critical thinking should be incorporated in every class.”
After eliminating three or four units, the Chancellor’s Office still believes classes can have the same learning outcome.
“We support this as long as the class still teaches students of the 21st century important things they need to know to be successful in the workforce, pursue higher education, or whatever their goals are,” Uhlenkamp said.
At the meeting, it was also noted that certain CSUs reduced their units by double-counting GE and engineering units, Locascio said.
“I have said many times that units would be reduced by first limiting (GE and breadth) units, followed by cutting technical units from other departments — mechanical engineering cutting civil engineering and electrical engineering cutting mechanical engineering — and as a last resort departments will cut their own units,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cal Poly’s academic senate is in the process of drafting a more general resolution to be approved locally and then sent to the statewide senate, Derelian said.
As caucus chair for the CAFES senate group, Derelian has been working with current Cal Poly Academic Senate Chair Steven Rein and former Cal Poly Academic Senate Chair Rachel Fernflores to put out an improved, more “general” resolution.
“A lot of the faculty feel uncomfortable that the Board of Trustees made this decision of 120 semester or 180 quarter units without consultation and without transparency necessary for faculty to have input,” she said. “Many are in favor of our resolution going to the statewide Academic Senate on more general grounds.”
Because the College of Engineering has had a successful resolution go to the statewide senate, Derelian said that Cal Poly is following it up to expand it to other majors.
“Our executive committee at the senate felt — especially our liberal arts folks — that on academic freedom grounds that they wish to have more say to do so and say something more,” she said.
At the last academic senate meeting of the year on Tuesday, the senate will vote on the resolution. Once passed at Cal Poly, the resolution has the potential of being presented at the statewide academic senate next Fall.
“We’re looking to have Cal Poly still put their stamp on rethinking the unit limit and seeing where it goes on the next level,” Derelian said.