Wheaton College has acknowledged the pertinence of general education reform over the past few years. The proposal brought forward at the September faculty meeting was the result of a long process of formulating and reassessing after the reform proposed last spring failed to pass.
Student Government has not been silent in the conversation, discussing at length how to appropriate the 12 votes they have been given toward making the decision. EVP of Educational Policies Abigail Canfield said, “Our role is to represent the student body well and to do what we believe best meets student needs.”
A potential area of concern has been how transfer and advanced placement credits will be incorporated into the new system. As every class offered under the proposal can serve to fill general education requirements in several areas, classes taken elsewhere will presumably be complicated to transfer. However, the proposal states that there will be as much continuity as possible in incorporating credits as with the current system. Advanced Placement and transfer credit will still be valuable.
Dr. Shawn Okpebholo said that an interesting side of the new proposal is that it “kind of gets rid of Gen Ed completely, in the sense that any course can count as a Gen Ed.” Classes that contribute toward fulfilling a major can also count toward general education credit.
Representing the student body’s concerns in conversation, Student Government decided last Wednesday in favor of using their votes to support the proposal in the upcoming faculty meeting, believing that this is the strongest, most unified course of action for the student body.
The final vote will take place this upcoming Tuesday. From there, the future looks uncertain. If the measure does not pass, it is likely that the trustees will enter the conversation and make decisions on the redesign of general education.
If the proposal does pass, a task force will be designated to refine outcomes and assess the methods for selecting the classes that will make up the competency requirements, the shared core and the thematic core. The Summit Committee, which has worked on developing and promoting the proposal since last spring, would pass the torch to a Core Curriculum Committee and a Shared Core Subcommittee in the fall of 2015 to further develop the specifics of the new system. The themes, which will guide general education, will be drafted as two-page documents and then brought forward again for a faculty vote. As Student Body President Grace Pyo stated, the important decision will be: “How can we make sure that implementation (of the proposal) fits the needs of students?”
The general education system would go into effect beginning fall semester of 2016, so that starting that year, freshmen would be required to fulfill the new requirements for graduation.