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‘Logic and Critical Thinking’ to be removed from core curriculum

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Bethel's curriculum goes through a lot of changes. For instance: Logic and Critical Thinking, formerly a general education requirement, has been cut from the core curriculum. This means that freshman classes from here on out won't have to take the class as part of the general education courses. But despite what you may think, these changes don’t just "happen." So who's behind it? Enter APCC. The Academic Policies and Curriculum Committee (APCC) is a campus group comprised of Vice President of Academic Services Barbara Bellefeuille, the three deans of the college, the chairs of each department, director of library services Mark Root, and the registrar. Each member has a vote on matters that come before the committee. APCC has always been around in some form or another. Its current form has been around since 2007, but before that it was briefly comprised of a group of elected officials. And before that it was called the Academic Services Committee, comprised of the vice president of academic services and the chairs, similar to today. Students used to have a representative in APCC, but that position was removed with the reorganization in 2007. Most colleges have something like APCC in some form. “A lot of colleges (and) universities, as they grow, have what’s called a faculty senate that’s representative,” said Dr. Terry Linhart, chair of the religion and philosophy departments. “And that’s comprised differently…sometimes it’s voted on.” APCC usually meets monthly. Matters that are brought before the committee are usually proposals for major revisions or additions. Dean of humanities and social sciences Brad Smith explained it this way: “For example, at one point we decided to add an economics and finance major. Well, that’s a proposal that the business department develops...Aaron (Schavey) and I developed this proposal, we send it to the business department and they request modifications and clarifications until they approve a proposal to send to APCC. Then we send that proposal to APCC, and then they look at it, ask questions, perhaps require modifications, and if they approve it, then it goes on to the faculty. And then if the faculty approves it, then it goes to the board of trustees, and if the board of trustees approves it, then it goes into the catalogue for the next year.” Linhart said, “We’re revising some majors. Yesterday we voted on quite a few revisions…one of the things we’ve been working on is making some of the remedial courses better for students coming in the door who may be behind.” One major change Linhart mentioned was the trimming down of almost every one of Bethel’s majors down to 48 credit hours. “We had some pretty large majors,” he said. “So we tried to create smaller majors so that students could more easily double major, really…(and) that helps students with more flexibility when they graduate.” While major additions and revisions are APCC’s main purpose, they also consider majors for being reduced or cut. Smith made it clear that they don’t like cutting majors, but if a major has low enrollment, it’s simply not economical to keep it running. “We do cut programs when they die out and have almost no students,” said Smith. “Because sometimes something will be popular for a while and then everyone loses interest in it and so we cut it…” Smith also commented on how large a major needs to be to be economical to run. “We really need a minimum of 10 to 15 majors in something to keep it,” he said. “And the truth is, because of the way the cost of college is going, and because it’s a very competitive market nowadays…the minimum efficient size for a major has actually risen over the last 20 years.” However, when a major is cut, the curriculum is “taught out” for current majors. That is, majors are allowed to complete their major in the way they would have had the major not been cut. Linhart said that any courses needed for the major would be taught out either as a private tutorial or a substitution. Cuts don’t always take the form of entire majors. Sometimes it’s just one class under consideration. And it doesn’t even always mean cutting it. As mentioned earlier, Logic and Critical Thinking's removal from the core curriculum was approved by APCC and faculty and subsequently approved by the board of trustees. Smith said, “Logic and Critical Thinking we took out because we felt like we could cover the material in it, the bulk of the material, in other courses,” Smith mentioned Intro to Philosophy, General Psychology and Written Communication III as courses that could supplement the loss of the course. Whether that is possible will be determined by monitoring general education outcomes assessments. Additions and cuts happen quite often, but the big question is, how does this affect students or faculty? It almost seems that adjunct professors are increasing in number as full time faculty decreases. Is this true? “I’m not sure that we actually are (leaning towards adjuncts), when you look at the college as a whole,” said Smith. “In a lot of my departments, we’re actually doing the opposite, we’re using fewer adjuncts.” Smith said that the nontraditional program does rely heavily on adjuncts, but the traditional generally uses full-time faculty. “There is a trend in higher education toward (more adjuncts), where a lot of schools are moving in that direction,” he went on. “And the reason is financial. Because full-time faculty costs a lot more than the adjunct faculty. So one of the ways schools are saving money (and) cutting costs is by having more adjuncts.” Linhart said, “Unfortunately, right now we’re in a place where Bethel needs some savings…there’s still a financial issue here that we haven’t recovered from.” Linhart did say that there’s an upside. “This year’s freshman class was large, and I’ve heard people in the financial department say that a couple more years of that, and we’ll have a nice foundation again,” he said. As for the future, Smith had this to say: “The world of higher education is in a deep, deep transition right now. And so, I think I can tell (students) to expect changes in the future. They’re going to come more rapidly over the next five to 10 years, than they have in the previous 10 years. Exactly what form they will take, I’m not sure. The Bethel College ethos has not changed, our mission has not changed of an integrated Christian education. So we want to maintain all of our values, and all the things that are working. But there’s going to be a coming and going of various majors. The majors that are doing well, we will keep, the majors that are dropping down in terms of the numbers, there’s a chance that some of those will be cut.” Linhart said, “In spite of all this, I think the teaching dynamic in the classroom is as vibrant as ever at Bethel. I love the students that are here…it’s easy to start feeling down and depressed when you hear all this stuff, but on the other hand, we have larger enrollment in the freshman class, larger enrollment coming in for next year, and so I’m hopeful that if we can navigate a couple years here of getting through this that we can find footing.” So keep an eye out. Things are changing, but it’s not all cuts. Majors may be added, and we’ve got people coming in each year to experience Bethel. Suffice it to say that it’s never exactly the same college for any class.
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