Among the issues discussed at the faculty senate meeting on Oct. 5 were alternative scheduling, improvements to the CSUN Web site, and changes to the academic calendar, the course add/drop policy and senate bylaws. All of these issues, including the recently implemented GE Plan, must go through a lengthy process of deliberations by the executive committee of the senate before going before the faculty senate committee and on to CSUN President Jolene Koester for approval.
Alternative scheduling would affect classes that meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday, possibly throwing out the three-day schedule altogether. According to Harry Hellenbrand, provost for academic affairs and member of the executive committee, the Associated Students conducted a study about alternative scheduling and the effects it would have on the university’s faculty and students. This is just one of the issues that will need to be worked through before it can be presented to Koester for approval.
Cheryl Spector, director of Academic First Year Students and member of the executive committee, said, “You could do an informal survey, and most students would say ‘no way'” to classes scheduled to meet three times a week. She said the College of Business and Economics and other colleges within the university have already experimented with alternative scheduling on a small scale.
One issue that will need a lot of input from faculty and students is the possible change to the academic calendar. If policy is approved to change the academic calendar, students could face a year-round school year and the summer session would be considered an official semester. Like the recent change to the GE plan, it will likely be a while before this issue is approved. This is an issue that will need consensus from both faculty and students, Spector said. Students would need to decide if a year-round schedule would be good for them, and the issue of how to compensate faculty for year-round operations will need to be weighed.
“It’s a consultative process,” Matos said. “You talk and listen and change and listen ? until finally you have something everyone can agree on.”
Hellenbrand described the approval process as being privy to three very important factors: persuasion, lobbying and patience.
“You win some and you lose some. You don’t always get everything you want, but maybe that’s how it should be,” he said. He added that oftentimes only 50 to 60 percent of an issue will be approved.
The GE plan was one of the more recent issues to be approved, and a fine example of the process that a plan might go through before being approved. It is also a prime result of the committee’s dedication to being a self-governing body within the university.
The plan reduces the amount of units a student is required to take in General Education, giving them the freedom to take more classes of their choice, thus exploring the possibility of different majors. According to Hellenbrand, the issue was under discussion for a long time. The final approval was based on what Hellenbrand called “a combination of factors,” which included a progression toward a more transfer-oriented curriculum, an overall mood of change felt by the faculty and “a really strong presentation at the senate by A.S. and advisers ? The idea was to focus down. The students wanted a smaller GE purge.”
Matos said a process could take anywhere from several months to years to be approved. This is because each issue has to go through an elaborate process, to make sure all the kinks get worked out.
Hellenbrand said many issues brought to the table are not ones solely concerning our university. Many of the issues that arise are those that all universities within the CSU system feel need to be addressed.
“A lot of the things we think are unique,” he said. “Very little turns out to be specific to one university.”
Jennifer Matos said anyone can attend the senate meetings, which take place once a month. The executive committee of the senate meets about twice a month.
“There are no secrets here,” she said. The schedules are posted on the CSUN website. While all participants may not be able to speak, they can view the processions in their entirety.
“The president of A.S. is very vocal,” said Matos. If students have issues they would like brought before the senate, they should speak with the A.S. president, who is usually present at the faculty senate meetings.
According to Spector, issues such as student retention are always being discussed. Spector helped organize Freshman Connection, a program modeled after the Summer Bridge program, which helps incoming freshman find a place in such a large university in the hope that they will return for another year.
“We as a campus adhere to a philosophy of shared governance. Administration and faculty and university have to educate students, but administration and faculty must work together to do the best thing they can for the student population,” Spector said.
According to Hellenbrand, issues to be discussed in the future include student retention, EDD or advanced degree programs, such as administrative degree education and applied doctorate degrees in Health Sciences.