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Committee works on updating liberal studies program

Rachela+Permenter+discusses+the+new+proposed+liberal+studies+program+with+faculty+members+last+Thursday.+
Rachela Permenter discusses the new proposed liberal studies program with faculty members last Thursday.

Rachela Permenter discusses the new proposed liberal studies program with faculty members last Thursday.

Paris Malone

Paris Malone

Rachela Permenter discusses the new proposed liberal studies program with faculty members last Thursday.

Daniel DiFabio, News Editor

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The Liberal Studies Revision Committee will introduce two new changes that will affect incoming freshmen for the fall 2018 semester.

The first change includes 22 pilot sections of University Seminar being offered. According to Rachela Permenter, chair of the committee and English professor, this course will be a three-hour academic course where professors focus on academic and personal skills rather than the content itself.

The science aspect of the liberal studies program will also be changed, with two new courses being offered, ‘The Science of Life’ and ‘Understanding the Physical World’. These courses will be team-taught from professors from different departments.

“For people who are not science majors, or don’t have a requirement, it seems like a forward looking way to continue to educate people in terms of what scientific inquiry is without overburdening them with details that they may not particularly need,”Permenter said.

The current liberal studies program has been in place for 15 years, with the revision being normal procedure.

“They [general education programs] can become a little bloated and a little unwieldy as you continue to create new courses,”Permenter said.

Permenter said that the PA Board of Governors gave the committee an original deadline of fall 2018. Permenter said that current interim president Philip Way, who served as the provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, has been very supportive and helped to give the committee the new deadline of fall 2019.

Permenter, along with other members of the Liberal Studies Revision Committee, met with other campus faculty last Thursday to present where they currently are in the revision process.

The proposed program would be a total of 42 to 45 credit hours and feature integrated learning and team-taught courses, and is currently dubbed the “Rock Integrated Studies Program”.

Some professors who attended the session were wary of the changes and feared it could harm their departments. Patrick Burkhart, biology professor, expressed concern over the two new science courses.

“Our oceans are turning into a plastic gumbo that is thickening exponentionally, our cryosphere is melting, our biosphere is going extinct,” Burkhart said. “It is driven by human population growth. This curriculum is missing a massive opportunity to tell our students what is happening to our world and I cannot support it as is written, so I’m very thankful that you guys approach this room as an opportunity for revision because I absolutely think it’s critically needed.”

Ben Shaevitz, president of the SRU chapter of APSCUF and physics professor, assured faculty that nothing has been approved, with the two changes for fall 2018 being offered as a pilot program. He also said that there will be room in the future of the liberal studies program to evolve

“There is no new liberal studies program yet, there’s nothing that’s been approved. We will have opportunity to approve it as a faculty before it goes to administration and the final vote in that chain will be all the faculty,” Shaevitz said. “Everything that you’ve seen in any of this paperwork is a draft in some sense there’s nothing that’s approved.”

Permenter assured those in attendance that the committee is open to feedback and that faculty can talk about the revision further on a discussion board that faculty can access on D2L.

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Committee works on updating liberal studies program