Monday, November 18, 2013

The beginning of the end.

I am an adjunct instructor that teaches a full time load but unfortunately I have no say in matters of curriculum outside of my own classroom.  I am not permitted to attend general faculty meetings and as such I am usually out of the loop with regards to changes.  But every once in awhile I get an email or notice that keeps me updated, and today this is one that caught my eye:

Dear SOM(school of music) and COFA(college of fine arts),
Tomorrow we will be meeting with Dr. ***** for further discussion regarding the revision to the General Education Curriculum.
Last time the SOM met, there were some questions about terminology between Core vs. Distribution. In order to best prepare for the discussion tomorrow, here are some descriptions of the words:
1)      A “CORE” Course:  this option would be a  single class that all students would have to take to satisfy the degree requirement for fine arts, like “Fine Arts 101”.  There would not be any variation to this course.
2)      A “DISTRIBUTION” course: this option would allow for students to satisfy their fine arts degree requirement through many varied choices among the arts such as band, choir, orchestra, private instruction, photography, sculpture, painting,  intro to theatre, costume design, etc.
One idea that the committee is considering is combining the fine arts with some other disciplines into one HSU distinctive class. Dr. ***** can describe this more to you tomorrow.
I hope this email helps you to come to the conversation with a better idea of what is to be discussed AND I hope that you will come to the meeting tomorrow with good ideas to be discussed in pleasant manner.

Of course the faculty who spend their days working with students and understand them as uniquely individual beings with varied interests are heavily in favor of the "distribution" option.   While the administration who views students as numbers and dollar signs is heavily in favor of the "core" option.

80% of the students who take my course do so for general art credit.  A change like this would effectively end the already fledgling ceramics program.  For the art dept in general that is a small hit, less than 30 students a year.  We would also lose our "Introduction to the fine arts" aka: art history for dummies,a lecture course that brings in over 400 students per year, that is a very big hit.  Photography would take a hit with 50-60% of it's students, the remaining mediums wouldn't take much loss as they require prerequisites which discourages students from taking them for gen. ed. credits.  We would probably lose all of our students who come to art after taking an art course as a gen. ed. requirement, I don't know what percentage that is.

I understand the administrations argument, the school could potentially save tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars by implementing this change.  They would be able to drop a number of courses taught by adjuncts and combine the students in to one big lecture hall, or heck, it could even be an online course.  It makes sense on paper for about 2 seconds.

There are several dangers here, while losing my job is not something to disregard it is the least of my concerns.  What concerns me is the schools complete disregard to the value of the arts.  The thought that someone considered creating one mandatory fine arts course at the expense of distribution courses leads me to believe that they keep art around only for the sake of appearing to support educational diversity. They simply want to meet the basic requirements for accreditation, which requires a course in the fine arts.

We are already taking hits, I'm losing one of my ceramics sections starting next fall.  While the class is not bringing in the big bucks, I fail to see the math of how my class has ever lost the university money.  This is my sixth year of teaching and I've been exposed to just enough administrators and university politics to start becoming jaded.

I've been of the belief for some time that the modern university model is no longer the right place for the arts, and certainly not for the crafts.  That said, I have no answer to that problem, or this one.