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April 04, 1974 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1974-04-04

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Curriculum reform: Slow,


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Eighty-Four Years of Editorial Freedom
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mi. 48104

News Phone: 764-0552


Editor's note: It is our intention to make
this series the beginning of a serious dia-
logue about the quality of education in
LSA. We will provide special sections of
the editorial page in future issues to be de-
voted entirely to this series and we will
make feature space available for other views
at the conclusion of this series.
Jaci Knapman, Mary Goldstein, Pen-
fly Pilzer and Joan Weiss all made im-
portant contributions tosthis article. I
accept full responsibility for its contents.
* * *
THE DEVELOPMENT of the curriculum
and the curricular policy making pro-
cess in the past ten years has been one
of the few areas of positive change in the
College. Ten years ago, students in the
College had very few choices available to
them in planing their educational programs.
They were limited to one degree program
even more narrowly defined than our cur-
rent BA/BS, they were forced to limit their
course selections to the departments and
they had no decision-making power regard-
ing curriculum.
Today most students in the College are
still studying in the rigidly defined BA/BS
program, are still taking courses from
the departments and still have no decis-
ion-making power regarding curriculum,
but we now have some options and there
are cases where we can influence the curri-
The Report of the Commission on Grad-
uation Requirements contains many val-
uable proposals on curriculum reform. I
would like the Report more if faculty and
administrators didn't have their why-don't-
students-appreciate-how-liberal-and-gener- .
ous-we-are attitude.
* * *
THE FACULTY CODE assigns t h e
power and responsibility of preparing the
curriculums to the Governing Faculty. Be-
cause the Governing Faculty does not act,
most of this power is actually exercised by
the College Executive Committee. T h e
Faculty Code also provides a Committee on
Curriculum which is supposed to formulate
specific recommendations on curricular
policies to the Governing Faculty through
the Executive Committee.
The Curriculum Committee is composed
of six voting faculty, three voting students,
the Associate Dean for Curriculum who acts
as chairperson and votes in a tie, and
several administrators and three other stu-
dents who are ex officio members without
In 1971-72, the Curriculum Committee
spent most of its energies discusisng gra-
ing reform and drafting a proposal for
the faculty. The faculty rejected the pro-
posal on March 5, 1973.
In the two years since the fall term, 1972,
when the Commission on Graduation Re-
qnirements began meeting, the Curriculum
Committee has continued to process routine
course approvals and has made minor pol-
icy decisions and the faculty has not adopt-
ed any curricular reform proposals.
DEPARTMENTS ARE the bodies that
actually prepare the curriculums which are
almost always in the form of course pro-
posals. Course proposals from departments
are routinely processed by the Curriculum
Committee and the Executive Committee
and must be outrageously bad to be reject-
ed. The College Curriculum Committee has
a special subcommittee to study Course
Mart course proposals and had, until recent-
ly, had a special subcommittee to study
Pilot course proposals.
Most departments are at least fifty years
old. Over the years, the economic-political
structure has evolved where each depart-
ment is an individual barony in the king-
dom of LSA.
The departments' power is derived from
their control over their faculty members
in terms of tenure and promotion decisions
which have been used to reward and punish
faculty who act with or against the depart-

ments' interests. Since the decision-making
power in the College is in the Governing
Faculty and the departments have a strong
incluence on the faculty, the departments
rule the College. Over 90 per cent of the
College budget is under the control of the
AS INDIVIDUAL departments excell-
ed in their fields, their national reputations
and ratings increased and they developed

large and prestigious graduate programs
and produced more and popular research,
thus increasing revenues and producing still
better ratings. This cycle of growth con-
tinued through the late 60's. As long as
this pattern continued, departments could
grant tenure to as many faculty members as
they chose and still be able to afford nn-
tenured faculty.
This pattern of financial growth of the
departments has been reversed in the 70's.
Departments, the College and the Univer-
sity are depending on student fee revenue
increasingly. Over the past five years, in
yearly increases, student tuition fees have
increased by 70 per cent.
Small variations in enrollment in various
teaching units are leaving some depart-
ments crippled and other departments hor-
ribly overstrained. Because two thirds of
the faculty is tenured, it is difficult to make
ladjustments between departments. This
problem will be exacerbated by an upcom-
ing decision to maintain the current manda-
tory retirement age of 70. This means that
departments must continue to pay their
highest-payed faculty for several more years
each, and the University is not refusing to
disclose faculty salaries because it is under-
paying the old guys either.
THE RESULT of the depression on de-
partments with decreasing enrollments can
be disasterous. Note the Executive Com-
mittee's action last week to grant tenure
to only. three out of six possible applicants
supported by the English department. Nor
is this an isolated incident, for it will
undoubtedly be repeated in the future as
an average of half the non-tenured faculty,
or approximately 65 faculty members, will
be eligible for review every year.
,' * *
In preparing this article we attempted to
conduct a small survey of departments to
find out how departments function. Because
of time limitations, we could only investi-
gate four departments whose representatives
we cannot certify and I would think it
unfair to report this information in survey
I will instead list the kinds of questions
we asked with my understanding of the
range of responses typical of most depart-
ments. Because of departments' history
of power in LSA, I feel that this is a very
important subject of inquiry and I urge
you to find out about a department that
interests you, or, even better, do an in-
dependent research project, surveying de-
partments, using our design as a starting
General and Decision-Making
MANY DEPARTMENTS are structured to
the College. The chairperson has planning
and executive powers and responsibilities,
a faculty elected executive committee, with
the chairperson responsible for formulating
general policy-making and budgetary decis-
ions, subject to faculty amendment or
veto. Provision is generally made for stand-
ing (particularly a curriculum committee)
and ad hoc committees to perform com-
mittees' advisory functions.
Information Collection and
The Faculty Code requires that each de-
partment submit an annual report to the
dean. These reports often include a list of
actions taken over the year, -eports of de-
partmental committees, evaluations of de-
partment related programs (they are par-
ticularly concerned with their graduate pro-
grams) and detailed evaluations of faculty
concerns. Recently Dean Rhodes asked each
department to perform an extensive self-
evaluation and file it with his office. It is
my understanding that these reports gen-
erally are not available to the public.
Student Course Evaluations
I UNDERSTAND that this is an area of
great variation between departments. Some
departments have no policy and leave course
evaluation to the faculty's discretion, some
departments require instructors to collect
student course evaluations but leave the

analysis entirely to the individual instruc-
tors, and some departments perform de-
partment w i d e analyses on the data. This
course and faculty evaluation information
is difficult or impossible to get from de-
partments. In any case, they are generally
not publicized.
Student course evaluations can be an
invaluable tool in improving the quality of
instruction if we students take them and

use them seriously and make them reliable
tools for discriminating between teachers
and courses. If they are well used they can
screen out bad teachers at'pramotion time,
now that the competition for faculty posi-
tions is very tight (all of a sudden, junior
faculty will be able to empathize with pre-
med students) and we will have some good
information to make course selections on.
I look forward to the day when depart-
ments will take ads in the Daily: "Come in
and check our course and teacher evalua-
tion summaries. We are rated in the top
10 per cent in the College."
THE COURSE evaluation issue is one of
great importance to students and should be
made a first priority issue. Another ex-
cellent independent study project would be
to collect and analyze course and instructor
evaluation information and make it avail-
able to the Student Counseling Office, the
undergraduate departmental associations,
the department and the Executive Commit-
National Rating and Teaching
We tried to collect information that could
describe a relationship between a depart-
ment's national rating and the quality of its
teaching. Since we were not able to get
instructional cost information or student
course and instructor evaluation informa-
tion we can only make reasonable conjec-
tures about this relationship.
It is my guess that various measures of
instructional quality would vary inversely
with a department's national rating of the
previous year, as departments that devote
a lot of energy to research probably have
less energy available for teaching and
vice versa. This would also make for an
tinteresting independent research project
if good course and instructor evaluations
could be obtained.
Instructional Costs
THE OFFICE of Institutional Research in
the Administration building collects a n d
analyzes instructional cost information
which is analyzed by department, by un-
dergraduate-graduate levels, by levels of
undergraduates, by undergraduates of dif-
ferent levels and by different types of class
(e.g., lecture, lab., etc.). All this information
and much, much more is regularly com-
piled. The dean's approval is required for
the release of this information. Dean Rhod-
es declined to release this information on
the grounds that it would not be "in the
interests of the College," in his opinion.
I disagree.
Role in Departmental Student
This also varies widely between depart-
ments. Some departments have no student

representation at all, some have "student
input" (which means absolutely nothing.
For years, this College has requested and
then ignored student input and then legiti-
mized their anti-student policies on the
grounds that they "consulted students") and
some have sincerely offered students a real
and have sincerely offered students a real
role in decision making.
AN UNFORTUNATE incident: The His-
tory Department, facing problems of de-
clining undergraduate enrollments, sponsor-
ed a student-faculty forum (and provided
adequate publicity) to discuss ways of
improving their curriculum. Three quar-
ters of the faculty and ten students show-
ed up. Incidents like this make it easy
to understand why students are viewed as
N!ln-Departmental Programs
Over the past ten or so years, the Col-
lege has developed an impressive variety
of. non-departmental programs, such as a
number of different living learning pro-
grams (e.g., Pilot Program and the Resi-
dential College), the Course Mart, Project
Outreach, the BGS degree, mini-courses,
area programs, constituency programs (e.g.,
Afro-American Studies, Women's Studies.
Religious Studies), Journalist in Residence
Program, Inteflex (six-year, joint BA-MD
program) and the Medieval and Renais-
sance Collegi'im.
Many of these programs represent real
improvements in the curriculum in offer-
ing students a wider range of alternatives
to choose from. The Commission's propos-
als to establish a mechanism for creat-
i-g interdisciplinary institutes of limited
duration would represent an outstanding
steo forward in the curriculum. This pro-
nosal recognizes the values of departments
in creating methodologies and makes the
structural link of trying to apply those
methodologies to relevant concerns. This
nronosal a"lso recognizes that even the best
innovations go stale after a period of time
and should be terminated to make room
for new innovations.
MANY OF THE best innovative reforms
rwime abowt only after lengthy and bitter
fights, only to be displayed nroudly in the
rollege's public relations literature and
f'mded on a shoestring. This hypocrisy
s'lo-ld stop. The Executive Committee and
the Governing Faculty are going to learn
sooner or later that times are changing in-
creasingly faster and that if serious atten-
tion is not payed to insuring that this Col-
lege is relevant to those it is supposed to
serve, it will shrivel and die. "I think it *ill
be better for all concerned if their aware-
ness comes sooner than later.
Tomorrow: Student and Faculty evaluation

Nixon's taxes: Duck Soup

$350,000 in back income taxes. Th
news, leaked from the House Joint Com
mittee on Internal, Revenue Taxatlo:
has been expected for several weeks.
Those who have consistently believe
the President to be a petty, venal ma
will no doubt be pleased to see mo
strong evidence for their position. On
again, the President will probably blam
his problems on "mistakes" by subord
nates. But only bleeding-heart right
wingers now buy the line that Mr. Nixo
is an honest man who through incred
ble bad luck managed to surround him
self with the most corrupt assistants I
the history of the republic.
The Joint Committee on Interna
Revenue Taxation was careful to no
accuse Mr. Nixon of criminal liability
News- Prakash Aswani, Dan Biddle, Je
Day, Cindy Hill, Rob Meachum, Sai
Rimer, Judy Ruskin, Judy Sandler
Editorial Page: Alan Kettler, Marnie Hey
Arts Page: Mara Shapiro
Photo Technician: Tom Gottlieb
)taff Artist: Alan Kettler

st Income tax chicanery may not even pro-
is vide a legal ground for impeachment.
.. Nevertheless, Mr. Nixon's utter contempt
n, for the American people, reflected so
thoroughly in his tax returns, leaves lit-
tle doubt that his speedy removal from
d office could be anything but good for the
n country.
ce IMPEACHMENT MAY BE the least im-
portant issue connected with Mr.
t- Nixon's tax trouble. The advantages he
originally claimed reflect fundamental
m inequities in our present tax system.
- The Vice-Presidential papers deduction
In would have been totally legal if it had
been made a year earlier. And the Presi-
dent's new capital gains liabilities are
al piddling compared with the benefit he
ot gained from using his position to make
y. home improvements in Key Biscayne and
San Clemente at Federal expense.
So long as the United States tax struc-
ture is designed to reinforce inequalities
ff of income by giving wealthy, powerful
ra persons tax and other financial advan-
tages not available to people with limited
means, financial tricks like Nixon's will
,n not go away. Only a no-loophole redraft-
ing of the tax laws, deliberately intend-
ing to equalize this country's income dis-
tribution, can guarantee that raids on
the Treasury by people like the Presi-
dent will cease.

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What makes a good curriculum tick?

NO CURRICULUM, no matter
how well conceived, can suc-
ceed in its objectives without the
active concern and participation
of students, faculty and adminis-
trators. Clearly, with a given set
of students, faculty and adminis-
trators a good curriculum will
fulfill its objectives better than a
poor one. I am therefore not sug-
gesting the following curriculum
as perfect or timeless, (or par-
ticularly original) but merely as
one possible approach to a general
I believe that good knowledge is
nbt something that can be pre-
planned and pre-digested or that

tions of preparing students to sur-
vive in the social systems they will
soon be living in and to act to
make that system responsive to
their needs and interests. This im-
plies a need for schools to be a
place of mutual adjustment be-
tween individuals and society, not
just a place where students can
learn how to fit their experience
into the pigeonholes of life.
I * * *
I RECOMMEND that each stu-
dent be encouraged to take part
in an important planning process
of designing both a personal and
social curriculum and have an
opportunity to personally test his
or her plans, analyze those re-

wide convention for a review of
the curriculum and College. This
is something too important to be
left to small committees.
If you think that the idea is ri-
diculous, impossible or both, I can
only respond that an obsolete cur-
riculum is also ridiculous. The
only reason why the proposal
might be impossible is if you pr'e-
vent it.
* * *
the Commission on Graduation Re-
quirements recommendations for
an extensive freshperson program.
Freshpeople come to this College
and are expected to be able to op-
rate as if they knew all about it.

ly produced.
* * *
knowledge should be an import-
ant ingredient of intelligent action
and that a purpose of this Col-
lege should be to provide a me-
dium where knowledge can be
created to serve personal and -so-
cial interests, I have proposed that
the Governing Faculty adopt a
four-course epistemology require-
ment to take the place of the cur-
rent foreign language requirement.
In my proposal (which should be
availIble from Ned Dougherty,
2522 LSA, 764-0321) I argue that
buried deep within the current
foreign language requirement was

fined distribution requirement
where students are encouraged to
plan and take a broad range of
study across all boundaries of
knovledge. One of the important
aspects of both of these proposals
is that students be given the pow-
er to plan their own curriculum.
* * *
College ought to provide the wid-
est range of structures, approach-
es and contents of knowledge pos-
sible to open as many options as
The curriculum ought to provide
an opportunity for seniors to take
part in the freshperson program
and to make their final term one

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