21 August 2005 - Sunday

In search of reform

So, why was I on on the LETU campus recently, before the end of summer? I drove up for a meeting with the vice president and the assistant VP for academic affairs. Why did we have a meeting? Wheeler, another history major, arranged it a couple of weeks ago. Our main discussion topic was staffing in the department of history/political science.

Right now, my department has just two full-time faculty members. One of these is leaving on sabbatical in the spring; we have been told that his courses are going to be picked up by adjuncts (soon to be hired). Wheeler and I are not happy about this.

I have been taught by one or two excellent adjuncts in other fields, but I have my doubts about adjuncts' ability to build up our department, which is already stunted. We need another full-time professor, not just to teach the current courses but also to develop new courses, be available for advising, and add to the areas covered by our department.

It would be nice to have someone on staff who could teach some premodern or non-Western history. It would also be nice to have someone to teach political science, given the fact that "political science" is on the name of the degree along with "history." At this point, our political science courses are just taught by our history professors, or by a particular adjunct about whom I have qualitative concerns.

We brought up some other quality-control questions in this meeting as well. The enactment and enforcement of prerequisites have been a major concern to us. Most of our upper-level courses have no prerequisite except junior/senior standing, if that. Therefore, we often get students from other majors in our highest courses -- even when those students have never taken any college-level history or composition courses before. Besides, what prereqs we have often go unenforced. We figured that the office of academic affairs might be able to do something about this.

Wheeler and I spoke with the vice president about these concerns. He seemed very receptive. Of course, he could not have made any commitments to us, and hiring is an elaborate process. We have no expectations of any progress before we graduate; we only hope that our agitation will stimulate discussion and thought. I could be wrong, but I don't think undergrads usually volunteer this sort of advice. It is rather hubristic of us, of course, even if our professors have also been asking for another faculty member for a long time.

We have some ideas beyond those we brought up in the meeting. Offering a foreign language besides Spanish and Greek would be a good idea if we want to graduate real liberal arts majors. Also, we need to require a course in historiography, and also a senior research class. (Right now, a historiography course is only open to members of the honors program, and a research seminar is being offered this fall at student request; neither is required.) It has also occurred to us that since the major is called history/political science, we should probably be requiring everybody to take Intro to Political Science; currently, it is optional.

Of course, I also have the extremely unpopular idea that all political science majors should have to take an economics course.

I don't expect any visible progress at all this year. But maybe someday.

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