Our View: The Dialogues and Truman Symposium

After more than two decades, Truman State University will begin phasing out the Liberal Studies Program next year. The new curriculum, dubbed The Dialogues, strives to maintain Truman’s reputation as one of the premier universities in the region. One element of this new curriculum, the Truman Symposium, is being pilot tested this semester with a group of 200 freshmen living in Ryle Hall. This, as well as the Self and Society Seminar, will make up the required first-year classes for all new students beginning next academic year. After several years of planning and at least one major shift in vision, the new Truman Symposium pilot has seen approximately 70 of the 200 freshmen participating drop during the first few weeks of school.

We, The Index Editorial Board, believe this program is being rushed and encourage Truman faculty and administration to take a close, hard look at it before implementing it next fall. The number of students dropping the Symposium should be a major red flag.

Another worrisome aspect of the new program is the reliance on student advisors as discussion leaders for freshman seminars. Even though many student advisers take their jobs seriously and are well-suited to take on this responsibility, some student advisers will inevitably take on these extra duties grudgingly. The idea that student-to-student conversation is better than a conversation dominated by a professor or lecturer is worth exploring, but adding this responsibility to student advisers’ slates will result in a widely varied quality of experiences.

There are several other groups of people on campus who could benefit from the experience of leading a group discussion. Education majors and students who wish to become counselors, for example, would be well-served by this hands-on experience. Leaders should be selected on a volunteer basis instead of just adding to the duties of student advisers.

Additionally, the requirements set out for several tenets of the seminars are general and vague. Professors should be well-trained in what they are teaching, especially if they are teaching interdisciplinary courses, and students should have a clear vision of what they will be learning and why it will be beneficial.

Updating the old curriculum is a process that a lot of time and effort has been devoted to at Truman. There have been several bumps in the road throughout the last three and a half years while this new program has been developed, up to and including a change in president and a major loss of state funding, but this idea needs time to be perfected. If The Dialogues program is to be implemented in fall 2019, the University community must work diligently to find and address the shortcomings of the program so no unforeseen issues arise and affect the University for years to come.