Head To Head: University governance and The Dialogues

TMN managing editor Ryan Pivoney and digital director Nicolas Telep write about University governance and Truman State University’s gradual transition to The Dialogues.

Ryan Pivoney, Managing Editor

Last month, Faculty Senate and Undergraduate Council voted for a phased implementation of The Dialogues, Truman State University’s new liberal arts curriculum. Of course, this means there is still work to be done. Faculty governance has had the idea to revamp the curriculum for a few years now, but it only started planning in summer 2017. This is when a committee working on a new curriculum proposed what would become The Dialogues to governance, and since then it has gone to a full faculty vote. Faculty Senate and Undergraduate Council have been working to fine-tune every detail.

Now, this might seem like a slow and tedious process, but I think it is perfectly adequate. This is the curriculum we are talking about! It should take more than a couple months to create. As Faculty Senate President Scott Alberts and UGC chair Justin Jarvis both said, a one-year timeline proved to be too ambitious. Even with UGC meeting twice as often as they normally would, there is still work to be done. There are nine committees dedicated to different aspects of The Dialogues, which has many moving parts. So far, Faculty Senate and UGC have passed the Disciplinary and Interconnecting Perspectives and graduation requirements. Governance still needs to complete most of the perspective outcome statements, fine-tune the Truman Symposium, and work out logistics like double-counting and specific courses fitting under the perspectives.

The decision to postpone the full implementation of The Dialogues was the right one. Because this is such a massive undertaking, it is in the best interest of the current students, prospective students and faculty to not pass off a half-baked curriculum. The liberal arts curriculum is what makes Truman unique, so we shouldn’t be rushing the process of what could potentially define our school for years.

While I do agree that governance can take too long to get some policy passed — the repeat and retake policy taking three years was absurd — careful deliberation is exactly what should be expected for something as extensive as The Dialogues. The back-and-forth between faculty representatives from each department is exactly what will make this new curriculum special. Every department has input and everyone’s voice should matter, and while this might slow the process, it makes for a better result. Without faculty governance, who else is going to dedicate their time toward developing a curriculum they would enjoy teaching and students would enjoy learning?

I say, keep up the good work, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of the prolonged process.

Nicolas Telep, Digital Director

As university students, professors set certain expectations for us regarding how we’re going to behave and work. “Go to class,” “don’t be disruptive,” “do the readings” and “turn in work on time” are some very basic, almost universal expectations. Granted, not every student meets these expectations every time, but it’s safe to say most successful students do so, and those who want to stay on their professors’ good side had better do so.

Enter university governance, specifically Undergraduate Council and Faculty Senate. For years now, these bodies have been trying to approve a plan to revamp Truman State University’s liberal arts curriculum. As The Index reported recently, the plan is now to phase in the new system next school year while other aspects of it are tweaked.

The program was already behind schedule, so this is a bit of a disappointment. There have been some interruptions along the way — massive budget cuts and new curriculum requirements from the state, to name a couple — but for the most part, these two bodies and the many committees involved in this redesign, made up almost entirely of faculty, have failed to meet the standards they would expect students to meet.

For a journalist, Faculty Senate and UGC meetings have become a chore to cover. I can only assume this means they’re even more of a chore for members to attend. I mean no disrespect to all the hardworking professors who give up their time to serve on these committees, but I’m sure many of those same professors would agree with me when I say I’d like to see a bit less bickering, talking in circles and finger-pointing in these meetings. This is unproductive and not what we as a University should expect from our governance. We don’t want Faculty Senate to end up with an approval rating as low as the U.S. Senate.

The Index has run editorials applauding those involved for being patient and cautious and not rushing the new curriculum. The current delay and any more to come go beyond patience and due diligence and become detrimental to the University. The idea of revamping this curriculum has been around for more than half a decade now, and if the current Liberal Studies Program is really as flawed as some say it is, we don’t have time to wait any longer. Phasing in The Dialogues is a good start, but moving forward, I hope Faculty Senate and UGC hold themselves to standards that at least resemble those they hold their students to.