Faculty to Vote on Common Area Steering Committee’s Revised Academic Model

Hui Li ‘21

Co-Chief Graphic Designer

On Monday, March 22, the Common Requirements Steering Committee published its sixth Interim Report. The eight-page update, which the community received by email, documents the Committee’s progress since the release of Interim Report V on Monday, February 8.  

Between the publications of Interim Reports V and VI, the Common Requirements Steering Committee hosted 6 community-wide listening sessions on Zoom. These web meetings happened between February 17 and March 4 and involved the Committee interacting with students, faculty, and staff. According to Professor Scott Malia of the Department of Theatre and Dance and Professor Josep Alba-Salas of the Department of Spanish, the co-chairs of the Committee, there were 42 members of the community present across the 6 sessions.

The 42 faculty, staff, and students were not the only people Professor Malia and Professor Alba-Salas spoke to regarding the Committee’s work. The two co-chairs shared in a statement to The Spire, “it is important to note that our outreach efforts so far this semester have also included visits to all academic departments and programs, which were attended by 224 faculty and staff, and the SGA Senate and Cabinet, where we talked to 59 students.”

Using the input they received through this community outreach, the Common Requirements Steering Committee create a proposal for one academic model. This revised model was derived from community feedback on the three different models they detailed in Interim Report V. The new proposal preserves the initial “supergoals” of Breadth, Responsible Citizenship, and Competency while rearranging some of the requirements categorized under them. Most notable among these adjustments is the removal of Problem Solving and Textual Analysis from the Competency supergoal – in the new model, these have been replaced by Oral Communication and Information Literacy. The Committee has also added Justice and Equity as a requirement for all students under the Responsible Citizenship supergoal.  

Regarding these three categories, the co-chairs of the Committee stated, “The Breadth goals are very comparable to the current system, and seek to continue to support a humanistic education in the Jesuit tradition. The new Competencies and Responsible Citizenship requirements would strengthen our commitments as a Jesuit, Catholic liberal arts college by targeting areas that not only seem to be central to the College’s Mission and identity, but which we also tend to find among our comparison schools, and appear to enjoy wide support in the campus community.”

Graphic Design by Hui Li ’21

The Common Requirements Steering Committee has been looking more closely at academic models from other Jesuit institutions to create this revised model. Professor Malia and Professor Alba-Salas wrote to The Spire regarding these changes, “Jesuit schools tend to have an Oral Communication requirement that reflects the Jesuit ideal of Eloquentia Perfecta –developing eloquence in speech and writing not just to communicate our ideas, but also at the service of the common good. Information Literacy is not something that many of our peers explicitly track, but we included it as a requirement because in our outreach meetings we often heard that it is an essential skill to highlight in today’s day and age.” 

The Committee also aims to provide all students with useful skills that they might not learn about or practice as much in their studies otherwise. “It is important to emphasize that many of our courses already target the new requirements; however, things like Justice and Equity or Oral Communication, for example, are not part of the universal student experience, so our proposal tries to ensure that all Holy Cross students will explore those areas in the curriculum. The inclusion of Justice and Equity as well as competencies like Oral Communication highlight the students’ voices in this curricular review process, as they championed both,” wrote Professor Malia and Professor Alba-Salas.

The new model would require students to clear 18 requirements – 10 Breadth, 3 Responsible Citizenship, and 5 Competency – through approximately 11 courses. A year-long Montserrat seminar would count for 4 requirements, with one of them guaranteed to clear one out of the two writing goals under Competency and at least one goal under Breadth. This would leave students 14 requirements to clear through 9 courses outside the Montserrat program. A student would be able to clear at most 3 goals total with a single course at most 2 goals within one supergoal.

The Committee presented this revised model at the March 30 Faculty Assembly, which was held online. As stated in the March 22 email, Professor Malia and Professor Alba-Salas planned “to obtain additional feedback with another ‘temperature-taking’ Zoom poll.” When asked about the results of the recent survey, the Committee co-chairs stated, “It was fairly evenly distributed among people who support the proposed new model, people who are undecided and want to hear more, and people who want to keep the current system.”

Professor Malia and Professor Alba-Salas continued in their statement to The Spire, “What was very encouraging is that Faculty Assembly members wanted to have a more in-depth discussion of our proposal before the final vote scheduled at the May 4 Faculty Assembly.” They also shared that the Academic Governance Council, a faculty group that has overseen and partly the Common Area Steering Committee since its formation in 2019, has scheduled an additional Faculty Assembly entirely dedicated to the Common Requirements for Tuesday, April 20.  In closing, the co-chairs of the Committee said about the community, “We have a bright, diverse and very engaged community, and all of us really care about the education our students receive.  We may have very different views on what the Common Requirements should be, but we are all invested in making Holy Cross even better than it is now.”

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