General Education Committee votes to no longer require core liberal arts electives


Courtesy of Maryjane Dunn-Whitener

Maryjane Dunn-Whitener, associate professor of foreign languages, appreciates that she and her colleagues can discuss disagreements in a civil and respectful manner.

In January, there was a proposal to remove the Core Elective from the Liberal Arts Core requirements. Since then, there have been forum meetings and surveys sent out to the professors regarding this proposal.


The proposal was made by the mathematics and science departments because they would like to use that three-hour slot to require another class of their majors.


On Thursday, April 15, the General Education Committee voted on that proposal.


“As representatives, we do represent a particular portion,” said associate dean of Ellis College, Debra Coventry. “But, I think, we have a greater duty in this case to the University at large.”


This suggestion seems like it would be a good idea, but, as it turns out, it may not be an option.


While the idea of three fewer hours is nice, this is not what this proposal is saying. There would be three fewer hours in the LAC requirements, but those hours would be available to the major to use as they see fit or, in the case where they do not have a use for it, for the minor. Because of the state mandate being 120 hours, the required hours for all degree plans would stay at 120 hours.


The change will not affect any current students due to them falling under the “old” catalog based on their start date. However, they can choose to use an updated catalog if they so desire. The change will only affect some of the students because they can use other classes to fulfill that requirement according to the LAC requirements.


The LAC Core Elective is a class chosen from a list that a student might find interest in as a side class. Still, you can also select another course from any other category that has not been used to meet any other requirements. As was pointed out multiple times in the forum and the committee meeting; this is great except that few students pick the classes on the list.


Many other worries were raised by the members as well. One statement that drew quite a bit of attention and debate was made by associate biology professor, Cindy Fuller, even though she stated she was for the proposal and voted to pass it.


“If we lose it, we can’t get it back,” said Fuller.


There was much conversation on this topic throughout the meeting. The biggest concern is that if they decide to add a critical thinking requirement, it would be harder to do so. They would not be able to without removing something else or going over the 120 hours that the degree plans are currently set at.


Another concern with this proposal was that this would make us less of a liberal arts college. Henderson already has many programs not associated with the traditional liberal arts, such as the nursing program and School of Business.


This brought up the topic that Henderson wasn’t always a liberal arts university. As president in the late 1980s, Charles Dunn pressed the UAC to pass the proposal to make Henderson into “Arkansas’ Liberal Arts University.” The vote passed the UAC, which, incidentally, did not have any Henderson staff representation.



Despite this history, it was still a concern. But, the problem most likely will not be an issue as Henderson meets the state requirements to be a Liberal Arts College. All losing this three-hour course would allow students more choice regarding their classes.


While hours are met, there are also subjects that they should cover with their requirements.
“We’ve got all these things covered, except that big area which is sort of an emorphase of critical thinking,” said Maryjane Dunn-Whitener, Associate Professor of Foreign Languages.


Another thing worth noting, anecdotal evidence exists that students choose against coming to HSU due to higher LAC requirements. Southern Arkansas University uses this to persuade students to attend their university instead of Henderson.


A couple of the representatives tried to get the proposal tabled for further discussion. This way, they could find answers to questions that they had before making a decision. They did this not because they were necessarily against it but because they did not want to rush the voting process and decide without all the facts.


However, several representatives will be replaced as more people than usual rotate out after taking on an extra year on the committee. The head of the committee, Debra Coventry, will be among those replaced.
Dunn-Whitener explained that there are thorough notes posted on the shared governance so that they are able to easily fulfill their responsibility of reading said notes if they are brand-new on the committee. Then use those notes to figure out what’s going on, where it’s going, and then pick up.


Another argument against having to start over is, as she said, “at least two thirds of us are gonna be the same,” and those people can bring the new ones up to speed.


However, while the ability to know what is going on is the purpose of everyone having access to these notes, assistant professor of instruction, Assistant Professor and Curriculum and Instruction Christy McDowell, said that there is no guarantee that new members will read them.


McDowell then proposed that maybe they should vote no. She said that when reading through the chair statements, they supported it but not as written. So, why not send it back and let those who proposed it start over, rewrite it, and bring them something they like as written?


The sad thing is all this discussion over whether to table it was based around the fear of new members not being able to continue with the debate.


“It’s a little disheartening to think that a dysfunctional transition process, from year to year on this committee, would be a reason that we rush to vote on something so important,” mass Media Communications Professor Steve Listopad said in the meeting. “That shouldn’t be a factor, that we can’t have continuity between committees.”


After a bit more discussion, McDowell asked the question that had been waiting to be asked.
“If we did table it, what would we do differently next year?” McDowell asked.


Tabling this issue would leave more time to figure out who all would be affected by this change.
In the end, the votes came back seven to four in favor of passing it and sending it to be viewed by UAC in the Fall. This change will not take effect before the Fall of 2022.



After the vote, it was clear that a few individuals felt that they had not done all they should have to be prepared for this vote. Accounting instructor, Lisa Massey, told them that they could still do something about this by attending the UAC meetings with the information.


“This is not a done deal,” Massey said. “This is where they need to go back and get that data.”