Students, professors question humanities course cancellations

December 4, 2015 Latest, News Print Print
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Advocates of Peace

The logo for Advocates of Peace, one of the humanities classes recently cut from OCCC’s curriculum

Students will have fewer humanities courses to choose from this spring semester, leaving many students disappointed that popular classes Advocates of Peace and Folklore will no longer be offered.

In addition, research conducted by Pioneer staff has found other English and Humanities courses listed in the OCCC Catalog have not been made available to students via a class schedule since spring 2013.

Those courses include ENGL 2353 Native American Literature, ENGL 2363 African-American Literature, and ENGL 2413 Women in Literature.

Acting Academic Affairs Vice President Anne DeClouette said that funding and increased enrollment are factors in why the courses were removed from the schedule. The college budget does not allow additional faculty to be hired in the English and Humanities Division.

“At some point we also have to consider that, with more students, we have a greater need for the basics (such as) English Comp … so we have to add more of those,” she said.

Two percent more, or 1,218 additional students, enrolled at the college this fall compared to last, according to a fall enrollment report.

On a larger scale, enrollment from fiscal year 2007 to the present year has increased 10 percent while overall state appropriation to the college is down $93,000 over the same period, said Chief Financial Officer John Boyd in an August OCCC Regents meeting. The college relies heavily on funding from the state Legislature.

More students mean more classes. Sixty-one humanities sections will be offered this spring compared to 56 sections last spring.

However, under the HUM prefix, almost two-thirds of those sections will be concentrated into two courses with 14 Music Appreciation and 24 Mythology sections.

The proliferation of Mythology courses may be due to the fact that they could be taught by adjuncts or full-time faculty, said English Professor Pamela Stout.

“The online section [of Mythology] is easy to teach,” Stout said. “I designed it. It’s very organized and a person wouldn’t have to know anything about mythology, necessarily, to be able to teach it.”

DeClouette said the college’s mission supports this streamlining of course offerings.

“Our mission is those core classes,” she said. “That’s the mission of a community college, to have those classes that transfer, so we really need to focus on that.”

Stout, like Advocates of Peace Professor Stephen Morrow, said she was not consulted before being told on Oct. 8 that her Folklore course would not be offered in the spring. Students began enrolling in classes Oct. 12.

Stout said she has been teaching one section of the course every fall and spring since 2006 and that the course has been in the catalog for more than five years. She said the course fills, or nearly fills, each semester.

One student upset about the loss of Advocates of Peace is OCCC alumni Mary Newcome-Hatch. She said her Advocates of Peace class transferred with her to the University of Science and Arts Oklahoma, where she is currently a senior.

Newcome-Hatch said the course empowered her and changed her world, making her an active member in student government on campus.

That is why she and her daughter, OCCC diversified studies major Mary Hatch, are leading a petition drive to reinstate Advocates of Peace and Folklore in the class schedule.

The petition currently has about 120 signatures. Additionally, a Facebook group they started in October has 73 members, many of whom are OCCC alumni, Hatch said.

Although the courses have been removed from the spring schedule, they have not been taken from the college catalog offerings at this point, DeClouette said.

Curriculum and Assessment Director Catherine Kinyon said the process to add or delete a course in the catalog is initiated by a faculty member who consults his or her dean before filling out a form that requests their action.

Most of the division’s faculty have to sign off before the form is brought to the division dean to sign. If signed, the motion goes to the OCCC Curriculum Committee for inspection and review. If passed, the change would have to be approved by Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Greg Gardner and DeClouette.

Kinyon said, as far as she knows, the process to change curriculum is always initiated by faculty.

“Curriculum is a faculty driven process,” she said. “ … The assumption is that faculty know their business.”

Kinyon said the curriculum committee does not decide whether classes are offered or not. She said that decision is left to the faculty and their respective deans.

An Oct. 9 open records request for the forms submitted to the committee has not yet been filled by Marketing and Public Relations Director Cordell Jordan.

Additionally, requests for previous OCCC class schedules and emails concerning the class have not been filled.

A status update request for all unfilled open records requests was sent to Jordan on Nov. 20. As of press time, Jordan had not responded.

DeClouette said she supports English and Humanities Dean Kim Jameson’s decision to not offer Advocates of Peace and Folklore.

“At the end of the day the dean has a charge to offer what’s most needed … ,” she said.

DeClouette said she is hopeful a resolution can be reached between the parties.

“My hope is that … there’s some type of collaboration between the dean and the faculty … that [they] kind of understand each other’s needs and that they can come up with some type of schedule.”

Jameson was originally contacted about an interview on Oct. 27. She has yet to arrange a time. For more information, contact Jameson at kjameson@occc.edu.

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