Credit system switch a sad day for college

I recently had my saddest day in a decade at Fort Lewis College. I have been a three-time award-winning faculty member in my 11 years, winning the New Faculty Teaching Award in 2005, the Featured Scholar Award in 2010 and the FLC Achievement Award in 2013. I have loved my time here and do not plan to go anywhere for the foreseeable future. But I have grave concerns about what happened Feb. 7 when the Board of Trustees for the college voted unanimously to accept the administration’s proposed move to an entirely three-credit model of classes.

Most alarming is how the FLC administration is ignoring the will of the faculty. According to a recent survey, the majority of faculty (56 percent overall, or 90 percent of those whose curriculum would be directly affected by the change) do not endorse the proposal, despite the misrepresentation of faculty as mixed. All three times this issue has come up for vote by faculty, it has been shot down.

FLC has always functioned optimally with shared, democratic, American-style governance rather than autocratic initiatives such as this one. None of us can predict the precise effects of this transition to three credits on our students. Some believe it will make scheduling easier and transfer credits more accurately, and yet many student-athletes choose to come to FLC because of the four-credit mix because they can take four classes to be full-time so they can play their sport. Students with lower college readiness may lack sufficient ability to handle five courses in a semester (this could result in delayed graduation), and many majors would lose their signature identities as innovative and experiential.

What adverse effects might result from losing these key elements to a liberal arts education? Sixty percent of surveyed faculty and 84 percent of surveyed students believe the effects will be negative. The courageous ASFLC president called for a show of hands from the audience before the trustees’ vote: none in favor, 85 percent of those in attendance opposed to the 3-credit change. What a sad day for our beloved FLC.

Brian Burke


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