The University of the District of Columbia Faculty Senate voted yesterday to condemn recently proposed changes in graduation requirements for most students.
In an emotionally charged meeting at the Northwest campus, several faculty members complained that the reputation of the institution and its students have been "damaged" by the proposal, recommended by UDC President Robert L. Green and given preliminary approval by the board of trustees.
Under the proposed changes, a bachelor's degree candidate would no longer be required to take the minimum one year of a foreign language and the requirement of a sequence in writing and literature would be eliminated.
Instead, UDC students, many of whom are working adults, could take "computer language" courses or studies pertaining directly to their career goals, Green said.
Faculty Senate President Wilmer Johnson said most instructors and professors "find the proposal very offensive. First, we did not know about it until the day the board gave its approval. We requested that the board rescind the action and recommended that no change be made in our present requirements."
At the meeting, the Faculty Senate, an elected body of about 100 faculty members, passed four resolutions condemning the proposal and denouncing the process by which it was created.
One resolution called for the formation of an investigative team to examine the findings of an ad hoc faculty committee that was appointed by UDC acting provost and vice president for academic affairs Ewaugh Fields, who recommended the proposal with Green. The committee, which was to have solicited faculty views for the proposed curriculum change, failed to do so, the senate members concluded.
Johnson complained that the ad hoc committee was formed without comment from the Faculty Senate and therefore "was a violation of shared governance procedures."
Some faculty members spoke for the proposal, saying each academic department would be able to establish its own standards under the plan. "What are you afraid of?" associate professor of computer science Carl Friedman asked his colleagues.
"The bottom line is that we want to make sure our students are well equipped," said Johnson who was frequently cheered and applauded by senate members for his criticism of the proposal. "If there is a concern that all students learn something about computers, then add it to the requirements, don't displace something else that we feel is of value."
Many faculty members said UDC, which has open enrollment, attracts students who need a "broad-based" education that will strengthen their abilities to read, write and speak well.
Green has said the proposed changes "do not 'loosen' graduation requirements nor lower academic standards."
Several students attending the meeting said they fear the proposed changes would lessen the credibility of their degrees in the view of potential employers. "With the current trend to lower standards, it's going to be twice as hard for UDC graduates to compete fairly with graduates from other universities," said Brian Vaughn, 23, a sophomore majoring in computer science. "People are going to say, 'Oh, you're from that school that doesn't require their students to read and write well. Sorry, we can't hire you.' "