Faculty members propose changes to ECIC

Psycology department chair Thomas Sawyer answers the concerns about the new ECIC tagging system during his presentation of the system in Illinois Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 29 (Photo by Stefan Carlson)

Students who find themselves stressed over meeting the requirements to graduate may soon find a solution to their problems. A change to the ECIC Skills and Development or ‘tag’ system was presented to faculty members during two special meetings on Nov. 29 and Dec. 1, called by Psychology Department Assistant Chair Thomas Sawyer.

“The students will no longer be required to check o tags on a transfer sheet, a form for graduation or anything else,” said Sawyer at the Nov. 29 meeting. “So now, students will no longer be required to collect tags, but departments are required to offer them, is the idea of this proposal.”

Under the proposed system, departments would hold the responsibility of making sure that students in their discipline were collecting the necessary amount of tags, even allowing the departments the ability to create new tags relevant to their respective disciplines.

Biology professor Paul Arriola theorized that this new system would result in students gaining more skills in more key areas than they do under the current system at the Dec. 1 meeting.

“What’s likely to happen is tags proliferate across a curriculum because we start innovating. They’re actually going to get more exposure to these key ideas or these key skills and values that already sort of permeate our college,” he said. “In all likelihood, a student will probably graduate with many more tags and tags of greater diversity than what they currently get.”

Sawyer argued that the current tag system was making it difficult for transfer students in particular to take the necessary classes to graduate on time.

“One big issue with the current system is what I call transfer uncertainty. And that is when we meet with our transfer students we need to be able to tell them what courses they need to take to meet our requirements. And right now you cannot do that,” he said. “It depends upon a whole bunch of complex and complicated issues of what courses are tagged and when they’re offered and whether or not they’ll be offered at times [the students] can take them.”

The proposal didn’t seem to resonate with everyone in attendance, as Chemistry Department Chair Michelle Applebee voiced her issues with how the new system would undermine the core values of the ECIC system at the Nov. 29 meeting.

“My biggest concern about this is that a lot of departments don’t offer [Intercultural Global Engagement] and a lot of departments don’t offer [Intercultural Domestic Engagement] because of the nature of the discipline,” she said. “I think that we’re going to be losing that intercultural piece, which is important to employers and was one of the signature pieces of ECIC.”

Another one of Sawyer’s initiatives brought up in the proposal was to make the Experiential Learning development requirement into a tag explaining that, “This is basically calling a duck, a duck. Meaning it looks like a tag, it acts like a tag, so why not call it a tag?”

This also struck a chord with the professors in attendance as some believed such a system would lead to students being able to get out of doing any kind of experiential learning, which would be detrimental toward students’ future careers.

“Not everybody needs experiential learning, but experiential learning is now being touted as a way of getting skills that you need for jobs,” said Applebee. “I’m worried that moving it to something that students can get or not is going to reduce the number of students getting internships, doing study abroad and things like that.”

Though not every concern was directly addressed, Sawyer was confident in the strength of the new system. When questioned about whether or not students would even be aware of what tags they were collecting, Sawyer proposed that perhaps there could be academic awards given to those who collect a certain amount of tags. “We can offer achievements for collecting tags if we wanted to do so,” he said. “We could offer somebody a tag master designation or something for collecting all the tags. We have other things on campus that are positively motivated in that way. Why can’t this be one of them?”

Sawyer’s proposal will need to be officially presented to academic council before being voted on by the faculty.