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Archive for Saturday, March 27, 2010

Town-gown loss

Casting off volunteer discussion leaders for its western civilization program seems like KU’s loss.

March 27, 2010

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In the big scheme of things, it may not be a major concern, but the timing and execution of a Kansas University decision to cast off volunteer discussion leaders in its western civilization classes seems odd.

For the last 55 years, community volunteers with advanced degrees have led a number of honors western civilization discussion sections. Students attended weekly lectures by KU faculty members and then participated in smaller discussions led by the volunteers. This week, those volunteers were notified that their services no longer would be required. The director of the program said the change was made to meet “the normal expectations of having honor students taught by regular faculty.”

So after 55 years, including 25 years under the program’s current director, the volunteer discussion leaders suddenly aren’t good enough? It seems that at a time when the university is facing financial challenges, the services of experienced community discussion leaders would be welcome. KU says the move will be budget-neutral because faculty members will pick up the additional duties without additional pay, but it seems likely those faculty members will have to shortchange something else to add the discussion groups to their schedules.

Having the community members lead the discussion groups also was a good “town-gown” project that kept some local residents in touch with the university and its students.

James Woelfel, director of the Western civilization program, said the decision was difficult but also acknowledged that it was somewhat rushed because of a deadline for submitting fall course schedules.

That implies that the decision may also have been a bit hasty. If so, maybe it deserves a second look.

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