Individual schools to consider four-by-four plan

The final report on a four-course, four-credit undergraduate curricular structure will be distributed Tuesday for review by faculty members in all of the schools and the Faculty Senate.

The report, which was posted on the GW website last week, proposes the faculty in the undergraduate schools vote on the adoption of the four-by-four plan by late fall. The Faculty Senate’s Special Committee on the 4×4 Report is expected to formulate a resolution in response to the report.

The four-by-four task force began studying the curricular structure in April 2005 and last May, the task force approved the four-by-four plan by a vote of 13 to 8. Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman drafted the report over the summer, and this fall task force members convened for the last time to offer their final input on the draft.

“It reflects a consensus, but I don’t think there were any points in which there was complete agreement,” said Catherine Allen, a task force member and an anthropology and international affairs professor. “People are quite skeptical about it and have a lot of questions, so I think there will be a lot of discussion ahead.”

The report does not outline specific steps to be taken following the voting. Depending on the results of the voting, it says the next step may be to address how to implement the four-by-four in a subset of schools.

It proposes that the University commit resources to facilitate the transition to the four-by-four model during the fiscal year 2008 budget process.

According to the report the study of the four-by-four curriculum was motivated by both academic and financial reasons, but academics were the primary focus of the task force.

The four-by-four curriculum will generate a minimum savings between $5 and $10 million annually, according to the report. It presents three distribution scenarios of reduced sections between tenured, non-tenured and part-time professors. The savings would be larger if graduate classes were converted to the four-by-four model, the report stated.

The number of general curriculum requirements would be reduced if the four-by-four curriculum were adopted, according to the report.

Switching to a four-by-four model was studied twice before, in 1992 and 2003, and was rejected both times.

Last year, the task force visited seven universities that employ the four-by-four to understand their motives for adopting the new structure and its effects on the school.

The report states some of the inferences made from visits, such as “internships are too great a focus at GW,” and “GW students know they can pursue outside activities and still get A’s.”

The four-by-four plan says the new model should not discourage internships, but increase the connectivity between classes and internships.

David Grier, a task force member and the Elliott School dean of academic programs, said he was “vaguely supportive” of the four-by-four model. He said he did not think the number of hours students spent studying would increase if the four-by-four model were adopted.

The University honors program, pending approval by the schools, will implement a program in fall 2007 that will require honors students to take a series of four-credit classes that will substitute the general curriculum requirements of the schools.

“We are pioneering in a sense, so if people see it as a good thing, then the schools and departments may make changes,” said Grae Baxter, the director of the University Honors Program.

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