Staff Editorial: Save 4×4 before it’s too late

In his plea to the Faculty Senate urging them to reconsider its recommendation to reject a four-credit, four-class structure, Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman reiterated that the nuances of the plan can be changed in the future after the concept is approved.

This comment embodies the reasons behind administrators’ battle with faculty over four-by-four, culminating in the Faculty Senate’s rejection of the proposal last week. Instead of approaching this group of educators with a concrete plan, officials have instead pushed a vague proposal with a promise of success based on only a few specifics. Furthermore, many professors believe that administrators are only out to save money by reducing the number of overall classes. It is now time for the proponents of four-by-four to rebuild faculty support with a specific plan backed by concrete justifications if the proposal is to survive.

In previous editorials, this page essentially predicted faculty rejection of the proposal. In the fall, professors began expressing uncertainty over the specifics in the four-by-four plan and its supposed benefits. As administrators failed to solidify their proposal or give faculty members more compelling reasons for its adoption, rejection by the Faculty Senate became inevitable.

Administrators have been wasting their time by continually pushing the same idea that originally received a lukewarm response. Technically, GW can move forward with a four-by-four plan lacking faculty support; however, such a course would do severe damage to faculty-administration relations and the overall quality of this institution.

It is understandable that there will be some natural reluctance to change with such a revolutionary policy on the table. The fact that a four-class academic system has failed to gain professors’ approval twice in the past, however, shows that the Faculty Senate’s response is much more than expected friction.

If GW’s administration is to succeed where it failed in the past, then there must be a clear justification as to why this system is essential to GW. Four-by-four now faces an uphill battle, and it will be difficult to bring the faculty on board.

At a time of high tuition and an upcoming leadership shift, some professors’ perception that GW is seeking to enact four-by-four to merely save money is perhaps the largest hindrance to its implementation. This belief puts an onus on academic planners to create a descriptive plan with clearly articulated arguments about why GW needs four-by-four right now.

Most importantly, this shift would require the support of a majority of the faculty. Just as was recommended in previous editorials, administrators must build a coalition of support based on a well-developed plan that leaves little to the imagination. GW’s leadership may want a flexible proposal that can be developed later; however, this approach will make it nearly impossible to court a body of professors that is already not in support of the plan.

The prospects for four-by-four’s success are not dead, but they are in severe jeopardy. If the supporters of this initiative want to see it come to fruition, they must go back to the drawing board in thinking how they will market and rationalize this proposal. With so many other pressing issues, GW faculty may once again rebuff four-by-four unless it sees a true need for this major change.

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