EO1100: Justifying a rushed timeline

If ‘favorite’ meant ‘most enraging’, I’d be torn, but probably vote for #2 in the FAQ’s distributed with EO1100 as my favorite frequently asked question.

Q: Can we delay implementation until fall 2019 to give us more time for the curricular changes we need to carry out?

A: It would be difficult to justify delaying the benefits afforded by these policy changes, which increase opportunities for student success and facilitate efficient degree completion. Student- supportive policy changes include:

  • ¬†Intermediate Algebra is no longer required as the uniform prerequisite for all courses in CSU General Education Breadth Area B4 Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning.
  • Approved GE Area B4 courses may now include non-algebra intensive courses such as game theory, statistics pathways, statistics for majors, computer science and personal finance, for example.
  • Major courses and campus-wide required courses that are approved for GE credit shall also fulfill (double count for) the GE requirement.
  • To facilitate efficient degree completion systemwide, 48 semester units1 is set as both the minimum and maximum for total GE units. Stand-alone one-unit GE laboratory courses may increase the maximum to 49 units. (See question #17);
  • To ensure efficient completion of lower-division certification and transfer from CCC campuses, coupled with efficient degree completion at the CSU, this policy clarifies that the nine units of upper-division GE courses are taught only in Areas B, C and D.

Maybe “it would be difficult to justify” just leaves some wiggle room for the Chancellor’s Office to magnanimously grant more time down the road after it’s clear that campuses have dropped all their current student success initiatives and other priorities to focus on curriculum.

But that wouldn’t be the, ahem, bold and audacious leadership we’ve come to expect. Thus I’m reading this literally: The folks behind EO1100 genuinely struggled but could not come up with a justification. Despite their best efforts, the benefits just…seemed…too….great.

Fortunately, I teach ethics and value theory. The structure of these kinds of justification is right up my alley. So, I’m happy to help:

To justify an action based on its consequences, one needs to look at both the expected harms* and expected benefits. It is indeed difficult to justify anything if one only tots up the expected benefits.

Oh, and remember, we are talking about the imposed timeline. In this instance, it is not the changes that you need to justify, it’s the speed with which they are made. Sloppy, rushed curricular processes can lead to patchy or incoherent curriculum. That’s bad in itself. It’s particularly bad when accredited programs depend on GE to cover certain content.

See how useful consultation is? If anyone at the CO would like to share the models and projections they used to make this decision, I can be even more helpful….

In fact, here’s a bonus pro-tip: efficiency is a property of systems. Individuals can benefit from efficient systems. But switching back and forth between the two sorts of values in justification is a recipe for moral travesty.**

* Note that in this value system, students are harmed by learning things that aren’t required by the curriculum.

** See Part IV of Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons, or at least some of the explainers on Repugnant Conclusion, the Mere Addition Paradox, and, IIRC, Hell III.