Resolutions Oppose Contact Hour Change; Dean Announces Forum

By Matthew Grattan (BSE ’19)

Two months ago, the Engineering Curriculum Committee passed a resolution in opposition to the contact hour changes in the Departments of Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics. Last week, on April 2, the Engineering Student Council (ESC) followed suit after collecting student signatures for a petition opposing the change. The Cooper Union Federation of College Teachers (CUFCT) has also filed a grievance against the administration.

The policy change, which reduces contact hours in some classes to match the number of credits, may be in violation of both the Governance of the School of Engineering and the CUFCT contract.

Separately, Dean of Engineering Richard Stock has announced a student-only forum on the policy change to provide students with “a complete picture of the process that has evolved over the course of nearly two years,” according to his school-wide email. The forum will take place on Thursday, April 12 from 5-6 p.m. in the Rose Auditorium; President Laura Sparks will also be in attendance to answer student questions.

The Engineering Curriculum Committee’s resolution asserts that the reduction in contact hours will have “serious negative repercussions throughout the engineering curricula” because topics in the core chemistry, physics, and math courses will either have to be “covered with less depth, or not covered at all.”

The resolution reflects the concerns voiced by the chairs of the chemistry and physics departments in interviews with The Pioneer and by the math department in emails with the administration.

Implementing the contact hour cuts will require “significant planning and curricular development,” according to the curriculum committee’s resolution. Dean Stock notified the chemistry, physics, and math departments of the policy change effective fall 2018 via email on Jan. 30 this year. In the opinion of the curriculum change, one semester is an insufficient amount of time to implement these sweeping curricular changes.

The Engineering Student Council’s resolution voices support for the petition, which garnered the support of 128 student signatures, requesting that Dean Stock and President Sparks either “overhaul” or “postpone” the policy change.

The ESC further requests “increased transparency” from the dean and the president on the contact hour cuts and on future decisions affecting the student body.

Prior to Dean Stock’s announcement of the student-only forum, the administration had made no formal attempt to brief students on the contact hour policy change and the rationale behind it. As such, most of the information about the contact hour cuts has­­­­­­­­­­ been disseminated by ESC administrative chairs and professors.

There has been an ongoing debate among students on whether the contact hour cuts will have a positive or negative impact on the engineering curriculum and student life. However, the lack of formal communication has left students on both sides confused.

Last month, students held an open forum to discuss the contact hour cuts. First-year Jack Batson (ChE ‘21) organized the forum, and Jenna Scott (CE ‘21) compiled notes.

On the student self-service website, the core chemistry, math, and physics classes have been scheduled for fall 2018 with the contact hour cuts implemented.

The Pioneer requested, but was unable to obtain, a copy of the CUFCT grievance, as it is currently being finalized.

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