Last week, President Herzberger and Whittier College administration laid out their three year Positioning Plan, made up of five main goals to advance and improve the College. Herzberger acknowledged at that time that the plan could only move forward with the assistance of feedback from students, staff and faculty. Within a week, the Positioning Plan has already garnered reactions, ranging from enthusiastic approval of the plans to improve facilities, to hesitant reactions from faculty who have questions about the plan’s proposal to alter the curriculum.
Among other goals, the Positioning Plan prioritized updating the existing facilities on campus, including the student dorms and the Ettinger Lounge adjacent to the Spot, which will be renovated this summer. In terms of curriculum, Herzberger has stated that administration is considering increasing the number of majors offered at Whittier, especially in areas where interest has been expressed, such as digital studies, and business and accounting.
Newly elected ASWC president Amer Rashid expressed excitement for the planned Residential Life renovations. “We may have great programs on campus and great faculty members to offer students,” Rashid explained. “However, what we need is appealing living spaces for students, so that they are encouraged to live here and take part in many of the great on-campus opportunities that the school has to offer.” Rashid also felt optimistic about the curriculum overhaul, stating that having an up-to-date curriculum is just as important as appealing facilities.
The only concern that Rashid expressed was the potential lack of student voices in the upcoming matters. “It’s not so much that I don’t think people will just not speak out about these changes, I’m more concerned that there won’t be enough students who are in on the dialogue,” Rashid said. He then echoed Herzberger’s sentiment from last week that a diverse abundance of student feedback is very important. As ASWC President, Rashid aims to encourage as many students to participate in the dialogue as possible. The best way of reaching out to ASWC and providing feedback would be to attend their meetings on Monday nights at 7:00 p.m. in Villalobos Hall.
While Rashid spoke out in favor of the facility renovations aspect of the Positioning Plan, Assistant Professor of English Michelle Chihara shared her thoughts on the early stages of a planned curriculum change. “I would be excited about the College better supporting or expanding our offerings in journalism, communications, cultural studies and media studies and it seems like some of this might be on the table,” Chihara said. “I’m certainly enthusiastic about anything that gets the message out about our excellent, small school out into the world and buoys our reputation.”
Chihara also expressed concerns about changes in the curriculum that might be moving the school toward vocational training. “It seems that the best practice is for such training to be done at the certificate or graduate level, and it’s not clear to me that trying to compete with existing certificate programs is the best use of our strengths,” Chihara said. With departments such as business and STEM seeing a potential expansion in the curriculum change, concerns that the school might be shifting toward vocational training are valid.
“I don’t think the liberal arts, as a wider force in education, have always done a good job in communicating the ways in which we are ‘practical’,” explained Chihara. “Employers and businesses regularly fill out studies saying that what they want from college graduates is not any specific technical skill, but communication skills and critical thinking skills. We should probably find a better job of communicating that practicality.”
The Positioning Plan is still in early stages of development and nothing has been set in stone, so change is a possibility. President Rashid states that he plans to have Senate heavily involved with providing President Herzberger with student feedback. “After I am inaugurated, my goal is to sit down with the new table before the end of the year and create an agenda for how we believe these changes should be prioritized and how we should present them,” he stated.