Posted on Sep 29, 2000

Should there be a common curriculum for all sections of the Freshman
Preceptorial? What is the right balance between writing and critical reading and
discussion? How can faculty be induced to teach the course?

Those and other questions will be on the table Friday and Saturday for
“Rethinking the Freshman Seminar,” a workshop to include
representatives from a number of peer institutions that have courses similar to
Union's preceptorial. They include: Colgate, Hamilton, Wheaton, St. Lawrence,
Skidmore, Hobart and William Smith, Hampshire, Middlebury, Mount Holyoke and

All Union faculty are invited to a luncheon Saturday, Sept. 30, at noon in
the Hale House Dining Room, followed by summary presentations from 1 to 3 p.m.

Many faculty say they have found shortcomings with FP 10, most commonly known
as Freshman Preceptorial, said David Hayes, chair of the committee. Among those
that surfaced during last year's Middle States self study, was a common belief
that FP10 “tries to do so many things at once that it does none of them
well, especially the teaching of writing,” according to the study.

The Middle States report also criticized the course for a lack of uniformity
of experience for faculty and students with “no simultaneity of
intellectual engagement by many students across campus.” The course is
arranged in five cognitive/cultural units that “may have made sense to the
re-designers in 1994 but register for too many today as a hodgepodge of …
artificially conceived thematic unities.” Since faculty are permitted, even
encouraged, to substitute a unit of their own interest for one of the five, each
section of the course is different and they have widely divergent reading lists,
the report said.

The review is to take place over four terms with an emphasis on content and
goals, structure, instructional methods and institutional support, Hayes said.
The goal is to create a new course during winter term, a syllabus and reading
list during spring term, and to have five faculty teach the new course on a
trial basis next fall, he added.

“Although there is much that is right about the Freshman Preceptorial,
there are also significant faculty concerns, especially about lack of
flexibility in what faculty can teach and the appropriate balance between
writing, critical reading and discussion,” Hayes said.

Besides Hayes as chair, other members of the Freshman Preceptorial Review
Group are Hugh Jenkins, English; Joyce Madancy, history; Louisa Matthew, visual
arts; Kimmo Rosenthal, associate dean for undergraduate education; and Christina
Sorum, dean of the faculty.