Final Common Core Proposal Released

Photo from Saint Louis University

Photo from Saint Louis University

Since 2018, the University Undergraduate Core Committee (UUCC) has been working towards a university-wide common core that every student, regardless of major or college, will complete. On Friday, Jan. 31, the UUCC released the final iteration of the Core proposal to the SLU community. 


The final proposal is the culmination of more than two years of hard work from the UUCC. After settling on nine Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) as the foundation for the common core curriculum, the committee began the core design process, a process that was multidimensional and collaborative. They drew input from the SLU community by sponsoring Core Invention Workshops and inviting students, faculty and staff to submit their own core designs. They also organized roundtables, bringing in core curriculum directors from Jesuit universities across the United States and invited leaders in higher education to give presentations on core trends at comparable undergraduate universities. 


Last August, the UUCC circulated a draft of the Core proposal to the SLU community, opening the floor for feedback and questions. The reaction to the draft was mixed, and several major concerns were voiced at university-wide open fora, faculty assemblies, and in the SGA senate chamber. 


Some students and faculty took issue with a perceived lack of emphasis on theology and philosophy, and the lack of an explicit foreign language requirement, which for many represent important pillars of Jesuit education.  


Another common concern raised at open fora discussions was a question of implementation and adequacy of resources. Many departments, some of whom already struggle with funding issues, felt that the implementation of a new core would introduce further financial strain, strain that they did not have the resources to cope with. 


The proposal was also met with a significant amount of support and encouragement. Faculty from across a wide range of colleges applauded the UUCC’s devotion to the arduous process of creating a university-wide core curriculum from scratch and praised the spirit of collaboration that had characterized the endeavor. 


With the release of the final core proposal last Friday, Jan. 31, SLU’s colleges and schools now have until Mar. 20 to hold a yes/no vote on the question of adopting the proposed core curriculum. In the interim, the question on the minds of many is the degree to which the UUCC acknowledged and addressed the apprehensions raised.   


The most noticeable adjustment between the final proposal and the draft was a three hour reduction in the total number of credit hours constituting the core curriculum, from 35 to 32 credit hours. The difference was reached by reducing the first year “Ignite Seminar” from three down to two credit hours, making the second part of the “Cura Personalis Sequence” non-credit bearing, and making the “Collaborative Inquiry” attribute carry two credit hours instead of three. 


Another significant change was strengthening the theology and philosophy requirements, an alteration aimed at alleviating some of the concerns raised by those who felt that theology and philosophy were not represented as well as they should be at a Jesuit institution. 

In the prior format, the core stipulated three credit hours for “Ethical and Moral Reasoning” and three credit hours for “Ultimate Questions” both of which fell into the category of “Theological and Philosophical Foundations.” Many expected to see more required hours in theology and philosophy, as it was possible for students to graduate from SLU without ever taking a philosophy class in the previous iteration. Additionally, andmany felt it was not strict enough in specifying which courses would satisfy the requirement.


In its modified form, the proposal has kept the number of hours at six, but made an explicit division between “Ultimate Questions: Theology” and “Ultimate Questions: Philosophy,” accompanied by a more detailed explanation of what exactly these courses will offer students and how they are tied to SLU’s Catholic and Jesuit mission. 


Another commonly repeated concern was the proposed core’s lack of any sort of foreign language requirement. Expressing similar sentiments as those advocating for a greater representation of theology and philosophy, a number of students and faculty argued that the centrality of foreign language study in the Jesuit, Catholic intellectual tradition warranted its placement in the common core curriculum. 


While the final draft does not explicitly require proficiency in a foreign language for completion, it does leave room for the satisfaction of a number core requirements in languages other than English (ie. Eloquentia Perfecta 2). Therefore, while a foreign language is not a stipulated requirement, students keen on acquisition of a second language will not be dissuaded from doing so by having to fit it in as a pure elective. Individual programs have the option to change their major requirements to include a foreign language and some speculate this will happen over time. 


Concerns about inadequate funding were also addressed in the final proposal and in an accompanying letter by Interim Provost Chester Gillis. In the letter, which was sent to the SLU community soon after the final proposal was released, Gillis wrote, “President Pestello and I have already committed to spending just under $1 million annually on the design and delivery of our new core.” 


The final proposal included a detailed map of how these funds will be allocated in order to achieve a smooth implementation of the curriculum, and also maintains flexibility by stipulating that “as the Core is implemented, periodic review and adjustments to this supplementary budget may be needed.” 


Moreover, the provost’s letter noted that in addition to the $1 million annual budget for design and delivery of the core, additional faculty would be hired to assist with the delivery of “Eloquentia Perfecta,” an area which the UUCC “identified a pressing need for more resources in order to avoid inevitable delivery gaps.” These hires include a “Writing Across the Curriculum” specialist and ten non-tenure track teaching specialists for “Eloquentia Perfecta.”


In anticipation of the Mar. 20 voting deadline, the UUCC will host two separate open fora for discussion of the final core proposal on Feb. 10 and Feb. 12. If approved by each college and school that offers undergraduate degrees, the proposed core will enter into an implementation phase, with the fall 2022 semester tapped to be the first University Core roll-out for all incoming students.