BY ALICIA FEYERHERM
Fort Hays State University’s Student Government Association hosted an Open Forum on Tuesday night.
FHSU President Tisa Mason, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Jill Arnesdorf, Faculty Senate President Rob Byer and Student Body President Ryan Stanley answered audience questions regarding a variety of student issues.
Some of the main topics discussed were Z-courses, the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences reorganization and diversity on campus.
Starting with classes for Spring of 2023, some classes will be tagged as Z-courses in Workday. Z-courses are courses that utilize Open Education Resources (OERs) which means students do not have to pay for textbooks.
“We’re very mindful of the expenses that you incur as a student, both in tuition fees, but also the supplies that you have in your classes, and so our hope is to get as many courses approved as Z-courses,” Arnesdorf said.
Byer noted faculty have been exploring OERs for years and that he was on a committee back in 2016 discussing OERs. This has all been a work in progress.
Arnesdorf said the strategic plan does not currently have a specific goal related to Z-courses but foresees the Kansas Board of Regents eventually creating a requirement related to the number of Z-courses offered. Arnesdorf feels that Fort Hays is “ahead of the system” in terms of Z-course adoption.
Last spring, the proposed reorganization of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences was very controversial.
“This is something where our conversations and discussions have gotten better over time,” Arnesdorf said.
Arnesdorf explained that in the spring there was a lot of surprise and anger when the topic was initially brought up, but she emphasized this is merely an administrative restructure.
“You will not be negatively impacted by this at all,” Arnesdorf said.
The reorganization could even lead to more options for students.
“Those programs coming together under one unit might create some synergistic opportunities for a new major and minor, perhaps a graduate program in some unique areas,” Arnesdorf said.
Arnesdorf also addressed concerns that the restructuring would lead to a loss of faculty members.
“This is not a way to cut programs or cut people,” Arnesdorf said.
A lot of the motivation to complete this restructuring comes from an underlying threat from the Kansas Board of Regents. This restructuring gives the university a chance to reorganize itself before it would be forcefully required to do so by KBOR. However, Mason wanted to remind students to focus on the benefits.
“Even without external threats, thinking innovatively and creatively is really what this is about,” Mason said.
Nothing is finalized yet, though, as three levels of approval must be met by the Kansas Board of Regents. It will be December before anything is approved by the board and changes would not go into effect until the next academic year.
Diversity was discussed in a few different ways during the forum.
First, LGBTQ+ inclusivity was addressed. Stanley talked about the resolution of support passed last spring for all faculty and staff to use students’ preferred pronouns.
“That’s a very basic way that we can support our students,” Stanley said.
Student Government Association is not currently voting on any bills or resolutions regarding the LGBTQ+ community, but Stanley encourages students to bring forward any concerns they may have.
“If you see something that’s not right, please speak up, because we want to solve the issues and continue to develop an engaging student environment that we’re really proud of,” Arnesdorf said.
In terms of ethnic diversity, Arnesdorf discussed the Hispanic College Institute event held each summer.
This event is targeted toward first-generation Hispanic college students and walks them through the college admissions process – helping them fill out their FAFSA and providing them with scholarship opportunities.
Byer mentioned the importance of faculty diversity in boosting student engagement in the classroom.
“When you see someone like you, you’re more willing to join that effort,” Byer said.
Open positions at the university are marketed to a wide variety of sources, including publications like the Chronicle of Higher Education, to cast a wide net for applicants.
“That’s an example of something we’ve invested resources into at the university to expand our pool so that we can have more faculty and staff diversity here on campus,” Arnesdorf said.
Other items discussed included:
- Efforts to raise student worker pay
- Reduction in the number of general education hours required to graduate
- University Marketing and Communication strategies
- Recruitment strategies
The full forum can be viewed on YouTube.