Revamping Freshman Preceptorial

After 35 years, Freshman Preceptorial (FP) as students know it may be changing. Dean of the College Larry Breitborde has submitted a proposal to faculty to experiment with the way FP is run.

In the proposal, he suggests that faculty be able to submit ideas for their own FP courses by Feb. 21, to be implemented in Fall 2011. Each proposal must encompass the same elements of the current FP system, meaning they must address a broad theme, be writing intensive, be discussion-based rather than lecture based, nurture critical thinking and address academic integrity.

The goal is to have 24 sections of FP offered in the fall. These sections would be approved by the Curriculum Committee in the same way as any other Knox course.

“It was time for change within the course. The proposal is not to change FP but to experiment with different ways to see if we want to change FP,” Breitborde said.

This proposal comes at a crucial time for the course after many years of lackluster reviews from students. Freshman Yetunde Durotoye said, “[FP] is not necessary, because it is meant to teach you how to write and expose you to different cultures, but we didn’t talk about culture in my class.”

Conversely, Bekah Lauer, also a freshman said, “It was a great introduction to college. It helped me ease into college.”

The road to change

“My inspiration [to write the proposal] was the last 10 years,” Breitborde said. “For some time it has been clear that there have been challenges that prevented FP from being what we, as faculty, wanted.”

Those challenges included, as Breitborde puts it, “student response, response of faculty who taught the course and the growing lack of enthusiasm for the course by the faculty.”

Paul Marasa, the writing coordinator for Trio Achievement Program and FP professor, echoed these sentiments.

“I think there was always some dissatisfaction among faculty and students. For faculty, aside from discussion, it is a course…that has been just handed to you. Since they aren’t generating the course themselves, there will always be some hesitations,” he said.

The new proposal seeks to eliminate some of these hesitations.

“There is a great deal of excitement so far about this proposal among faculty,” Breitborde said.

David Amor, Instructor of Journalism, Anthropology and Sociology and former co-director of Preceptorial, agreed.

“The existing FP has always had a weakness on the sciences as far an interdisciplinary course. It has been asked to be interdisciplinary and it hasn’t been effective in doing that,” he said. “This new model may open some doors.”

Is FP a necessity?

Out of this proposal has come the question, Does Knox need a common course?

“FP has been asked to be this common experience for students. They have the common experience on Tuesdays; everyone is using the same text. The ideal is that you’re in one section and someone else is in another section [and] you can both talk about the same books,” Marasa said.

Senior Damilola Olotu agreed. “FP is a class that gets you thinking like a Knox student…I like the fact that every freshman had the exact same course,” she said.

Junior Christian Lewis expressed a similar opinion. “I feel like it’s necessary for all freshman to take the same course,” Lewis said.

Junior Sara Ahmed said, “I think Knox should have a common course, just not FP. It should have a more diverse faculty with five professors from each discipline; business and society should be a common course.”

While the future of Knox’s only common course may be currently undecided, Breitborde believes it’s worth the trouble.

“It’s the one thing we make you take; it should be the one you like the best,” he said.

Whitney Helm


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