Ball State changes honors class review policy
The Daily News
The university has implemented an advisory council and four subcommittees instead of what had previously been an informal review process with the dean.
The reviews will occur before the semester each course is to be taught. Courses for Spring 2014 are already under review.
The subcommittees will conduct the reviews in four distinct areas: social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and colloquia, an often shorter class focussing specifically on one narrow topic.
Tony Proudfoot, associate vice president for marketing and communications, said the subcommittees will be comprised of faculty, chosen with a focus on those who have expertise in the field.
Academic colleges have always had a formalized review process that the new honors reviews will likely mirror, he said.
“It’s a process that’s [now] been formalized in the honors college,” Proudfoot said.
Joan Todd, executive director of public relations, said the university has been discussing moving the honors college to the process since June, after a non-theistic organization asked for a review of an honors course taught by astronomy professor Eric Hedin.
Hedin taught “Boundaries of Science,” and was accused of promoting his intelligent design beliefs in the class. His class was reviewed by provost Terry King with the help of a panel of four professors. In response his syllabus was revised to fit the university’s standards.
The Discovery Institute, an intelligent design organization that defended Hedin, sent a letter to Ball State officials in mid-September asking for a review of four honors classes, and the university will be looking at the four classes in addition to next semester’s honors courses.
The institute’s criticisms of the classes were based on the precedent set by the university’s review of Hedin.
The institute said the class Honors 390, “Dangerous Ideas,” taught by English associate professor Paul Ranieri promoted anti-theistic ideas through the main text of the class, “What is your Dangerous Idea?”
Hedin’s qualifications as an astronomy professor to discuss religious ideas were also examined, so the institute brought up three other professors it believes teach areas outside of their field of study.
They include English assistant professor Brent Blackwell’s Honors 296, “‘Old’ and ‘New’ Science,” associate biology professor Ann Blakey’s Honors 297: “The SustainABLES: Air, Biodiversity, Land, Energy, & the Seas [Water,]” and assistant biology professor James Olesen’s Honors 298: “The Biology of Life.”