No One Can Save NEXA
Students want NEXA classes to return next semester
April 30, 2006 3:36 PM
Professor Marcia Green’s eyes welled up with tears as she talked about the end of NEXA classes. This semester will be the last time SF State will offer them, unless a department of the college wishes to take on the set of courses. Although the program was eliminated last spring, a few classes are still be offered to help students finish their majors, minors and Segment III programs.
“It hurts me deeply that my own university isn’t, in some way, shape, or form, able to hold on to their disciplinary courses,” Green said.
The actual NEXA program had been a part of SF State since the 1970’s. The name, NEXA, is an abbreviation of the word ‘nexus,’ which means a core or center. Green’s husband Geoffrey, who is a professor and the NEXA cluster coordinator, said the name implies “a meeting place, a center for ideas to converge.”
Green teaches two popular NEXA classes at SF State and is the president of the National Association for Humanities Education. The organization helps to foster humanities education, which includes NEXA classes, in public and private schools.
She is upset that she can’t save what she has a passion for, and it seems that students are also not happy with the decision. Many students desire to learn a variety of subjects that also correlate, and NEXA provided that for them.
“They keep coming back for more,” said Green who comes from the music department. Each semester she attracts 40 to 60 students per class. These two classes are the only ones she teaches.
“If you get rid of the ideas and culture, then what do we have?” said Rainer Weinbrenner, 21, a cinema and animation major enrolled in Marcia Green’s class, ‘The Demonic Pact: Faust Myth in Music and Literature’.
“I don’t think anything should be cut, but this is the last thing in line to be cut,” he said.
Weinbrenner said the course helped him to expand his world, allowing him to explore new thoughts and ideas. He was hoping to take the ‘Darwinism Revolution’ class in the fall and was upset to find that he won’t be able to. He said he’s determined to keep the classes around.
“I don’t care if I need to get in front of the guy who is trying to cancel this NEXA class,” he said.” If I have to march in and break down that door, I will.”
Last year, despite petitions from supporters and positive reviews of the courses from Harvard University, NEXA was eliminated, Green said. He was the NEXA program director before it ended.
“The money to be saved by eliminating the program has already been saved,” he said.
Although Green understands that it took money to run the program, he doesn’t see the financial harm of just listing the classes online. If the courses didn’t attract enough students, then the university could cancel the class, he said.
Dean Paul Sherwin of the College of Humanities said it’s not so simple.
“We’ve got lots of students,” he said. “But we don’t have the money.”
The College is only allowed a certain amount of money in their budget to pay for instructor’s salaries. And the average enrollment of NEXA classes is lower than other General Education courses, he said.
Although the College would like to have NEXA courses, Sherwin said that the only way to keep a NEXA class would be to trade it for another class. And that would be a decision for the individual departments to make.
Dean Sheldon Axler of the College of Science and Engineering knows it is up to the departments if they want to keep a NEXA course, but it hasn’t generated much interest as of yet.
“No one has come to me to say, ‘The class is excellent and we really want to keep it’,” he said.
The College’s main priority is to make sure students get the NEXA courses they need to finish their graduation requirements. If they do list the courses next semester it will be a one-time effort. Axler said a decision would most likely be made this week.
Sherwin agrees the departments’ main priorities are to get their students the major classes they need to graduate, even though he would like to keep the NEXA classes.
“In these financial times, we can’t do what we want,” Sherwin said.
Still, students are disappointed to see the classes go.
Johnny Quan said NEXA caught his eye when he was looking for Segment III courses.
“Whoa, that sounds really different, it sounds very unique,” was the BECA major’s reaction to the course name, ‘The Demonic Pact—The Faust Myth in Music and Literature’.
“This seemed to have personality,” said Quan, a junior.
Quan is one of several of Marcia Green’s students who have written letters to Dean Sherwin pleading for the College of Humanities to adopt the courses.
Rose Haynes, a creative writing major who is also is enrolled in Green’s class, is spearheading the activism.
“Every semester I look at the class schedule and I see all these wonderful classes,” Hayes said. “I want other students to have the opportunity I had. I think a well-rounded liberal education is an important part of getting a good education.”
Louis Gorenfeld, 26, a junior, said Green’s classes allow him the chance to talk about music, something he normally wouldn’t be exploring in his computer science classes.
“In science a lot of people shy away from the gray area,” he said. “This class deals with the gray area and that kind of reasoning is part of your education.”
“It’s a break form just straight science,” agrees Nick Salinas, 20. Salinas is an engineering major enrolled in the Einstein Revolution class.
“If you don’t have (NEXA courses), maybe people won’t understand the relationship between science and technology and how it affects culture,” he said.
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