Academic Standards, Charge #1 Recommendations (Discussion)

Please limit the discussion to the recommendations for charge #1 listed below.  It would be helpful if you note which recommendation you are commenting on by number prior to making your comments.

Pertaining to Charge 1:

1.  The existing catalog language regarding the policy for dropping a course should be changed to state that students who wish to withdraw from individual classes must obtain their instructor’s signature on a form stating that they have discussed their intention to withdraw with the instructor. 

2.  The existing catalog language regarding the grade replacement policy should be changed as follows: 
           2a.  Students may repeat a course anytime before graduation, instead of only during the next semester a course is offered.
            2b.  Students may not repeat a course for which a grade of C or better is earned (except where specific degree programs require higher grades)
            2c.  Repeating a course withdrawn from does not count as a grade replacement attempt.
            2d.  The number of allowable grade replacement attempts should be increased to 4 courses.
            2e.  Only one grade replacement attempt should be allowed per course, although more are permissible with approval from the Dean/Chair and academic advisor. Repeating a course more than once requires a plan for improvement, drafted and signed by both student and advisor, which may include tutoring and other forms of academic support. 

3.  Regarding probation, disqualification, suspension and dismissal, the committee recommends as follows:

            3a.  Students under academic warning and probation should avail themselves of progressively more advisement and assistance as a condition of continued enrollment.  This should take the form of a written agreement specifying the assistance the student will obtain (e.g., help with study skills, tutoring in specific subjects). The contract would be developed and signed by the student and his/her academic advisor, then signed by the student’s department chair and the dean.  UNR Admissions and Records would receive a copy of the contract. Course registration would be blocked until approval of the contract.

            3b.  Students not raising their GPA above the threshold for disqualification after two semesters should be suspended from UNR and not readmitted until they can present a record of 15 semester credits of transferable credit at a community college or other accredited institution, with a minimum GPA of 2.5. 

4.  Regarding midterm progress reporting, the committee recommended that faculty teaching lower-division courses be strongly encouraged to use the midterm grade reporting functionality in CAIS, or some other means, to report grades of C-, D and F to students prior to the drop date.  A general e-mail should be sent to alert faculty to the existence of this tool.



5 Responses to “Academic Standards, Charge #1 Recommendations (Discussion)”

  1.   jenkins Says:

    I agree with Kathy Boardman’s characterization of recommendation #1 as “rather sad”, and do not support this recommendation. Recommendation 2 seems reasonable, although I suggest simplifying 2b to read “Students may not repeat a course for which a grade of C or better is earned.” Kathy raises important concerns about the logistics of implementing recommendation 3, so I suggest that these not be approved at this time. I wholeheartedly support recommendation 4. One objection that has been raised to this idea is that a midterm for a class might not happen in time for this midterm progress reporting to be useful to a student deciding whether to drop a class or remain enrolled. I think this is a red herring, and would suggest that in most cases a class is poorly designed if there are no graded assignments before the eighth week of the semester. This seems particularly true for lower-division classes.

    More generally, I believe we should try not to be too paternalistic in setting these kinds of policies. We should keep them simple and straightforward, and they should rest on the assumption that our students are responsible adults and should be treated as such.

    Steve Jenkins

  2.   elliott Says:

    I have been a little conflicted about many of these proposals. I appreciate the committee’s hard work and good intentions, and I agree that our current policies may not be adequate to our needs. But some of these proposals are too much of a one-size fits-all approach, some of them are unworkable, and some simply demand more resources than we have available, especially in the current budgetary climate.

    In general, I would prefer to take a different approach. President Glick should make available the metrics by college on completion rates, and hold deans accountable for improvements in them. Some of these proposals could then be taken as suggestions for colleges to use if they so choose, and then let the colleges figure out how to improve their completion rates.

    As a member of the executive board last year, I am also a little puzzled when I look at the apparent disconnect between the charges the senate gave to the committee, and the report the committee returned. We did ask them to look into academic disqualification, but some of the rest seems out of the blue to me. Perhaps I just don’t get it.

    I have been contacted by some of my college’s advisors, and they are very concerned about some of these proposals. They argue that the committee did not come to the working group of college advisors (apparently they meet somewhat regularly) to discuss these proposals, and they have given me examples that had not occurred to me.

    For example, consider a junior or senior that is academically disqualified, but has taken all the lower-level courses that TMCC has to offer. How should he meet the 15 credits they request? Should he take classes he does not need? And since we don’t count those credits in his GPA, how does this help him when he returns? Maybe this can be addressed, but the advisors don’t think it is workable, and I would tend to defer to their judgement. I guess I would prefer a policy that requires academically disqualified students to take time off from UNR, unless advisors have a good reason to provide an exception, but does not require the outside credits.

    The written agreement and the improvement plan is seen by advisors as particularly burdensome, especially is made a top-down requirement.

    I am also conflicted about the student being required to talk to the instructor before dropping. I give pretty tough tests and I score them harshly, but 60% is usually a B- or so. I sometimes have students panic and drop the course before they understand that they will come out OK, and it would be nice if they would talk to me first. However, I foresee all sorts of problems, e.g., if they are required to get my signature and are unable to find me on the day before the deadline. I would feel better if there was an unadvertised grace period.

    Elliott Parker

  3.   bgmorris Says:

    Each of us on the regular faculty in journalism advises between 40 and 70 students every semester. In addition, we have a fulltime advisor who handles all student records and special cases and an academic chair who deals with specific student problems. We think our advising system affords us the opportunity to pay attention to students who are struggling.

    We are concerned about the recommendation of the Academic Standards committee involving grade replacement. We are opposed to letting a student retake a course any time during four years.

    Right now we have difficulty providing enough seats in classes for students making good progress. We are disturbed by the possibility of seniors, who can register earlier than others, coming back into classes and taking those seats away from sophomores and juniors who need the class to stay on course for graduation. We feel we have to protect our students who have earned a place in our limited classes.

    We are not sure what educational purpose it serves to allow seniors to retake lower division courses. We believe it is infinitely better for students to retake a course as soon as possible, the next semester it is given, because our lower division courses are designed to prepare students for the demands of our upper division courses.

    Finally, we don’t understand why it makes sense to increase the number of courses students may repeat for grade replacement. We thought the goal was to encourage students to graduate in four years, not make it easy to stick around and repeat a full semester’s worth of classes.

    Bourne Morris

  4.   elliott Says:

    This is from the head of our college’s advising office, regarding the numbered items on the consent agenda:

    Hi Elliott,

    I have serious concerns about the following consent agenda items—the others are OK.

    AS 2b: Discussion is necessary to identify implementation methods. College of Business does not have the resources to submit an exception for every student who needs to retake a class in the pre-business core.

    AS 2e: Requires discussion with academic advisors who will implement item. Requiring colleges to assist students in developing plans of action entails major logistics/implementation issues (e.g., lack of resources to develop plans with these populations of students; need to identify what plan might look like, where to store, how to enforce policy).

    AS 3a: Requires discussion with academic advisors who will implement item. Requiring colleges to assist students in developing plans of action entails major logistics/implementation issues (e.g., lack of resources to develop plans with these populations of students; need to identify what plan might look like, where to store, how to enforce policy).

    AB 3b: This plan is not appropriate for all students on DQ, especially students in their junior and senior years. Requires discussion with academic advisors.

    I feel very strongly about the four items above and think it would be regrettable if the faculty senate passed those items.

  5.   ddietrich Says:

    Bourne,

    Thanks for your comments with respect to grade replacement. I was surprised to learn that such a policy not only existed here, but also at many of our peer institutions. It is by no means a universal policy, and in fact, it is rare at many flagship state universities around the nation. At most of those campuses, it is possible to repeat a course if necessary, but if a course is repeated, both grades remain on the transcript, and the repeated course grade does not replace the original grade. If I read the catalogs correctly, that is how the policy works at UC Berkeley, at UNC Chapel Hill, and at the University of Washington, among many examples I might have listed.

    I’m not sure how long we’ve had the policy in place or even how often it is invoked, but I’d agree with you that we don’t need to change the policy in a way that will effectively encourage students to use it more often. As you say, it certainly wouldn’t advance the aim of having students graduate in four years if they’re spending time and money retaking classes to improve their GPAs. I’d also agree with Kathy Boardman’s critique of the exception permitted for honors students in the proposed policy: why should honors students have this opportunity to try for impressive GPAs?

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