TO: GREG MCLAUCHLAN, SENATE PRESIDENT
FROM: HEATHER BOTTORFF & MALCOLM WILSON, CO-CHAIRS, ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: ANNUAL REPORT TO THE UNIVERSITY SENATE
DATE: MAY 20, 2003
The Academic Requirements Committee (ARC) is charged with considering student petitions relating to the University’s graduation requirements, removing grades of incomplete after the deadline, and resolving a variety of registration issues. Periodically, ARC also responds to requests from the University Registrar or of other Officers of Administration. All such requests relate to the University’s set of general education or graduation requirements. As ARC carries out its charge, it is not to create an unwritten dual set of standards, nor is it to be arbitrary in its responses to student petitions. Rather, the task of ARC is to search for solutions that fit the intent of University requirements and the faculty legislation, while addressing the concerns and circumstances of individual students. During the current year, members of ARC have faithfully carried out that charge.
The committee meets biweekly beginning the second week of each term and usually adds a meeting at the end of each term. Between the beginning of fall on September 30, 2002 and our most recent meeting on May 19, 2003, ARC has met 16 times and considered 199 petitions. Three meetings remain for the regular academic year (including an extra meeting that was just added to handle the end of the year load) and ARC usually meets three to four times during the summer. Traditionally, the agendas of these remaining meetings are quite full, as the majority of UO students graduate in the spring or summer. ARC will consider roughly one hundred additional petitions in these last few meetings.
Of the 199 petitions ARC has considered thus far, it has approved or determined that the student has met the spirit of the requirement in 60% of all cases. It has denied 39% of the petitions thus far, and a small number of petitions (1%) have been deferred for more information and will be reconsidered once that information is submitted. The largest single block of petitions (120 or 60% of the total) concerned the University’s group requirements. Another 12% of ARC’s petitions related to the University’s Multicultural requirement. Of the 23 multicultural petitions heard by the committee, 57% were approved or found to have met the spirit of the requirement. The remainder of the petitions covered a wide variety of issues such as registration deadlines, incompletes, requests to register for more than 25 credits and reduction of graded, residence or upper division credits. These types of issues made up 30% of our load this year and the committee approved 66% of those petitions. In general, the committee held a tight line on issues such as reduction of graded, upper division or residence credits. They were fairly lenient with regards to changing grades of incomplete if the student had completed the work and a grade had been submitted by the faculty member. The group was fairly strict in regards to petitions to take more than 25 credits in the regular year, but was more willing to consider that possibility in the summer when students can split a heavier load up over several different sessions. Most of the petitions requesting increased credit loads were in regards to summer term.
In this report of ARC’s yearly activities, we’d like to highlight a few salient points. First, the committee struggled greatly with petitions requesting a reduction of credits from 16 to 15 in the University’s group requirements (Arts and Letters, Social Science and Science). Of the 120 petitions regarding group requirements, 59 (or roughly 50%) were requests for reductions from 16 to 15 credits in on of those groups. While 44% of those petitions were approved, it’s worth noting that in the first three meetings of the term, the committee held with the philosophy of last year’s committee and approved 87% of these petitions. After the third week, the committee only approved 28% of these petitions. Such disparity in the rulings is due to an agreement that the committee came to in the fourth week of the term. After much strife amongst committee members regarding these petitions, the committee decided to bring in Herb Chereck, University Registrar, to provide some history. There were two issues at the core of this conflict. First, committee members felt like they were altering the rules of the group requirements by uniformly accepting these petitions. Second, there was some disagreement as to whether all or most faculty had actually added another contact hour or more work to courses that had been switched from three credits to four credits in recent years. After speaking with Herb, it was discovered that only a very small percentage of courses had not changed their workload to reflect a four-credit load. Rather than react to the few courses that were lagging behind, the committee decided to hold firm to what the requirement actually is, 16 credits, and recognize the extra work that goes into earning that final credit of work. An agreement was reached that the committee would no longer pass these petitions solely on the basis that they were “only a credit short”, but instead look for two criteria in accepting these petitions: other work the student had completed that might meet the spirit of the group requirement but wasn’t currently being utilized in any of the other groups and hardship on the student’s part. With this criterion in place, the number of these petitions approved drastically declined. It is also plausible that this new “hard line” approach could be responsible for the drop in overall petitions heard by the committee from last year to this year (247 last year compared to 199 this year).
Second, the ARC brought two issues to the attention of the University’s Undergraduate Council this year. First was the issue of incompletes. For the past few years, the committee has routinely been approving petitions to change an incomplete to a grade if the instructor has submitted a grade. Also, it came to our attention through our discussion, that many faculty were under the impression that an incomplete would change to an F on a student’s transcript when they graduate if they don’t make up the required work. With this in mind, we thought it was appropriate for the Undergraduate Council to review the incomplete policy and determine if it’s fitting for changes to be made. The second issue was the excessive use of SAPP (Substance Abuse Prevention Program) courses by students to reach the minimum 180 credits for graduation. Many students who find themselves in a pinch to graduate quickly will fill their schedule with these courses in lieu of taking courses with more substance. In an effort to graduate quickly, several students have petitioned the ARC to add more than 25 credits to their schedule using the argument that they could manage the load because of the number of SAPP courses they were taking. The committee generally has a negative reaction to transcripts with a large number of these courses on them unless it seems to relate to the student’s career goals and it would be supportive of limiting the number of these courses that can be used towards graduation requirements.
In summary, the ARC has fulfilled its charge of maintaining the integrity of the University’s requirements while being sensitive to the needs of each petitioner and the needs of the institution we represent. It has been fulfilling to meet and work with other faculty, officers of administration and students from across campus. Each of us has been pleased to work with colleagues in a different way and each has been pleased to serve the University in this capacity.
On behalf of the Academic Requirements Committee, the current chairs respectfully submit this report.