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Sweeping changes made to GROs

The Faculty Senate voted to change several academic policies, including grade replacement opportunities, during its meeting on Monday.


The first item passed was a proposed change to the policy concerning classes with pass/fail options for graduate students. Under the new policy, graduate students would be allowed to use the pass/fail option for courses that are part of their major program as opposed to only elective courses.

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""Graduate students are restricted to only having this option for non-major courses,"" said Andrew Carnie, a linguistics professor. ""This would change the policy and give power to individual colleges to determine which courses would be available for pass/fail.""


The change also eliminated the stipulation that pass/fail courses do not count toward the minimum number of credits required for a graduate degree.


The senate approved sweeping changes to the UA's GRO policy. The amendments limit GRO applications to students who have completed fewer than 60 university credits. The changes also state that graduate students will not be able to apply for GROs.


""Most universities have some sort of academic forgiveness,"" said James Harwood, a communication professor. ""I think the mood of the undergraduate college for this amendment was not to overly disadvantage students, but also to have some more structure to the policy.""


Harwood also said the additional restrictions are beneficial for class availability.


""What we need to do is try to develop a policy which is consistent with our peers,"" Harwood said. ""A lot of seats in lower-level classes are being taken up by upper-level students looking to improve their grades.""


According to statistics in the amendment, an average of 1,650 class seats were filled by GRO seekers from 2005 to 2007.


The senate also approved, with three dissentions, changes to the guidelines and policies for university ""success"" courses.


Success courses are defined as any course that helps a UA student make a successful transition to the university from another level of education, or from undergraduate programs to graduate programs or careers. These include courses that aid students in self-exploration or major exploration, or provide students with tools to succeed in their major.


The new guidelines imposed by the senate amendment place a three-credit limit on the number of these courses applied toward a student's degree. 


""The key policy issue here is not that these kind of classes aren't important, because we know they are,"" said Harwood. ""But the question we were facing was, do we want 10 percent of a student's undergrad degree to be made up of these kind of classes?""


There were some who raised objections to the credit limit. President Robert Shelton spoke of how limiting the courses might negatively affect military veterans enrolled as students.


""Studies around the country have shown that the return rate of these types of individuals the first year is abysmal, about 3 percent,"" Shelton said. ""We have a VETS (Veterans Education and Transition Services) center that offers three classes of this ilk and when those classes are taken in one semester, or over two, the rate of return has gone up to about 96 percent.""


Despite the implications of the proposal, there is no concrete decision on which courses would be counted as success classes.


""I just want to stress that if a course is required for a student's major it will not be affected by this policy,"" said Celeste Pardee, an associate in the Office of Academic Affairs.


Also at the meeting, the senate approved a new engineering management masters degree program at the UA.


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