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Shorter classes among academic changes

November 30, 2006

Committees within the UW-River Falls Faculty Senate have been busy this semester discussing academic changes that could have a significant impact on students and faculty.

In the next year the liberal arts requirement may be met based on the number of classes rather than credits, class times may be five minutes shorter and it will be easier for students to retake courses.

The most immediate change students will experience is the course retake policy.

The Faculty Senate decided Nov. 6 to allow students to retake a course if they receive a C minus or below.

Once signed by Chancellor Don Betz and passed through the Registrar’s Office, students can register to retake these courses beginning spring semester.

The course retake policy was reviewed a year after the University adopted the plus/minus grading system.

“A student who earned a D or F could retake a course, but if a student earned a C they couldn’t automatically repeat it,” Faculty Senate Chair Wes Chapin said. “If a student got a D plus or a C minus though, it fell in between the old system.”

It will not only be easier for a student to retake a course, but it will also help raise their GPA by giving them the opportunity to get better grades in courses they did not do so well in.

“We have given students some more options to retake courses if they want to,” Chapin said.

While the Senate passed the motion regarding the course retake policy, two other academic changes are still being discussed.

The enactment of the new general education curriculum last year brought attention to the liberal arts category students in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) are required to complete for graduation.

“In some ways the University has adopted a liberal arts perspective,” Brad Caskey, associate dean of CAS, said. “The rationale of the liberal arts courses is nearly identical to the new general education rationale.”

A few solutions to make them different are to have specialized liberal arts courses, such as in-depth classes, or make them 300-level courses.

Under the current liberal arts category, students are required to complete a minimum of 10 liberal arts credits at the 200-level or higher outside the student’s major and department of their minor.

Since the liberal arts category requirement is now based on credits rather than classes, many students end up short one credit.

“It would make more sense to have it be based on classes instead of credits,” Caskey said.

Some students take four-credit courses, requiring them to only take three courses to satisfy the category, while other students have three-credit courses, requiring them to take four courses to get at least 10 liberal arts credits.

By next fall, the category will be different whether it is based on classes rather than credits, is more clearly defined and/or allows students to take courses in the same division as their major.

Caskey said students will not be negatively affected by any of the changes, and it may make advising easier.

“One thing we won’t do is add any more credits to a student’s load,” Caskey said. “[Advising would be easier] because students wouldn’t have to worry about division and one credit remaining.”

Senior Anne Beckman said the change would be beneficial to her.

“I have had tons of problems with scheduling [at UWRF],” she said. “I think it would be nicer for the credits to fit the credit values of the classes so students aren’t looking around for that one credit.”

In addition to the liberal arts changes, class times are also being debated.

Earlier this semester, Betz and Provost Charlie Hurt discussed the issue of class times with Karl Peterson, chair of the Calendar Committee, focusing on how the University needs to get on an hourly class schedule.

The current schedule has classes at 55-minute periods Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 80-minute periods Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The proposed change to class times would make classes 50 minutes long Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 75 minutes long Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Sophomore Kate Aguilar said she believes the new class schedule would be helpful to students.

“I don’t think only five minutes makes a big difference,” Aguilar said. “It would be easier to remember what time you have class though.”

The proposal was referred to the Student Affairs Committee of the Student Senate Nov. 14 and is expected to come forth with its proposal in the next few weeks with revisions.

If the proposal is passed in both the Student and Faculty Senates and approved by the chancellor, the time change could take effect as early as fall semester.

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