U proposes academic policy changes

The changes were part of an overall effort to fine-tune undergraduate policies.

Danielle Nordine

University of Minnesota students, staff and faculty have two weeks left to comment on three proposed University policy changes before they are finalized by the policy committee. The changes include: – Eliminating the opportunity for students to avoid consequences for scholastic dishonesty by dropping a course. – Making it harder for faculty to schedule a class on a University holiday. – Extending the legitimate absence policy to include final exams. Some students had attempted to circumvent the UniversityâÄôs disciplinary system by dropping a class if they suspected they were going to be caught cheating, said Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Robert McMaster. So the Senate Committee on Educational Policy decided to clarify the expectations in an official policy. The College of Liberal Arts and the College of Biological Sciences already had similar policies in place, but SCEP wanted to make the policy uniform across the University, said Tina Falkner, administrative director of Academic Support Resources. The policy now states that there must be âÄúextenuating nonacademic circumstances justifying late withdrawalâÄù from a course. Under the proposed policy, if a student drops a course and is later found guilty of scholastic dishonesty, the University can re-register the student for the course and give him or her a failing grade, Falkner said. The second change would make it harder for faculty to schedule a class on a University holiday. Students are not required to attend classes on University holidays, but recently a faculty member had scheduled a mandatory class session for July 4, McMaster said, which sparked debate over the topic. There was no clear policy in place for dealing with the situation, so the proposed provision was added to require a deanâÄôs permission to schedule class on a University holiday. The policy doesnâÄôt fully prohibit classes on University holidays because certain departments, especially the health and veterinary sciences, need students to work in clinics during holidays. âÄúWe canâÄôt close the clinics down on holidays, but thereâÄôs no need for you to have a chemistry class on July 4,âÄù McMaster said. The third policy open for comment would extend the legitimate absence policy to include final exams. If a student has a legitimate excuse to miss a final, the policy would require the professor to provide an opportunity for the student to take the exam by the second week of the following semester. âÄúThis was a hole in our policy that was in existence for a long time,âÄù McMaster said. âÄúAlthough abusing this is always a possibility, I think it offers more protection to the student than anything else by requiring a time frame for making up the exam.âÄù The proposed policy changes were part of an overall effort to clarify and fine-tune undergraduate policies that began last spring, McMaster said. Major changes to University policy must be open to students, faculty and staff for a 30-day comment period before they can be accepted, Michele Gross, director of the University Policy Office, said. The comment period for these policies ends April 15. After the comment period ends, there is no deadline for a final draft of the policies, Gross said, and the committees arenâÄôt required to make any of the changes suggested. However, McMaster said the committee will take comments into account. If it doesnâÄôt see the need to make any major changes, they will likely go into effect for the fall 2010 semester.