Forum Topics

First Name Last Name Title Description
Janet Asper Walking at Graduation

Seeing Rita at the meeting yesterday, it made me wonder something. Can Banner even handle this kind of requirement/exemption? Will we want to have the students who want to do this “self identify” by applying to do it? Quibbling about 4 versus 8 is pretty moot if we don’t have the mechanism to actually administer the policy.

Steven Harris Walking at Commencement

Allowing students a few credits shy of graduation to walk at Commencement is a reasonable and sound idea. In addition to the reasons the Provost has outlined for this policy change, I’d like to add a couple more. First, a personal story. I was myself a beneficiary of such a sound policy at UNC Chapel Hill when I graduated in 1995. I had put off two general education requirements as long as I could–a P.E. class and a religion class (I found Jesus late–sorry CPR colleagues!)–primarily because there were other classes I wanted to take my senior year that I needed (I was a double major) or wanted to take (I had just discovered Russian!) before actually graduating. I also just enjoyed taking classes, loved living in Chapel Hill, and hated the idea of working. So, this wasn’t because I was a willful scofflaw or had stupidly misread requirements over the years or fell short of hours to graduate (I had over-fulfilled that part of the plan by about 60 hours) or wasn’t an adult. It was because UNC had a reasonable policy that allowed students a few credits short to walk with their classmates at the mass graduation at Kenan Stadium, finish up their credits in the summer, and then get their diploma in the mail at the end of it. It’s a great ritual and my parents appreciated the opportunity to attend as well. Had I been barred from walking, I likely wouldn’t have returned the next spring for graduation since I spent the entire following year in Russia. Would I have had bad feelings toward the university had I not been able to walk? Honestly, probably not. But it would have been a shame and even though it’s a one-day ritual, I feel that it’s an important part of the college experience for the students.

Different universities have different policies on this question, to be sure. My graduate school (Univ. of Chicago) resolves this problem by simply (obsessively?) holding graduation ceremonies at the end of every quarter. You’d think they would have graduation fatigue, but they really get into it. And it was great for me since I graduated in December and likely wouldn’t have made it back in the spring for financial reasons. Imagine that–a recent PhD with little money?! I think that not a few undergraduates would be in the same boat. Unless UMW is willing to have two (three?) graduations per year, I think the proposed policy change is the best course.

Finally, at a recent discussion of this issue in our dept. (HIST), one faculty member rightly pointed out that students in their final spring semester might face personal or family crises (e.g., a death in the family) that would prevent them from completing one or two courses that semester or flunking them. So, for no fault of their own, they would be placed in a position of having to forego the graduation ceremony and finish their credits in the summer. It seems like in cases like these the university could make the nice, humane gesture of letting them walk.

As for the details of this proposed policy change (how many hours? case-by-case basis or general rule?), I leave that up to UFC, Faculty Senate, etc. I suppose the more I think about it, the more I realize it was simply a nice gesture on the part of UNC to allow me to walk with my classmates. And more generally, what their policy also said in so many words was that a student could have some minor flexibility late in his undergraduate career to schedule classes in such a way that he could take what he wanted, juggle a double major, and finish up over a summer. And who knows, maybe they knew I just wanted to stay in Chapel Hill one last summer. After all, it’s the southern part of Heaven, as I finally learned in that religion class.

Rosalyn Cooperman Walking at Commencement

It would be helpful to know the denominator for this equation here, specifically how many students find themselves short of credits and therefore ineligible to graduate. Provost Martin indicates that the University burns through its good will with students and their families when said parties learn the student will not be graduating on time. He further indicates that such a decision may have a negative effect on a student’s willingness to identify as an alumnus and be connected, both psychically and financially, to UMW post graduation. Perhaps, but I’m wondering how this policy change is nothing short of the intellectual equivalent of the kids’ sports team motto that “everyone gets an orange slice and a trophy for showing up.” Commencement is a celebration of the achievement of completing degree requirements. As faculty we are required to meet with all students at the start of their senior year to complete a senior checksheet; the Registrar’s office routinely communicates with students lacking requisite courses or hours. That students and their families would be surprised at the 11th hour that a student is ineligible to graduate (e.g., student failed a course therein falling short of a major or Gen Ed requirement or requisite hours) seems more like a failing on the part of the student, not UMW faculty or staff.

Our existing policy that does not allow students who fall short of graduation requirements to participate in Commencement does not seem punitive. Instead, it seems entirely appropriate in treating our students like the adults they are expected to be in the world that exists both within and outside of UMW. A more judicious course of action may be to retain the current policy while allowing for a process that includes reviewing cases on their individual merits for extraordinary cases.

Rosalyn Cooperman

Jonathan Levin Walking in Commencement

Colleagues,

Thanks to Leigh for sharing his thoughts on the proposal presently working its way through the committee structure regarding who can walk in Commencement. We did talk at some length in the COB meeting, and as I said at the time, I do appreciate Leigh’s concerns, shared by several of his colleagues.

First, allow me to offer a few quick clarifications. Perhaps it goes without saying, but I met with the CAS Academic Senate, not with the CAS faculty. This seemed the logical place to go. Also, it has recently emerged that Christopher Newport, which indicates on its website that only students who have completed all graduation requirements may walk in Commencement, actually does have a “small loophole,” as the Provost described it to other Virginia administrators when the issue was recently discussed. If a student there is registered for spring semester courses that would allow that student to graduate in May and fails one of those courses, that student is in fact allowed to walk in Commencement. Of course, as in our proposal, that student will not in fact graduate until those credits are completed. In our own proposal, these students would not receive the diplomas and their transcripts would not yet indicate that they have completed all requirements for graduation. They would simply be allowed to walk with their peers in the Commencement ceremony (and, presumably, to participate in other graduation-week events). It should be noted, too, that University Academic Affairs is presently considering a UFC recommendation to limit the credit deficit to 8, which would be the equivalent of up to two courses (allowing for the possibility that they would be 4-credit courses in the sciences).

It is my sense that the advantages of the proposal do outweigh the disadvantages. We lose a lot of good will when students and families get upset that they can’t walk– and this is especially true of those who had expected to walk, but learn, late in the process, that they can’t. These students and families often have already purchased travel tickets and the like, and administrative offices get into difficult conversations with these students and families about this every year. This policy will help address this problem, but it will also build good will among others who know in advance that they will be up to two 4-credit courses shy by the end of their senior-year spring semester. These students can plan to walk and celebrate with their class, even though they will know that they will still be one or two courses shy of actually completing the degree. Ideally, they would complete the course or courses over the summer. In my experience at my previous institution, which allowed students to walk if they were up to 4 credits (or one course) shy of graduation, almost everyone does that– if the course is available. The University Academic Affairs Committee decided not to specify the need to complete the course or courses over the summer, because sometimes, the course needed might only be offered in the fall or spring.

There are other ways to do this. Perhaps the two most worth considering are, 1) limiting students to one 3- or 4-credit class deficit, and 2) requiring them to register for the summer course or courses in order to walk (in which case, we’d still have to decide if we wanted to allow folks who need a course or courses not offered in summer to walk). In our discussions, all agreed that we need a clear limit, and that it should be considerably less than a full semester’s load.

The faculty can, of course, call for a vote on the issue, presumably (if I understand the procedure) after the committees have proposed the policy. I hope we can do this in timely fashion, so that we can inform students of the outcome. As Leigh noted, their elected bodies are very much in favor of the policy change.

With best regards,

Jonathan

Janet Asper Walking at Graduation

Let’s put Leigh Frackelton’s e-mail out for discussion.

Hi to all

I rarely write the faculty as a whole, but I think this subject requires the attention of the entire faculty ;and that is” who is allowed to walk at commencement”. A proposal to allow students within 8 credits of graduation to walk at commencement came up in our November’s COB faculty council meeting by our colleague who is on the University Academic Affairs Committee. At that meeting we took a preliminary straw vote of support for the proposal, and a majority of CoB faculty members voted against the proposal. Then, at our December meeting , the Provost spoke to the CoB faculty about the proposal. Provost Levin gave the rationale that more and more Universities are allowing students to walk at graduations without completing all the degree requirements with the aim of improving alumni relations at the school. He also stated that he had been to the Student Senate and the SGA and they were unanimously in favor of the proposed change. The Provost told us that he had brought this to the attention of CAS and, except for a few questions, most CAS faculty seemed to be in favor of the proposal.

This topic is within our purview, and as it makes its way through the process of being decided, I believe we should make our voices heard, for or against, any proposal as each of us sees fit. If the majority of faculty members believe that this would be good for our University, then I will live with the change. On the other hand, if this proposal does not have the backing of the majority of the faculty, then I encourage everyone to make their comments known to the Academic Affairs Committee and to their UFC representatives. I believe that it is important to provide input throughout the process and not wait until the final vote occurs to bicker about its merit, even though we, at our general faculty meeting, have the right to overturn a UFC decision we may be against. Thus, I ask each of you to consider the merits of this policy change and make your wishes heard. I, for one, would like University of Mary Washington to stay with its current policy, requiring a student to complete all degree requirements before walking at graduation. This is still the policy at the University of Virginia and Christopher Newport. If we do give into a change, it is my opinion that we are just starting our way down a slippery slope.

Thank you for considering this issue.

R Leigh Frackelton Jr
Professor
1301 College Ave
Fredericksburg, Va 22401
George Washington 207
5406541452

Debra Schleef

To facilitate appointments and elections next week, a roster of all university committee members and their terms of service has been posted under University Committees.

Deborah Zies Updated Nominees

We have three additional nominees: Allyson Poska, Professor of History CAS, Marie Sheckels, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction COE, and Suzanne Sumner, Professor of Mathematics CAS

Deborah Zies Current Nominees to task force

The two new nominees are
Allyson Poska, Professor of History, CAS and Marie Sheckels, Professor of Curriculum and Instructions, COE.