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April 4, 2013

Curriculum controversy continues

Minutes show SGA support gen. ed. credit conversion only

By Alberto Paneccasio

A controversy has been brewing up among a section of students over some of the recent decisions and proposals by the soon-to-be outgoing Student Government Association (SGA) at Cleveland State University.

Recently the SGA went along with the university administration’s plan on the 4-to-3 credit conversion for all courses and is supporting the new block schedules for classes.

This three-credit hour general education conversion and new block schedule means more classes per semester, more exams, more books, less time working outside of class and that means not making money. For a student at Cleveland State money is a big thing.

Cleveland State is still in the midst of a curriculum change-up in effort to help students get their degree quicker and in an effort to help them graduate and save tuition dollars.

“This is a bad idea because students will have to take more classes to meet the 12 credit hour minimum for a full time student,” said Carla Ragone, student at Cleveland State.

At the November, 2012, meeting of SGA in addition to the senate members, Vice Provost Teresa LaGrange of Academic Planning and Provost George Walker and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs were also present.

The minutes of the meeting show that the executive board officially only endorsed the credit conversion for general education classes to three credit. But the Board of Trustees used this decision to vote for across the board credit conversion.

As the meeting progressed the SGA also endorsed the recommendation of the UCC (University Curriculum Committee) to limit the credit hour requirement for all undergraduate degrees to 120 with the exemption for degrees that are higher status requirements.

At the meeting Senator Chris Woodworth questioned if the 120 credit hours is across the board in Ohio, and Vice Provost LaGrange confirmed that.

As the meeting got further Senator Eldar Souliaev asked how the university professors of all departments are taking this. To which LaGrange replied, “The faculty is accepting that what is best for the students is the top priority.”

According to Moatasem Al Bitar, president of SGA, he sais that when he asked the faculty what are the disadvantages or the worst that will happen to students on this conversion they reportedly told him that they do not anticipate anything, but some confusion and a little bit of problems.

“There will need to be some exemptions but the professors will take their students into account,” said LaGrange.

From the minutes it seems that the discussion was only about gen ed classes. and the faculty senate was on board with it. Provost Walker informed the senators that he supported the whole idea and he thought it will benefit the university.

SGA president argued that it would allow an extra block for classes, which would give a variety of class options and a described less downtime in between classes.

“This is to help students, and enhance the college experience,” Al Bitar said.

Later in Februrary, 2013, the faculty senate voted for the general education conversion from four to three and 120 credit maximum, but voted against across-the-board course credit conversion from four to three credits and requested more time to work on it.

The faculty senate 120 credit hour maximum will give the students here at Cleveland State the opportunity to graduate sooner, within the traditional four years not five, but conversion of all courses would mean more courses and cut into the goal of student success.

The vote was an overwhelming 35-4, however, the Board of Trustees citing the SGA vote in favor of the conversion recommended across-the-board conversion.

The faculty senate’s decision to not support across-the-board conversion at this time was based on a survey of the students. Many students had expressed their displeasure with the credit conversion change, and the feedback to various questions on the survey confirmed this.

When asked if students would prefer to take four or three credit hour courses if their major required 36 hours, 45.2 percent reported they would prefer to take nine four-credit hour courses, while only 18.5 percent preferred taking 12 three-credit courses. The remaining percent favored a mixed system.

The survey showed that students wanted to keep the credit hours where it was. The SGA then ran with what they thought was necessary for the students since they represent us just like the faculty senate does for the faculty.

The survey above was mass emailed to all undergraduate students by the Office of Academic Planning in the fall of 2012, this survey was passed around because students should play a major role in the discussions on conversion. The amount of students that this reached was 982 students out of 12,220. Now, that is a response rate of 8 percent that is not in support of this conversion.

Some students that were approached by SGA and its members told them that since I am graduating it won’t affect me and I am not worried, nor do I care about this four to three credit hour conversion.

However, students who will be affected think differently.

“I am very confused on how the whole four credit hours to three credit hours will affect me,” says Jenna Jones, nursing student at Cleveland State.

To this new credit conversion a whole new angle comes with the drafted time-block for classes that provide for flexibility only in night classes, whereas, most of the day classes will be four days.

In 1998, Cleveland State changed from a quarter-based, four credit hour class scheduling to the current credit hour system. Some problems arose with transfer students and some students paying more than what they are required.

The whole idea will lead to parking issues and if there will their be a presence of campus police at night or an increase, because once you get past a certain time it isn’t good for a student to be out late if they are commuting or living on campus anything can happen. Safety is a first in everyone’s eyes.

Some students at the university work or have internships that they attend to on a daily basis throughout the week. This came up in the senate meeting as well and Senator Carlton asked just that and included what about the students that take night classes.

The new block scheduling that will go along with this for example would mean classes like Calc. 1 and 2 which are eight credit hours across two semesters, become Calc. 1, 2, and 3 for nine credits across three semesters -- that is just an example of what it would mean for students.

This also begs the question in the case of athletes, and if they will schedule classes around game days or even practice now.

“Well that would affect not only the athletes but any students that have jobs or other extracurriculars because they will have less time in their already busy schedules. It is hard enough for athletes to schedule classes with practice and game times but those changes would only make it more difficult,” Ragone said.

Correction: In the print version the date was typed in incorrectly and was supposed to be November 30th, 2012,