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Berkman recognizes communication mistake

April 18, 2013

By Brittney Schmies

In an effort to combat the confusion, Ronald Berkman, president of the university, offered insight during an interview with The Cleveland Stater. Questions were submitted to President Berkman for review per the request of his executive assistant; however, he was not aware of this request.
Ronald Berkman
Berkman talked about the current process and timeline of the credit conversion and the role it will play for both current and future students.

“A discussion of what complete package of changes can we make to help students be successful was put on the table at the beginning of the Student Success Committee, and one of them was the issue of curriculum,” Berkman said. “That’s why I say the issue of curriculum and curriculum change that would help facilitate students making faster progress was part of a discussion that began in 2009.”

A final report was given to the Faculty Senate by the Student Success Committee in April 2012, and the Faculty Senate endorsed it, Berkman explained. The University Curriculum Committee gave its first recommendation consisting of conversion of general education credits and a cap of 120 credit hours at the end of 2012.

“Ten months goes by between the time Faculty Senate receives and endorses the report until UCC makes a recommendation,” Berkman said. “I think 10 months is a reasonable time to consider whether Faculty Senate is going to endorse the initiative and how it’s going to move forward.”

What began as an initial conversion of just general education credits has moved to become an overall conversion of credits at Cleveland State University raising questions of why this is happening and causing concern among both students and faculty.

When asked why it has been decided to move forward with an overall credit conversion instead of a phased manner of credit conversion, Berkman cited the synchronism of the system as a main reason, explaining that they still would have an asynchronous curriculum.

“When you have X number of hours in a day, you need to find the most rational way to divide that day so students can get consecutive courses,” Berkman said. “That’s the reason to proceed with the rest of it.”

Having a three credit system will help to eliminate a four credit course, running into the start time of a three credit course making scheduling for courses easier for students as well as helping get students on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday track or Tuesday, Thursday track.

Along with synchronism, alignment is another reason for an allover conversion. Most other universities on semester systems have a three credit model. Applying the same theory to Cleveland State will make them more compatible with other universities when transferring credits in or out.

“Alignment is so important for transfer purposes,” Berkman said.

Another area of concern for an across-the-board credit conversion is the workload some courses require equating to more than three credits and how to adjust them accordingly.

“I have never said that every single course will be a three credit course,” Berkman said. “The term that I’ve used over and over again is a dominant three credit model.”

General education courses will be a dominant factor in the conversion as there are multiple options in each category Berkman explained. These conversions will be a substantial portion of the curriculum.

“There will be some exceptions, where there is a strong learning reason to keep a course at four credits… I understand,” Berkman said. “If there is a reason a course should be kept at four credits it’ll be kept at four credit hours.”

The conversion is slated to take place by September 2014 affecting the incoming freshman class of that semester. However, many current students, who will be still in attendance during that time, are worried about how they will be affected by the conversion.

Berkman assured current students that they will not be affected by this change. Whatever they were promised by their program guides when they entered will be how they proceed moving forward.

“There will be a version that adheres to the catalog when [current students] came into the program,” Berkman said. “These changes take place all the time. There’s curriculum changes all the time and programs readjust, but the students, when these changes happen, always have pathway to finish the program—the same program they were guaranteed in the catalog.”

In light of the recent events that have happened regarding the conversion, Berkman acknowledged that there has been some confusion and misunderstanding about the conversion being an improvement for all students at Cleveland State.

“My mistake was that I thought this was so self-evident and that this would be an improvement for students, that they would get it, but it’s not self-evident,” Berkman said. “I was wrong. It’s not self-evident at all, and when you look at it quickly it may give students the opposite impression.”

In terms of looking forward to the progression of the conversion, the Faculty Senate and what lies ahead, President Berkman is hopeful.

“I think we’ve already turned the corner,” Berkman said, “now we’ve got a lot more work to do in explaining it to the students and getting them to understand.”