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May 2, 2013

SGA revises resolution

Urges admins, faculty to work on exemption, deadlines

By Alberto Paneccasio

The entire senate of the Student Government Association revisited its November 30th resolution on 4-3 conversion of general education courses and overall 120 credits for an undergraduate degree, in a meeting held on April 19. The general education conversion and the 120 credit cap were approved by the Faculty Senate in February.

The new resolution reaffirmed the Fall 2014 deadline for the conversion of all general education credits and 120-credit cap for an undergraduate degree.

However, the resolution went on to say that the conversion of courses other than the general education courses to meet the 2014 deadline can be problematic in some instances and urged the administration and the Provost office to extend the deadline for upper level courses and to work with the University Curriculum Committee (UCC).

“We are doing this because of the ongoing debates, there is new information that is being presented and we are getting more feedback and at the same time the old resolution was not clear enough as to where SGA stands on this conversion issue,” said Moatasem Al Bitar, president of SGA.

The Stater had reported, on April 4, on how the board of trustees while recommending across-the-board credit conversion had cited the November resolution as an evidence of support from the students for the credit conversion of all the courses by 2014, to counter the findings of the student survey done by the University Curriculum Committee. This had stirred up a section of students and the faculty, following which the Faculty Senate passed a no-confidence vote, with overwhelming support of 35-4, against the university administration. 

At the April 19 meeting in addition to all the student senators, Dr. Bill Kosteas, chair of the University Curriculum Committee; Sheldon Gelman, vice president of the Faculty Senate, and Dr. Jianping Zhu, dean of Graduate Studies were also present.

Dr. Kosteas informed the student senators that some courses may need to be exempted from the conversion.

“If a course throughout the state of Ohio like calculus that is four credit hours everywhere we are not going to force them to go down to three, so the UCC recommended those few changes and the faculty unanimously endorsed those changes, back in December,” said Kosteas.

He informed that as the conversion has to take place by the end of the Fall 2014 semester, this means that the conversion and the courses need to be submitted by the end of the semester.

The faculty say that then is not nearly enough time when other schools like Ohio State took three-to four years for their conversion. By rushing through this conversion their will be a risk that our students at CSU will not be getting the education they deserve.

“There is a political force that is pushing Cleveland State and this time line to near the finish-line,” said Kosteas.

The faculty wants to preserve the quality of their programs and they would recommend 2015 rather than 2014, said Dr. Kosteas.

Sheldon Gellman, vice president of the faculty senate passed out a resolution of no confidence passed by the faculty and emphasized that after general education three credit hour conversions, we will have already a 3-credit hour dominant system hoping that SGA will agree with the faculty senate on this.

The Dean of Graduate School who was also in attendance presented his views of what is going with the university and why it’s becoming a complex issue.  He made sure that it was very clear that all students are guaranteed their catalog rights.

“These rights are based on that you have the right to choose if you want to stay in your four credit hour format or switch to the three credit hour format if you choose.,” said Dr. Zhu.

Bitar agreed and said that it is extremely important for every student to have their rights to maintain their current catalog in which they enrolled in school based on and very important for administration to give those rights to students.

He stated that there are options to not make students take additional classes due to the conversion.  The timeline is very quick and this is really fast but in his eyes and what he thinks he hopes that President Berkman has the power to make adjustments to the timeline.

The main focus for president Berkman is that  no current student who is already here will not be affected in a negative way, said Bitar.

Director Jake Wehner of SGA asked at the meeting what the procedure was to get a course exempted from this conversion. Dr. Kosteas simply stated that the committee is creating the requirements to have a class exempted but they are not ideal.

After he made that statement the room got heated with emotion and Director Wehner asked why should we keep a course at 4 credit hours when other local universities have it at three?

“We have a very diverse campus and our students will not be best served with the conversion,” said Kosteas.

Dr. Zhu abruptly stepped in the discussion and presented that last semester 40% of students came to campus five days a week and 18% came three days a week. He said that the student profile is changing here at CSU and more students are coming to campus for classes more times a week. We need to serve our university population the right way, he said.

At this point the Graduate Program is being exempt,” said Zhu.

This brought up several questions from the SGA members who represent the students as a whole. They asked, would faculty have more time since they will be teaching in a three credit hour format?

“There is just not enough faculty,” said Kosteas.

President elected Jon Fedor on behalf of the SGA asked if it is reasonable to suggest an extension to 2015. This was very optimistic in Dr. Zhu eyes and he reiterated that the President Berkman will be flexible but a deadline is necessary so they work.

Following which a new resolution that makes SGA stance a bit clearer was passed.  The SGA cabinet and executive board met with president Berkman and Vice Provost LaGrange (full name) a week before this meeting. In that meeting they all agreed there was a gap of miscommunication on the administrations part. 

The president of SGA, Moatasem Al Bitar, emphasized that the president of the University did not tell us to re -visit our resolution we did this through our whole organization as a whole and they felt this was the need to do being the voice and representatives of the students.

As the executive board of SGA was just recently chosen many students feel that the current SGA members should not have revisited the issue and let the new SGA decide.
When asked why not just let the new E-Board look into this, it was clearly identified that they are because they are part of the senate right now and will continue to look at it and continue to work with it and the current SGA Cabinet cannot just leave the issues alone that are going on right now currently.

“The Executive board does what the senate tells them to do, what the senate only approves so it doesn’t matter which executive board is incoming or outgoing,” said Bitar.

“The SGA Senate the entire body that was at the meeting on April 19th   debating this so this resolution was not drafted by the executive board it is drafted by the SGA Senate.”

He said that it is their responsibility to tackle this issue and to make sure they are voicing the students and what they think is in the best interest of the students.

“I cannot just ignore an issue that is happening right now, in front of my eyes because I would just leave it to the next E-Board. It doesn’t matter which executive board is in office it’s the student senate that our looking at these issues,” said Bitar.
The new president elected is ready for the challenges and he shared his view on the current issue going forward.

“To advocate, truly advocate on behalf of students that students will not be harmed in the conversion process, that involves current students and students that will be still apart of the university that are enrolled in degree programs,” said Jon Fedor, incoming President elected of SGA.