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Faculty Senate » 2007-2008 Annual Report

Academic Requirements Committee

2007-2008 Annual Report

September 21, 2009

To:  Paul Doescher, President, Faculty Senate

From:  Sheila Roberts, 2008-2009 Chair
Academic Requirements Committee
Advisor, Educational Opportunities Program

Re: Annual Report for 2008-09

The Academic Requirements Committee (ARC) met biweekly during the summer term, 2008, and weekly during the academic year. The committee considered 701 petitions which is an 8% increase over the previous year. Meetings during the academic year generally lasted less than the two hours set aside for the meetings, except during weeks eight, nine, and ten of each term. Occasionally they went beyond the two-hour time frame during these weeks.  Summer meetings generally lasted less than two hours. 

Late Course Withdrawals (203), Late Course Drops (271), and Late Course Adds (113) were the most common actions requested, but the committee was also asked to consider 60 requests to “late change the grading basis” from A/F to S/U or vice versa. The ARC also considered 42 withdrawals from the university and a few petitions dealing with potential waivers of graduation requirements and exceeding 24 credits. We approved late course withdrawals at a 51% rate, late course drops at a 62% rate with an additional 20% being approved as late withdrawals, and late course adds at a 93% rate. Late course withdrawals tend to be less clear cut and require more documentation, thus the lower approval rate. And the approval rate on late changes of grading basis, 36%, reflects the fact that there are not many circumstances that justify approving these requests. 

The number of petitions which resulted in deferrals, typically for clarifying information, documentation and/or appropriate/required signatures, dropped slightly from 10% in 2007-08 to 8% in 2008-09. But we have also made a change in how deferrals are handled which has reduced the work load for the Registrar’s Office. See below under “Form to Provide Feedback to Students.”

Notes on Guidelines & Changes to External Guidelines
Probably the most significant change this year has been the practice of keeping notes on our decision making process as they pertain to the external guidelines that are handed to students. This led to a decision to revise the external guidelines. The key issue was regarding this guideline:

    Late Course Withdrawal. A late withdrawal from an individual course is granted only when a documented medical or family emergency makes it impossible for the student to withdraw on time or complete the course. Poor performance in a course is not a valid reason for a late withdrawal. Late withdrawals are rarely granted. The student should keep going to class until the Academic Requirements Committee reaches its decision. Students who have completed the course, and taken finals, are not eligible to withdraw from the course. 

The actual practice was quite different from this guideline. If a student’s pattern of attendance clearly supported their intention to withdraw, then we approved the petition without any documentation. We made a presentation to the Academic Advising Council requesting their input and then made a decision as a committee to require that students also provide some type of documentation supporting their intention to withdraw, such as corroboration from an instructor or advisor. In light of that decision, we changed the external guidelines to read as follows (key changes are underlined):

    Late Course Withdrawal - A late withdrawal from an individual course is granted only when there are documented reasons, such as family emergencies, registration error, or illness, as to why a student could not withdraw by the deadline (end of the 7th week*). Documentation for late course withdrawals is typically required, regardless of the point at which a student’s attendance ended. Poor performance in a course is not a valid reason for a late withdrawal. The student should continue attending class until the ARC reaches a decision. Students who have completed the course, and taken finals, are not eligible to withdraw from the course.

We also asked for feedback from Academic Advising Council on these proposed additions to the external guidelines: 

    Petitions for exceptions to academic regulations will not generally be approved if the circumstance is more than 3 years in the past.

    Students are petitioning for exceptions to university policy and approval is not guaranteed

    Instructors and advisor’s comments and approvals are advisory and are not binding on the committee’s decision.

Faculty Senate Executive Committee expressed reservations on the first item above, because the three-year limit might be in conflict with the newly implemented Academic Regulation 31, Academic Fresh Start, which allows students to petition for exclusion of courses that were taken more than five years previously. We requested feedback from the Academic Regulations Committee and they felt the new guideline we were trying to implement was not in conflict with AR 31.

All of these changes were approved by Faculty Senate Executive Committee on April 23 and implemented shortly thereafter. Students are also now required to initial their review of the guidelines when they pick up the petition form from the Registrar’s Office.

In our discussions regarding the above changes with the Academic Advising Council, they expressed a need to have a better understanding of our process. So ARC met and discussed information we felt would be helpful for them and sent it to their listserve in December, 2008.  See attached. 

Form to Provide Feedback to Students
Another change we implemented this year was a form (see attached) that was created to give students more information on deferrals or denials. This was prompted by the amount of time the Registrar’s Office was spending following up with students who failed to include documentation or other key points of information. Except for rare situations, follow-up on deferrals is now the responsibility of the student. We also conveyed this change to the Academic Advising Council.

We hope that these changes will provide for more consistency in our decision making and a better understanding of the process by students and advisors. I personally appreciate the opportunity to serve on this committee and look forward to another year.

2008-09 Academic Requirements Membership

Sheila Roberts ’10, Chair Educational Opportunities Program
Anthony Brock ’09 Network Engineering
Kelly Donegan ‘09 Horticulture
Joy Jorgensen ’11 Enrollment Management
Tjodie Richardson ‘11 Agricultural and Resource Economics
Andrea Wirth ‘11 Library

Ex-Officio:  Registrar’s Office Representatives:  Nancy Laurence and Amy Flint

Executive Committee Liaison:  Leslie Burns