Monday, April 03, 2006

"Everybody else does it" justification for retakes

Jim Simmons was nice enough to post his letter to Larry Carlin here. The basic argument that won the day is that the other UWs do it this way, so we should too.

It is a sad story, and it continues to be a bad policy. Jim suggests that there was extensive debate within the faculty senate--why wasn't this on the list-serve? They actually considered it twice with no input from the rest of the faculty.

We rarely have any idea what the faculty senate is up to and I had no previous knowledge of these arguments.

I hope that senators will inform the community the next time a controversial policy, which serves no one well, comes up for a vote. Jim mentioned that they considered many policies--why didn't the faculty as a whole? A lot of smart people work here--maybe a better solution might have been found. . .


The Repeat Policy was proposed back in May of 2003 after over a year of review by the Provost's Staff, Admissions and the Improvement of Instruction Committee before it was passed by the Faculty Senate in November of 2003 after much debate. The senate was asked to reconsider the policy due to budgetary considerations but reafirmed it in Spring 2004. Implementation was delayed for several years for computer software adjustments and the Chancellor's stay for financial reasons.

The main impetus behind the change in the old policy was all the problems created for students by the 30-day rule that prevented students from retaking a course until students taking it for the first time had already registered. This rule, among other things, kept many students from repeating several high demand classes or gaining admission to several majors especially in the sciences. No other campus we could find had a "30-day rule."

The many alternatives considered ranged from the most "liberal" with unlimited retakes replacing existing grades and no registration constraints to the most restrictive allowing students a very small number of retakes to replace only Fs with the second grade averaged into their GPA. There were also proposals to increase the number of faculty in specific departments to handle demand and to require professional programs to reconsider their use of GPAs as an admission standard.
The Retake option actually chosen was the one most common at other UW campuses and the one most consistent with policies at comparable universities. Those campuses don't seem to have all the problems feared by some of the participants on this discussion list.

I doubt that any of the participants in the discussion three years ago thought that this was an ideal policy but it was seen as the best possible one given the complexity of the issue and the university's financial condition. However, You will have to ask others about their reasons for favoring the policy since I was not a member of these committees nor chair of the faculty senate that year. I'm sending you a few of the relevant documents by snail mail.


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