By DONOVAN HARRELL
The Educational Policies committee will be examining several issues this semester, including priority enrollment and the decommissioning of a policy on transfer credits.
During the Feb. 21 meeting, Sybil Streeter, a co-chair of the Student Admissions, Aid and Affairs Committee (SAAA), proposed a potential collaboration between her committee and the Educational Policies committee on examining Pitt’s priority enrollment practices.
Educational Policies committee members also discussed the proposed addition of Lauren’s Promise to course syllabi, transfer credit policy changes and the future of a mandatory, three-credit anti-Black racism course.
Streeter said she and the other members of the SAAA committee have been discussing Pitt’s priority enrollment practices recently after they were asked to review priority enrollment cases.
As students in Pitt’s largest freshman class ever continue their matriculation through the University, seats in undergraduate classes are filling up fast, she said.
Honors College students, student-athletes and active-duty military and veterans have access to priority enrollment, allowing them to sign up for classes earlier than students who don’t fall in these categories.
While student-athletes account for 3 percent of Pitt’s student population, and Pitt is mandated to offer priority enrollment for active-duty military and veterans, the population of students who “will engage in the Honor’s College in some capacity,” is 15 percent and has been growing, said Joe McCarthy, vice provost for undergraduate studies.
Some Educational Policy committee members were concerned that this large amount of Honors College students can potentially prevent other students from enrolling in the courses they need to receive their degrees. Streeter said she’d like to work with the committee to find a compromise on this issue.
Dawn McCormick, a member of the Educational Policies committee and senior lecturer in the Department of Linguistics, prompted a discussion about student efforts to add Lauren’s Promise to course syllabi.
SAAA members have previously discussed how and whether to add Lauren’s promise to syllabi following a proposal from Harshitha Ramadan, Student Government Board president.
Lauren’s Promise was created to honor its namesake, Lauren McCluskey — a student at the University of Utah who was murdered on campus in 2018 by a man she previously dated. McCluskey reportedly reached out to campus and city authorities seeking help before she was killed.
The promise reads: “I will listen and believe you if someone is threatening you.”
The Student Government Board passed a resolution in March 2021 calling for Lauren’s Promise to be added to syllabi.
Some SAAA members are wary of how the promise’s language would interact with Responsible Employee rules, which require people designated as responsible employees, including faculty, to report incidents of sexual misconduct to the Title IX office if a student shares information of an incident with them. Committee members also have argued that the existing responsible employee language on syllabi is “cold” and not as affirming as it could be for students.
McCormick shared similar sentiments, saying the tone of the current language on the syllabus is “pretty mechanical. It’s basically saying, ‘this is what’s going to happen.’ It’s not necessarily considering the effect of side of the issue and what students might be facing or other staff or faculty might be facing if they’re in that position.
A recent update to Pitt’s course catalog from the Office of the Provost adjusted language on Pitt’s handling of transfer credits to reflect current practices and prevent potential harm to the University’s accreditation
But this change required the rapid decommissioning of transfer credit policies that hadn’t been updated since 2007 and 1992.
Senate President Robin Kear said she didn’t have a problem with the new language, but she was concerned with how quickly the policies were decommissioned and how the catalog was updated without going through normal shared governance practices.
Additionally, Kear said, there isn’t a clear policy or guidelines for decommissioning University policies or moving policies under the sole authority of the Office of the Provost.
Tom Hitter, the assistant vice chancellor for policy development and management, will be looking into these issues, Kear said, and Senate officers will have additional conversations with University administrators.
Anti-Black racism course
The Educational Policies committee will continue to discuss the potential implementation of a three-credit, mandatory anti-Black racism course for Pitt students.
A small number of students have been able to opt-out of the one-credit anti-Black racism course that Pitt’s first-year students are automatically enrolled in, according to Amanda Godley, vice provost for graduate studies.
In the fall 2021 semester, 4,528 students were auto-enrolled in the course, 78 students dropped the course, and 23 withdrew from it, she said. The students who opted out of the course will not be required to retake it.
McCarthy reiterated that the challenge of implementing a potential mandatory three-credit course is there currently are no University-wide mandatory course requirements.
He said the fastest method to make the require the course is for individual schools to go through their academic affairs mechanisms and make the course mandatory.
McCarthy said he’s been working on a long-term solution of creating a University-wide general education curriculum, which would allow room for the one-credit course and potential future three-credit course.
However, this process could take some time, McCarthy added. Educational Policies chair John Stoner said he remains committed to working on this issue in future meetings.
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-383-9905.
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