The faculty of science will be changing graduation honorifics to offer more consideration for the various life-circumstances of science students.
Previously, to receive a “distinction” notation on a degree, science students required a minimum GPA of 3.5 over their last 60 credits. This also included the requirement of completing a full course load of at least 24 credits in the last two years of a science degree. Under the changes, the 24 credit requirement will be dropped starting for June 2020 convocation.
This initiative was spearheaded by Gerda de Vries, the associate undergraduate dean of sciences. The changes were inspired by an interaction de Vries had with a student who was approved by Accessibility Resources (AR) to take 18 credits a year. The student, who had straight A’s, felt that they should still qualify for a graduation honorific.
“I thought clearly, we should be making an exception, but now we’re making an exception for students who ask,” she said. “We have so many other students who have life situations that prevent them from taking [full-course loads] that cannot be accommodated through AR because it’s not an accessibility requirement they have, it might be financial, they might have dependents they are looking after — all kinds of reasons.”
de Vries felt the 24 credit requirement didn’t take into account the various extenuating circumstances of students, nor reflected the modern reality of acquiring a science degree.
“These rules were written when people would come to the university and take five courses in the winter and five courses in the fall,” she said. “That is no longer the reality — the university has become more accessible and we have lots of students who are doing the most they can, why should that matter?
“If they are going full-out for their particular circumstances and they get straight-A’s, they should be eligible for this distinction.”
Though this change is not “precedent-setting,” with many other facilities already practising it, de Vries is hoping to introduce ground-breaking changes by also eliminating the credit requirement for first-class honours or the Dean’s Honour Roll. Currently, students must meet a minimum GPA of 3.5 over 24 credits. This change, however, is still in the initial stages of discussion.
According to de Vries this change requires substantial conversation across campus, something that is happening right now.
Similar to the graduation honorific, this potential change boils down to acknowledging the various challenges students face.
“Looking only at students who have completed at least 24 credits means we are only looking at a privileged cohort of students,” de Vries said. “Privilege isn’t just a money situation, it’s all other kinds of reasons.”
Re-admission requirements more uniform for science students required to withdraw
Previously required to withdraw science students will have more straightforward re-admission requirements in the future.
Science students who have previously been required to withdraw can re-apply to the faculty of science after completing credits at an alternative post-secondary institution. Before the changes students required a minimum GPA of 2.7 on 18 transferable credits, or a competitive GPA on 24 transferable credits.
Now, science students attempting to re-apply to the faculty will be evaluated on 24 credits and a competitive GPA. Students in the Fresh Start program, a recommendation-based program for science students with a GPA between 1.3 and 1.6 will be held to their own competitive GPA to be determined by the faculty.
This change comes after de Vries continuously dealt with students trying to jump through loopholes in requirements. The previous way the requirements were written students believed that acquiring a 2.7 GPA on 18 credits was a sure-fire way to reach re-admittance. This lead to students unsure about reaching a competitive GPA with 24 credits asking advisors about dropping classes to reach the 18 credit GPA 2.7 standard.
“We get these inquiries from students to our advisors and me asking if it’s advisable to drop courses to get a 2.7 on 18 credits,” de Vries said. “That’s not a conversation we should be having.”
It is unclear when the changes to the U of A’s academic calendar will occur.