University Senate approves longer course withdrawal period, discusses future of WKU

Associate professor of sociology Lauren McClain speaks in front of fellow faculty and staff during the monthly University Senate meeting on April 18, 2019.

Natasha Breu

The University Senate passed a resolution that would allow students to withdraw from a course up until 70% completion during its meeting on Thursday.

The resolution passed 44 to 5. The current university policy on audit and withdrawal allows students to drop a class with a “W” until 40% of the course is completed. By changing it to 70%, students are given about an extra three weeks to determine whether or not they are doing well in a course and want to withdraw.

The resolution will be given to WKU’s administration, who can decide whether or not to put it in place. 

Most senators approved the resolution on the basis that in many courses students had to take midterm exams after the deadline for withdrawal and by that time they did not know how they were doing in a class. Arguments for the change in policy were that it would improve student retention rates and GPA’s.

Mac McKerral, the journalism major coordinator and a professor in the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, said the change in policy was “problematic” because it was driven by one particular grading schematic. He said in the courses he teaches he provides assignments throughout the semester and spends hours assessing work. He did not agree that it would take until 70 percent into a semester to see that a student is not doing well.

“I’m not sure this is in the students’ best interest,” McKerral said.

Elizabeth Gish, an associate professor in the Mahurin Honors College, said most of the students at WKU want to do well in their classes and would not deliberately take a class with the intent of being able to drop it with a “W.”

Stephen Mayer, who serves as Student Government Association president and student regent, said from his person experience he does not know how well he is doing in a class 60% into a semester. He said he spoke on behalf of SGA, who agrees with the change in policy.

“We have an overwhelming amount of support for this,” Mayer said.

The senate also approved study abroad options that would fulfill the local to global course requirements for colonnade courses. Existing study abroad courses may go through colonnade evaluation, or entirely new courses may be created for approval to fulfill colonnade requirements.

Acting Provost Cheryl Stevens emphasized the importance of President Timothy Caboni’s strategic plan in creating a collaborative culture on campus, especially in light of the Comprehensive Academic Program Evaluation recommendations. She said she doesn’t want this to be seen as a “reshuffling” of programs, but instead an opportunity to develop a plan for programs destined for growth.

More criticism of the administration came a few weeks ago when Larry Snyder, the dean of Potter College of Arts and Letters, was forced to resign, putting pressure on former Provost Terry Ballman and Caboni for answers. Since then, Ballman has stepped down and Stevens was named provost. She later announced that Snyder would be reinstated.

Guy Jordan, an associate professor of art history, proposed a resolution for “appreciation” for Caboni’s leadership and commitment to shared governance. He called it an “olive branch to encourage the kind of response we got going forward” in reference to the “Snyder situation.” Some senators expressed their concern and hesitation, saying they were not ready to support that statement, but the motion passed.

News reporter Natasha Breu can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow Natasha on Twitter @nnbreu.