S/U option removed from some introductory classes

Will Doreza

Beginning in the 2010-2011 school year, Lawrence students will no longer be able to choose the S/U option for some introductory level courses. Last February, the Committee on Instruction approved department requests to remove the S/U option from certain departments’ courses, including the geology, math and Spanish departments. The changes will begin with the Spanish classes that are offered over the summer.
S/U stands for satisfactory or unsatisfactory, and the option allows students to either pass or fail a class without the grade having an effect on their GPA. Many students use the option primarily for fulfilling general education requirements, but students cannot use the option to complete requirements for their major.
The decision is a culmination of requests from departments over the past few years. The Committee on Instruction’s policy states that departments who notice high S/U enrollment negatively correlated with academic performance may be approved for removal of the S/U option in affected classes, according to chairperson and Associate Dean of the Faculty Nancy Wall.
The process began first term, when the committee met to discuss the S/U option in courses. In January, the departments requested the changes, and in February, the changes were approved.
“There really was an academic issue in terms of the quality of the class because of the numbers of students enrolled S/U,” Wall stated. “We want to make sure that everyone is putting in the same amount of effort for the same type of grading scale.”
The Spanish department has seen a very high increase in S/U enrollment, with over 50 percent of students in some classes choosing the option.
Wall added, “In mainly introductory
Spanish classes, professors were noticing major disparities in the effort put in by different students, which is detrimental to a participation-fueled class.”
Professor Gustavo Fares, Spanish department chair, explained why the department decided to remove the S/U option. Fares said, “Students who are enrolled S/U are less likely to devote sufficient time to homework, to engage actively in class activities or to recognize problems and seek help in a timely manner. All of this has a detrimental effect on the individual student.”
Fares added, “More importantly, poor performance by large numbers of students has a negative impact on the class as a whole.”
Similarly, Associate Professor Andrew Knudsen, geology department chair, felt that the S/U option for introductory geology classes caused a “real difference in attitude, decrease in performance, and a pattern of poor decisions.”
He also stated that the option “makes the class difficult to teach because it decreases engagement and communication.”
On the other hand, Knudsen stated that the S/U option should be available for students who express sincere interest in a nonrequired class. Knudsen recommends that students who are upset by the decision talk to their teachers and advisors, as the decision will be reviewed in one to two years.
Wall also stated her belief in the S/U option for students: “The committee [on instruction] does not want to get rid of S/U in most cases… we encourage students to reach out and take a chance without worrying about not getting into law school.”
Offering a student’s perspective, junior Ellie Crean spoke in favor of the S/U option, saying, “Sometimes students just aren’t good at studies that are general education requirements. Especially foreign languages.”
Crean has had experience with the S/U option in a few of her required classes. “I completely understand that it makes classes harder for professors to teach,” she said. “But I believe that the benefits of the option for students are more important than how easy the class is to teach.”
“We are a liberal arts school. We want students to explore beyond their major focus of study,” said Wall. “But we don’t want students to take this chance to slack off a little bit.

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