Pass/fail no longer the case for first-year orientation

Maria Nann

Support for freshman class reformat came from faculty members

The Educational Policies Council voted yesterday to change Kent State’s required freshman orientation course, making it a graded course easily molded by colleges.

Terri Christensen, executive director of Student Success, said the decision for the new course is a balancing act between providing each college with leeway to develop curricula for its students and making sure students receive necessary information about college life.

“We hope,” she said, “with all the colleges’ input, this will be a really good balance that we haven’t had in the past couple years.”

In order to do this, several key aspects generally touched on during the First Year Experience course now will be incorporated into university orientation.

The decision comes in the wake of the 21st Century Initiative, the group Provost Robert Frank charged with looking into liberal education requirements and curricula. The group already recommended changing Week of Welcome to Welcome Weekend and making PASS an overnight program during the summer.

Traditionally, the orientation course has been a pass-fail course, meaning students who went to class and completed required assignments passed the class. Council discussed making it a graded class prior to voting.

“What bothers me is that what currently happens in an orientation class is not necessarily graded material,” Council Co-chairman Tom Janson said. “It seems to be that unless the colleges work diligently to create a curriculum, the only grade a student can receive is pass-fail.”

Sally Kandel, assistant vice president for Research, Planning and Institutional Development, said the idea and support for making it a graded class came from the faculty.

Christensen said about 70 percent of universities’ orientation classes are graded.

Greg Blase, a 21st Century Initiative committee member, said the pass-fail concept does not require as much work from students.

“It’s important to make sure that even a course like this has rigor to it, content to it, work to it,” said Blase, who is also the program director for the College of Communication and Information. “Therefore, we felt it should be graded.”

Frank explained that grades emphasize the importance of the course to students.

“There is a major shift implied in this course that this may be the most important course at Kent State University,” he said. “It will give students a sense of what Kent State is about. Engagement sends a message that if we expect faculty to make it a priority in their lives, we expect students to make it a priority in their lives.

“We really need to remember this course is a large part of our retention efforts here and the (outside) view of Kent State University.”

In addition to this proposal, the Council also discussed the possibility of agreements with two Chinese universities – Shanghai International Studies University and Hong Kong Baptist University.

The first agreement would allow students from SISU to come to Kent State to finish the last year of their undergraduate degree. After this year, these students would continue to study for another year, and in doing so, earn their master’s degree.

The second agreement would allow HKBU students to earn a master’s degree in financial engineering by taking courses for one summer at Kent State.

Both of these potential agreements are in the information stages only and no curriculum has been developed yet.

The Council will not meet again until next semester, on Jan. 26.

Contact academic affairs reporter Maria Nann at [email protected].