Published on Friday, June 8, 2007
UCSB students frequently enrolling in less than 15 units per quarter may soon face new consequences, including possible dismissal, as a result of yesterday’s UCSB Faculty Legislature decision to enforce academic progress policies.

The new policies, beginning Fall 2008, mandate that the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Studies review each student’s progress every other academic quarter. Upon its first review, the office will instruct students with deficient units to consult an academic advisor, and after a subsequent review the individual may become subject to possible academic dismissal if the cumulative unit total remains low. The office will identify deficiency based upon a newly designed Minimum Cumulative Progress chart, which outlines how many units a student must accumulate by the end of each academic quarter.

The decision regarding academic progress was made following a presentation by Faculty Legislature Chair and geography professor Joel Michaelsen. The presentation indicated that nearly 50 percent of UCSB undergraduates are failing to meet the cumulative unit expectations outlined by the University of California, thus preventing the campus from obtaining an additional $10 million in funding.

Dean of Undergraduate Studies Alan Wyner said each UC campus receives funding from the University based upon a standard known as the full-time equivalent ratio. Under this standard, the UC appropriates funds based upon the number of undergraduate units for full-time students over the amount of full-time students, with a ratio cap of 1.0. Full-time students are considered as individuals who average 15 units per quarter.

Wyner said UCSB has an FTE ratio of .94 with students overall averaging 14.4 units per quarter. He said these results adversely effect the amount of funds the campus receives from the UC office as the unit average continues to decline each year.

“We are the only [campus] with a downward trend,” Wyner said. “We’re virtually tied with UC Riverside as having the lowest FTE conversion ratio in the system.”

Under the new model, students can monitor their progress toward the required 180 units needed for graduation by examining the MCP chart. The chart, used by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Studies advocates for the completion of 42 units after three quarters, 86 units after six quarters and 132 units after nine quarters. It also requires students to have completed 45.1 units and 90 units before qualifying for sophomore and junior class standing, respectively. Originally, UCSB only required the completion of 40.5 and 84 units to receive sophomore and junior standing, respectively.

Units obtained in approved courses from other colleges or during summer school at UCSB will count toward a student’s cumulative progress. While units from advanced placement courses taken in high school will continue to count toward a student’s graduation, the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Studies will not use these units when calculating minimum progress, Wyner said.

“You can’t [average] 12 units a quarter,” he said. “But you can still graduate early [with AP units].”

According to Michaelsen’s presentation, nearly 25 percent of undergraduates take longer than four years to graduate because they do not average the recommended 15 units per quarter. Additionally, close to 5 percent of students are taking less than the minimum 12 units for any given quarter, and 75 percent of these specific students are doing so without the required permission from the Dean of Undergraduate Studies.

Michaelsen said the new model will help both the university and its students to improve education and save money.

“This is aimed at trying to get students to take more units so we can get more money,” Michaelsen said. “This will also enable them to get through in four years.”

However, faculty from the Asian American Studies Dept. questioned the changes. In a letter to the council, faculty members detailed concerns regarding the effect the measure could have on underrepresented minorities and low-income students. The letter cites data provided by Director of Institutional Research, Budget and Planning Steve Velasco. The data indicates that at the lower-division level, these students take a course load of less than 15 units a quarter at a 10 percent greater rate than the student body as a whole.

In response, Wyner said the current knowledge he has from the UCLA implementation of a similar program shows this policy will not adversely harm under-represented minorities and low-income students in the long term.

“The anecdotal information is that it did impact underrepresented minorities somewhat greater,” Wyner said. “But five years after, [UCLA is] not seeing any difference anymore.”

In a phone interview, Wyner said the new policies will help students graduate on time.

“There are some students who have fallen so terribly behind that it’s not in the university’s or [the students’] best interest to have them here,” he said. “We will do everything possible to help students get right on track and remain in school … This is not about salary – our pay is totally separate. I think collectively, we have hurt the quality of undergraduate education at UCSB … [and] we need more resources.”

The council approved revisions to the regulations with 15 in favor, 4 opposing and 5 abstaining. The measure now awaits approval from Chancellor Henry T. Yang.

Meanwhile, the legislature also heard presentations from professors and students who oppose the UC’s co-management of Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories – facilities that conduct nuclear weapons research.

Sociology professor John Foran said plans for the upcoming year include increased efforts by fellow faculty members and the Associated Students Dept. of Energy Nuclear Weapons Lab Oversight Committee to investigate the UC’s association with the nuclear laboratories.

“We intend to take this issue to the highest level and change UC policy on it,” Foran said.

Second-year film & media studies and global studies major Ellen McClure spoke about her experiences as an anti-labs hunger striker and asked for the support of the faculty legislature concerning the A.S. committee’s goal of ending UC association with the nuclear laboratories.

“Now we’re looking to the future with the student oversight committee,” McClure said. “We want to extend the invitation to the faculty to get involved. We’re taking energy from the hunger strike and would love it for the faculty to take up that energy.”

The Faculty Legislature, a sub-committee of the UCSB Academic Senate, meets about five times each year to debate topics and is the only senate body that votes on legislation. Yesterday’s meeting was the last of the school year.