The Student Association Senate unanimously voted to table a resolution that would have censured the Faculty Senate for approving new limits on the number of credit hours undergraduates can take. The changes, which reduce the maximum number of credit hours from 20 to 18 for students beginning with this year’s freshmen, were approved by Faculty Senate in April at a meeting attended by over 100 student protesters.
Resolution #1 contains language to censure Faculty Senate both for the vote to approve the credit limits and for what the resolution stated was a rushed timeline and failure to consider student concerns. The resolution, introduced by several SA members at the end of the spring semester, also called for a full faculty vote and for President David Leebron and Provost Marie Lynn Miranda to reject the new limits.
The SA Senate did not meet again to vote on the resolution last semester, and when it came up at Monday’s Senate meeting SA President Griffin Thomas called for it to be tabled.
“My strong recommendation to the Senate is to table this bill indefinitely,” Thomas, a Lovett College senior, said. “I don’t think it’s going to create us a lot of goodwill with the administration or faculty if we start off the year by condemning them — people don’t react well to that.”
Thomas said further discussions would take place this semester between student leaders and administration regarding the credit limit and overload petition procedures.
“If we don’t like how the new negotiations are going this semester, we can always bring it back up for a vote immediately at one of our Senate meetings,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the resolution could be brought up and approved by simple majority vote at a future meeting if the Senate decided to do so. He said the administration was aware that the resolution had been proposed.
Several Senate members verbally agreed with Thomas before the vote, including SA Treasurer Maurice Frediere.
“We’ve kind of sent the message, even if not formally: There were 200 students outside the [Faculty Senate] room [during the vote],” Frediere, a Duncan College sophomore, said.
Thomas said the overload petition process should be roughly drafted by the end of the semester. He said Miranda and Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson have listened to student concerns that the new credit limit cap makes it difficult for engineers to graduate on time.
“When we left last semester, Provost Miranda and Dean Hutchinson were very committed to make the requirements of engineering majors slightly more reasonable, in line with peer institutions,” Thomas said.
Hutchinson, who held a “fireside chat” regarding the new limits during Orientation Week advisor training, said the debate over the credit limit had helped the administration better understand students’ stress level and opened a conversation about revising engineering requirements. He noted that the 18-credit hour limit allows all students to graduate in four years if they follow the suggested course plans for their major starting freshman year.
“The number of 18 was not randomly picked,” Hutchinson said. “For no engineering major, even for students who have no AP credit, does anyone ever have to take more than 18 credits per semester. That’s where it came from.”
Hutchinson said that since the new credit limit will be phased in year-by-year starting with this semester’s freshmen, he expects it will take several years for course load norms to shift.
“The goal is to take the entire distribution [of course loads] and shift it lower,” Hutchinson said. “Relative to the maximum, people will feel smaller loads are more reasonable, as they should have felt all along. A 14 to 16 credit load ought to be the norm rather than on the low end of the distribution.