Limiting units worries faculty

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The new policy to create "four-year" degrees at Arizona universities may cause some departments to compromise students' educations and risk losing accreditation, while leaving other departments unaffected, according to campus departments.

Last week, Regent John Munger proposed limiting the number of units required for every degree to 120 units unless approved by the Arizona Board of Regents. The regents unanimously approved his plan, which was designed to allow students to graduate in four years after taking 15 units per semester.

Several departments think the new policy will affect their ability to teach students properly.

Tom Peterson, chemical engineering department head, said the department currently requires 136 units, which will be difficult to cut without compromising the level of education taught in the department.

"With the 120 unit requirement pushing from the bottom and the proposed common core adding eight to 16 units to the curriculum, we will have difficulty giving our students the required education," he said.

Requiring the department to eliminate requirements could cause problems with the department's accreditation and "more importantly" would not allow the students to be trained properly, Peterson said.

"The critical issue is properly training men and women to be engineers," he said. "We can't ask them to serve engineering functions in society without the proper mid


Elizabeth Irvin, the interim director of the College of Music, said the department hopes to get an exemption from the board allowing it to exceed the 120 unit limit. Currently, various music degrees require up to 132 units.

"Many of our degrees have our unit numbers dictated by our accreditation program and the state requirements for (music) education degrees," she said. "We can't realistically cut the units to 120 without sacrificing the accreditation. But that doesn't mean students can't finish in four years."

Libby Davison, the plant sciences undergraduate coordinator, said the department will have difficulty trimming the requirements from 130 units without eliminating essential classes.

"We require a lot of math and science for our degrees, but we feel these classes are important in understanding plant biology and shouldn't be cut," she said.

She said the new policy will necessitate students who enroll in the program to have taken more prerequisites in high school.

Dipankar Chakravarti, the chairman of the faculty Committee of 11, said he agreed with the regents' intentions but did not think the policy was realistic.

"I think the regents' concerns about four-year degrees are very legitimate, but they are not taking into account the reality of what it takes to get a contemporary degree," he said. "If their goal was to make us take a hard look at the degree requirements, I agree with it. Over time everyone adds on a good idea (to the curriculum), and it is desirable to review the degree requirements."

He said the regents did not take into account that "the difficulty in graduating on time is not always a result of the length of the degree, but sometimes graduation is slowed down by work or changing majors."

Chakravarti said he is disappointed that the regents did not conduct a more in-depth study prior to approving the new policy. But he said he is optimistic that the regents will adapt the policy to reflect faculty concerns.

Other departments felt the change would have fewer negative effects on their departments.

William Sellers, atmospheric sciences undergraduate adviser, said students in the department will not be negatively affected by the change because the department offers enough flexibility through elective credits. Currently, the department requires 125 units for graduation.

John Olsen, head of the anthropology department, said the new policy will not have a negative effect on the anthropology department, except in limiting the number of anthropology classes nonmajors can take as electives.

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