Millersville University, Faculty Senate

Academic Standards Committee

2007-2008 Annual Report

Submitted June 18, 20008 by Todd Sikora, Chairperson


  1. The Academic Standards Committee (ASC) held all-day dismissal appeal hearings on 6-7 June 2007, 9-10 January 2008, and 4-5 June 2008. In addition, due to scheduling conflicts, several dismissal hearings were held at various dates soon after the respective hearings. During the June 2007 hearings, Alex DeCaria was ASC Chairperson while Todd Sikora became ASC Chairperson effective Fall 2007. Table 1 summarizes the hearings results.

    Table 1. Appeal Hearing Statistics

    June 2007 Dismissal Hearings

      Dismissed Appealed Approved % Appealed % Approved
    1st Dismissal 111 54 33 49 61
    2nd Dismissal 36 15 7 42 47
    3rd Dismissal 8 3 3 38 100
    Total 155 72 43 46 60

    January 2008 Dismissal Hearings

      Dismissed Appealed Approved % Appealed % Approved
    1st Dismissal 97 54(4) 34(1) 56 63(25)
    2nd Dismissal 37 21(3) 12(1) 57 57(33)
    3rd Dismissal 12 3(0) 1(0) 25 33(N/A)
    Total 146 78(7) 47(2) 53 60(28)

    June 2008 Dismissal Hearings

      Dismissed Appealed Approved % Appealed % Approved
    1st Dismissal 126 55(16) 25(5) 44 45(31)
    2nd Dismissal 33 7(0) 4(N/A) 21 57(N/A)
    3rd Dismissal 20 11(4) 5(2) 55 45(50)
    Total 179 73(20) 34(7) 41 47(35)

    Data in parenthesis for January 2008 and June 2008 represent the number of cases that were resolved via letter as opposed to an in-person hearing. Data for letter vs versus in-person hearings for June 2007 are not readily available.

    Note that the total approval percentage for the June 2008 hearings was 47% while total approval percentage for the previous two sets of hearings (June 2007 and January 2008) was 60%. One possible explanation for the variance is that the total number of letter appeals for the June 2008 hearings was 20 while that for the January 2008 hearings was 7. Another possible explanation for the variance is that subcommittees during June 2008 were following the same set of guidelines for judging appeals (see section 6 below).

  2. ASC subcommittees heard 18 requests for academic amnesty, all of which were approved.

  3. The all-day dismissal appeal hearings during January and June account for the bulk of the work of the ASC. Usually, several members cannot attend one or both hearing dates due to prior commitments, such as teaching and conference travel. Because missing two days of hearings is akin to missing an entire semesterís worth of other Faculty Senate Standing Committee meetings (e.g., GERC, Academic Policies), absences put a concentrated burden on members who are in attendance. Thus, the ASC petitioned Faculty Senate to change the ASC membership by adding five alternate members (one each from Education, Humanities, Social Sciences, Science and Mathematics, and non-School). A corresponding motion was put to Faculty Senate on 2 October 2007, and was approved without dissent.

  4. The Registrarís Office staff handles the logistics of the dismissal appeal hearings. Due to staffing issues, in-person appeals during the January hearings are quite problematic for the Registrarís Office. This arises because of the brief time period allotted to winter break under the common calendar. At the request of the Registrarís Office, the ASC considered potential solutions to this problem. Two corresponding face-to-face meetings were held (8 April 2008 and 22 April 2008) and attended by several members of the ASC. In addition there was an email-based discussion by ASC members. ASC also considered whether it is appropriate to have student ASC members given the academic and sensitive nature of the hearings. The latter topic was internally initiated and also discussed within Faculty Senate Bylaws Committee.

    Using the dialogue referenced above, the ASC Chairperson developed the following ballot, which was voted on by 19 of the 24 ASC members. Voting results are listed in bold:

    Item 1: First dismissal appellants may appeal only by letter: 0

    First dismissal appellants may appeal by letter (required) and, if they choose, by an in-person interview with ASC: 19

    Item 2: Second dismissal appellants may appeal only by letter: 14

    Second dismissal appellants may appeal by letter (required) and, if they choose, by an in-person interview with ASC: 5

    Item 3: Third or greater dismissal appellants may appeal only by letter: 11

    Upon the third or greater dismissal, no appeal will be granted: 8

    Item 4: Student membership on ACS should be retained: 1

    Student membership on ACS should be eliminated: 17
    One abstention.

    Governance Manual, Academic Policy: Undergraduate Studies ACADEMIC STANDARDS, PROBATION, and DISMISSAL, Appeals outlines the basis for dismissal appeals. The ASC Chairperson will draft a formal proposal to implement the changes voted on above for Items 1-3. The changes, if approved, would appear within that document. As a side note, that document states that after the third dismissal, only special cases will be considered by ASC. Any change to ACS membership (Item 4) would appear within ASC Bylaws, which are currently undergoing revision (see Faculty Senate Bylaws Committee Annual Report). Discussions on student membership between the ASC Chairperson and Administration are ongoing.

  5. Governance Manual, Academic Policy: Undergraduate Studies ACADEMIC STANDARDS, PROBATION, and DISMISSAL, Appeals states: ďStudents who have been dismissed and believe that specific, unusual, circumstances affected their academic performance, may request a review by writing a letter of appeal to the Academic Standards Committee in care of the Registrarís Office and may request a personal interview before the committee.Ē The ASC believes there is much subjectivity in defining ďunusual, circumstances.Ē The ASC Chairperson initiated dialogue aimed at reducing said subjectivity. A subcommittee of ASC, led by Bruce Ikenaga, was formed and from that subcommittee, the following draft language, intended to be incorporated within the Letter of Appeal Form (sent with the Dismissal Letter by the Registrarís Office to the dismissed student), was developed. The rationale is to state in general terms guidelines for an appeal, without providing a checklist that students could use to tailor their appeals or to force the ASC to reinstate students.

    Guidelines for Appealing a Dismissal

    1. You will be considered for reinstatement if the committee determines that your dismissal was a result of extenuating circumstances (that is, circumstances which were beyond your control). However, keep in mind that you are currently dismissed from the university and reinstatement is not a guarantee.

    2. You must provide documentation for extenuating circumstances. Statements or claims made without documentation will not be considered by the committee. For example, if you say that a grade is going to be changed, you must provide a statement from the professor involved.

    3. The committee will not reinstate you simply because negative consequences will result from your dismissal (for example, you will lose a scholarship or insurance if you are dismissed).

    4. Your appeal letter must contain a specific description of steps you will take to improve your academic performance. ("Specific" means you must say more than "I'll work harder".) If you are currently enrolled in course, you must provide a statement from your professor of your expected grade.

    The ASC Chairperson will draft a formal proposal to incorporate the essence of these guidelines within Governance Manual, Academic Policy: Undergraduate Studies ACADEMIC STANDARDS, PROBATION, and DISMISSAL. As a side note, the ASC Annual Report from 1997-1998 (http://www.millersville.edu/~fsenate/Committees/Acad_Sta/Ann_Rep/1997_98.html) indicates that at that time ASC attempted to incorporate similar language into the Dismissal Letters. However, current Dismissal Letters and the Letter of Appeal Form do not reflect such language.

  6. During dismissal hearings, ASC is broken up into four subcommittees, each judging a different group of students. Ideally, a student appealing before any subcommittee would face the same outcome (either approval or denial of the appeal). In ASCís continued quest to reduce subjectivity and standardize the hearings process, the ASC subcommittee led by Bruce Ikenaga developed a rubric to be used during dismissal hearings. The rubric is intended to be a committee-internal document that can evolve.

  7. The role of the ASC Chairperson in the appeal process is documented in the ASC Annual Report from 2001-2002: (http://www.millersville.edu/~fsenate/Committees/Acad_Sta/Ann_Rep/2001_02.html).

    The precedent recorded in the 2001-2002 Annual Report allows for a student who believes he did not receive an appropriate or fair hearing within a subcommittee to appeal the decision to the Chairperson. The stated rationale is to reduce the number of students employing the University's general appeal process (see bottom of page 46 of the current Undergraduate Catalog for an outline of the general appeal process). Thus, the precedent seems to define the role of ASC Chairperson within the hearings as a surrogate for the Associate Provost (Dr. Burns) within the general appeal process. Herein also lies the source of the unwritten rule for the Chairperson to change the consequences of a dismissal, as opposed to overturning a subcommittee decision. For example, the Associate Provost (prior to the 2001-2002 academic year) and previous ASC Chairpersons (since the 2001-2002 academic year) would, on rare occasion, change the dismissal period (say, from 2 semesters to 1 semester).

    The ASC Chairperson has initiated dialogue with the Associate Provost with the goal of formally defining the role of the ASC Chairperson, which will eventually be documented in revisions to the ASC Bylaws.

    Sincerely,

    Assistant Professor Todd D. Sikora
    ASC Chairperson

    cc: Associate Provost for Academic Administration
    Registrar


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