Faculty Senate suspends academic probation

Academic advisers available via Zoom for students on all campuses; equity, justice UCORE category sent back to Academic Affairs Committee



Bill Davis, interim vice provost for academic engagement and student achievement, said the number of students who were in danger of failing classes at midterms or had academic alerts placed on them by instructors was higher than in previous semesters. 

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor

Faculty senators voted to suspend academic probation across the WSU system during a meeting on Thursday.

The senate also rejected a motion that would have added a new equity and justice UCORE category.

Bill Davis, interim vice provost for academic engagement and student achievement, said the number of students who were in danger of failing classes at midterms or had academic alerts placed on them by instructors was higher than in previous semesters. 

“We wanted to try an experiment where we took a more holistic and a more intrusive approach with the way we work with students to try to retain them than what was done during the pandemic itself,” he said.

During the 2020-21 school year, students could drop out of a class at any point in the semester using the COVID-19 waiver. Davis said that approach allowed students to avoid an academic reinstatement process that would help them succeed.

“Many of the times the academic performance is not an indicator of what’s happening in the classroom for these students, it’s an indicator of what’s happening outside of the classroom that they’re bringing with them into the classroom that’s impacting their academic performance,” Davis said.

Senator Cigdem Capan raised concerns that eliminating the academic probation rule would lower the university’s academic standard. She also asked what specific interventions the university has for students who would otherwise be subject to academic probation.

Terese King, interim assistant vice provost, said the university has a variety of programs to support students who are struggling academically, including subject-based tutoring, academic advisers available via Zoom and academic advisers who reach out to students individually.

Senator Paul Buckley asked what the consequences were if a student did not improve academically the following semester. 

In this scenario, King said students would be subject to academic probation if they fail to improve their grades. Students who are on academic reinstatement would still be expected to meet the conditions they agreed to in their academic reinstatement contract, including improving their GPA.

Senator Alexander Dimitrov asked if other WSU campuses outside of Pullman would have access to the academic assistance resources that Pullman has. 

Davis and King said virtual academic advising and coaching is available on Zoom for WSU students on all campuses.

“The budgets for academic affairs and the budgets for student affairs are fairly decentralized across the [WSU] system,” Davis said.

New UCORE Category

The senate chose to reject the motion to add a new UCORE category called equity and justice.

Senator Nishant Shahani raised the motion to reject the creation of the new UCORE category on behalf of an absent senator from the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race so that faculty could have more time to comment on it.

Silva Lopez said the professor who was absent was concerned that various departments had not had the opportunity to comment on the proposed new UCORE category and its implementation. 

Silva Lopez also said if UCORE director Clif Stratton did indeed give each academic unit the opportunity to comment then that would address this concern.

Stratton said the associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences had shared the proposal with all of the relevant academic units.

“I’m in disagreement with the notion that units haven’t had time to discuss it,” Stratton said.

The vote to reject the motion to add a new UCORE category was tied 29-29 before Senate Chair Doug Call cast the tiebreaking vote to reprimand the motion. The motion will be sent back to the Academic Affairs Committee.

Action items

The senate approved several changes to the academic calendar. WSU’s academic calendar will now officially recognize the day after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. The calendar will also recognize Juneteenth, the day when Texas slaves learned they were free after the Civil War, as a university holiday on June 19. WSU summer session classes will not occur on Juneteenth.

The senate approved changes to the doctoral program in electrical and computer engineering.

The senate unanimously extended the Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry to WSU Vancouver.

The senate unanimously revised rule 111. Previously, rule 111 allowed students who were readmitted into an academic program to graduate under any previous major or minor catalog’s requirements. The revised rule allows readmitted students to graduate under a previous major or minor catalog if those requirements existed when they previously attended the school and if the major or minor they are seeking still exists.

The Faculty Senate opened the meeting with a presentation from Provost Elizabeth Chilton, executive vice president and chancellor-designate at WSU Pullman, and from Stacy Pearson, vice president of finance and administration about the activity of the Executive Budget Council.

The Executive Budget Council spent the past year analyzing national best practices in budgeting. The council will propose a new budget modeling system in early 2022, Chilton said.

The budget council engaged in this process in part to increase the transparency and sustainability of the university’s budget, Chilton said.

“We want to make sure that we can incentivize growth. That we’re not just slicing the pie up differently but we want to find ways to grow the pie,” Chilton said.