PTK denies eligibility on rule not in bylaws

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Only community college grades or work in five years is the dilemma.

By R.T Gonzalez 

sac-ranger@alamo.edu 

Up to 10 students this semester were invited to join the Beta Nu Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, this college’s honor society, then rejected for not meeting the society’s grade-point average requirements.

Invitations sent by email to about 1,000 prospective members in February did not state eligibility requirements.

What has not been made clear in fliers, emails, a PowerPoint presentation shown at orientation meetings, and the local chapter’s bylaws is that the 3.5 GPA required to join now is based on grades from all colleges attended in the past five years.

Roger Stanley, the chapter’s lead adviser and program coordinator of chemistry, earth sciences and astronomy, said Beta Nu works with this college’s dean of performance excellence, Dr. David Wood, to get a list of students who meet the requirement of a 3.5 grade-point average on work at Alamo Colleges.

When students on the list apply, Stanley double-checks their eligibility by calculating GPAs on work done in the past 5 years at all colleges, not just at Alamo Colleges, he said.

“They provide us a list of people who they think may be eligible,” he said. “We have to double-check.”

The chapter bylaws on file with the office of student life at this college specify each candidate must have completed 12 college-level hours, must have a 3.5 GPA and maintain a 3.0 GPA as a member.

“Grades for courses completed at other institutions will be considered when determining membership eligibility providing the hours are accumulated at a community college and are verified,” according to the chapter bylaws.

Although it is not in the bylaws at least one student was denied admission based on a GPA including grades at a senior institution.

Journalism sophomore Ansley Lewis said she received an invitation including a code to Beta Nu in November and again Feb. 4, and when she applied this semester, she was denied on the basis of her GPA.

She said she has a 3.9 GPA based on 58 semester hours at Northeast Lakeview and this college beginning in fall 2012.

But she also transferred to Alamo Colleges 27 semester hours from the University of North Texas from fall 2008 through spring 2010.

She received an email from Stanley dated March 19 in which he wrote that her transfer hours must be included in the eligibility consideration.

“Your cumulative GPA at all colleges attended is 2.76, but you need a cumulative GPA of 3.5 to join,” he wrote.

After she questioned whether eligibility rules had changed, he wrote, “The list (generated by this college’s institutional research office) does not include the GPA from prior schools attended, which is required to be considered by the national headquarters in Jackson, Miss., for membership to be validated.”

Phi Theta Kappa’s international constitution, however, does not require calculating grades from another institution but reads instead, “Grades for courses taken at another institution may be considered when determining membership eligibility.”

Stanley told The Ranger he did not know the bylaws of the campus chapter read only, “providing the hours are accumulated at a community college.”

Stanley said previous advisers taught him to calculate the cumulative GPA based on grades made in the last five years at any college.

English Professor Jane Focht-Hansen, adviser 2008- 2013, said basing qualifications on five years of academic work sounded familiar to her but not including academic work at other colleges.

Fine arts Chair Jeff Hunt, an adviser 1998-2006, said the chapter did not consider grades from previous colleges.

Stanley said the bylaw is unclear, and a revision will be available in fall 2014, but the members must vote to decide if the five-year rule he is using now is necessary.

He also said he follows the five-year rule because scholarships available to the society’s honors students ask for a cumulative GPA for the past five years of coursework when he started as lead adviser in fall 2013.

“To be eligible to join the society, (interested students) should be eligible for, then, the scholarships,” he said.

The Guistwhite Scholarship has that requirement but the Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship doesn’t.

Students who have been denied admittance because of previous coursework can look over transcripts with Stanley.

“We could review the transcript,” Stanley said.

Lewis believes the academic improvement she has made since entering the Alamo Colleges in 2012 should be taken into consideration.

“I think you are making a huge mistake by not letting me and other students in a similar position into Beta Nu,” Lewis said. “Clearly, we’ve gotten better.”

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