Faculty Senate considers high-risk courses, advising guides

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Psychology Chair Thomas Billimek expresses concerns over withdrawals being considered failures when evaluating faculty Wednesday in the visual arts center. He suggested when students withdraw, they should be able to designate whether it was academic or non-academic reasoning for the drop. Photo by Kyle R. Cotton

Psychology Chair Thomas Billimek expresses concerns over withdrawals being considered failures when evaluating faculty Wednesday in the visual arts center. He suggested when students withdraw, they should be able to designate whether it was academic or non-academic reasoning for the drop. Photo by Kyle R. Cotton

Employment Development Day might be on a Friday instead of a Wednesday next year.

By Melissa Luna

mluna132@student.alamo.edu

Discussions regarding professors being held accountable for students who drop classes and academic disciplines completing advising guides headlined this college’s Faculty Senate meeting Wednesday.

Psychology Chair Tom Billimek and fine arts Chair Jeff Hunt updated the Senate on discussions among department chairs regarding high-risk courses.

Courses in which fewer than 70 percent of students achieve a grade of 70 or higher, known as productive grade rate, are deemed as high-risk courses by the district.

The district calculates productive grade rate based on class enrollment on census date and does not exempt students who dropped the course from the calculation.

There is a list of proposed strategies for professors to raise their PGRs, Hunt said.

“Everybody can have a bad semester,” Hunt said. “But they’re still expected to be some kind of action plan between the chair and faculty member to raise the PGR.”

Billimek expressed his concerns regarding students dropping courses for personal reasons and the effect it has on course pass-fail rates.

“One of the issues is how we define high-risk courses,” he said.

Students having to work to feed themselves and buy groceries or having a family crisis is not something professors can control, he said.

“We need to define what do we mean by withdrawals,” Billimek said. “We need to be able to distinguish academic versus other reasons for dropping.”

Billimek suggested high-risk courses should take into account the difficulty level.

“If I’m teaching Calculus 3, I’m probably going to have a higher drop rate than someone who is teaching Math 1332,” he said.

If a course has a low pass rate, that could mean the professor needs help with teaching methods, he said.

The senate agreed to reach out to President Robert Vela and Dr. Jothany Blackwood, vice president for academic success, on a better way of defining high-risk courses.

Another major discussion regarded advising guides.

Criminal justice Professor Tiffany Cox explained to senate members that “cross college discipline team advising guides” workshops are available for faculty to ensure a successful completion of advising guides.

Advising guides are equivalency guides to help students select courses that will transfer to the seven universities that attract the most transfer students from this college.

Most of the tedious work was done by Jo-Carol Fabianke’s office, she said. Jo-Carol Fabianke is the vice chancellor for academic success of Alamo Colleges.

Cox explained spreadsheets, or crosswalks, are being created with the community college courses and the university equivalent.

The guides include the top 12 degrees from the seven most frequently transferred into universities, including private institutions, Cox said.

The 12 degrees are accounting, biology, business administration, computer science, criminal justice, English, interdisciplinary studies, kinesiology, liberal arts, marketing, nursing and psychology.

The seven universities are University of Texas-San Antonio, Texas A&M San Antonio, Texas State, UT Health Science Center, University of the Incarnate Word, Our Lady of the Lake and St. Mary’s University.

“Not all the disciplines had all seven universities represented,” she said. “If you don’t have a program, then there’s no work to be done.”

“Making it an organized process really helps,” Faculty Senate President Lisa Black said.

Cox did not say when the next workshop would be.

Hunt reported increased participation in Employee Development Day Oct. 28.

“The opening session last year had 350 people attend,” he said. “This year, 250 registered but we had many, many people who came up and signed in.”

Breakout session numbers also increased from 481 participants last year to 691 registered participants this year, which doesn’t include attendees who participated but did not register.

Hunt also reported the Presidents and Vice Chancellors Committee, known as PVC, will consider a request to schedule Employee Development Day on a Friday next fall rather than a Wednesday because fewer classes would have to be canceled.

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