Faculty Senate Addresses Transfer Process, Campus Safety Concerns

The way transfer credits will translate to degree completion, as well as a potential partnership between campus police and the criminal justice program were key subjects addressed during Cleveland State University’s Nov. 6 Faculty Senate meeting.

The Senate’s discussion largely focused on the school’s plans to increase accountability and upgrade campus-wide systems, including a set of provisions for the way the university takes in and transfers credits from students who have earned their associate’s degree at institutions like Cuyahoga Community College, Lakeland Community College or Lorain County Community College.

The University Curriculum Committee, along with University Registrar Kevin Neal and Lee Furbeck, director of undergraduate admissions, have proposed a set of agreements with these colleges that would allow transfer students to use their associate’s degrees to fulfill lower division requirements, generating a more seamless path to junior standing.

“A student who transfers to CSU having completed an associate of arts degree at any of these three community colleges is often treated by CSU as having completed CSU’s [general education] requirements, with the exception of WAC and capstone,” said Alfred Smith, chair of Cleveland State’s University Curriculum Committee.

The proposal suggests a contract between Cleveland State and the three community colleges that will guarantee general education requirements taken at those institutions translate to freshman and sophomore year completion.

Peter Meiksins, vice provost for academic programs at Cleveland State, pointed to a clear benefit behind the proposal.

“Students who transfer here with a completed associate’s degree, or with approximately 60 hours of earned credit, complete our degree at substantially higher rates than our own native students and other students who transfer earlier,” Meiksins said.

During the meeting, several faculty raised issues with the proposal, mostly noting that for more practical programs such as design or engineering, Cleveland State’s lower level courses aren’t just stepping stones for upper division work.

Some lower division classes are being completed well before junior year for native students, which accelerates them past their transfer counterparts. As a result, some transfer students are forced to double up on necessary pre-recs to get the most out of the degree track.

There are also fears that the agreement may force all programs to fit the two-plus-two transfer model, even when it disadvantages the program itself.

“I teach design classes and it’s kind of a professional preparation program,” said Jennifer Visocky O’Grady, professor of art at Cleveland State. “When we look at our degree map, we’re doing our 200 level work in your one. That means in the second year we are already at 300 to 400 level work — probably 300 level, right?”

“So if I have a transfer student who has done two years at Tri-C when they come in, they essentially — to get their degree done here in two more years — have to compress design classes, specifically year two and three of our degree map, which sets them up in their first semester here to take two to three design classes and then four in the spring,” she continued, “So they are doing seven design classes in one year.”

Visocky O’Grady mentioned that while that course load seemingly looks good, “it’s not good from creative scaffolding and a pedagogical standpoint.”

Meiksins clarified that the university already has and will continue to work on updating programs to make the transfer process more feasible for students and the university’s departments.

“We’ve been systematically working with virtually every department on campus to try to develop individual articulation agreements or at least degree map alignments with the comparable programs at Tri-C,” Meiksins said. “We actually have now in place at least a dozen almost finished articulations.”

Outside of their more traditional proceedings, the senate made space on the agenda for Cleveland State University’s police Chief Gary Lewis to formally address his department’s new tactics for increasing campus safety.

Lewis acknowledged that campus police are working on several efforts, including an expansion of the current emergency alert system to address varying types and degrees of emergencies that occur on campus. The police department is also expanding some of its safety training outreach, having already spent time this term encouraging women on campus — including those in Cleveland State sororities — to participate in the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program.

Prior to this, Lewis spoke about working with Cleveland State’s marketing department on updating social media guidelines that will assist in properly enforcing the school’s no-tolerance policy towards online threats. In addition, a training program that will increase the number of visible safety-minded personnel available to the Cleveland State community is in the works, according to Lewis.

“I’ve been here for about two months now and in that time I’ve learned that we have 450 criminal justice students. Young men and young women that want to do what I’m doing today,” Lewis said. “So I stopped and thought how were we going to utilize this resource.”

It’s those students — specifically juniors and seniors — with whom Lewis and his department plan to build a partnership. In the coming weeks, students interested in becoming future police officers will meet with Lewis and potentially train to be members of a safety conscious, uniformed Cleveland State auxiliary.

The move, according to the police chief, would create higher police visibility on campus while providing participating students with mentorship and internship opportunities.

The senate also made time to address issues raised with the new online course evaluation process that began last Monday. It took the university about two years to design and complete.

Senate President Nigamanth Sridhar noted faculty concerns regarding a lack of student participation with the new system.

“There was some concern about student participation in the evaluations,” Sridhar said. “I believe those emails went out today notifying us, the faculty, that on Monday they go live, so we should encourage students to go in and actually fill this out.”

The Monday, Nov. 9 deadline did not apply to flexibly scheduled courses, meaning they do not meet for the full semester.

Sridhar acknowledged that student government has also been actively working on ways to increase peer participation in the course evaluations.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 16, 2015 issue of The Cleveland Stater.

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