Profs question admin over proposed arts degree

Last Friday, the Arts Council Meeting was the stage for heated discussion regarding the proposed new honours bachelor of arts degree. Professors gathered to discuss the proposed degree, its implications for students and the financial benefits for the university.

“If the primary focus is academic integrity of the students, then it’s a bad plan,” said English professor Markus Poetzsch, questioning whether the suggested degree changes are in the best interests of the students.

The new degree would allow students who have a high enough GPA (7.0) to be classified as an honours student without declaring a major. Currently these students are defaulted into a general category; however, under the new degree they would remain an honours student, which would allow the university to receive more provincial funding.

The government funds honours students at a higher rate than general students; Laurier is trying to use this as a means to make up the money needed for the arts department.

According to associate professor Michael Imort, vice-president of academics Deb MacLatchy told the arts department they need to come up with $500,000 or cuts will be made to staff.

“The drive is that we will get more money, as there are many students who could be in honours but have not declared a major,” said Imort. “We want to bring undeclared majors back into honours.”

Professors raised many concerns about the lack of a formal plan currently in place for this proposed degree.

The proposal suggests categorizing the honours degrees, designating students with a GPA of 8.0 or higher “first class”, students with a GPA of 7.0 – 7.99 “second class,” and students with a 5.0 “third class.”

Philippa Gates, associate professor in the film department, noted that it is “unethical to give an honours degree to students with a 5.0 GPA.” She did, however, like the idea of recognizing students with a GPA of higher than 7.0.

The proposed degree will still require 20 credits, however, the specific requirements will be slightly different than those of a specialized major. These specifics have not yet been determined, and some professors raised concerns about students being able to get into classes that are already maxed out to capacity.

The consensus of the meeting was that professors want to ensure that the pressures of the university’s current economic state do not negatively impact the kind of degree Laurier is offering students.

As the discussion of the meeting wound down, the timing of this issue was brought to the forefront, and whether the creation of this degree is the type of thing that could be pushed along to meet a deadline.

“What happens if we can’t come up with a solution in a timely manner?” questioned chair of the English department James Weldon, referring to the $500,000 the arts department must come up with.

The meeting ended with the description of the degree being sent back to the curriculum department for fine-tuning before coming back to the Arts Council at their next meeting, which will be on April 9.