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Honors College Students Unhappy with Current Policy

Honors College students are concerned over the changing expectations within the Honors College community. These students claim that several policies have been imposed that had not previously been strictly enforced, thus preventing them from acquiring the Honors College experience that they hope to gain.

“In the past, students have been able to work with any faculty member at the university that they desired,” said Deborah Machalow, a junior Honors College student and senator for the Undergraduate Student Government.  “Now students are told they can only work with tenured or tenure-tracked faculty members.”

As part of the requirements for seniors to successfully complete their Honors College experience, they must create a capstone project, which marks the pinnacle of their honors experience. Students are required to seek an advisor by the end of their junior year who will guide them through the process of completing the letter of intent and, most importantly, their senior capstone project. However, since the administration implemented the policy for advisors to be strictly tenure or tenure track based professors only, many students feel that they would not be able to seek out potential advisors with whom they feel most comfortable working with but are not tenure or tenure-track based.

“I feel that certain non-tenured professors have a wonderful connection with their students,” said Alicia Chionchio, a junior Honors College student. “And since some have been selected as HC teachers, they should be given special consideration for their work. I also feel that depending on the field this is important, especially for research projects that aren’t necessarily in a laboratory setting.”

The Honors College administration states that their reasoning for strictly enforcing this policy was to ensure that students will have access to the faculty members whom the university invested in for their competence in their research and availability even after students graduate.

“Our belief is that Honors College students are best served if the senior advisors are tenured or tenure-track faculty,” stated Jeffrey Edwards, the current faculty director for the Honors College. “It’s a matter of fairness to faculty. Tenured and tenured track professors have obligations that do not fall upon non-tenured faculty. Another reason is that the professor who works on a senior project, they will be available well after students graduate. It’s part of the tenured track faculty obligation.”

The Honors College administration also states this policy had always been in place, though perhaps not as strictly enforced.

“This requirement was always implied,” said Wilbur Miller, the former faculty director of the Honors College. “I don’t know if it was specifically stated. Students sometimes would like to have a particular professor to teach but that professor may not be on tenure track. But at least 90 percent of the faculty members are tenure-track professors. They have been hired because the university is investing in them. Perhaps they will contribute something in terms of research. You don’t get a lot of contact with the professors themselves but with tenure track advisors you can.”

However, students are pressed by another concern, which they feel does not give them flexibility in terms of pursuing a fulfilling honors experience.

“The order of taking classes has changed,” said Machalow. “A lot of students dropped Honors 301 and Honors 401, which are considered upper division classes. The prerequisites only states acceptance to the College but now you have to take the classes in order.”

The administration however, states otherwise.

“Course sequencing requ-irements, to my knowledge have always been in place,” states Edwards. “The question is how aware have honors students been regarding these requirements. A number of emails were sent out, I believe in the spring semester and during the summer by the honors college. The explicit guidelines are spelled out.”

For Honors College students, their main concern is successfully completing their undergraduate and Honors College requirements without the added hassle.

“As an undergrad you really want to just take the time to grow and doing the things you enjoy. It’s really important for students,” said Machalow.

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