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DOCUMENTS OF THE GENERAL FACULTY


LIBERAL ARTS RESPONSE TO PROTEST (D 462-463) TO PROPOSED CHANGES IN REQUIREMENTS FOR THE BACHELOR OF ARTS DEGREE WITH A MAJOR IN PSYCHOLOGY IN THE COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS (D 391-392)

 

Michael Domjan (chair, Department of Psychology) has filed the response set forth below pertaining to the protest for proposed changes in requirements for the bachelor of arts degree with a major in psychology in the College of Liberal Arts (D 391-392 and D 462-463).

This response will be considered at the Faculty Council meeting on April 17, 2000.



<signed>

John R. Durbin, Secretary
The Faculty Council




This legislation was posted on the Faculty Council web site (http://www.utexas.edu/faculty/council/) on April 3, 2000. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, FAC 22, F9500.


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LIBERAL ARTS RESPONSE TO PROTEST (D 462-463) TO PROPOSED CHANGES IN REQUIREMENTS FOR THE BACHELOR OF ARTS DEGREE WITH A MAJOR IN PSYCHOLOGY IN THE COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS (D 391-392)



Mr. Opiela and the Student Assembly raise some good points, all of which were carefully considered by the psychology faculty before the proposal to limit majors was submitted. The department's responses to the concerns are as follows:

Concern 1:

First, we are concerned about the impact this proposal will have on the University's efforts to reduce overcrowding by encouraging students to carefully consider the courses in which they enroll and select a major early in their college careers. If freshmen and transfer students are not allowed to declare their major as early as they currently do, they will not be able to avail themselves of departmental advising and will be slowed on their way to taking in-major courses, especially if they have accrued credit by examination or AP credit in core curriculum courses.

Response:

The major course requirements for the bachelor's degree in psychology call for only ten hours of lower-division courses: PSY 301; another lower-division course from PSY 304, 308, 309, or 319K; and PSY 418. All but PSY 418 are open to all students. The psychology undergraduate office never turns away non-majors exploring their options for a degree in psychology. Approximately 20% of the students seen by advisors are not psychology majors. Non-majors can still be advised in psychology.

Concern 2:

Second, and perhaps most importantly, we are concerned that changing the minimum GPA for remaining in the major without changing the minimum GPA for other departments in liberal arts will not totally solve psychology overcrowding, while shifting close to 800 students to other already overcrowded departments in liberal arts, such as economics, government, and sociology. With this proposal, instead of one severely overcrowded department we will potentially have three or four.

Response:

None of the other departments in liberal arts is as overcrowded as psychology. From the Statistical Handbook for 1999-2000, here are the figures from fall 1999:

Faculty & majors:

PSY faculty: 46.58 FTE PSY majors: 1,941 ratio: 41.67
ECO faculty: 37.25 FTE ECO majors: 1,084   29.10
GOV faculty: 40.67 FTE GOV majors: 1,054   25.92
SOC faculty: 29.92 FTE SOC majors: 284   9.49

If we reduce the number of students to 1,600 (the current number who meet the proposed 2.5 cutoff to stay in the major), psychology would still have a higher ratio of students to faculty (34.35) than these other departments. If the displaced students go to the other departments, it will merely serve to equalize the ratios.

Faculty: undergraduate teaching ratios (spring 1999):

PSY
1:89
ECO
1:55
GOV
1:64
SOC
1:62


Concern 3:


Finally, we are concerned about the additional bureaucracy and "orange tape" this proposal will add to the process, especially for upperclassmen having difficulty meeting the 3.0 GPA requirement to take in-major courses. These students will have to constantly check with their advisors to plan classes they can and cannot take contingent on their GPAs at the end of each semester. As students advance along their degree plan, the number of non-major courses that can be taken for credit decreases. A system of waivers would have to be implemented for graduating seniors with just one or two courses left to complete, and who have GPAs between 2.5 and 3.0.


Response:

The major requirements in psychology call for only 18 hours, or six courses, of upper-division psychology. All upper-division courses except those with a writing component are open to any student who meets the prerequisites. The only "orange tape" will be ordering a report, similar to the one that the department already runs every semester to check for course prerequisites, to identify students who do not meet the GPA cutoff. Only students under the 2000-2002 catalog (or later) will be required to maintain the 2.5 to declare and remain in psychology. There will of course be a waiver mechanism to allow students who miss the GPA cutoff in their final semester to take one or two more courses needed to graduate; that is why the proposal does not require a 2.5 to graduate with a psychology degree.

Michael Domjan (chair, Department of Psychology)