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May 9, 2011


F. Proposal from the Educational Policy Committee for New One-Time-Exception Policy (D 8666-8667).

Professor William (Bill) Beckner (mathematics and chair of the Educational Policy Committee) said his committee had several legislative items. The first was the One-Time-Exception Policy, which is summarized on the slides in Appendix B. He explained that this proposal would provide a universally uniform policy across all colleges/schools for students to receive one free class drop after the normal deadline to drop due to academic reasons with certain specified provisions. He explained that the College of Natural Sciences had allowed this practice during the first year a student was at UT Austin due to the many difficult, gatekeeper classes that majors were required to take. Other colleges/schools had different policies, so a group of associate deans for student affairs had jointly decided that a uniform policy across the campus would be preferable and more equitable than what currently existed.

In the proposed legislation, Professor Beckner explained that the natural sciences approach was adopted in that students who had not completed two long semesters at UT Austin would be allowed to drop a course after the deadline regardless of their current grade in the course. However, in certain programs across campus, he said policies allowed students beyond the freshman year of coursework at UT Austin to drop courses after the deadline where critical sequencing toward major requirements was involved. To prevent the use of a late drop merely to improve a student’s overall grade-point-average, the student was not allowed to drop a course unless his or her current course grade were a D+, D, D-, or F at the time he or she applied for approval to drop. Professor Beckner said this general policy was being recommended for students with more than two long semesters of coursework at UT Austin, but the student's dean's office would be required in these cases to verify student grades with their instructors. Late withdrawals from the University, where non-academic reasons were not provided, were also covered in this legislation.

Chair Neikirk pointed to the general and specific provisions of the legislation included on the PowerPoint slides when asking if there was any discussion from the floor. Professor Cline said the wording of the first sentence of the proposal implied that students would have to prove they have urgent, substantiated, or non-academic reasons for requesting a drop or withdrawal. He asked if the word “may” might be a better choice than the word “do” in the first sentence.

Professor Marc Musick (sociology and chair of the Student Deans Committee) said his committee initiated the legislation to develop consistency across campus and to allow colleges that were allowing these late drops and withdrawals to continue their practices without violating the rules included in the University’s General Information catalog. For a student to drop after the deadline, he said the student has to be able to prove he or she has an urgent, non-academic reason, and many students seeking late drops have good, urgent non-academic reasons, but they don’t have any written documentation. He said the intent was to allow such students to drop after the deadline even when they do not have substantiation to meet the current standard. Professor Cline said he did not think the wording said what was intended and actually required a student to provide proof that he or she did not have an urgent, substantiated, or non-academic reason in order to invoke this One-Time-Exception provision. Chair Neikirk asked Professor Cline if he wanted to offer a friendly amendment, and Professor Cline said he would like the wording of the proposed legislation changed from “do not have” to “may not have” in the first sentence. Chair Neikirk said this would give flexibility whereby the student would not have to provide proof. Professor Beckner said his committee would accept the amendment.

When Chair Neikirk asked if there were further discussion, Professor Gordon asked if students were consulted about the proposed change. Professor Beckner said the four student members of the Educational Policy Committee, three of whom represent the Senate of College Councils, had all strongly endorsed the proposed legislation. Chair Neikirk asked if there was any further discussion, and there was none. He called for the vote, and the One-Time-Exception Policy as proposed in D 8666-8667 and amended to replace the word “do” with “may” in the first sentence passed unanimously by voice vote.

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