The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Administration talks advisement, grade policy changes at annual forum

Students from all majors and years addressed their concerns about academic life directly to University administrators during the annual academic forum on Thursday, Feb. 23. There were also new policies addressed, with implementation of some planned as soon as Fall 2017.

A new grading policy, which allows undergraduate students to retake classes in which an “F” was received is now in effect, according to Student Government Inc. President Chiara Miuccio. Students wishing to take advantage of the policy should consult with their academic adviser, she said.

“Though the failing grade and the repeat grade will appear on the transcript, only the most recent grade will be factored into the cumulative GPA,” Miuccio said.

According to Dr. Kathryn Hutchinson, vice president of Student Affairs, the new policy came from students asking questions.

“The grade change policy came from questions posed by students during a process such as this,” Hutchinson said. “That went through a committee and ultimately was approved. It hadn’t been our practice as a more elite four-year college, but because it was a continuous concern for our students, we really want our students to get into the best graduate programs possible, we decided to rethink that.”

“Students bring to light a lot of the issues that they believe will help them become more successful,” said Hutchinson.

Additionally, planned changes to the University’s core curriculum will be implemented in fall 2018–but this will not affect any current students. The new core will reduce the number of credits to 45. Some majors currently require as much as 60 credits.

A new advisement program known as DegreeWorks will be available in fall 2017, complementing the current advisement report. DegreeWorks will help students to plan class schedules in a streamlined process so that students and advisers can spend more time planning academic goals rather than going through class requirements, Miuccio said.

Here’s a look at some of the other important issues addressed last Thursday:

What is the Impact of Student Course Evaluations on Professors?

“The first objective of the course evaluations is to evaluate the successes, strengths and shortcomings of the course itself,” said University Provost Dr. Robert Mangione. “Embedded in the instrument are questions that would evaluate the individual professor.”

The evaluations and their impact are “collectively bargained” with the professors’ unions, which describe how the data is used.

“The individual faculty get tremendous feedback from their students,” Mangione added. “The data is also summarized for department chairs and deans so they can work with them on certain areas that need more attention. It’s a self-improvement tool.”

During the forum, Mangione pleaded with students to submit course evaluations.  If students want to comment further on the actions of professor or quality of education, he recommended that they visit their dean.

Internships and New Classes

Mangione also discussed internships.

“The position of the University is that the more internships we can have, the better we can be,” he said.

Additionally, Dr. Hutchinson said the University has corporate and business partnerships that help faculty develop curriculum that would aid students in their respective fields.

Concerning the creation of new majors in Africana and Latin American Studies, “The issue is for the faculty to come up with a major in that area,” Dr. Jeffrey Fagen, dean of the St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences said.

“One of the issues is, do students want it? We don’t want to build a major and then no one comes,” he said.

Nevertheless, he said the University “would love more majors like that.”

The Asian Studies major is being revised to include a broader field of study on Asia, as the major is currently mainly focused on China, Fagen added.

“We don’t just decide that we’re going to do a major,” Hutchinson said. “We actually do a market study to determine if this is a smart idea.”

“When we’re hiring faculty, they come with a specific discipline. We can’t have an accounting major teaching art history,” she added.

Hutchinson explained that the process for change can take 18 months to two years.

“It’s a highly governed process to make sure students are getting the best possible program and not something that’s tossed together,” she said.

Diversity in Faculty

As Chief Diversity Officer, Nada M. Llewellyn, Esq. aims to improve the diversity of faculty on campus, according to Mangione. Llewellyn also serves as the Associate Vice President of Human Resources and Deputy General Counsel.

“We are trying to identify scholars that will assist us with our commitment to diversity and contribute to areas of scholarship that are needed,” Mangione said.

Historically, Mangione said that SJU faculty has remained at about four percent African American and four percent Latino.

“…We want to do better,” he said. “A more diverse student body should have a more diverse faculty.”

During the application process, prospective faculty are asked how they would contribute to the diversity of the University, according to Mangione.

Incorporating Sensitivity Training

Starting last year, the University added a section on sensitivity training to freshman orientation to raise awareness and allow students to be able to address possible conflicts.

While referencing the University core value of respecting others, Mangione said that it is important to remember this while discussing various viewpoints.

“We certainly want to respect those with different opinions but also make sure the dialogue is relevant to the topic on hand,” Mangione said. “If there’s not respect and recognition of it, it’s just not fair to those involved.”

He further reiterated the commitment of the University’s pledge to respect the exchange of ideas in a respectful manner and environment of every member of the University community.  

Equipment Improvements and Updates

“There is always a plan for technology updates but what we can do is limited by a lot of factors,” Dean of the College of Professional Studies, Dr. Katia Passerini said, citing the “enormous costs” involved with purchasing new equipment.

“If there’s not a plan, there’s always a dream,” she said.

University Blocking Criticism from Students on Social Media

“When a student encounters a situation that they feel is not right, they should speak about that issue…either with the department chair or dean of a particular college,” Mangione said, calling the situation where students feel their voices aren’t heard “distressing.”

In situations where criticism veers on harassment, a different process is needed, Mangione said.

“Students should never feel that they can’t speak on issues,” he said. “If that is the case, something is broken and that needs to be fixed.”

NAPLEX Passing Rates

According to Dr. Russell DiGate, dean of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination, or NAPLEX, pass rates have gone down nationally since the NAPLEX exam was changed. The NAPLEX exam is taken by pharmacy students in order to obtain a license to practice. St. John’s has about an 88 percent pass rate.

“All the pharmacy schools are talking about it because it affected every school,” he said. “The best way we can deal with it is focus on training [students] to be the best pharmacists possible, so they won’t have to worry.”

On Campus Research Portal

“One of the things that St. John’s is really committed to is not only faculty research work but student research work,” Dr. Valeda Dent, dean of University Libraries. “The role of University Libraries is to build a repository that would be self-managed by the user,” she said in order to create a research collection to upload documentation.

This project is underway, with implementation planned for next year.

Dent emphasized student participation in research.


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Bryant Rodriguez, Managing Editor Emeritus
Bryant Rodriguez is a senior majoring in enterprise regulation. He worked towards the Torch reaching a wider audience and increasing student participation through developing a greater online presence along with a revamped social and interactive media experience with the help of the social media, design and photo teams. Along with promoting the newspaper, Bryant was focused on the future of the publication, managing the business side of the paper. He was a part of the Torch for 3 years and will graduate this coming May.
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