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5 February 2014

General Honors Program to be phased out in four years

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University of Miami’s General Honors Program will be eliminated over four years. It will be replaced by a program that is more targeted toward student needs.

Faculty Senate’s academic standards committee made the decision to phase out the program after reviewing it, according to a report from the Nov. 20 meeting. The decision was based on a student survey and a look at the courses and faculty who have taught these classes.

Student Government later passed a resolution Wednesday to increase collaboration between students and administration to create future academic programs.

Don Stacks, professor of public relations and chair of the committee, said the 25-year-old program was no longer effective.

“The program in its current form is not doing what its supposed to do,” he said.

Students in the honors program must take 24 honors credits, 12 of which must be taken outside the student’s major and the other 12 must be at the 200-level or above. About 10 percent of undergraduate students are in the general honors program.

Stacks said that a revised program would include smaller, honors-only classes and a “specialized curriculum.” He also wants to move away from “pink slips,” in which current honors students get special permission to get honors credit for a regular class, usually by completing additional assignments.

“I think we need to have a true honors program that focuses on the needs of the students,” Stacks said.

Junior Cassie Sanabria has had to use her last pink sheet, and she is worried  about her class selection being limited next semester. She can only take 12 honors credits within her major.

“I find every year that it becomes more difficult to pick honors classes that challenge me in my course of study and also fulfill the honors program requirements as they now stand,” she said. “Although changes are necessary to avoid such restriction in academic freedom, I do believe UM needs an honors program to acknowledge those students who excel academically and to encourage the continuance of academic advancement.”

A survey sent out to honors students indicated a lack of interest in the program. Only 16 percent of students chose UM because of the honors program, nor do current honors students participate in many honors activities.

The survey was sent out to all honors students in December 2012.

Despite survey results, not all students were discontent with the program. Junior Jenna Tribull, treasurer of the Honors Student Association, was upset that the program is going to be dissolved.

“I think that it’s a real shame,” she said. “It’s been great to have classes with honors students … and to be a part  of the Honors Student Association because it provides a sense of community.”

The committee will work with Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education William Green to come up with a new program to replace the current one. The report suggests replacing it “with a program such as the Foote Scholars.”

Students in the current Foote Fellows program are invited to participate during the admissions process. The program waives students’ general education requirements.