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Viewpoint: Vote to improve the LSA Course Guide, exam policies

BY LSA-SG ACADEMIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

Published November 16, 2010

In the student government elections being held today and tomorrow, the LSA Student Government hopes you will take a few minutes of your time to vote for the candidates running to be student representatives for the next 12 months. In addition to voting on candidates, we hope that LSA students will also vote on several ballot questions regarding potential changes to the LSA Course Guide and a new exam policy.

LSA-SG knows how much students rely on the LSA Course Guide to determine which courses to take. Keeping this in mind, we feel it may be beneficial for students to know more details about the course in addition to the information currently provided. By voting on this ballot question, LSA-SG will have tangible data to present to the dean and executive committee of LSA and allow us to lobby for improvements to the LSA Course Guide. LSA-SG has received numerous complaints that there are no syllabi available to students selecting courses. Adding a draft or example syllabus would allow students to see specific course expectations, and really know what topics will be covered in that class.

Another improvement to the LSA Course Guide could be utilizing keyword tags (i.e. searchable keywords/phrases) to search for classes. While the LSA Course Guide can already be searched by department, requirements, and other aspects, it would be even more beneficial to search for a course that covers topics such as “sustainability,” “journalism,” or “business” (just to name a few potential keywords).

Outside of increasing the information that describes each course, LSA-SG hopes to include final examination information (date and time) in the course guide. Presenting final exam information when browsing potential classes could help students better plan their finals schedules, allow students to stack and spread their exams as they so choose and give students an opportunity to arrange earlier vacation and travel times if they wish. You may feel that having this information — or other potential additions to the LSA Course Guide — might not be useful in selecting courses, in which case please vote in a manner that demonstrates this to LSA-SG.

Also on the ballot, LSA students will find a question regarding a policy that concerns holding exams on national election days. This question will allow you to vote to discourage instructors from giving in-class exams on national election days. During national election days, polls are typically open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., which should allow time for students to vote. But because of class scheduling, long lines at polling stations and first-time voters' inability to obtain an absentee ballot, national election days may fall at a time that is disadvantageous for some, due to an exam held the same day. While a student could speak with his or her instructor in advance to be excused from a lecture or discussion to go vote, a student — even with advance notice — would likely be unable to miss or arrive late to a class with a planned in-class exam.

By not having an exam on a national election day, students may also feel more inclined to educate themselves of the candidates’ platforms and any state or local proposals on the ballot. LSA-SG feels that academic development and civic engagement are important aspects of being a University student and hopes you will support a policy that will dissuade instructors from holding exams on national election days.

Online, LSA students will find these and other ballot questions that may provide students with valuable information about different courses. LSA-SG would like to understand what information would be most useful to students in choosing their courses and will take action in accordance with the results to advocate for these enhancements to the LSA Course Guide. By voting on these questions, you have the opportunity to influence the interface that you and your fellow students use and therefore directly improve the LSA Course Guide.

The ballot questions can be found on the Fall 2010 LSA Student Government Election ballot at vote.umich.edu. LSA students will be able to answer these ballot questions as well as vote for their LSA-SG representatives from now until tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 18 at 11:59 p.m.

This viewpoint was written by Christopher Luoma, Stephen Ratkovich and Jeffrey Wojcik on behalf of the LSA-SG Academic Affairs Committee.


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