Imagine taking a University course, completing all the required work, paying tuition and receiving a grade, but earning zero credits toward a degree upon finishing the class.
This is what LSA’s official auditing option offers students, though few participate. However students choose to audit popular classes on campus without officially registering, thereby avoiding the financial and academic demands of taking the class.
According to Cathleen Conway-Perrin, director of Academic Standards and Academic Opportunities at the Newnan Academic Advising Center, only a small number of students have expressed interest in auditing a course during her 15-year tenure.
“To be frank, we really don’t know why the option even exists because it doesn’t seem practical for most people, and it doesn’t seem to be very attractive,” she said.
Conway-Perrin explained that it is usually students experiencing academic difficulty who consider auditing in order to refresh their knowledge of the material rather than actually retake a course, but auditing for this reason is “not usually encouraged.”
“We want the student to talk with the professor and either retake the class officially if they need to or seek some other assistance or tutoring,” she said.
But retired University English Prof. Ralph Williams, who is a former Arthur F. Thurnau professor, wrote in an e-mail interview that he feels the presence of auditors in his classes created a positive learning environment.
“What the visitors bring to class is their intellectual energy, their various experiences of life, the sense of differing viewpoints associated with different places and disciplines,” Williams wrote. “In my view, it is wonderful that the University allows its faculty to leave the door to the classroom ajar while preserving the integrity of the experience of students enrolled for credit.”
And some students, like LSA senior Lauren McGlothlin, find auditing classes a pleasurable experience rather than a tedious one. McGlothlin, who’s unofficially auditing two of her courses this semester, said it gives her the opportunity to learn without having to worry about homework or exams.
“I think auditing is a really good idea especially if you’re a second-semester senior who doesn’t have much to do but still wants to learn from the best professors at Michigan,” she said.
Business sophomore Casey Goldman considered unofficially auditing a course on entrepreneurial finance this semester since he’s not permitted to officially enroll due to his underclassman status.
“It was a class that ties in with my future career goals that was highly recommended by my peers,” Goldman wrote in an e-mail interview.
But because of the amount of projects and group work involved in the course, he decided against auditing. He wrote that he would consider auditing a similar course if it was more based on reading textbooks or attending lectures.
More often, people who are not students choose to audit classes, Conway-Perrin said.
Linda Gregerson, the Caroline Walker Bynum Distinguished University Professor of English — who is currently teaching one of the University’s popular Shakespeare courses — said older members of the University community frequently sit in on her classes. These members include retired clinical faculty at the Medical School and people affiliated with the University like administrators and visiting scholars.
For those who do want to audit a class, the process of registering is “pretty straightforward,” Conway-Perrin said. The student simply meets with a member of the Academic Standards Board at Newnan to request the audit. The board later notifies the Office of the Registrar, and the student is granted visitor status for the course.
Conway-Perrin said some students ask the instructor’s permission to attend the class while others just sit in on large lecture courses assuming no one will notice or care that they’re not officially registered.
“From a University perspective, if they’re going strictly by the letter of the law, I’m sure (the University) would prefer that people register and pay tuition if they’re going to be gaining something from the course,” she said.