Two bodies of the student government are combining efforts to lobby students and faculty to help implement resolutions making more course information available to students earlier.

LSA-Student Government recently passed a resolution asking professors and lecturers to make syllabi available online during registration, and the Michigan Student Assembly passed a similar resolution last semester. In addition, MSA representatives who sit on the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs — the leading faculty governing body — have raised awareness about the initiative to garner support for it within the faculty community.

LSA sophomore Alex Levine, who sits on MSA’s Academic Affairs Advisory Committee and LSA-SG’s Academic Affairs Commission, and MSA Rep. John Lin, chair of MSA’s Academic Affairs Commission and a member of SACUA’s Academic Affairs Advisory Committee said they are talking to students and faculty about the resolutions in hope of making them a reality.

“We want students to choose classes they truly enjoy,” Levine said. “When students are passionate about a certain class, they will do better in it.”

Lin said the problem with the current system is that many course descriptions are vague and don’t provide an accurate description of the course requirements. Students may come in to a class with certain expectations, which often times aren’t met. This may lead to many students dropping or swapping courses, he said.

“There is no question that the status quo is not working,” Lin said. “Professors want better informed students, and this new system will provide that.”

Arthur F. Thurnau Prof. Timothy McKay, who teaches physics and astronomy at the University and is the director of the LSA Honors Program, wrote in an e-mail interview that he and his colleagues have been working with MSA representatives to come up with effective and practical approaches to this initiative.

“Course selection plays a central role in each student’s education,” McKay wrote. “Providing students with the best possible information and advice as they select courses is an essential task for the University.”

McKay added that most of the members of SACUA agree with the resolution.

Statistics lecturer Tom Venable said the resolution seems like a “reasonable request,” but that he’s not sure how the logistics of it would be handled and who would monitor instructors to make sure they posted the syllabi.

“Sometimes, say for a professor teaching a course for the first time, perhaps they may want to decline,” he said. “But in general, it seems a good idea.”

Though MSA and LSA-SG are making a push to have professors provide the syllabi for registration for fall 2010 classes — which begins in April — Lin said the initiative may have some glitches, as many professors won’t know which courses they will be teaching until August.

It is unlikely that the initiative will be set into place for the next period of registration, but it will hopefully be implemented in a couple of semesters, Lin said.

McKay wrote that another possible challenge for the initiative is that syllabi “take very different forms across the University.”

Lin said Princeton University has a similar system as the one MSA and LSA-SG seek to implement. During the registration period, Princeton offers a complete course guide, excerpts from course readings and a grade breakdown for each course, according to Lin.

“I feel it would be a win-win situation for students and faculty,” Levine said. “The resolution is a great initiative and would be on the leading edge for universities in the nation in terms of registration.”

LSA freshman Katy Scharf said she thinks the initiative would definitely benefit students when they’re registering for classes because it would offer students a more holistic description of what a class will involve.

“I think professors should be required to post a syllabus before registration so that students can understand what the workload will be like and what the readings will entail,” she said.

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