University Senate appoints new VP, hands out awards at last meeting of the year

The University Senate unanimously elected Elizabeth Skowron as its new vice president and awarded faculty, staff and students for serving the university community at its last meeting of the academic year. Skowron is new VP Elizabeth Skowron, a professor in the College of Education, ran unopposed for vice president of …

The University Senate passed a policy at its meeting on Jan. 30 that unites all departments within the university under a common set of requirements for awarding honors to students.

Students will now have to complete either a research thesis, project or honors course work — or a combination of the three — in order to achieve departmental honors, according to the policy.

“It’s trying to make honors policies fair across departments,” Frances White, a member of the undergraduate council, said. “The attempt is to make it clear what honors is.”

The policy will be in effect by fall 2019 and will not affect students graduating in winter or spring term this year, Ron Bramhall, associate vice provost for academic excellence, said.

“It certainly was our intention to make things better for students,” Bramhall said. “We wanted to put some boundaries around [the requirements] but leave some freedom for different disciplines to approach it differently.”

The policy also mandates that departments communicate their requirements to honors-bound students and put in place a way for students to declare their intention of pursuing honors.

Departments also have to create a timeline for students to follow as they navigate the honors process. Bramhall said this clarification is intended to make pursuing honors more accessible for students.

“The other thing we learned was it’s not always clear to students, and even to the department or the registrar, what the timelines are,” Bramhall said.

Departments also have to communicate any GPA requirements that are necessary, in addition to the other requirements.

This policy also allows students in the Clark Honors College to use their honors research thesis for the honors college as well as for departmental honors, as long as the departmental criteria is met.

The honors policies that already fulfill the new requirements will be “grandfathered” in, Bramhall said. These departments will be encouraged to review their policy and potentially revise it in the future.

Departments that need to revise their honors system will bring their changes to the undergraduate council of the Senate. Then, the changes will be added to the curriculum report and voted on by the Senate for official approval.

The Senate passed a policy that eliminated GPA-only based departmental honors last April to make achieving honors in the university more equal across the board. Some departments were only using a student’s GPA to award honors before this policy was passed.  

The undergraduate council worked to draft new requirements based on a report by the honors task force and input from the Senate.

“I think it makes it clearer for them how to pursue honors. It makes the requirements clearer, it makes the timeline clearer,” Bromhall said. “In some cases, it might make it harder. I’m not convinced that’s a bad thing.”