Wednesday, May 22

Departments re-unit courses


Course values should represent amount of time spent for class

For the past two years, UCLA’s various departments have
been involved in an ongoing process of re-unitting their courses.
The process has coincided with the implementation of stricter
expected cumulative progress requirements.

The re-unitting process will likely continue until all courses
are worth a number of units that corresponds to the number of hours
students spend on the course.

Since the beginning of fall quarter, nearly all General
Education courses have undergone a one-unit increase and are now
worth five units.

The re-unitting of GE courses is reflective of the university as
a whole since many departments have increased the number of
five-unit courses they offer over the past five years.

“Everything needs renovating,” said David Rodes,
former chairman of the undergraduate council in the Academic
Senate. The Academic Senate is a governing body of faculty members
that is responsible for regulating academic policy.

The Senate requested that each department re-unit its respective
GE courses so they would provide a better foundation for first-year
students, Rodes said.

“It was time to get those courses up to snuff and be sure
they had serious syllabi. “¦ Re-unitting gives opportunities
to take a closer look at courses,” he also said.

Some of the previous GE requirements had been in place for 15 to
16 years.

Astronomy 3 was revamped to bring it back to its original status
as a lab course.

“In the books it was a lab course, now it is strictly
enforced,” said Françoise Queval, a physics
undergraduate student adviser.

Astronomy 3, like all re-unitted GE courses, requires more work
than it did as a four-unit course.

Rodes estimates that 350 GE courses have been revised and
re-unitted over the past year.

Having units revamped is not unique to GE courses.

“Re-unitting started in order to have a more appropriate
distribution of work,” said English Professor Fred
Burwick.

Though the Senate oversees the re-unitting process, it is up to
each department to decide how many units each of its courses are
worth.

According to a Senate regulation, each unit is supposed to
require three hours of work per week.

Correspondingly, a five-unit class should take up 15 hours a
week during a regular quarter session. This includes class time and
out-of-class preparation necessary to fulfill course
requirements.

Following this logic, the English department changed the
majority of its courses to five units in fall 2001.

The timing coincided with the implementation of the minimum
progress requirements.

“The minimum progress requirements gave an impulse to
re-unitting,” Burwick said.

Under the requirement, students must complete 29 units every two
quarters, with the exception of the first two quarters in new
students’ inaugural year ““ these students must complete 27
units over the two quarters.

Students are thus able to take three five-unit classes a quarter
rather than four four-unit classes.

Some students believe the combination of the minimum progress
requirements and the increase in units granted per course is
unfair.

“They’re watering down our education by making the
classes worth more. We’re paying more and getting less.
“¦We hit the limit sooner and get out earlier,” said
Alex Gigliotti, a third-year astrophysics student.

Brian Bilford, a third-year psychology, philosophy and sociology
student, also dislikes the re-unitting process.

“I hate it. I don’t want the extra units since I
don’t want to go over the unit cap,” he said.

The minimum number of units necessary to graduate is 180.
Students who entered the university in or after fall 2001 have a
216-unit maximum.

Bilford said he had planned out the courses that he was going to
take each quarter well in advance, but that he had to redo his
schedule when the units for his desired courses were increased.

However, some students enjoy the five-unit courses because it
gives them the freedom to only take three courses per quarter.

“Having five-unit courses makes it a lot easier on my
workload; I can get away with only taking three courses,”
said Jason Petersen, a third-year history student.

Petersen said he was previously warned for failing to meet
minimum progress requirements by only taking three four-unit
courses.

Humanities departments are not the only ones to increase the
number of five-unit courses offered.

In the past few years, 12 lower division courses in the physics
department have also been either newly created as five-unit courses
or have been increased to five units.

“They were undervalued to start with,” Queval
said.

The courses that were raised from four to five units are
laboratory courses that did not grant the student extra units for
the time spent on lab work and classes, she added.

Queval noted that in other departments, students usually enroll
in the lab separately from the course itself. The chemistry
department, for example, has students enroll in a course and
independently enroll in a lab for the course.

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