By Alex Jaffe and Sarah Smith
On Wednesday, December 3, the Faculty Senate postponed voting on a motion to implement minor programs at UMW. The motion, proposed by the Academic Affairs Committee, will be revised by the committee before the Senate reconvenes at the start of next semester.
If the motion passes, minors programs will be offered starting in Fall 2010, and will first appear on the transcripts of students graduating in May 2011.
According to the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC), while neither students nor academic departments would be required to participate in minor programs, minors offer various positives for both groups.
“Students desire formal acknowledgement for completing an academic program,” the AAC’s official proposal stated. This formal recognition would enhance employers’ and graduate programs’ acknowledgment of student academic achievements.
All other public colleges and universities in Virginia offer minors, as do most private liberal arts colleges. The AAC believes that the addition of minor programs would attract prospective students and keep UMW competitive with its peers.
Minors would also help departments develop programs with different focuses within their disciplines to appeal to a wider range of students. The addition of minors would help to redistribute course enrollment, decreasing the bottleneck effect for classes required for majors.
Academic minors have been proposed in the past, but have sparked significant opposition from departments with few majors that fear the addition of minors.
“The major opposition to minors has come from departments with few graduates,” Professor of Business Administration and former AAC President Dan Hubbard said. “They are fearful that minors would reduce the number of majors in their departments, and so put their programs in danger of extinction.”
Each department would be able to choose between designing its own minor programs and continuing to only offer majors. These provisions would enable the departments to best serve the needs of its students.
“We want to give departments as much liberty as possible to create the minor of their dreams,” French professor and AAC Chairman Scott Powers said in the Senate meeting.
“I think that student demand will play a major role in how many departments offer minors,” Hubbard said.
Another objection to minors was the concern that students’ academic studies would be too constricted if minor requirements were added to the other prescribed goals.
“After completing their general education courses, major programs and minor programs, students would have few credits left to allocate to electives,” Associate Professor of Biology and AAC member Andrew Dolby said.
However, the new and more flexible 2008 general education curriculum would give students greater freedom to combine major, minor and elective requirements.
“Our current understanding is that many students still wish for the option to pursue minors to gain expertise in disciplines outside their majors,” Dolby said.
The Senate vote is expected to take place in January, giving senators more time to discuss minors with their departments.
“I personally believe that President Hample’s vocal support for minors will be essential in convincing the majority of the faculty to support this motion,” Hubbard said.