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A note to Curriculum Committee

I’m wrapping up preregistration and only have a few students left to register. One of my more challenging students sent me a message something like the following [1].

Dear Professor [2],

I realize that you think I should take a course in the Humanities next semester. I was planning to take [name of course] [3]. However, it is not offered next semester. I will plan to take it my senior year.

In addition, in my remaining three semesters I have to take four courses for [other major], four courses for my CS major, and two courses for my [name of concentration] concentration. I’d also like to take [course that seems related to the two majors] [4].

What was my reaction?

First, I wondered how we could have ended up in a situation in which the student needed eight courses for two majors in three semesters. There are some complications that led to the situation which are inappropriate to discuss in a musing [5].

Next, I wondered why we allowed the student to add a concentration [6] on top of that.

Then I realized: I never approved that concentration. So I checked the concentration declaration form [9]. Lo and behold, although the concentration advisor has to sign the form, the major advisor does not [10]. So, even though I’d been trying to step back from worrying about things [11], I composed a note to Curriculum Committee.

Dear Curriculum Committee Members,

This semester, I’ve been getting pushback from a lot of students who say I can’t take X because I need to finish the requirements for my concentration in addition to two majors. In many cases, I was not aware that the student had declared a concentration in addition to their two majors.

I see from the concentration declaration form that a student’s major advisor(s) need not be consulted for their declaration. Since the declaration of a concentration affects a student’s four-year plan, I think all of their advisors should sign off. (We might even require the signature of the chair(s) of their major department(s), as in the declaration of a second major.) I’d also recommend that an updated four-year plan be included in the declaration.

I believe this kind of policy is the purview of Curriculum Committee. I ask CC to consider updating the requirements for concentration declaration to require that all such declarations include (a) signatures of their advisors and (b) a revised four-year plan. I assume that such a proposal must then go to the faculty.

If such a policy is not in the purview of CC, please let me know where I should more appropriately address the request.

I wonder if the request will get any traction. It really is strange that we treat concentrations so differently than majors in the declaration process.

I’ve also realized that I should make students put their four-year plan in Self Service [12] when they declare a major so that I can access that plan at all times and see when they decide to change it.

[1] I have reworded the message and eliminated some identifying details.

[2] Problem one. Students know I don’t like to be addressed in the generic.

[3] Problem two. That’s a special topics course. It’s unlikely to ever be offered again.

[4] I’m not sure how many more problems that counts as.

[5] Now that I look at it in a fresh light, I realize that they really only need three more courses for the CS major.

[6] Grinnell doesn’t have minors. Concentrations serve as our alternative to minors. They tend to be in more interdisciplinary areas, like Technology Studies [7], Global Development Studies, and Peace and Conflict Studies [8]. But we also have some in more traditional disciplines, such as Statistics.

[7] Soon to be renamed. We don’t yet know what the new name will be.

[8] No, not all of the concentrations end in Studies.


[10] Or the major advisors do not.

[11] Please stop laughing. I’m serious. I really do plan to step back.
I’ve resigned two positions, including one that required me to be at faculty meetings, for just that reason.

[12] Our online course planning system.

Version 1.1 of 2017-11-15.