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Zia discusses potential changes to enrollment units at faculty meeting

Motion to change fall semester grade deadline postponed following faculty debate

<p>Most of Brown’s peer institutions do not have separate requirements for winter and summer courses in terms of their contribution towards students’ ability to graduate, according to Dean of the College Rashid Zia &#x27;01. </p>

Most of Brown’s peer institutions do not have separate requirements for winter and summer courses in terms of their contribution towards students’ ability to graduate, according to Dean of the College Rashid Zia '01. 

The University has begun considering new ways for students to accrue enrollment units — a requirement for graduation — said Dean of the College Rashid Zia ’01 at Tuesday’s faculty meeting.

Currently, undergraduate students must accumulate 32 enrollment units to graduate from the University, among other requirements. Students receive four enrollment units for completing a full-time semester — taking between three and five courses, typically — or after completing four courses during separate Winter Sessions or Summer Sessions, Zia said.

Individual winter or summer courses do not count toward enrollment units unless taken in bundles of four. Students can also receive a semester’s worth of enrollment units for work from another institution, and no more than one semester of units for pre-matriculation work such as Advanced Placement courses.

Separately from the enrollment units, students must complete 30 courses during their time at the University.


Students, Zia noted, might not be able to plan multiple winters or summers ahead — meaning they do not know if an individual Winter Session or Summer Session course will count towards accruing enrollment units, especially early in their college career. For students with financial constraints, that creates uncertainty, he said.

Similarly, a lack of flexibility surrounding enrollment units can prevent students from using Winter Session or Summer Session courses to make up for taking reduced course loads under special circumstances.

“The current complexity of policies is dissuading some students from accessing our full curriculum, especially with winter and summer courses, in ways that are inequitable,” Zia said at the meeting. “It is a very difficult advising conversation for them to figure that out.”

Most of Brown’s peer institutions do not have separate requirements for winter and summer courses in terms of their contribution towards students’ ability to graduate, Zia added. 

“We're trying to work with the (College Curriculum Council) and others to bring forward a better proposal,” Zia said. 

David Buchta, senior lecturer in classics, raised concerns about students overloading their schedules with courses to graduate early under a new system. 

“How would we prevent a student from saying, ‘How do I cram in as much as possible … and get out of here in three years?’ ” Buchta asked.

Zia noted that most students are unaware of enrollment units as a condition required for graduation. “It is not within the schema of students to think … about courses and enrollment units,” he said. 

President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 expressed a similar sentiment.

“I don’t know. … Maybe we could take a straw poll to see how many people even knew enrollment units existed,” Paxson said.


And while flexibility in enrollment units might allow students to graduate faster, it does not happen often at peer institutions with that flexibility, Zia added — though he noted that he was not sure if that was “necessarily a bad thing.”

Also at the meeting, the Faculty Executive Committee presented a motion to amend the University’s Faculty Rules and Regulations to resolve conflicting deadlines for the submission of fall semester grades.

According to Professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Urban Studies Kenneth Wong, a representative from the committee, there are two contradictory deadlines for grade submissions in the Faculty Rules and Regulations. The amendment would delete the mention of a Jan. 6 deadline for fall semester grades but maintain the requirement for grade submissions within 72 hours of final exams or 48 hours for exams on the last day of the semester.

The motion sparked extended debate among faculty prior to the voting process.

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Ross Cheit, professor of political science and international and public affairs, said that this policy was “not adequately sensitive to people with a large class.”

“If you have a large class, and especially if the exam date is late, this is actually hostile in terms of holidays,” he added.

Luiz Valente PhD’83, professor of Portuguese and Brazilian studies and comparative literature, agreed with Cheit, adding that “it should not be up to the registrar to decide when I should have a due date for a paper.”

“I’m a little bit annoyed that some discussions keep coming back up,” Valente added.

Sylvia Kuo, senior lecturer in economics, spoke in favor of the amended deadline. While Cheit and Valente both said that the policy would pose issues for instructors teaching large classes, Kuo disagreed. Having taught ECON 0110: “Principles of Economics,” one of the largest courses on campus with an enrollment of over 500 students in fall 2022, Kuo advocated for transparency and timeliness regarding student academic standing.

“You’d kind of like to know a little bit earlier if a student is at risk of being on academic probation,” Kuo said.

Dan Katz, senior lecturer in mathematics, added that he was able to “hand in grades on time” for his classes of over 400 students under the 48-72 hour policy. But Katz added the policy should leave room for exceptions requested through the Office of the Registrar to accommodate professors with large classes and late final exams.

Govind Menon, professor of applied mathematics, suggested that the motion be postponed to the next faculty meeting in order to incorporate the exceptions Katz suggested.

The postponement passed with approximately 65% of the vote, according to Paxson.

Owen Dahlkamp

Owen Dahlkamp is a Section Editor overseeing coverage for University News and Science & Research. Hailing from San Diego, CA, he is concentrating in political science and cognitive neuroscience with an interest in data analytics. In his free time, you can find him making spreadsheets at Dave’s Coffee.


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