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3.4.5 Academic Policies

The institution publishes academic policies that adhere to principles of good educational practice. These are disseminated to students, faculty, and other interested parties through publications that accurately represent the programs and services of the institution.

Judgment of Compliance

PVAMU SACS Accreditation - Judgement Compliance

Narrative of Compliance

Prairie View A&M University employs good educational practices by consulting various sources, including faculty in the field, administrators, Texas A&M System and state regulations, and accrediting bodies for various disciplines, in constructing its academic policies. Once crafted, all procedures undergo a multi-step vetting process to ensure that they represent Prairie View A&M's programs and services correctly before they are published and disseminated to students, faculty, and other parties through catalogs, the University website, handbooks, and the campus newspaper.

The biannual undergraduate and graduate catalogs are the primary publications for policies related to grading, class attendance, transfer credit and credit-by-exam, academic dishonesty, academic probation and suspension, procedures for independent study, standards for satisfactory academic progress within colleges and departments, determination of honor roll status and graduation honors, and the definition of the core curriculum. The undergraduate catalog contains over 40 pages of general Academic Information and Regulations [1], while the graduate catalog contains over 20 pages of general academic policies [2]. Specific policies within college and departments are then explained; for example, the graduate programs in Juvenile Justice and Psychology specify policies for continuous enrollment, leave of absence, good standing, and time limits on degree completion [3]. Catalogs were published in print through 2008-2010 and online for ready access by any interested parties; links to catalogs are included on the Quick Links pull-down menu on the University home page and the "Current Students" web site. As part of a new "go green" initiative at Prairie View A&M, catalogs will be released solely online in the future. As discussed in the response for Federal Requirement 4.3, most policies are also reproduced in various places on the University website. Procedures for cases of academic dishonesty are included as an example [4].

Updates including "course deletions, course changes, course additions, program deletions, program changes, program additions, and recommended changes in academic policy" [5] begin at the departmental level with the faculty with approval from the department head or coordinator; some divisions use a review to help guide the first step in the process [6]. Academic deans review any changes and the matter then goes before the appropriate Council. Online courses have additional review procedures through the University Distance Learning Council to ensure that course content is equivalent to the face-to-face delivery version and courses are structured to facilitate student interaction [7] [8].

The University Academic Council (UAC) oversees undergraduate academic policies with several primary categories of responsibility. First, in concert with college deans, the Provost, and the Vice President for Academic Affairs, it creates policies "relating to the development, maintenance, and continuous improvement of quality undergraduate education." According to its bylaws, the UAC reviews individual courses and entire programs, particularly proposed changes [9]. The Council also "reviews the University's undergraduate admissions standards as well as separate program admissions standards (e.g. nursing) and periodically conducts audits to ascertain adherence to standards. It recommends improved compliance where appropriate." Membership on the UAC includes administrators from Academic Affairs, full-time faculty, the Director of Admissions, students, deans, and selected staff for broad representation of many constituencies' concerns.

The Graduate Council (GC) presents recommendations from the graduate faculty to the President through the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, related to the development, implementation, evaluation, and improvement of graduate programs. Two sets of sample meeting agendas / minutes demonstrate the range of issues handled by this Council to ensure that policies are appropriate [10] [11].

From there, the pathway depends on whether changes are substantive or non-substantive; the attached Curriculum Change Process flowchart shows the progression through Academic Affairs, the University President, the Texas A&M University system, and finally the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board [12]. The Coordinating Board agenda item for approval to add the Ph.D. in Clinical Adolescent Psychology [13], along with a list of the Board's authorizations between 1999 and 2004, is available [14]. Once fully approved, all policies are entered into the appropriate catalog for dissemination.

Any changes in course-level academic policy—prerequisites, credit hours—that happen before the next biannual catalog is released are entered into the Banner system for accurate course registration. Updated degree plans generally are created at the departmental level and distributed to students and faculty in hard copy format. They also may be disseminated electronically so all parties have the most accurate information. An example of this process is documented for the Master of Arts in English, which changed substantially in 2009; the degree plan in the 2008-2010 catalog [15], the Graduate Council Agenda on addition of courses [16], the new plan available on the departmental webpage [17], and emails to faculty [18] and graduate students [19] about the change are included. When a program changes like this, advisors can assist students with a Catalog Year Change Request form, since students have the option of remaining in the catalog in effect at the time of their matriculation or moving to the new one [20].

Academic policies also are distributed to students and faculty via handbooks. The Student Handbook and Conduct Code, discussed in Comprehensive Standard 3.9.1 and Federal Requirement 4.3, includes statements about the University Policy on Academic Dishonesty [21]. The Prairie View A&M University Faculty Handbook, completely revised in 2007 at the request of the University Provost, was crafted by the Faculty Senate in consultation with the faculty, the Office of the President, the Office of Academic and Student Affairs, the Office of Human Resources, and the attorney of the Texas A&M University System. After a committee designed the new version, the Handbook was sent to all faculty for comments, adopted by the full Senate, and approved by the President in 2008. Minutes of the Faculty Senate meetings indicate the collaborative nature of the process [22] [23]. The Faculty Handbook describes guidelines for tenure and promotion, classroom responsibilities, ethics policies, and other issues related to professional development and grievances [24].

The official campus newspaper, The Panther, occasionally features stories about academic programs and policies. Because students consistently read the paper, The Panther represents an excellent tool for relaying important information. Sample articles on the requirements for admission to the Alternative Teacher Certification Program (ATCP) [25] and a new state law limiting the number of courses dropped after the twelfth class day [26] are included in the documentation.

Student Assessment of University Publications
The Texas A&M System uses an addendum of 20 items for the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Five of these statements relate to the question of publication and dissemination of coherent academic policies. On four measures, Prairie View A&M University percentages compare favorably with those for the overall system. On the accuracy of printed materials' portrayal of the institution, although the majority of Prairie View A&M students agreed, they did so at a substantially lower rate than their TAMUS peers [27].

Statement from the Texas A&M System addition to the 2007 NSSE Survey

Freshmen agreeing or strongly agreeing

Seniors agreeing or strongly agreeing

Information about academic requirements is easy to understand.

84%

84%

The university catalog clearly states academic requirements.

84%

88%

The university's website is organized to promote easy access to information.

84%

85%

University communications convey information in a clear and effective manner.

80%

74%

Printed materials about the university I have seen accurately portrayed the institution.

67%

72%

Additional discussion of Prairie View A&M's responsible publication and dissemination of academic policies is located in the responses for Comprehensive Standards 3.5.3 and 3.6.4 and Federal Requirements 4.3 and 4.6.

Supporting Documentation and Links


Comprehensive Standards 3.4.5
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