Students lose continuation policy battle
‘Two-strikes-you’re-out’ now official for some programs
Proposed changes to the continuation policy of several programs within the faculty of health and community studies have drawn sharp criticism from members of the student body.
In a policy passed by the General Faculties Council on Jan. 17, students in nursing, midwifery, social work and disability studies who fail or withdraw from any course deemed “core” by their program will be removed.
“Students should throw a fit,” said Jennifer Langille, VP of student academic affairs for the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University. “They should contact the profs in the department and the chairs of the programs and the dean and let them know this is unacceptable.
“We fought this with everything we had,” Langille said, expressing her disappointment at the decision. “This is not Mount Royal,” she added. “This has now changed what Mount Royal is in the students’ eyes.”
Before Mount Royal University had its own nursing program, it offered a collaborative degree with the University of Athabasca. According to Chad London, dean of health and community studies, the continuation policy was derived from that degree, and then applied to the new midwifery program when it was implemented two years ago.
“This policy has already been in place for a number of years here,” London said.
He added that the policies were brought forward again for re-approval after Mount Royal University changed its university-wide continuation policy.
During the reapplication process, it was decided that identical continuation policies would be added to both social work and disability studies.
“Ultimately, it was about protecting our patients and clients,” London said. “We are talking about professions with their own codes of ethics and a strong practice component to them. We only want to put our students into these settings when they’ve been successful.”
Student opposition to this change of policy was intense. According to Doug King, the speaker of the General Faculties Council, a record number of students turned out to voice their concerns.
Student representatives, led by SAMRU president Kaylene McTavish and Langille, were among the most vocal members of the council during the debate.
Langille said SAMRU is concerned that the decision will set a precedent for future continuation policies from other faculties and departments.
“We’ve already seen proposals like this planning to come from Bissett (School of Business) and policy studies,” Langille said, though she noted the proposal from policy studies had been turned back by Mount Royal’s Academic Program and Policy Committee.
London said he does not believe this vote sets a precedent, despite the concerns raised by Langille.
During the hearing, Marc Chikinda, dean of communication studies, recalled his own past as a student and how he had failed out of his first two semesters.
Chikinda argued if a policy like the one being used by health and community studies had been in place when he attended Mount Royal, he would likely have been removed from university instead of being given the chances needed to succeed.
“Not every program is going to find itself in the same circumstances as we did,” London said, recalling how he had a conversation with a geology student concerned that these changes would lead to them being removed from the bachelor of sciences.
Other concerns raised by students included the potential for the bureaucracy to mistakenly reference a withdrawal with cause (WC) grade with a withdrawal (W) grade.
Students in the affected programs who twice receive a W in a “core course,” as defined by their program, are treated identically to those who failed twice and are removed.
Despite the disagreements, King said he hoped students would continue to show up and speak up at the General Faculty Council. “I wish all students could have had a window into this debate so they could have seen how fulsome it really was,” he said.
Langille said that with these changes, it might be time to rethink what a W means. “If we’re treating a W like an F, we’re assigning it a value it never had in the past,” she said.