Kansas University administrators are taking steps to improve the "freshman-sophomore experience" through a comprehensive program to be announced this fall.
The initiative, which does not yet have a formal name, will involve the formation of a committee that will try to ascertain whether KU's environment is academically effective.
"We have some concern about the freshman-sophomore experience at the university," said David Shulenburger, vice chancellor for academic affairs.
"As decentralized as this campus is, in making an assessment of the experience, it is easy to lose students," he said.
As part of the initiative, a five- or six-member committee composed of faculty and staff will be formed this fall to study several aspects of academic life. The committee will ask questions such as:
- Is class material tough enough, or too tough?
- Are academic probation and dismissal standards appropriate for each school or department?
- Is the selection process and/or support of graduate teaching assistants adequate? Are the "right" GTAs teaching first- and second-year students, and if so, are they receiving enough university support?
- Does the campus have the "right feel"?
- How much academic misconduct is present at KU?
Although charges for the committee have not yet been finalized, Shulenburger said, members would take a sweeping look at those and other questions by interviewing students and faculty.
"The reason for the committee isn't because we have a problem," he said. "It's to help us create an agenda."
He said the timing of the initiative, in part, coincides with Program Review, the university's comprehensive restructuring effort.
In addition, Shulenburger said it was made in conjunction with goals of his and Executive Vice Chancellor Ed Meyen's.
"(The initiative's) just an idea to help set the appropriate agenda for the university," Shulenburger said.
Shulenburger said having such an agenda was important because each school and college has its own academic standards.
"Because we're so decentralized in nature, it's difficult to tell whether we have problems," he said. "(The committee) would just be looking across areas to make sure we are doing what we need to be doing."
The committee will not try to consolidate standards in each school or department, he said, but would try to determine whether KU has shortcomings.
For example, Shulenburger said studies have shown that up to 25 percent of all students admit they've cheated or plagiarized at some point in their college careers.
"That's pretty high -- it's unacceptable," he said.
The effect of GTAs on new students is important also, he said, because about 40 percent of all freshmen and sophomores are taught by them.
The committee, he said, probably would meet regularly for a year and then issue a report to the academic affairs office, probably next summer.
Members will be named this fall.