Chair's Report for May 19, 1998

Senate update

Four-Year Graduation Contracts

What the Regents said in response to the Legislature's request:

June 1996

In the June 1996 Final Report by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents - "A Study of the UW System in the 21st Century" there is a section "Full text of final recommendations: Study of the UW System in the 21st Century" and within it a part titled: Preserving and Enhancing Access to Quality.

The second final recommendation states:

"Tuition recommendations sent to the Governor and Legislature should reflect incentives and/or disincentives for reducing attempted credits to graduation. In addition, it is recommended that flexibility be added to the UW System's tuition structure to create incentives for students to successfully complete the requirements for a four-year graduation contract. These changes can only be successful through adequate advising and course availability. A pilot program allowing three-year, four-year, or five-year contract options should be established with selected institutions by Fall 1997, with systemwide implementation the following year."

Fall 1997

By Fall 1997, Milwaukee and Madison initiated pilot programs. UWEC and all the other institutions had until Fall 1998 to prepare for implementation.

What UW-Eau Claire has done:

At Eau Claire, work on the implementation proposal was delayed for two reasons: 1) partly the reassignment of duties for those in administration and 2) the belief that the task for developing the proposal would take less time than what proved to be the case. Dr. Dwyer and other administrators spent a lot of time looking at each major and minor on campus to determine which ones were possible in 4-years. While very time consuming, this proved to be a worthwhile task as it revealed some programs with hidden prerequisites to courses.

Spring 1998

In April this year, the administration completed working on the proposal and then sent it to the APC of Senate. The first mention of the 4-year contracts on the APC agenda was MAY 12th. The same proposal was discussed in APC the very day it way presented to Senate.

What other UW institutions have done: (responses from each campus' Faculty Representative)


"When this issue came up at the UW Oshkosh Senate some time ago, there was no major problem with its review or passage. Senators had some concern about some of the wording in the draft document. After edits were made to address these concerns, the four-year contract passed, I believe, on a voice vote."

UW-Green Bay:

"The Academic Affairs Council took the charge on this and reviewed programs across our campus which could realistically be completed within four years. Students who enter these programs would be required to sign a contract which reflects specific conditions under which the contract is valid (e.g., they must enter and declare major in freshman year, take a minimum of 15 credits per semester, etc.). I think it was somewhat of a non-issue since we did not identify many programs where this was feasible."


"Not wholesale rebellion, but much low-key dislike. However, when it was explained that a very low percentage of students would avail themselves of this contract and that the PR would be very good, the cost/ benefit was so favorable that it passed with few problems. After one year, the predictions were pretty good."

UW-River Falls:

"At River Falls the initial attempt to pass the four-year contract was met with the same resistance and it was voted down. The Executive Committee took another look at it, tried to improve on it and it passed the next time through. A key was to guarantee departmental control over whether or not their majors would be offered the contract. It shouldn't be allowed for every major. We still have to wrestle with the implementation phase. It depends on whether or not the VC wants to push it. So right now we have a contract in place (which satisfies the regents' mandate), but no official offering of the contract."

Some points from minutes of the UW-RF Senate meeting:


Presented the 4-year contract to the Senate for information purposes only believing the issue was not part of governance.

[Note from Chair Harrison: I find this interesting since Chapter 36.09 (4) Faculty of the Wisconsin Statutes reads: {emphasis mine} "The faculty of each institution, subject to the responsibilities and powers of the board, the president and the chancellor of each institution, shall be vested with responsibility for the immediate governance of such institution and shall actively participate in institutional policy development. As such, the faculty shall have the primary responsibility for academic and educational activities and faculty personnel matters. The faculty of each institution shall have the right to determine their own faculty organizational structure and to select representatives to participate in institutional governance."]

UW-Eau Claire, Chair of Academic Policies Committee:

"I see the 4 year contract as largely cosmetic and politically motivated. The only "real" value I see in it arises out of the findings of the credits and time to degree survey that Kay Magadance and Bob Shaw did. Essentially what the survey found is that there are two reasons for students not finishing in 4 years: institutional impediments and student preferences. Institutional impediments are largely class scheduling issues: for example, courses not offered during the semesters when the Catalogue says they would be, or two required courses, each with one section, scheduled at the same time. Student preferences have to do with choices such as wanting classes only between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. and wanting to take no more than 12 credits per semester because of a 30 or 40 hour/week job. What the 4-year contract spells out is the discipline that is required on the part of both the student and the institution to ensure that students graduate in 4 years. I see a value in having a document that tells the student that you can't switch majors, you can't take whatever you feel like with no goal in sight, you may have to take an 8:00 o'clock class occasionally, etc. I can't think of a way to make this clear to students other than this official Senate-approved document."

Summary comments from the Chair:

While we may be required by UW-System to support and offer a four-year contract, I believe the University Senate has the right to approve the details of the proposal and the role advisers and departments play in the contract. The current proposal, although a little rough in some spots, does provide a foundation for beginning the four-year contracts in the fall. I suggest we commit to reviewing the proposal during the fall of 1998 with the intent of helping to fine-tune the plan.