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Wayne State Board of Governors 656 West Kirby Room 4231 FAB Detroit, MI 48202
January 3, 2010 DELIVERED VIA EMAIL GREETINGS TO ALL: NOW I COME, Beverly Tran, to respectfully request the Wayne State University Board of Governors to hear my grievances and to grant my requests for intervention in the matters set forth herein. Insomuch as the Department of Political Science Graduate Advisor, Summer 2008 notified me that I did not successfully complete my Masters compulsory examination in Public Policy for the third time, I was informed that I may petition to retake the exam. In order to properly petition, one must know what it is that is being petitioned and its process. Pursuant to the Wayne State University Board of Governors Statutes Students Rights it states in part: 2.31.01.040 Student Rights Each student has the right to be considered for admission, advancement, degrees, honors, and all academic and co-curricular activities and benefits without regard to ancestry, religious or political belief, or country of origin. To date, I have not been afforded these aforementioned considerations. Arbitrary and capricious reviews of my studies in Child Policy have dismissed my research as unqualified and suspect, reflected in the unsuccessful completion of my compulsory examinations.1 Pursuant to the Wayne State University Board of Governors Statutes Students Rights it states in part: 2.31.01.050 Each student has the right to know the rules by which he/she is
Previous two compulsory examinations completed were under severe scrutiny by other graduate students, which resulted in the PSGSO addressing examination reform. Resolution of compulsory examination policy was never established between the graduate student organization and the department (TAB A and B). This is the only published effort of policy discussion for the Department of Political Science.
governed--insofar as a written set of specific rules is possible--through the medium of a clear and precise written exposition of the rules, given proper publicity. Each student has the right to advocate changes in any rule by which he/she is governed. To date, through exhaustive efforts, I have been unsuccessful in obtaining written intra-departmental policies for the Department of Political Science; therefore I respectfully ask this body to intervene in this matter. Whereas, I am a mother of two young boys, who has completed the program under horrific and historic circumstances, I have not been provided any accommodations or considerations; therefore, I respectfully ask this body to assist me in requesting an equitable tolling of the statutes for completion of advanced studies of the graduate school; Whereas, I have been without any advisement or counsel in these matters, I respectfully ask this body to amend and revise the Statutes of Students Rights to establish inclusive provisions to adapt to the rapidly growing demands of non-traditional students and single parent families to include hardship provisions; Whereas, Child Policy has been omitted, nationally, from the discipline of political science, I respectfully ask this body to engage the Department of Political Science to encourage the study of this area of public policy; Therefore, for reasons stated, I respectfully ask this body to assist all students in pursuit of academic studies by inquiring why uniform policies to successfully complete compulsory examinations, to receive advisement and to petition have not been established by the Department of Political Science, so that I may graduate. With sincerity and serenity, /s/Beverly Tran/ Beverly Tran An Original Source Cc: Wayne State President’s Cabinet Wayne State Department of Political Science U.S. Congressman John Conyers. Jr. MI Representative Bert Johnson Chiketa Palmore, Esq.
November 6, 2007 To: The Political Science Graduate Student Organization
From: The Graduate Studies Committee The Graduate Studies Committee met on October 18 to discuss the PSGSO Statement concerning the comprehensive examination process. This meeting followed the presentation of the PSGSO Statement to the Committee on October 5. In the course of its discussion the Committee expressed its appreciation to the PSGSO for raising important issues, and it arrived at a number of recommendations and conclusions. In addition to several specific areas of concern mentioned below, the Committee wished to clarify any general misconception about the nature and purpose of “comprehensive” examinations. They are not thematically tied to dissertation topics, but rather are a demonstration of the student’s overall mastery of the literature and thought of a particular subfield. Such mastery is necessary in order to certify that the student completing the program is indeed qualified to teach in the subfield. Clarification of these points should become part of the annual graduate student orientation conducted by the Department, probably through PS 7610, as discussed below. 1. Exam scheduling. We agree that there is a need for convenient exam scheduling, timely exam grading, and equitable grading standards. The system begun this past year is a step in the right direction and should be allowed to play out over a longer period for assessment. The use of three-member grading committees for each subfield seems to have promoted equitable standards, and in some cases it has shortened turnaround time. To address concerns about exam availability, we recommend modifying this system by introducing a scheduled examination three times a year (once in the fall, winter, and spring/summer semesters), preferably early in each term. For students with special needs, such as meeting a Graduate School deadline or rewriting part of an exam, the Director of Graduate Studies can also schedule exams for individual students between these official exam dates, as is occurring this semester. 2. Exam grading. Turnaround time can be addressed by careful monitoring of faculty grading committees, including among other measures the stipulation of a specific date, not later than three weeks after the last exam, by which all exams must be graded. For example, if exams were given over four weeks in September, then the due date for grades would be approximately October 20. Failure to submit a grade by this date would give a student the right to petition the Director of Graduate Studies for other graders or an alternative expedited grading procedure. 3. Exam format and content. The Committee discussed alternative format and content for exams (take-home options, 24-hour exams, content based upon potential dissertation topics) and concluded that the present arrangements would be difficult to replace, given the current structure of the exam process and the desire to protect anonymity and maintain uniform standards across subfields. We agree, however, that the faculty should conduct a biennial review and updating of exam questions, sample questions, and reading
lists. Such a review should take into account expectations concerning breadth and depth of coverage. Responsibility for the review could be assigned to the three-member grading committees in each subfield. 4. Reading Lists. The PSGSO statement suggests that it would be useful to have annotated bibliographies prepared by the student available during the written exams. The Committee discussed this proposal, but without reaching agreement. Reservations were expressed regarding the suitability of such an arrangement. There was some sentiment expressed that our current system has worked well, with students now having access to bibliographies organized by categories, though not to annotated reading lists. 5. Mentoring. We agree that faculty mentoring of graduate students is a good idea. However, the Department has tried a formal mentoring program in the past, and it has not worked especially well. Instead of such a program, we recommend a voluntary mentoring program, coordinated by the Director of Graduate Studies. Early in their program of studies students should be encouraged to choose a faculty mentor/advisor in their major field and to work out appropriate visitation schedules with that mentor/advisor. 6. Professional development seminar. Some of the concerns about the form and content of comprehensive exams and students’ overall experience in the program can be addressed (and are addressed) in the professional development seminar, PS 7610 (1 credit, pass/fail), that was introduced this year, based on a similar discussion of these issues in 2006. The seminar should be offered once a year, preferably in the fall semester. We recommend that this seminar be required for students in the doctoral program, starting with those entering in winter 2008. 7. Workshops. We agree that workshops can be a useful supplement to normal advising and seminar instruction. We suggest that the Director of Graduate Studies work with the PSGSO to schedule one or two workshops during the academic year on appropriate topics. The topics could change from year to year, depending on student needs and interests. Submitted for the Committee: Dr. Lawrence Scaff, Director of Graduate Studies
November 8, 2007 To: The Graduate Studies Committee
From: The Comprehensive Examination Reform Sub-Committee The Comprehensive Examination Reform Sub-Committee is charged by the Political Science Graduate Student Organization (PSGSO) to address the matter of comprehensive examination reform. To this end, the Sub-Committee is acting within its mandate in delivering a response to the Graduate Studies Committee’s (GSC’s) memo of November 6th concerning the PSGSO Statement of Intent to Reform the Graduate Comprehensive Examination Process. The following document was drafted with the advice and consideration of the PSGSO membership and the larger graduate student community based upon GSC’s reply. PSGSO generally, and the Sub-Committee particularly, thank the GSC for allowing representatives to address the October 5th GSC meeting. We appreciated the opportunity to present our concerns in person and we valued the GSC’s openness and forthrightness in its response. These concerns regarding the comprehensive examination process and broader departmental issues are shared by both PSGSO membership and the graduate student body at large. The PSGSO shares with the GSC the goal of improving the graduate program by creating a superior comprehensive exam process. Establishing policies that produce a more informed, engaged, and professionally competitive student body not only produces stronger doctorial graduates but additionally, strengthens the national academic standing of Wayne State University’s Political Science Department. With these goals in mind, the Sub-Committee offers the following comments and suggestions regarding the GSC’s recent memo: Examination scheduling: The Sub-Committee is heartened by the GSC’s recognition of the difficulties created by the current exam schedule. We applaud the GSC’s decision to reinstate the fall exam period and its consideration of “special needs” situations. A number of questions, however, require further attention: • • The GSC has suggested that the system begun last year “be allowed to play out over a longer period for assessment.” The Sub-Committee requests clarification of this statement. The three-member grading committees are said to promote “equitable standards.” While we have no reason to doubt this statement as it pertains to an individual committee’s grading practices, our requests for uniform grading standards across different grading committees (within the same subfield) remains unaddressed. Simply because one set of three graders is forced to come to agreement on a certain question does not mean that a second set of three graders will come to the same conclusion when addressing the same question. As consistency and predictability continue to be a concern without a common grading rubric, the dilemma remains a key issue for the Sub-Committee.
Three-member grading committees are identified as resulting “in some cases [of]…shortened turnaround time” for examinations. While this may indeed occur in some cases, overall reporting results still do not meet commitments made by the GSC last year. While students exchanged a third testing period for a commitment to cap turnaround times, realization of that commitment is elusive. While some exam results may have been provided in a timelier fashion, other students have waited almost three months for outcomes. Additionally, while a correlation between the grading committee system and turnaround times may exist, causation is not evident. Therefore the Sub-Committee continues to seek further guarantees regarding exam turnaround times so as to avoid unnecessary financial hardship for graduate students. Examinations are offered in the summer semester. The GSC’s proposal for grading exams states that results will be delivered “not later than three weeks after the last exam.” Therefore, the Sub-Committee expects that grading will occur during the summer semester. For example, exams taken in the month of June would be graded by approximately July 20. Further assurance that this would indeed be the case is required. We request both a clearer and more concrete definition of the term “special needs” and articulation of the circumstances in which testing outside of the preset dates is allowed. Such clarification will enable the PSGSO to effectively advise graduate students of their comprehensive examination rights.
Exam Grading: The Sub-Committee supports the proposal of a three week grading turnaround time beginning after the last exam is completed. However, the proposed method of enforcement is potentially problematic for the following reasons: • It is doubtful that a student petitioning the Graduate Director for exam results would prove any more effective at enforcing deadlines than the Graduate Director acting alone. Also ineffective, it appears, are deadlines without meaningful enforcement tools. As stated above, there are students who have waited almost three months for exam results. We are uncertain where the responsibility lies for these excessive turnaround times. We do not seek to lay blame; however, if the Graduate Director is aware of this problem and has requested that the grading committee expedite its work, this means of enforcement has proven ineffective. A student’s request that the Graduate Director appoint new graders will only serve to lengthen the process. A new grading committee will likely encounter the same problems that plague the initial grading committee, i.e. establishing a time that all are able to meet to perform the task. Under this scenario a doubling of turnaround time could result, paradoxically, from a request to enforce time limits. Would a grading committee that was charged with grading a particular exam willingly cede the task to others because a student wished to enforce established standards? A petition for grades on the student’s part endangers anonymity – both of the student and the graders. Who would conduct “careful monitoring of faculty grading committees,” and what would the enforcement mechanisms include?
• • •
Further clarification is requested for the phrase “including among other measures” of enforcement. What are these other measures? The Sub-Committee desires a stronger form of enforcement vis-à-vis exam turnaround times.
Exam format and content: The Sub-Committee welcomes a biennial review and updating of exam and sample questions and reading lists. We appreciate the GSC’s response to our concerns regarding the breadth and depth of exam coverage. With this in mind, we offer the following questions and concerns: • Would the current arrangements be “difficult” to replace or “impossible” to replace? The Sub-Committee interprets the GSC’s statement to mean that change cannot occur in the “current structure of the exam process” because of the current structure of the exam process. We remain unconvinced that the status quo should be protected because of the difficulty of change. We are confident that alternate arrangements can be found that are more efficient, effective, and equitable than the current system. We cannot agree with the GSC’s assertion that take-home exams would endanger anonymity any more than does the current structure. The use of intermediaries in the delivery process would provide a resolution of this concern. We remain concerned about the lack of contemporary scholarship in some graduate courses. We desire a more topical and timely discussion of the current state of the various sub-disciplines. This should also be reflected in exam and sample questions.
Reading lists: We believe that, given the breadth and depth of the possible exam material, a short annotated bibliography is both reasonable and useful. The SubCommittee offers the following comments in light of the GSC’s statement: • • What are the GSC’s reservations concerning annotated bibliographies? We look forward to understanding and addressing those concerns. Regarding the statement that our current system has “worked well,” an operational definition of this phrase would prove helpful. The PSGSO maintains that the current policy could be improved in a way that would maintain the academic rigor required by the graduate program. As there was no consensus reached by the GSC regarding the permissibility of annotated bibliographies, we look forward to discussing this issue further.
Mentoring: The Sub-Committee is pleased to find agreement with the GSC on the importance of a mentoring program. It is understandable how a formal mentoring program could prove inefficient. A voluntary mentoring program with formalized introduction and utilizable tools for students could prove more productive. With this in mind we offer a few suggestions:
• • •
The mentoring program’s existence and mechanics should be introduced to students in the first semester of their program, preferably – and probably most effectively – in PS 7610. New students may find useful a reference list of the faculty and their major fields of study and research. Consideration should be given to students who begin the program in the winter semester.
Professional development seminar: The Sub-Committee agrees that PS 7610 should be required of all students and would best operate in the fall semester. We view this course as a positive and meaningful advance towards our goal of a well-informed graduate student body. In that spirit we offer three additional suggestions: • • • We request PS 7610 be required in the first semester of study (assuming a fall entry). The course should always be taught by the Graduate Advisor. Some form of accommodation must be developed and provided to those entering the program in the winter semester.
Workshops: This year the PSGSO is planning to continue the tradition of offering workshops on a variety of topics. The PSGSO is pleased to retain the responsibility for the planning and organization of academically-progressive events. We look forward to and value assistance from the Graduate Director. Additionally, we require participation from the general faculty community, without whom we could not conduct meaningful and well-informed seminars. Therefore, we require faculty participation in these events to further ensure student success. The Sub-Committee hopes that it has offered a thoughtful, sincere, and constructive response to the GSC’s proposals. We again thank the GSC for addressing our initial document in a timely and open fashion and look forward to further discussion of ways to strengthen our department. We hope you agree that progression on these issues is time sensitive and wish you to understand a response by November 30th is considered important by the Sub-Committee. Submitted for the Sub-Committee: Kenneth Lindow, Vice-President – PSGSO Chair – Comprehensive Examination Reform Sub-Committee Comprehensive Examination Reform Sub-Committee Membership: Rachel Kirkland Kenneth Lindow Maggie Lippens Williams Yamkam
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