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Senate Seeks Feedback on Proposal to Reduce Minimum Credit Hours Needed for Graduation

A proposal to shave four credit hours off the longstanding minimum of 124 credit hours required for graduation sparked a lengthy discussion at the Faculty Senate meeting on Feb. 16, when senators voted to refer the resolution to its Educational Policy Committee (EPC) for review and comment.

The EPC will be seeking immediate feedback from the campus community on the proposal. Comments should be directed to EPC Chair Robert Spitzer, Political Science Department, who brought the motion to the Senate during its regularly scheduled meeting in the Park Center Hall of Fame Room.

The Senate did not charge the EPC with a specific timetable for its report but several senators repeatedly referred to a “two-week” time period for the EPC to gauge the impact that the four-credit hour reduction might have on the campus.

Spitzer offered the resolution as an individual faculty member and not as a representative of the EPC. He noted that the College “is in the grips of a protracted and difficult financial situation” and that 120 credit hours  “is a widely accepted standard for total credit hour accumulation for student graduation at institutions of higher learning.”

SUNY Cortland adopted the 124 credit hour minimum decades ago, explained Spitzer, when a physical education requirement was mandatory for graduation from the College. The four-hour requirement was cut to two hours in 1977 and totally eliminated in 1979, according to Professor Emeritus of History Leonard Ralston in his history of the College.

“The total graduation credit number was not adjusted down to reflect the requirement’s elimination,” argued Spitzer.

To do so now, he continued, would “result in a much-needed, institution-wide 2.4 percent savings in curricular offerings resources” by the College, while “students would universally welcome any efforts to reverse the trend of ever-increasing curriculum requirements.”

Spitzer’s motion would have the College implement, as soon as is practicable, the four-credit hour reduction, with exceptions for special appeals for programs requiring the additional coursework.

Senator Joy Hendrick, Kinesiology Department, suggested that the EPC would have to be involved in the process at some point because of the nature of the proposed policy changes. Other senators commented that such a policy change could have additional ramifications, affecting both students and faculty, that need to be identified and discussed in greater detail.

Stating that she has been on the campus long enough to remember when the physical education requirement was in effect, Senator Mary Ware, Foundations and Social Advocacy Department, urged that someone be directed to address the proposal.

“If someone doesn’t take the reins on this, then it will never happen,” she said.

Senator Richard Kendrick, Sociology/Anthropology Department, made a formal motion to send the resolution to the EPC. Because the meeting marked the first time that the Senate was looking at the resolution, a three-quarters majority was required to take that action. Only three senators dissented on the ensuing vote.