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Independent study may see more rules

After a resolution to regulate independent study courses in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences passed last fall, the Educational Policy Committee is now looking to set similar guidelines for the professional schools.

At a meeting Wednesday, the committee discussed the implications of a drafted resolution that would standardize regulations across the College and professional schools, noting that the different terminologies and curriculums of those schools might require writing different rules.

Committee chairwoman Theresa Raphael-Grimm, an associate professor of nursing, said the professional schools want to cooperate with the University’s regulations, but they need more leeway due to unique circumstances.

“There is a campuswide effort to make more explicit what constitutes independent study and how independent study should be executed,” she said.

She said because of the scandals revealed in UNC’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies in May 2012, the committee wants to move the guidelines through the system more quickly.

The resolution passed in October set the maximum number of independent study hours that could be counted toward graduation in the College of Arts and Sciences to 12 hours.

It included both internships, where students work with the direction of an employee outside of the University, and practicums, where they work with a faculty member, as types of independent studies.

Raphael-Grimm said applying the same resolution to professional schools is not feasible because the professional schools use different definitions for practicums and apply them differently than the College of Arts and Sciences does — sometimes requiring students to exceed the resolution’s 12-hour cap.

Chris Derickson, assistant provost and University registrar, said the definition of a practicum is fairly open-ended.

“Internships and practica are similar, but, as was noted, the professional schools view practica as very specific experiences,” he said.

Much of the meeting was spent flushing out concerns with the draft and discussing how the committee can incorporate the exceptions professional schools require.

Committee member Mark Schoenfisch expressed concern about the clarity of the resolution and abstained from voting on the draft — which was approved.

Anne Mitchell Whisnant, a professor who was at the meeting, said the wording and strategy the committee will use in the final draft has not been finalized.

Once the draft is finalized, it will be sent to the Faculty Council for approval.

“I think that was the nub of the problem — how to articulate that in a way that’s clear, in a way that students can follow and in a way that’s in the spirit of keeping independent study regulated in a more rationalized way.”

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