LA&S discourages requirements

By Markos Moulitsas

In an effort to facilitate students’ desires to study in their chosen fields, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is encouraging its departments to drop limited admissions requirements.

“The departments need to look carefully at their limited admission programs, since they tend to discourage students,” LA&S Dean James Norris said.

In a memo sent to the journalism department on Sept. 29, Norris wrote, “It is the goal of the college, and I would hope the university, to have the absolute minimum number of limited admissions programs.”

Norris said limited admission programs weren’t fair to students, especially with programs, such as journalism, which have a small amount of majors.

He also said limited admission programs were intimidating for students who think the extra requirements will delay them.

Norris conceded the elimination of all limited admissions programs might increase enrollment at LA&S, which is currently wrestling with increasing enrollment in a time of shrinking budgets.

In the Sept. 28 issue of The Northern Star, LA&S complained about its increasing enrollment and somewhat stagnant budget. The call by Norris for the removal of limited admissions in journalism could be seen as a contradiction.

But still he insisted, “If we let students in the university we have to give them the chance to graduate with their choice of major.”

Departments within LA&S that currently have limited admissions requirements are computer science, communications, economics, journalism, political science and sociology. In addition, every other college at NIU has some form of limited admission program.

In an interview last week, Sue Doederlein, assistant dean of LA&S, talked about the increasing use of limited admission programs to limit the size of departments within LA&S. She said departments were forced to choose between limited admissions or longer times until degree completion because of increasingly tighter budgets.

“A phenomenon we see happening is the increase of programs with limited admissions at LA&S,” Doederlein said. She also listed the departments currently using limited admissions and said, “We have limited admission by lottery in psychology. The more students take psychology majors, the more likely it will be they won’t finish their degree in four years.”

Doederlein said one reason for the increase in limited admission programs at LA&S was the increased flow of students into LA&S from other colleges.

She said many of these students were denied entry into their college of choice and therefore looked for another major elsewhere within NIU.

Still, Doederlein hoped the university would look into eliminating many of the limited admission programs at the university and said it was one of the issues being discussed by the Undergraduate Coordinating Council.

Norris said the current proposal was his own initiative and was unrelated to university-wide discussions on the issue.

Most of the chairs of the affected departments refused to comment, saying they wanted to discuss it with their faculty first.

Gian Sarup, chair of the sociology department, said support for the move depended on what sort of compensation the department would receive in return for the increased number of students.

Sarup also said, “If all departments have to eliminate their programs then it would be all right.”

In his memo to the journalism department, Norris suggested journalism’s entrance exam be eliminated.

“With the declining enrollments in the university, the number of journalism majors continues to decline. In this light, I find the use of the journalism qualifying exam to limit declared majors absolutely unnecessary,” Norris wrote.

On Friday, Norris explained, “If there are students who want to be journalism majors, but they don’t pass the exam, help them. Just don’t throw them out.”

Norris suggested the journalism department spends more time teaching writing and use grades as the sole basis for eliminating students from the major.

“I am a history professor and I teach grammar and punctuation,” Norris said. “Every faculty member has a responsibility to teach every student the skills necessary.”