Volume 93, Issue x

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


On-line votes closer to reality

Rental woes plague club officials

Provincial funds could finance new buildings

Suspected Rec thief caught


UBC students take over classrooms

Caught on Campus


UBC students take over classrooms

By Paul-Mark Rendon
Gazette Staff

Experimental courses without professors will soon be offered to students at the University of British Columbia.

Five courses, slated to begin in the January term, will allow senior undergraduate students to initiate a course of study they feel is not currently in their faculty's curriculum. A member of the faculty must sponsor the course work with a designated student leader to plan out assignments and evaluation methods, explained Neil Guppy, UBC's associate vice-president of academic programs.

Graded on a pass/fail basis, the courses will carry a maximum of 15 students and will keep their "experimental" label until the end of the school year, when a decision to keep or trash the idea will be reached.

Guppy said he was looking forward to the introduction of the new courses and was confident they would flourish as they have at the University of California at Berkeley since 1980.

"We're very enthusiastic about it. We've got a pretty good sense that it will work," he said. "It's set to go as an experiment. If the quality of material the students feel they're getting is not up to par, the project will be terminated."

Vivian Hoffman, a third-year geography student on exchange at Berkeley, said she brought the concept of group directed seminars to Guppy last April when she heard of the course structure from friends. She added the courses would count as credit towards a university degree.

"I'm very optimistic from what I've seen. So far there's a lot of enthusiasm," she said.

Hoffman did acknowledge the potential for students to see the pass/fail marking scheme as an easy way out for picking courses. "That's a concern, but to get into the class you have to convince the student co-ordinator and prof you're genuinely interested," she said.

Hoffman added she believed students could be just as constructively critical at grading each others work. "If you look at it historically, marks end up close to or lower than what the prof would give," she said.

Roma Harris, Western's registrar, said the concept of student driven courses may not be a far cry from what already goes on inside some of Western's own classrooms. "I think the pedagogical techniques range a lot already. I wouldn't find that too far a departure from what we already do," she said.

Ernie Redekop, president of the University of Western Ontario's Faculty Association, said while he was open to the idea of student-run classes, he noted any new program offered at Western would first have to pass through Western's Senate.

"There are many ways student run things are extremely useful, but the faculty association, in general, likes the principle that the faculty hired gets to do the teaching," he said.

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