CNU’s Graduation Requirement Policy Proposal

Memo

The purpose of this report is to recommend that Christopher Newport University start restructuring their system to allow for candidates for graduation to participate in the Commencement ceremony. This past semester I experienced firsthand the faults of our process when it comes to allowing students that don’t fully meet the criteria to participate in commencement to graduate and walk across the stage. The embarrassment I went through having been thinking I was on track to graduate on time, and then after registration had already closed being told I was ‘missing’ a necessary class to graduate was not only shattering to myself, but to my parents, family, and peers.

Christopher Newport University is an acclaimed university and should absolutely not “hand out” diplomas by any means and those who don’t deserve them should not receive them. However for students that do deserve these distinctions, the ceremony of graduation should not be the privilege that is to be revoked. In certain unusual circumstances, not having to do with academic deficiency of any kind, the candidate should be allowed to participate in commencement, with “a candidate for graduation” as his/her title, and not receive a diploma until the appropriate time. How there is an asterisk next to the candidates name if they are finishing in May, and two asterisks if they’ll be done during the summer term. Keeping that same system would be fine for the proposed amendments to the restricted allowance of candidates. For students who have had no deficiencies in academics, say if their cumulative grade point average was above a 3.0, and are within three credit hours of graduating should be granted the opportunity to participate in commencement. It is clear these students are academically sound, and perhaps a hiccup (where they are at fault or not) at the end of their collegiate career should not null their previous academic stability, or their near $100,000 commitment to this university.

A proposed way to change Christopher Newport’s requirements could be as such: the student may participate in the commencement ceremony if the student is in good academic standing with the university, if no holds are placed on that student’s account, and if the student is within THREE credit hours of the required amount. It doesn’t make sense to allow a student to enroll for a class, even if they fail it to still be able to walk, however not allow for a student to not walk should they not have ever enrolled in that class until the appropriate term.

Abstract

“Christopher Newport University Commencement Requirements.”

Prepared by: Vito Bussa, Senior Marketing Major

In May 2015, I conducted a study on the feelings of fellow students on the requirements to participate in commencement. Students’ dissatisfaction with the near-no tolerance requirements in participating in commencement should a student not fully meet all requirements to graduate has sparked some serious concern in the eyes of these students, and from the data collected, some that graduated even voiced strong opinions on the matter. Because of these many students’ strong opinions on the subject, I chose to put together some research data of my own. I began with some secondary research to get a few control groups for my study on Christopher Newport University. I looked at surrounding schools in Virginia that are considered competitors of CNUs on various different levels from academics, to recruitment, and established school policies and also at CNUs past policies when it came to the commencement ceremony. The surrounding institutions I chose to research more on were namely: Virginia Military Institute (VMI), James Madison University (JMU), William and Mary (W&M), University of Virginia (UVA), Longwood University (LU), and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VT).  Once I found the appropriate information on each of the schools, it was on to some primary research to get some results from fellow captains on the matter. I conducted a short survey regarding CNUs commencement requirements and peoples’ opinions about how they felt toward the rules set in place by the school on the requirements to participate in commencement should students not meet these required objectives. I also included my own thoughts on the matter because well, after all I am a part of the student body and my opinions shouldn’t go unheard simply because I am the creator of this memorandum. Based on my data collection, I concluded that first; CNU has a much stricter policy when it comes to students who didn’t fully meet the requirements to graduate than most of the surrounding competitive schools. I also concluded that CNU students, when asked about these requirements, would not mind seeing these tight shackles loosened off their fellow captains, ever so slightly.

Keywords: commencement, CNU, graduation requirements, conferral, Christopher Newport University, graduation

Introduction

The following proposal report displays data showing the displeasure among students about the strict requirements imposed on students who did not fully complete the requirements to participate in commencement administered by CNUs administration. It was concluded from the data a vast majority (85%) of students who were surveyed were open to allowing students who did not fully meet the requirements to graduate still participate in commencement if they were less than or equal to 3 credit hours away from the required amount. Furthermore, the results showed that many students were disheartened CNU bars students who only had one Maymester class (either 1 credit hour or 3 credit hours) outstanding from walking. I recommend that Christopher Newport University revise their policy in allowing students who don’t fully meet the requirements to graduate to still participate in commencement. More specifically, I recommend revising the policy to allow students who are either 1 or 3 credit hours away from full completion AND plan on finishing those credits outstanding in the Maymester term after the Spring in which they failed to meet the requirements, to participate in the commencement ceremony.

Research methods

To begin my research, I chose to look up some of the surrounding Virginia universities policies when it came to graduation and their allowance of students to participate in commencement with credits outstanding. Data was extracted from these surrounding Virginia schools policies and were to be compared to those of CNU: Virginia Military Institute (VMI), James Madison University (JMU), William and Mary (W&M), University of Virginia (UVA), Longwood University (LU), and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VT). Of the surrounding schools: VMI, UVA, W&M, and VT, all allowed for students who had up to 3 credits outstanding to participate in their respective commencement ceremony. Two of the other competitive Virginia schools, JMU and Longwood, allowed for 6 credits outstanding and 7 credits outstanding respectively to still be eligible for participation in their commencement ceremonies.

Following that initial research, I also conducted research in the form of case study via an online questionnaire survey to be completed by CNU students to gain insight on their feelings toward the matter and why they felt the way they did. Being that I am a marketing major, I had done previous case studies before and been comfortable with them so I used that as my background when deciding which approach to go ahead with. Using Google Forms, I created the short survey and sent it to my CNU colleagues to get an unbiased view of how they felt on the matter. Through the survey’s results, I retrieved information regarding how current and past students felt with allowing students who were within 3 credit hours of being eligible for graduation to walk at commencement. I also asked a follow-up question, inquiring, in response to the previous question, why did you choose the answer you chose?  I received a number of different responses to each question; however one set of responses did occur more frequently than the others. This was that almost all students surveyed were open to allowing students who were within 3 credit hours away from the required amount of credits to participate in commencement, and in response to that answer, a large majority of this samples responses felt that three credit hours outstanding does not trump a total of over 120 credit hours and that if the class needed is offered in the Maymester after graduation, the student should be allowed to participate in graduation as a candidate for graduation. Another frequent response to the follow-up question was that many times a margin of three credit hours is commonly a mistake of the administration, more specifically of the academic advisor of the student. A mistake few of the administration of Christopher Newport University are willing to accept responsibility for in more than simply a few cases.

Results

The next section of this proposal presents the research findings and results entailing the much dissatisfaction and few content satisfactions with Christopher Newport University’s policy toward candidate students who have outstanding credits remaining after graduation to participate in commencement. These results were concluded from the survey conducted and is mentioned in more detail above in the Research Methods section of this proposal.

Capture

As stated previously, background research was conducted on other public universities around Virginia which are regarded as competitors to Christopher Newport University. Of these surrounding schools; VMI, UVA, W&M, and VT, all allowed students who had up to 3 credits outstanding to participate in their respective commencement ceremonies. Two of the other competitive Virginia schools, JMU and Longwood, allowed for 6 credits outstanding and 7 credits outstanding respectively to still be eligible for participation in their commencement ceremonies. CNU has a different approach to these students. CNU will not allow a student to participate in commencement if they have ANY remaining degree requirements going into the spring semester in which they intend to graduate, not even if they are to be fully completed in that May term that lasts less than three weeks long, or technically 20 days after the students intended commencement ceremony . Which is quite peculiar when CNU does allow however, if a student signs up to be in all the required credit hours, fails to meet the grade requirement in a single 3 or less credit hour class, and if the student has a higher GPA than a 2.0, again, CNU DOES ALLOW for that student to participate in the commencement ceremony as a candidate pending completion. With these research findings, I did not want to add any bias to my target sample group, so I tried to gear my survey questions (Appendix A) in a more general, less attack-minded manner. Through the survey’s results, I retrieved information regarding how current and past students felt with allowing students who were within 3 credit hours of being eligible for graduation to walk at commencement. I also asked a follow-up question, inquiring, in response to the previous question, why did you choose the answer you chose?  I received a number of different responses to each question; however one set of responses did occur more frequently than the others. This was that almost all students surveyed were open to allowing students who were within 3 credit hours away from the required amount of credits to participate in commencement, and in response to that answer, a large majority of this samples responses felt that three credit hours outstanding does not trump a total of over 120 credit hours and that if the class needed is offered in the Maymester after graduation, the student should be allowed to participate in graduation as a candidate for graduation. Another frequent response to the follow-up question was that many times a margin of three credit hours is commonly a mistake of the administration, more specifically of the academic advisor of the student. A mistake few of the administration of Christopher Newport University are willing to accept responsibility for in more than simply a few cases.

Conclusion

Now knowing what I knew because of the conducted secondary research, plus adding in the feelings of the students via their responses to the survey questions, it became very clear to me there was a more than fair solution to the problem at hand. Rather than negatively take the privilege of participating in commencement away from the students who complete those maximum of 3 outstanding credit hours in a Maymester, why not positively allow them the same privileges those students who failed to meet their grade requirement in their 3 credit hour class. Why not allow them and their families the fantastic joy and celebration of the commencement ceremony and the great triumph of walking with their class, whom at such a small school have grown immensely close to over their journey at such a tightly knit community such as Christopher Newport University so uniquely offers. Along with allowing these students the joy of participation, think of the long term benefits for the school attached to such a move. A student who was given the privilege of participating in commencement would much rather exalt the university in not only positive word of mouth exchanges with whomever they may encounter, I don’t think I would be wrong to assume that a student who was given the privilege to walk would be much more inclined to donate their and their parents money back into the school which brought them such happiness and joy with a giving philosophy. After all, one of CNU’s many mottos it has set for itself is that the “Students Come First”. Well when a clear opportunity to service a majority of students needs arises, how will CNU react, how will it walk the walk rather than just talk the talk? It will be interesting to see.

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