Graduating Seniors Not Necessarily Graduating in May

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Dean Emphasizes Requirements for Graduation

Some seniors were told last minute that they would not be getting their degrees in May and will have to finish their degrees in August. Deans say students should be aware of the graduation requirements. (Craig Calefate/The Observer)

By Meaghan Dillon and Laura Shin
News Co-Editors
Published: May 1, 2008

With less than a month to go before graduation, John Rice, FCLC ’08, said he received an email with the header “May Graduation PROBLEM,” after which he learned he could not be cleared for a May degree and must meet with the Dean immediately.

“I stop by the Dean’s office the next day, and she informs me that I cannot receive the May ’08 degree because I am short one three or four-credit class despite the fact that I have enough credits to graduate, fulfilled all the requirements for my major, fulfilled all the core, and was cleared for graduation by the Dean at the beginning of the school year,” Rice said.

Cecilia Petit-Hall, assistant dean for seniors, explained that in order to graduate, all seniors must have completed a minimum of 124 credits and 36 three or four-credit courses. Rice said that though he had completed 36 courses, he just learned that one did not count because it was a two-credit Ailey course for non-majors.

“[The Dean] tells me that I can walk with my class and participate in the ‘theatre’ of graduation in May, but that I will not be mailed my diploma until August after I take a summer class,” Rice said.

Rice is not alone. Petit-Hall said that approximately 45 students were recently notified about possible complications with their degree audit, with about 20 to 25 students able to work through the situation and graduate in May, usually by getting clearance from department chairs for their major or minor. Approximately 20 students, however, will be walking in May but enrolling in a summer course in order to obtain their degree.

“For most of the small group who got bad news, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, because things are missing,” Petit-Hall explained. “They haven’t taken organic chemistry, or they are short two courses for the history major—there are things that are not done.”

Petit-Hall also noted that letters and e-mails were sent out in August to graduating seniors, alerting them to make an appointment with her to be cleared for graduation in May and to fill out a candidacy for degree card.

“In the meeting, I ultimately tell them what the process [for graduating] is and look at credit count and say you need X number of credits, X number of three or four-credit courses and your missing these classes,” she said. “I will not be able to clear you in April or May unless you do these things, however I have no authority over these departments.”

Kiran Hefa, FCLC ’08, said that she got the ‘bad news’ a month before graduation that she was four credits (I thought it was two?) short of a degree. She was one of the 20 or so students that Petit-Hall said was able to fix the situation, and she will be getting her May degree.

After having changed her minor from Business Administration to English at the beginning of this semester, Hefa had enough courses to graduate but ended up being short two credits. “Dean Petit-Hall emailed me about it this past Tuesday, so as you can imagine, I was freaking out,” Hefa said.

Hefa was able to be added to the roster of a two-credit course, Journalism Workshop, which she had been doing work for all semester anyway, and has now made up those two credits.

Donald Gillespie, associate vice president for Institutional Research at Fordham, said that seniors who will be staying for the summer will not affect Fordham’s graduation rates.

“The Student Right to Know Act, passed by Congress in the early 1990s, requires that universities that receive federal student aid must calculate and publicize graduation rates according to definitions written into the law and implementing regulations.

“The definitions provide that the date that divides years from first enrollment is Aug. 31,” he said. “Thus, a student graduating in the August following their senior year at Fordham would be defined as having graduated in four years.”

Gillespie added that this also will not affect Fordham’s position in college rankings systems that often consider graduation rates when ranking schools.

“In the class of 2007, of those who entered as full-time freshmen in fall 2003, about 2.7 percent graduated in the summer of 2007,” Gillespie said, adding that statistics for other years are of about the same magnitude.

Petit-Hall noted that there are some graduation requirements that students might be overlooking, or that do not stand out. “Pluralism, completing the foreign language exit level, and the 36 required courses seem to be less known among the general population,” she said.

She added that the requirements for graduation have not changed since graduating seniors entered the school as freshmen.

“You can point to a lack of advisement, but fundamentally it’s the responsibility of the student to understand requirements of course study at Fordham,” Petit-Hall said.

Some students feel the requirements are not stressed enough to students. Laura Felix, FCLC ’08, learned last semester during her senior audit that she will need to take a summer course because though she has enough credits, she does not have 36 courses.

“None of [my advisors] made sure I took five classes during my first two years,” Felix said. “They just saw what I was taking and then gave me my pin.”

She added, “I may have heard about the 36 courses but nothing was ever stressed to me…I feel like an advisor should push the number of classes to take. No one ever did that to me.”

Rice said, “Thank God that I was planning to stay in the city anyway. I can’t imagine being someone who is told two weeks before their classes end that he can’t graduate and then must change his summer plans to live in New York for another month.”