Some seniors are just barely managing to achieve their graduation requirements because of complications arising with the Ithaca College Integrative Core Curriculum, which went into effect in Fall 2013 for the Class of 2017.
Students have expressed that a lack of informed advising and a lack of ICC–designated courses have put them at risk to not graduate on time. Now, some are exceeding the 18-credit capacity or squeezing in additional mini-courses to fulfill all their graduation requirements.
Senior Denise O’Leary said she struggled to meet her ICC theme course requirements because many courses in her major fall under her theme, which is Identities, but they could only count for one requirement, and she prioritized her major before the ICC. She is taking 20 credits this spring semester to fulfill her requirements, which she said is greuling.
“Twenty credits last semester as a senior is not really desirable, and it’s really stressful,” O’Leary said. “I am going to graduate. I am just going to have to pay the school more money, which I don’t want to do.”
After studying abroad at an Ithaca College-affiliated Iceland program that had a global warming course, which was applicable to her environmental science major, she said she tried to petition to get the course approved as an ICC substitute for her Identities theme, but it was denied. She said she thought the petition was thorough, and she does not know why it was denied. Many other students have also had difficulty getting their study–abroad petitions approved, she said.
Paula Turkon, adviser and assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences and instructor for the Latin American Studies minor, said she was frustrated while advising O’Leary because when they looked for a natural sciences requirement, many of the options were courses she had already taken for her environmental science major.
Vincent DeTuri, associate professor and director of the ICC, said the Committee for College-wide Requirements, a sub committee of the ICC program, has received a significant increase of study–abroad petitions over the years, many of which he said have been deemed inappropriate because they have no correlation with the ICC. He said many petitions are often returned with further inquiry about the course.
Senior Renee Felter-Rodriguez said she also ran into trouble with her ICC courses. She said a course she took that she was told by her adviser would fulfill two requirements only ended up fulfilling one. She said she realized this recently, so she had to scramble to take three one-credit courses.
“My major is already stressful enough, and I wasn’t sure I would have the mental capacity to do all of these things,” Felter-Rodriguez said.
Felter-Rodriguez said she felt her lack of proper advising was a main contributor to her current situation because she felt misinformed about the number of ICC perspective courses there were and what courses could apply to her theme.
Her adviser, Anne Stork, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, said she did not want to comment on the issue.
Though Felter-Rodriguez said she likes the concept of the ICC program, the lack of certain perspective courses in the ICC is very restrictive.
“If they want to continue the theme system, then they need to make more courses themed and give us more choices,” Felter-Rodriguez said. “I feel like I lost a lot of my autonomy in my college career because of this,” Felter-Rodriguez said.
Devan Rosen, associate professor in the Department of Media Arts, Sciences and Studies and director of the Emerging Media program, said he thinks there should be more of an emphasis on finding courses within the ICC that interest students rather than courses that fit their themes.
He said there is not an even distribution of courses among the themes, which is causing problems for students. For example, the Identities theme, with a total of 172 courses, has 37 courses with a creative arts designation. The World of Systems theme, with a total of 67 courses, has only 10 courses with a creative arts designation, according to the ICC website.
However, the themes’ courses are somewhat proportional to the number of students enrolled in them. In Fall 2016, the Identities theme had 1,982 students, with a total of 152 approved courses, and the World of Systems theme had 594 students, with a total of 59 approved courses, according to Institutional Research.
Sally Neal, director of academic advising, said all academic advisers are thoroughly trained in the ICC — which was created in 2013, the same year the Academic Advising Center was created.
“For us, we’ve always had the ICC,” Neal said. “It was our job from the very beginning to understand and to articulate the ICC requirements.”
She said the Academic Advising Center will work closely with students and faculty on campus to resolve issues with graduation requirements, including the Taskstream ePortfolio.
“There isn’t anything we can’t answer,” Neal said. “If we don’t have the answer, we will refer you to someone who does.”
Senior Greg Fletcher said he has to spend his spring semester taking on-campus ICC courses in addition to his 25 hour-per-week local internship. He said he has reached out to academic advising to make sure he was on the right track, but nobody was alarmed that he put off his ICC courses until later in his college career. He said he always assumed the credits he brought into college could count for his liberal arts ICC credits, but he said he was only informed recently that is not the case.
“It was like a slap in the face to me, personally,” Fletcher said. “It might be one of my most stressful semesters.”
DeTuri said the ICC is a concept unique to Ithaca College, so students, with the exception of transfer students, must take their ICC courses on campus.
DeTuri also said there is no current mechanism for students to petition for courses offered at the college that are not designated as ICC courses to fulfill an ICC requirement. The only way for a course to get this designation is if a professor applies for it and gets approved by the CCR, he said.
Many courses are currently under review through the CCR, DeTuri said, so more courses can gain ICC designation and will be available to students soon.
He also said he will not let issues surrounding registration for ICC courses prevent students from graduating and that he encourages students to come to him or the advising center promptly to resolve them.
“If we don’t offer those courses, it’s nobody’s fault but ours,” DeTuri said. “There’s no way that we can have a student not graduate because of this issue.”
Leann Kanda, associate professor in the Department of Biology, said she brought up the issue of seniors struggling to fulfill their ICC requirements at a recent Faculty Council meeting. She said she hopes that in the future, there will be an avenue for students to petition for particular courses to meet the ICC requirements, similar to the process that exists now for students to get credit for ICC requirements while studying abroad.
“I am not saying that every course and every student request needs be granted, but I think that the hardline policy of ‘No, we won’t even look at these’ at this moment is doing the students a disservice,” Kanda said.
Rosen said he did not think it was reasonable to expect students to understand the nuances of student–learning outcomes, which must be provided when filling out a petition, because he said he thinks many faculty do not completely understand, either.
He also said educating more faculty or specific advisers on the ICC would help to prevent these issues from continuing.
The Faculty Council decided to push forward a new committee to address this issue: the ICC Advisory Committee. According to previous reporting from The Ithacan, the committee would be charged with addressing issues students and faculty have with the structure and implementation of the ICC.
DeTuri said he is skeptical about the push for a student petition process for on-campus courses because with the current increase in the study–abroad petitions, the CCR is already inundated with hundreds of applications. Regardless, he said that if any student has a graduation issue, he will work with them to make sure it is solved.
“We will find a way,” DeTuri said. “We will find a way for that student to graduate.”