The Commentator

Volume 67, Issue 12
May 18, 2003
Iyar 5763





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Volume 67, Issue 12

Academic Standards Committee Nixes Retroactive Shiur Credit
by Ari Fridman

On Monday, May 12, in what students are considering the reversal of a longstanding, de facto policy, the Yeshiva College faculty unanimously voted to eliminate the awarding of retroactive academic credit for Jewish Studies classes taken in BMP and MYP.  The vote followed a recent Academic Standards Committee (ASC) suggestion to this effect.

Typically, Yeshiva students do not transfer Jewish Studies credits to their Yeshiva College transcripts until some time after the completion of the semester, usually after the grade has been assigned.  Until now, Yeshiva has allowed its students to do this at any point in their college careers, regardless of when they took the class. 

Although the ASC passed the motion to end this practice earlier this semester, the Committee felt that it would be unfair to apply the policy during the current semester.  The Committee thus drafted a policy that would eliminate the option of using retroactive credit from now on, and the faculty’s vote in favor of the policy made it official. 

The motivation for this new clarification stems from an ambiguity in the 2003-2004 undergraduate catalog, which states that all Jewish Studies programs feature a component that allows students to transfer credits from those programs to their Yeshiva College transcripts.  It does not, however, specify a deadline. 

According to Associate Professor Dr. Moshe Bernstein, Chairperson of the ASC, “there never was a policy” officially allowing Yeshiva students to request retroactive credit for participation in one of the Jewish Studies programs.  Rather, he explained, students nearing graduation who lacked just a couple of credits would apply to have Jewish Studies credits transferred into their Yeshiva College transcripts to complete their academic requirements. 
For this type of request, Yeshiva faculty had been generally sympathetic and cooperative, Bernstein recounted.  However, the notion that students may demand credit for courses that were not originally taken for credit only after a good grade has been awarded “makes no sense from any perspective,” he concluded.  “Would this kind of behavior pass at Columbia?” 

The general sentiment amongst Yeshiva faculty, reported Bernstein, is that signing up for a course and subsequently evaluating whether or not to accept the results of the class is simply unacceptable.  Too often, ordinary students abused the leeway given to students nearing graduation and created a situation where the “exception is the rule.”  Pursuant to this notion, the ASC, comprised of faculty, administrators, and students, came to a consensus that this skewed mentality must change. 

Another longtime member of the ASC, Professor of Biology Dr. Carl Feit, spoke of the delicate balance maintained between RIETS and the University.  He also strongly refuted the notion that a standard retroactive credit policy ever existed.  On account of the “tremendous amount of pressure” on Yeshiva students, it is only natural that “pressure seeks a release,” Feit said.  However, since the University is committed to “the highest level” of both Jewish and secular studies, academic integrity is demanded of students.

Yeshiva College Dean Dr. Norman Adler affirmed both Feit’s and Bernstein’s claim that no policy for retroactive credit ever existed.  Since nearly the entire semester is allotted for transferring shiur for credit, clarified Adler, there is no justification for the “rake guarding” abuses that students employ.  “We do take into consideration that the schedule is really difficult,” Adler said.  Therefore, he explained, students nearing graduation received added flexibility and were allowed to apply to the ASC for consideration of adding credits onto their transcripts.

Adler went on to question students’ desire to rush both their academic schedules and time spent in college.  On average, he said, American students spend between four and five years in college.  What is the point of shortchanging one’s academic career by dishonestly evaluating the course after the fact?  Adler guaranteed that published clarification of the existing policy will be readily available for students next semester. 

Echoing Bernstein and Adler, Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Jeremy Wieder emphasized the need for students to maintain “academic integrity.”  Wieder said he was personally offended by the notion that college courses, be it Jewish or secular, could retroactively be accepted or rejected based on performance.  Wieder appealed for students to properly apply themselves in the academic realm.  The use of “tricks and games” through one’s college career, suggested Wieder, “demeans everything about the Yeshiva and [the] College.” 

While it is true that the undergraduate catalogue does not specify when transfer of credits must be completed, Wieder says that students know this applies only in a technical sense.  Both Wieder and Adler pointed out that transfer of Jewish Studies credits is part and parcel of the Yeshiva framework, and that academic integrity should dictate policy.  Wieder appreciatively mentioned that RIETS administrators were invited to participate in a meeting with the Yeshiva College faculty to discuss the ASC’s decision.  “It is important that the Yeshiva and [the] College coordinate relevant policies in the spirit of collegiality,” explained Wieder.  


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