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The Honors Forum 2.0
A crowd of about 50 honors students gathered in the Spencer Honors House on Tuesday, January 21st to discuss their concerns about the fate of the university’s honors programs during the second rendition of an initial honors student forum held during the fall semester.
Per long-standing tradition, students applying for the any honors program would apply separately for one of the four signature honors programs: the University Honors Program, Science and Technology Honors, Experiential Learning Scholars Program, or Global and Community Leadership. As of the fall of 2013, the university administration took a new approach more akin to the honors college program system at the University of Alabama.
Hoping to increase the number of honors students without having to expand resources, the university administration has adopted new criteria for entrance into the honors college. Prospective honors students must have at least a 28 on the ACT and a 3.5 GPA, and if they meet those requirements they can then apply to any of the four signature programs. Students who meet the ACT and GPA requirements but are not accepted into one of the four programs are pooled into the Honors College Scholars program, which began in the fall of 2013. Additionally, the Experiential Learning Scholars Program and Global and Community Leadership programs, facing severely low budgets, have only been able to guarantee a two-year commitment to incoming students.
The proposed changes to the program at large have been met with both opposition and confusion among students. Amid much talk of the changes, which began in the summer of 2013, many students found it difficult to dispel fact from fiction. A number of students feared that the individual programs would be done away with completely.
Another issue is difficulty marketing and promoting the system change to incoming applicants.
“When I spoke to students at my local high school about coming to UAB and applying for Honors here, a common issue I encountered were that students had already been accepted into the Honors College, were interested in joining one of the specialized honors programs, but did not necessarily realize there was a separate application process to apply to them,” said University Honors Program junior Shejuti Paul.
The confusion has had some apparent consequences. Interviewees from the incoming freshman class of 2018 are down 60% for UHP and 30% for SciTech from last year.
“The purpose of the first forum was to inform students about what was going on with Honors College student representation and the Working Committee. It was successful because many students attended, became informed, and were able to give input about the student representation they wanted,” said sophomore UHP student Ashleigh Staples, a former member of the SEC.
The Honors Forum 2.0 addressed issues surrounding student representation in the decisions facing the reconstruction of the honors programs. During the first Honors Forum in December, honors students, led by the Honors Student Executive Council, discussed their concerns after hearing rumors of changes to the honors programs. Having since been disbanded, the Honors SEC has started a petition to regain student representation during the reconstruction process.
“One main concern is that there is no direct student input in any decisions that are currently being made. In regards to the actual reconstruction, there are many things that I would like to see changed or go untouched in the process, but at the core of my concern is the worry that administration will compromise the quality of honors education and experience for quantity. There are things that should be improved, but I think there are a lot of wonderfully dynamic and successful things already in place,” said Staples.
The petition calls for a student representative body with members from each honors program. This comes as a response to Dr. Rivera’s, interim director of the university honors programs’, decision to hold general elections for the representative body, of which members would serve to represent the honors college as a whole rather than the individual programs of which they are a part of. If you are interested in supporting efforts to recognize the importance of program-specific representation on student leadership bodies, sign the petition at:
There are no current plans underway for another student forum, but students are encouraged to contact Dr. Rivera if they have any questions regarding UAB honors.