New probation policy clarifies path back to SSU

For years, students who were disqualified from Sonoma State University for poor academic performance have been in a fog about what they are required to do to be re-admitted. Thanks to a policy change recently proposed by the Academic Senate and confirmed by President Judy K. Sakaki, now they will know.

The revision states that students disqualified from Sonoma State for inadequate academic performance must complete at least 12 graded semester units and spend no less than a semester off-campus before applying for reinstatement.

Michelle Jolly, chair of the University Standards Subcommittee, said this was the policy’s first official update since August 2009.

“Undergraduates previously did not have very good guidance in the policy about what to do if they were disqualified and wanted to come back to Sonoma State,” Jolly said.

The newly revised disqualification policy is “much more specific” in providing a timeline for when students can return to Sonoma State, she said.

“If you’re disqualified in May, you would have to take classes in the fall, finish those classes, reapply by the March 1 deadline, which would bring you back in [the following] fall,” Jolly said. “It means that you cannot apply in the semester that you’re doing the new coursework.”

Jolly, whose University Standards Subcommittee evaluates student petitions for re-application after being disqualified, said there are multiple ways for students to acquire their 12 units. They can enroll in classes at a community college, which Jolly said is the “most efficient and cost-effective” route.

Disqualified students can also take part in Sonoma State’s Open University program. Through this program, students who are not enrolled at Sonoma State can take on-campus classes if there are openings available and they get consent from the proper professors, Jolly said.

Ben Ford, the Academic Senate chair, said the Open University program is for students who can’t find certain classes through a community college, and that it’s the only way disqualified students can continue to take classes at Sonoma State.

“Open University is designed to make excess space in our classes available to anyone in our community who wants to take them,” Ford said.

The Open University Program is first-come, first-serve, with priority given to students who are already enrolled at Sonoma State, Ford said. Unlike ordinary classes, ones taken through the program have a price of $295 per unit.

According to Ford, Sonoma State advisors are “trying to do a better job” at checking the list of students on academic probation and encouraging them to improve their grades.

“It can be tough to interrupt a negative cycle in your academic work, and [it] requires some real re-thinking of what you’ve been doing,” Ford said. “I see too many students who say, ‘Oh, my GPA is getting low,’ but they still pile on 17 or 18 units and get themselves in trouble even more.”

Jolly said she recommends students who are struggling academically to see an advisor from their department.

Ariana Aparicio, an academic advisor for undeclared students, said she encourages students to seek advising early before they’re unable to recover academically.

“What often happens, at least from my experience, is that they don’t come and seek advising,” Aparicio said. “They rely on other people’s advice to take these classes… they come in once the issue’s more complicated to address.”

Aparicio said she and the other academic advisors offer one-on-one appointments where they will go over an undeclared probationcontract with students, which helps students to “understand where they stand, and what they could’ve done differently.” These discussions lead to decisions on the best way for each student to take necessary make-up classes.

Edie Brown, an undeclared advisor, said she often encourages students to form study groups, create constructive relationships with faculty and take advantage of on-campus resources like the Writing Center.

Above all, students who are struggling academically should “seek out professional advising,” Brown said.

“We have the most current, up-to-date information—that’s what we do,” she said. “Too many students try to do it on their own, or they get with their friends… come to us first, and we can help you dispel whether or not what you’re hearing is true.”

Brown said that she would like to see administrative discussions about fixing up the time frame during which disqualified students can apply for reinstatement, along with revision of a practice that disqualifies freshman students who fall below a 1.0 GPA during their first semester.

“These are the students who need us the most,” Brown said.

Aparicio said she believes advising sessions have reduced the number of students on probation and helped students find answers and resources for their academic concerns.

“I want to ensure that they come back, and they know that we’re a resource,” Aparicio said.

Jolly said the 12-unit disqualification policy is the result of “many years of looking at what students do when they’re away and what happens to them when they come back to SSU.”

“What we want to do is make sure that students who are disqualified and then reinstated have the best possible chance to succeed when they come back,” Jolly said.

Ford said he hopes the newly revised policy “will be a clear process for students and advisors, and [will] help students get back on track.”