The Urbana-Champaign Senate voted to adopt a policy governing alternatives to animal dissection in undergraduate courses during its May 5 meeting, which was convened to address unfinished business from the April 28 agenda.
The policy recommendations, which were contained in a report from the Educational Policy Committee, stated that alternatives to dissection would be provided to students requesting them in general education courses that require dissection. However, in upper-level and specialty courses, departments would be required to offer alternatives to dissection only if they deemed non-animal alternatives "academically appropriate." Courses in the College of Veterinary Medicine would be exempt from the policy, under additional recommendations that were proposed at the meeting by Peter Mortensen, chair of the educational policy committee and professor of English.
Students would be apprised of dissection requirements and the availability of alternatives in specific courses through notices in the Timetable and on academic units' Web pages. Academic units in the life sciences would have to indicate in the Programs of Study those undergraduate degree pathways where dissection of vertebrate animals would be mandatory as well as those degree pathways where alternatives would be provided.
Academic units would be required to post guidelines on their Web pages telling students how and when they could request alternatives. Students wanting accommodation would need to request it in writing between the time of registration and the end of the first week of classes. In courses where alternatives were unavailable or where an instructor denied accommodation, students could appeal to the academic unit's top administrator.
Thomas Anastasio, professor of bioengineering, was one of several senators opposed to the policy. Anastasio said it would infringe upon academic freedom by enabling students to impose their ideologies on faculty members and manipulate curricula to conform with their beliefs.
"I and my colleagues who are professionals and experts are the ones who should say what the requirements for courses are," Anastasio said. "Students who do not want to dissect a frog need not take our courses. There are other labs and degree (pathways) .…they can take without dissecting animals."
Anastasio proposed a substitute amendment containing provisions that students opposed to dissection of vertebrate and invertebrate animals would be advised against enrolling in courses requiring dissection, and students who chose to enroll in those courses anyway would be required to participate in and complete all lab exercises.
After lengthy debate, senators voted down the alternate version proposed by Anastasio and voted to adopt the recommendations in the Educational Policy Committee's report, although some senators expressed concerns about various facets of the adopted policy, including that it did not thoroughly explicate the appeals process.
The report included a recommendation that the educational policy committee re-examine school and departmental policies about animal use in undergraduate courses during fall 2004 and report its findings to the Senate.
Ken Andersen, Senate representative to the Illinois Board of Higher Education faculty advisory council (FAC), reported that FAC members were upset that Gov. Rod Blagojevich excluded institutions of higher education from the state’s education budget. FAC members agreed to urge their faculty, students and staff to advocate for higher education by writing the governor that his decision would have an adverse impact on their campuses. Andersen encouraged members of the Urbana campus community to write the governor about this issue using their personal resources.
In other business, the senate:
- Passed several amendments to the Code of Policies and Regulations, including a revised disciplinary policy that indicates the circumstances in which the university can choose to sanction students for off-campus activities that negatively impact its interests. The Senate also voted to adopt an amendment that would allow students who repeat classes to retain credit they previously received when they fail a course upon repetition. All grades students receive for repeated courses would be counted toward their graduation averages under the new policy. Another amendment the senate adopted would allow departments and instructors to restrict undergraduate students from adding courses during the 10-day add period when they deem missing initial class sessions would impede successful completion.
- Passed a resolution expressing the senate's opposition to provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and Homeland Security Act that allow government officials and law enforcement officials to monitor and collect data on individuals through their library records and computer usage. The resolution, which was sponsored by senators Al Kagan, professor of library and information science, and James Barrett, professor of history, urged members of the U.S. Congress to repeal provisions that threaten Americans’ civil liberties while upholding limitations like judicial review and probable cause