Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NAT: Language at UM

UM’s Blackfeet language class still offered to students
Story by Allison Maier, April 21, 2009, Montana Kaimin

Changes stemming from the state’s new college course numbering system appear to have produced rumors that The University of Montana’s Blackfeet language class was cancelled for next semester, according to Native American Studies faculty.

The Montana University System has adopted what is called a “common course numbering system.” Under this system, classes at different Montana universities that are deemed equivalent to one another are given the same course number, prefix, and—in some instances—the same title. The theory is that this will help eliminate some of the barriers students face when transferring between colleges, making it easier to complete a bachelor’s degree.

One aspect of the new numbering system is every discipline has been given a course prefix never used before to ensure that students don’t end up with duplicate course numbers representing different classes on their transcripts.

UM’s Blackfeet language course was originally given a NAS designation, representing a Native American Studies course, but this was then changed to NASL. Because of this shift, it was placed under a category called Native American Language on Cyberbear for the fall 2009 registration as if it belonged to a department separate from Native American Studies.
“It’s a fictitious department, so I don’t know how you would find it as a student,” said Native American Studies professor Dave Beck.

Though the Native American Studies faculty asked if the course could be listed under both categories, this just created more problems because it looked like it was more than one course, according to Wade Davies, chair of the Native American Studies program.

Beck said the department is currently working with the Registrar’s office to find a solution that will make it less confusing for students to register for the class. By Monday afternoon, nobody had registered to take the course, according to Cyberbear.

Justin Cole, a peer advisor and an operator on the Undergraduate Advising Center’s common course numbering hotline (243-2800), said he received a few questions about the program. He said the hotline has received fewer calls than he anticipated and that students seem to accept the changes.

“I think it’s been well-communicated so people can figure it out,” he said.

The Blackfeet language course has been offered to UM students for the past couple of years, though up through 2008, it was taught via teleconference from the Blackfeet Community College in Browning. This semester, the professor has taught the course on campus.

Rumors about a possible program cut have spawned speculation that the university is thousands of dollars in debt, an allegation that Bob Duringer, vice president of administration and finance, flatly denies.

“No. Hell no,” he said.

Duringer said UM is in fine financial standing.

The new numbering system grew out of a series of meetings among faculty members from the various universities teaching similar disciplines. The process started in 2007, with more than $250,000 in funding from the Montana Legislature. This will be the first semester that it has been used.

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