Students at Colorado State University, when asked, would typically reply that the chemistry department is under review.
As it turns out, the department is not, and never has been, under official review.
“The rumor is not true, I don’t know where it came from,” said the Department Chair for Chemistry, Chuck Henry.
Henry explained his guess at why the rumor has been floating for years at CSU. General level science classes taken by freshmen in large numbers usually come with D, F, or Withdraw (DWF) grades attached. Those DWF grade rates, potentially, would lead to a frustration with chemistry and a frustration with the department, according to Henry.
DWF grade rates dropped significantly for the department last year. Henry said they are hoping to get to a point where the rates are less than 10 percent. Rates were as high as 30 percent, but Henry said that other classes had rates even higher.
“I think (issues that would bring the department under review) would have to be pretty serious and kind of across the board,” Henry said.
There would need to be documented examples of issues with course practices or faculty. Those examples would also need to be widely distributed within the department and supported by departmental policy.
“I know of no departments on this campus that are under review at this time,” Henry said.
The Office of the Provost at CSU has a Program Review in place in order to evaluate the planning and effectiveness of each academic degree program and its department. Documentation exists for the continuous improvement of each department.
“In reality, the (Chemistry) department is doing a lot of things to help improve student success,” Henry said.
One of the initiatives to help with student success is the Chemistry Learning Resource Center or the CLeRC. According to Henry, the center serves as a unique open and flexible learning environment where students are able to maximize their success. Students can show up with problems and receive help from chemistry teaching assistants.
The center is located on the fourth floor of Yates and is run by the coordinator of general chemistry labs, Ben Reynolds. Any student enrolled in a general chemistry course is made aware of the center.
“(The CLeRC is) a fantastic resource,” said Henry. “Nationwide, we think it’s an innovative model.”
Historically, recitation sections within the chemistry department have been large, numbering just under 50 students, with only one teaching assistant. The department has worked to make recitation sections smaller or have multiple TAs, in order for students to receive more attention and have better learning mechanisms available to them.
General chemistry sees a high number of students that drop the class at the beginning of the semester, after realizing they are not well-prepared, or near the middle to end of the semester, after realizing they are not doing well in the course. A general chemistry course can be worth up to five credits and, if a student drops, renders the student as a part-time student.
In order to combat this, the department introduced a chemistry preparatory course, CHEM 105, which operates in half-semester sections. The course allows for a student to drop their chemistry lecture, without dropping their lab, and serves as a two credit course in order to keep students at full-time status.
“(The course) essentially gets them ready to go,” Henry said.
Often times, a student’s inability to pass chemistry is dependent upon their ability to turn mathematic story problems into algebraic equations used for chemistry, according to Henry. The preparatory course gets them to that point successfully.
CHEM 105 is in its first full year of running this year, after being offering for the first time ever in the spring of 2016.
Henry said he has been looking for a way to put an end to the review rumor once and for all.
Collegian reporter Rachel Telljohn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @racheltelljohn.