The Dean Chairs Directors of the School of Architecture voted this week to update the academic eligibility requirements for student employment from a 3.3 minimum GPA to a general academic good standing, as defined by the University. The eligibility change will begin applying to the application cycle for spring 2023 positions.
Thomas Ryan, president of the Architecture Student Council and fourth-year Architecture student, was involved in the process to update the student employment requirements by collecting student opinions and communicating that data to the faculty and staff.
Ryan said student employment is important because it offers flexibility and opportunities for career advancement. Students are able to be involved with research and practice teaching skills in the classroom, which bolsters their education.
Student employment within the School of Architecture takes a few different roles. There are student instructor assistantship roles, which are similar to a more traditional teaching assistant position. Students are also eligible to work with the Architecture building manager or to be a research assistant for a professor.
The Dean Chairs Directors — a group made up of 27 faculty and staff members — voted Tuesday to reduce the requirements for student employment. The previous policy requiring a 3.3 GPA was originally instituted in 2020.
For undergraduate students, academic good standing requires students to be enrolled in a degree program they have not yet completed while “making satisfactory progress toward completing all of their degree requirements in a timely manner.” For graduate students, academic good standing requires students to complete at least 12 credits of coursework that semester while maintaining at least a 2.0 GPA and no more than one grade below a C minus or a general credit/no credit.
Ryan said many of the students he spoke with felt that the old policy was outdated compared to the current Architecture goals. Some students who were unable to work under the policy felt like their advancement in their field of choice was limited because of fewer research opportunities.
“A lot of students were feeling like they were undervalued or possibly embarrassed by the policy,” Ryan said.
Leading up to this week’s vote, a wide range of student workers and organization leaders surveyed Architecture students and wrote a petition based on their findings. The petition, which has over 200 students, faculty and staff signatures, encouraged faculty, staff and leadership to remove the minimum GPA requirement.
“Access to University-affiliated income is critical for many students who depend on their jobs for both financial and social stability,” the petition statement read. “[Student jobs] help advance students’ professional and educational opportunities beyond the classroom.”
Malo Hutson, dean of the School of Architecture, said the minimum GPA requirement was instituted before he arrived as dean in June 2021. Consequently, Hudson made sure to include students and staff in the process leading up to the vote as a part of his effort to ensure accountability and transparency with his administration.
“As soon as I found this was an issue, I said ‘let’s engage everyone,’ and that’s what we’ve done,” Hutson said. “And it’s a process that I’ve focused on because it can't be me as dean dictating this. It has to come from a full-on process. I want to hear what faculty and staff have to say and then take that recommendation.”
After intentionally engaging with students and faculty, Hutson said he felt the decision was uncontroversial. Ryan similarly said the decision to change the student employment guidelines has had very little opposition from students, faculty and staff.
Further, Ryan also said this change was a group effort — a number of student and student groups worked together, and the faculty has been supportive of the process.
“Dean Hutson has done a really good job of propelling us all forward and really driving home that the students are the biggest asset that they have,” Ryan said.
Plans to create an appeals process for students seeking employment who do not meet the requirements is set to take place in spring 2023. An updated version of the policy will be uploaded to the School of Architecture website early next week.