Academic Updates: Suspension Policies, Writing Seminars and Summer Funding

At NYU Abu Dhabi, there are many university-wide policies guiding and checking our academic trajectories, often giving way to schedule deliberations, ...

Feb 28, 2015

At NYU Abu Dhabi, there are many university-wide policies guiding and checking our academic trajectories, often giving way to schedule deliberations, tricky courseload decisions and pass/fail anxiety. As these policies shift — or appear to — questions and confusion may arise. Clarification can never hurt, especially as rumors ripple across campus. Below are three academic policy changes that might be helpful to understand:
Academic Suspension Policies
Currently, there is no formal policy on academic suspension from NYUAD. The term is not used on the Student Portal, which currently states that poor academic standing could result in written warnings or dismissal from the university, but does not mention a semester leave.
Yet over the past few years, a leave of absence has been introduced, informally, as an intermediary step between warnings and dismissal.
“For all practical purposes, it’s a suspension,” said Chuck Grim, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. According to Grim, a student at risk of dismissal because of their academic standing may be sat down and given a choice — dismissal or a semester off from the university. Whether you call this academic suspension or a compulsory leave of absence, the result is the same: time away.
“[The Committee on Academic Standing] found cases where we really thought that it would be in the student’s best interest to essentially go away for a semester, think about what the issues were that were causing them not to perform as well and so on,” said Grim.
The student would usually have  received one or more warnings before being approached by the university, and according to Grim, there are many factors that make someone a candidate for a leave of absence.
One of them is academic standing — a GPA below 2.0 or being four or more credits behind. Another, however, is history; whether the pattern has been long-term, what year the student is in and how likely the poor performance will continue. All these culminate into a joint decision, between university and student, for the student to take a break.
Although academic standing processes were initially created without suspension in mind, Grim said that the university has begun to see suspension as one last alternative to dismissal.
“As an institution, regardless of the policies, we always want to be able to say, have we done absolutely everything we could to make sure the student succeeded?” said Grim.
The Academic Affairs Advisory committee, which reports to Grim, is currently in the process of drafting a revised academic standing policy, in which a suspension measure will be introduced.
“I’m guardedly optimistic that it will be in place in time to go in the bulletin and become effective for the next academic year,” said Grim. The proposal will include other changes, such as policy wording and clearer guidelines for dismissal.
A&E — Mandatory?
A proposal drafted by the Writing Program is currently circulating among administration. It asks that the First Year Writing Seminar be made mandatory for all students in the coming years.
The university's current introductory writing course, Analysis and Expression, has been designed only for those who need extra help with college-level writing. Every year, the university administers a writing test for incoming students, designating those who must take the course and those who can bypass it.
Provided the proposal gets the necessary support from administration, it would then go to faculty for approval.
“This may come together with changes in the core,” said Grim. “It wouldn’t necessarily mean more courses for people.”
For example, a new core structure that has only six or seven requirements, plus A&E, would mean a lighter course load for many students. There are currently multiple proposals that tackle how the core curriculum could change in the future, initiated by Core Curriculum Committee, and a series in Electra Street. That said, it is uncertain whether changes to A&E or the core will pass by next year.
“The NYUAD Writing Program believes that all students at NYUAD need an intellectually rigorous class that introduces them to the fundamentals of academic argument: the First Year Writing Seminar,” wrote Ken Nielsen, Senior Lecturer and Associate Director for the Writing Center, to The Gazelle. “Our peer institutions in the US require all incoming freshman to take a writing seminar, and so should we. This is not a superficial bid to compete, but rather a response to the fact that our particular situation necessitates it.“
“The interdisciplinary First Year Writing Seminar will be a place for first year students to engage in a semester-long study of academic knowledge production and develop a shared understanding of what we, as a an international academic community, value in written argumentation,” added Nielsen.
Many students differ on the usefulness of taking A&E and, for some, the extra requirement is unwelcome.
“A&E was the first class that taught me proper college writing, it was good to have a designated writing GAF [Global Academic Fellow] working closely with me as well,” said junior Yanfei Zhang, who took the course her freshman year. “But I also think that a lot of A&E could just be replaced by writing intensive classes, and I would gladly have one less requirement.”
Summer Course Funding
A summer course in Abu Dhabi can mean the opportunity to catch up, get ahead or simply finish off a remaining pesky requirement. The university’s transition from Sama Tower to Saadiyat Island campus, however, may parallel a long-term shift in the funding awards given to students taking these courses.
“This year, there are going to be some costs that we’ve never had before,” said Grim, citing housing as a new consideration. “Beginning the following summer, the summer of 2016, we’re also going to have to … track tuition better. From an accounting perspective, the cost of a course in Abu Dhabi for an individual student is going up.”
Currently, summer courses in Abu Dhabi are not listed on a student’s bill for tuition. This will change soon, though for the many who are awarded financial aid, the difference will not be noticeable. Grim says that the one change may be additional scrutiny in deciding who is eligible for course funding, and who really needs to be in Abu Dhabi for the summer.
Now, taking a summer course in Abu Dhabi does not have to be a matter of needing the course to graduate. Trying to finish five cores before study abroad or complete requisites after changing majors are some of the cases that Grim mentioned as perhaps compelling enough for funding.
However, summer courses in Abu Dhabi bump up against the problem of class space. If a course reaches its capacity, a committee of faculty and administration will decide who among applicants has the most pressing claim to funding.
Senior Yuanmo Hu took a summer core course in Abu Dhabi, which he did not need to graduate, but thought would allow him to focus on requirements for his major the following year.
“I got funding for tuition and board, but not traveling,” said Hu. “It was not difficult, kind of relaxed. We spent some time in the lab doing biology experiments, so there was some fun.”
The committee also makes decisions regarding New York summer courses, although the process is much more competitive because New York is much more expensive — Grim estimates 9000 USD per course.
Only students who truly need to be in New York, being at risk of not graduating on time unless they are, will be awarded funding. The committee ranks applicants according to need and then, depending on flight and visa costs, awards a certain number of students funding.
“We’re looking to fund students who need to have a summer course,” said Grim. “And that principle applies whether it’s in Abu Dhabi or whether it’s in New York.”
The initial deadline for summer course funding applications are due today, 1 March.
Zoe Hu is editor-in-chief. Email her at
gazelle logo