Faculty committee planning programs for the new University of the District of Columbia have recommended extensive testing and remedial courses for incoming students and an extensive list of required courses that all students must pass.
The preliminary planning reports, which have been debated by faculty members and students for the last week, would end the system of virtually free electives that has prevailed for 10 years at Federal City College and Washington Technical institute.
Instead many of the courses in English, mathematics, and history, now required at the city's third public college, D.C. Teachers College, would be required this fall of all students in the merged university.
In addition, even though open admission of all high school graduates would continue, all incoming students would be required to take placement tests in reading, writing and arithmetic.
Those who score below the level needed to do college work would be required to take remedial courses and a reduced course load until they show they are capable "of doing college-level study," according to one of the preliminary reports.
In the past, only D.C. Teachers College has forced students to take remedial courses even though professors at the other two city colleges also have complained that many of their students, most of whom are graduates of D.C. public schools, are unable to handle college work.
Under proposals now being discussed, the university also would create honors programs with rigorous courses and selective admissions to attract and challenge well-prepared high school graduates.
"We seem to spend a great deal of our time taking care of the ill-prepared student," said associate mathematics professor John Milcetich, a member of one of the main planning committees. "We think we should have something for the well-prepared student, too."
Madelon, D. Stent, the university vice president in charge of planning for the merged academic programs, stressed that all the proposals are preliminary. Stent said they must yet be approved by university president Lisle C. Carter Jr. and university trustees.
Stent said she expects the new programs and requirements to go into effect for the university's 13,000 students next fall.
She said the planning process, which has involved more than 350 faculty members, is "ahead of schedule."
Even though the new university formally began last August, courses and degree requirements on its three campuses are the same as when the city had three separate public colleges.
The proposed merger has caused considerable anxiety among faculty members, particularly those on the Van Ness campus, home of the former Washington Technical Institute, once a two-year school. In early February, a faculty strike disrupted classes there for two days.
However, Van Ness faculty members have participated fully on the planing committees. On almost all issues, Stent said, a consensus has been reached.
"Getting this operation together is like putting a turtleneck sweater on an octopus, and none of the arms is holding still," said Virgil Young, a professor of psychology on the Van Ness campus. "But we are moving toward sanity now, and that's good."
Under the proposed new structure, all students, admitted in two-year or four-year programs would be required to achieve passing scores on placement tests to avoid remedial courses.
All students placed in the remedial courses would be required to pass them before beginning full-time college-level work. However, Betty Verbal, a Van Ness campus professor who headed the committee that recommended the remedial system, said the committee is uncertain whether students would be required to retake the placement exam before passing remedial courses or whether passing grades would be enough for advancement.
Milcetich noted that many faculty members oppose university-wide exams as an unwarranted intrusion on a professor's right to grade his own students, while others support the exams as way to insure uniform standards.
"That's a very tough issue here," he said.
How high the standards should be, Milcetich noted, also is an unresolved issue.
According to other proposals, all students seeking associate of arts two-year degrees would be required to pass a year of English composition, a year of college-level math, including algebra, and one-semester courses in natural science, history and social science. They also would have to take a one-credit course entitled "Technology in the World Situation."
Almost half of the work of students in four-year programs would involve required courses including two years of English composition and literature; one year each of a foreign language, mathematics, social science, and world civilization, and shorter courses in Philosophy, speech, physical education and fine arts.
In faculty hearings held last week, several departments, particularly nursing and chemistry, criticized the long list of required courses for taking too much time away from work in a student's major field.
The requirements planning committee argued, however, that "if options are to be meaningful for the student, he must have demonstrated mastery of fundamental skills and of fundamental knowledge . . . (Education) should be broad and liberal, not parochial and narrowly specialized."