Organic ag major stays at OAC, for now

Students at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College will still be able to enroll with organic agriculture as a major for at least the next 12 months.

The major was one of several considered for possible cancellation before an April 7 meeting by the university’s senate, but organic ag won the 12-month reprieve.

According to a release last week from the university, its senators directed OAC to spend the next 12 months looking at how to attract additional students to the organic ag major, and seeking new commitments for industry funding and teaching support.

“These were difficult but necessary decisions,” university president Alastair Summerlee said in a release Wednesday. “While upsetting to some, it’s important to keep in mind that in these trying economic times we must better utilize our resources.

“We must focus on the majors and programs with the majority of our students in order to retain quality and improve the learning process.”

Prior to last week’s senate meeting, colleges, departments and program committees were asked last fall to discuss courses that consistently have fewer than 10 students enrolled and majors that consistently register fewer than 40 students.

Those discussions in turn led to the recommendations that went to the university’s board of undergraduate studies (BUGS) last month, from which came the decision that the senate then voted last Tuesday night to ratify.

The university senate said it has also upheld BUGS’s decision to approve “in principle” the elimination of minors in the degree programs. The university’s provost (the executive responsible for academic planning and operations) is to submit proposals for “alternate methods to achieve the academic objectives of secondary areas of study” by March next year.

The proliferation of minors has resulted in a “complex and administratively-heavy” curriculum structure at Guelph, senators were told according to last week’s release. Yet only 9.25 per cent of students have a minor.

Six academic majors cancelled following last week’s senate meeting include urban landscape management, classical languages and women’s studies. Two degree programs were also cancelled.

Students already enrolled in the affected majors and degree programs will be able to complete their degrees, but the affected majors and degrees will not be available for incoming students.

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