Degrees mean nothing

For potential students, admission to the University of Calgary disregards an applicant’s previous degree, if they hold one. However, some think a degree should confer a special status for applicants.

Former Fine Arts Dean and current English Professor Dr. Maurice Yacowar has a female friend who applied to the Art department in the Fine Arts faculty. This woman, who Yacowar would not identify, received a BA and an MA from the University of British Columbia. She took two courses in the U of C Art department, receiving an A and A- and then applied to the undergraduate degree program.

For anyone who has taken eight or more half-courses at the university level, admission GPA is based on the last ten half-courses. For the potential student’s admission, her GPA also included course work from her master’s. The woman’s GPA was just under the 3.2 required by Fine Arts and it was due to her previous coursework in her master’s.

“If I had known [of the rules] when I was dean, I would have reformed it,” said Yacowar. “But I knew it was practice for someone who hadn’t finished high school.”

The potential student went through the formal review process and appealed to the Fine Arts dean and Art department head. She also wrote a letter to President Harvey Weingarten, which was passed on to Peggy Patterson, Associate Vice-President of Student Affairs. The disposition of the letter is unknown.

Keith Burgess, Associate Dean Academic in Fine Arts, was involved in the appeal. He also ensures admission regulations stated in the calendar are followed.

“The university regulations make no distinction between no degree, a degree or a graduate degree,” said Burgess. “Fine Arts is struggling to find new ways to control admissions. Fine Arts is a quota program. We tend to go over [quotas] for programs. We want existing quotas to be linked to existing resources. We don’t have the resources to teach over quota.”

In fact, Burgess said a GPA will no longer be the determining factor for admission.

“We control admission to dance and music by GPA,” said Burgess. “But we’re looking into using portfolios in art admissions and auditions in drama. It’s far too imprecise by GPA. GPA will be one part of admission.”

According to Elaine Wong, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, it is common for many degree holders to return to university for another degree.

“A lot of people are changing careers,” said Wong. “Their professional paths are in place but they maybe looking at an artistic degree.”

Wong has held a senior position in Admissions for 15 years and said this is the first time she has heard of a complaint.

“Most students understand the competitive nature of a popular program,” said Wong. “We double check in every instance. If there is a complaint, it’s reviewed by myself and the faculty. It ensures objective criteria.”

Eventually, Yacowar advised his friend to move on.

“I told her she was wasting time doing undergraduate degree artwork,” said Yacowar. “She’s good enough, has the intellect and the critical theory and I don’t think she should go where they don’t respect two degrees.”

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