Can You Touch Your Toes?

How flexible are you?

Me? I’ve never been able to touch my toes – not since I can ever remember. I blame it on my short arms, but it might have something to do with too much muscle… er… well, bulk, anyhow… ahem.

But if I can’t be flexible at my waist, I can at least help my university be flexible. Just last week, I attended a fall meeting of the BC Registrars Association where we discussed a relatively new development: flexible pre-major agreements. Have you heard of them? BC Council on Admission and Transfer has some information on their transfer innovations section of their website.

Currently, the only flexible pre-major agreement that has been signed and put into circulation is English, and my own institution (TWU) is one of the signatories on the agreement. Of course, agreements and programs like this raise all sorts of registrarial questions. The Registrars around the table at our meeting last week raised a number of good questions:

  • Should we place this information on transcripts?
  • Should we admit students based on this information?
  • Should we transfer courses and credits based on this information?

We all said “NO!”

Now before you get your shorts in a knot and accuse us of being terribly inflexible, let me explain. We are a group committed to being service agents and we often have student interests ahead of institution interests. So we like ideas like flexible pre-majors. The problems come when we create rules and procedures around these ideas – those rules and procedures often restrict students and institutions in ways that are not helpful and end up making us less flexible.

In this particular case, flexible pre-majors turn out to be rather inflexible. Students who want to complete a flexible pre-major must take a carefully prescribed set of courses at their home university or college and the only thing that is flexible is that they have a number of other schools (agreement signatories) that they can transfer  to. If we registrars decided that the flexible pre-major would be listed on transcripts, then that most often means these agreements would have to go through a whole other level of program approval at our respective Senates/Councils (read: slow, more regulations, less flex). If we  decided that they would be a basis for admission, we’re talking more approvals at Senate/Councils (read: slow, more red tape, less flex). All of the above would require more administration, more cost, less service, less flexibility. For example, if we admit students on the basis of a flexible pre-major, what happens if they change their minds? Would we ever not admit a student because the program is full? Ugh, I don’t like where this is going at all – not very flexible! 

Instead, we said do whatever you want, but we’ll just transfer courses as usual, we’ll admit students as usual, and we’ll let the English department determine if the students meet the flexible pre-major requirements. After all, they created the program – they should be the ones to determine how it works. And if students want to do their own thing – that’s up to them. Far be it from us to regulate their lives that much.

Now pardon me while I go back to trying… to… touch… my… toes…(just a  minute, maybe if I bob up and down a bit)…ok, maybe if I loosen my belt a notch…(hang on, I can do this)… maybe if I bend my knees and curl my toes up… YAY! I did it!  

You might say I cheated: “You can’t do that!” I’ll just say I have flexible toes and flexible rules 😉

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2 thoughts on “Can You Touch Your Toes?

  1. I can do that. Actually I can lay my hands flat on the floor. Does that mean I’m really flexible, or just that my arms are long and my legs are short, or maybe that my belt is now loosened a few notches.

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