George Mason University 1997-98 Catalog Catalog Index
Course Descriptions

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Undergraduate Policies

Academic Advising

Each undergraduate student is encouraged to meet regularly with an academic adviser to discuss academic programs, educational goals, and career plans. With the adviser's help, each degree student should plan an academic program to meet the general degree requirements and the specific requirements within the student's major field. Responsibility for reading the catalog and knowing and fulfilling the requirements of a specific baccalaureate degree rests with the student. To assist in the advising process, the university provides a computerized analysis of academic progress and computerized tracking of approved modifications to a student's degree plan.

Since individual departments establish their own advising processes, students should check with their departments for the appropriate procedures. During their freshman and sophomore years, students in the Honors Program in General Education/Plan for Alternative General Education (PAGE) should plan their schedules through PAGE advisers. Every department coordinates advising of its PAGE students through this office (Thompson Hall, Room 222).

See Adviser's Permission to Register in the Registration section for categories of students who may not register until they have seen an adviser and the Academic Advising Services on the following page.

Advising Upon Entrance into the Upper Division

Every student must meet with an adviser upon entrance into the upper division to adopt a program of study. This meeting should include (1) a review of the requirements for the degree and major the student has chosen, (2) a review of the student's record including any deficiencies, which must be made up, (3) a discussion of the career and/or graduate study options open to the student enrolled in such a program, and (4) an opportunity for departmental faculty to evaluate the student's suitability to major in the chosen discipline.

Results of this advising session should be a matter of record, with any approved modifications being entered into the student's computerized degree plan. Students should fulfill this requirement at the end of the semester in which they will have completed 60 or more acceptable hours.

Although an upper-division student who has filed an approved program of study is normally not required to consult again with an academic adviser, it remains the student's responsibility to seek approval for any change to the program, so that the computerized degree plan may be kept up to date. In particular, once a student has completed 60 hours, a change of major requires an extended session with an adviser in the new major and approval of a new program of study before the change is complete.

Those in lower-division status may change majors by filing a Change/Declaration of Academic Program form with the registrar. These are minimal advising procedures to be followed in all undergraduate segments of the university; individual units may require additional advising sessions.

Academic Advising Services

Students who have not yet decided on a major or who are considering a change of major are advised by Academic Advising, 993-2470. Advising here is required for freshmen who have not declared a major. Staff members are available for advising sessions Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Tuesday evening until 8 p.m.

Students are encouraged to walk in or call the center for information about general education requirements, programs, policies, and procedures. They may request help in the selection of a major or the best use of electives. The center also provides information for students who are interested in pre-professional programs in law or health fields.

Medical Sciences Advisory Committee

Students interested in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or a related medical field may receive guidance from a special advisory committee. The Medical Sciences Advisory Committee consists of faculty members from appropriate departments within the university who know the admissions requirements and standards of the professional medical science programs, and who will help students apply to professional schools. Students seeking guidance in gaining admission to a professional medical program may write to the Chair, Medical Sciences Advisory Committee, Advising Center, Room 205, Finley Building, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia 22030-4444.

Attendance Policies

Students are expected to attend the class periods of the courses for which they register. Although absence alone is not reason for lowering a grade, students are not relieved of the obligation to fulfill course assignments, including those that can only be fulfilled in class. In particular, a student who misses an exam without an excuse may have the course grade lowered. Students who fail to participate (because of absences) in a course in which participation is a factor in evaluation may have the grade lowered.

Final Examination Policies

Final examinations are normally given at the end of all undergraduate courses. In predominantly laboratory courses, examinations may be given in the last regularly scheduled laboratory period. Scheduled final examinations may not exceed two hours and 45 minutes. Changes in location or time of in-class final examinations must be approved by the appropriate department chair and appropriate dean. A professor who is considering the assignment of a take-home examination should inform the students at the beginning of the semester. Such examinations should be distributed by the beginning of the last week of classes so that students can coordinate them with preparation for other examinations. Students should not be required to submit examinations prior to the date of the regularly scheduled examination for a course. Final reexaminations are not permitted.

Absence from Final Examinations

Absence from final examinations will not be excused except for sickness on the day of the examination or for other cause approved by the student's academic dean. The effect of missing a final examination shall be determined by the weighted value of the examination as stated in the course syllabus provided by the instructor. A student whose absence from an examination is excused may take a rescheduled examination within 10 days on a date to be arranged between the student and the instructor.

Grading Policies

University course work is measured in terms of quantity and quality. A semester hour normally represents one hour per week of lecture recitation or not less than two hours per week of laboratory work throughout a semester. Using the semester hour as the unit of credit, the number of semester hours is a measure of quantity. The grade is a measure of quality.

Additional work of any type submitted to improve a grade after the final grade has been assigned and sent to the Office of the Registrar is never accepted.

A-B-C-D-F. The normal grading system for undergraduate credit is A, B, C (satisfactory), D (unsatisfactory, passing), and F (unsatisfactory, failing).

A-B-C-No Credit. A student successfully completing English Composition and Introduction to Literature (ENGL 101) or Composition for Foreign Students (ENGL 100) is graded either A, B, or C; a student not attaining at least C in these courses receives no credit (NC).

S-NC. Undergraduates may take up to six credit hours to be graded S (satisfactory)-NC (no credit). This option applies only to electives outside the major field. Students must obtain the instructor's permission on a Credit Without Grade Form for this provision, and submit the form to the registrar by the end of the add period. An S grade reflects satisfactory (C or better) work.

IN (Incomplete). A student who is passing a course may be unable to complete scheduled course work for a cause beyond reasonable control. In such a case, the instructor assigns a temporary grade of Incomplete (IN). The student must then complete all the requirements by the end of the ninth week of the next semester, and the instructor must turn in the final grade by the end of the tenth week. (Spring incompletes would be due according to this schedule the following fall semester.) If the student fails to meet the foregoing schedule, the mark of IN is changed by the registrar to an F. Students who have filed their intent to graduate have only six weeks from date of degree conferral to resolve any IN's and have the final grade recorded by the Registrar's Office. The student is responsible for submitting work to the instructor with sufficient time for evaluation.

While the mark of IN remains on the transcript, it is treated as an unsatisfactory grade in determining probation, suspension, or dismissal. Removal of IN's from the transcript may result in retroactive elimination of probation, suspension, or dismissal.

IP (In Progress). When the work of BIS 490 or of a course that is graded A-B-C-NC or S-NC is not completed within one semester, a mark of In Progress (IP) is entered on the record. IP is not treated as an unsatisfactory grade. With the exception of BIS 490, an IP not changed to a permanent grade by the last day of classes of the next semester results in deletion of the course from the record. An IP in BIS 490 not changed to a permanent grade within the same time limit is changed by the registrar to F.

AB. A student who has received permission from the instructor or student's dean to be absent from a final examination for a cause beyond reasonable control may receive a temporary grade of AB. A make-up exam must be administered within 10 business days of the original date of the examination or the AB will automatically become an F. Final determination of academic status is not complete while the AB remains on the transcript.

SP. The grade of SP may be given by the student's dean to a student who is unable to complete the course requirements because of extraordinary long-term circumstances, such as major illness. The SP grade has no effect on the grade point average and remains on the transcript until the work is completed and a permanent grade is assigned.

Grade Point Average

Grade points for each semester hour are assigned on a scale of 4 for A, 3 for B, 2 for C, 1 for D, and 0 for F. A grade point score is computed by multiplying the value of a letter grade by the number of credits for the course. For example, a student receiving an A in a 3-semester-hour course earns 12 grade points.

Three kinds of grade point average (GPA) are used at George Mason. Current GPA is the measure of academic performance in one semester, affecting both the dean's list and academic warning. Cumulative GPA is one of several criteria affecting academic dismissal. Degree GPA affects graduation with distinction.

Dividing the total grade points earned in a semester by the number of normally graded semester hours attempted in that semester gives the current GPA. Similarly, dividing the number of grade points earned in all George Mason University courses by the number of normally graded semester hours attempted at the university gives the cumulative GPA. A degree GPA is computed at graduation on the basis of the normally graded courses the student completes at the university and includes in the degree application. This average is noted on the transcript, and the course grades are listed.

Classification of Students

Admitted undergraduates are classified as follows: freshman, 0-29 semester hours completed; sophomore, 30-59 semester hours completed; junior, 60-89 semester hours completed; senior, 90 or more semester hours completed.

Future Grading System

Beginning in fall semester 1998, the university-wide undergraduate grading system for all students enrolled at that time will be:
Letter Grade
Grade Points

Note: Grade points have been rounded to two decimal points for convenience; the actual grade point increment is thirds.

Plus and minus grades are used inside the range of satisfactory performance. Grades below C are unsatisfactory and consist of two categories: D (unsatisfactory, passing) and F (unsatisfactory, failing). Grade point averages (GPAs) will continue to be calculated in the standard fashion using the grade point values appropriate for the period in which the course is taken.

Grade Reports

Grade reports are sent to the student's permanent address and to the adviser each semester and summer in which the student is registered, including semesters in which the student withdraws after the end of the drop period. The report includes all courses for that semester and the grades received.

Appeal of Grade

Although it is generally acknowledged that the individual faculty member is the best judge of a student's performance, there may be instances in which a student feels a grade has been assigned unfairly. In such cases, the student should ask the instructor to reconsider the grade. If the student remains dissatisfied, the matter may be appealed to the department chair. Upon receiving an appeal, the chair should ask the student to return to the instructor for further consultation. If the instructor and the student are unable to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, and if the chair believes the student may have a legitimate complaint, the chair forms a committee of three faculty members who are peers of the instructor who assigned the grade. The instructor or the student may challenge and have replaced one of the three members of the committee without giving a reason for the challenge. The committee meets separately with the instructor and with the student to explore the particulars of the case. Every effort is made to avoid an adversarial relationship.

After the committee has reviewed the case thoroughly, it issues to the chair (with a copy to the faculty member) a written recommendation that includes the reasons for its findings. At this time, the faculty member has an opportunity to take the recommended action, if any. If the matter is not resolved at this point, the chair considers the committee recommendation and forwards a recommendation to the dean of the school or college in which the course was taken. If the dean decides that a change of grade is appropriate and the faculty member refuses to make the change, the dean may order the registrar to do so. Chairs do not accept grade appeals after the last day of classes of the following semester. Appeals of grades in spring courses must be made by the last day of classes in the next fall semester.

Pending Grade Appeal

In select cases, a student may request a delay from the dean in imposing academic suspension because of a pending grade appeal which could change the student's status. An approved delay would allow the student to register.

If the grade appeal is successful, the official transcript is corrected, and the student continues in classes as a student in good academic standing. If the grade appeal is not successful, the student is required to stop attending all classes immediately. No record of registration for the academic period appears on a transcript, and the student receives the appropriate refund as of the date of decision.

Academic Standing

Dean's List
Students in degree status who take at least 6 credit hours in a semester and earn a grade point average of 3.500 or higher for courses attempted that semester merit placement on the Dean's List.

Good Academic Standing
A student is in good academic standing unless dismissed, suspended, or on probation.

Satisfactory Performance
Students perform satisfactorily during any academic period (semester or summer session) in which they earn a grade point average for that period of 2.000 or higher (1.800 for those in the first or second academic period of the freshman year). In computing the grade point average, a grade of IN is counted as an F, and the grade NC is not counted.

Academic Warning
Students receive an academic warning at the end of any academic period in which they fail to attain a grade point average for that period of 2.000 or better (1.800 for those in the first or second academic period of the freshman year). See academic probation and suspension for the impact of warnings.

Academic Period
For determining the duration of probation and suspension, an academic period is defined as follows:

Each academic period (semester or Summer Term) begins on the 15th day following the last scheduled day of final examinations for the previous period. Each academic period ends on the 14th day after the last scheduled day of final examinations.

Example: Assume that the last scheduled day of final exams for a semester is Monday, December 23. That period then ends on Monday, January 6. The next period begins on Tuesday, January 7.

Academic Probation
Students who receive two warnings during any four consecutive academic periods of enrollment are on probation during the academic period of enrollment following the second warning. (Consecutive academic periods of enrollment are successive periods during which the student enrolled, regardless of whether there were intervening periods during which the student did not enroll.)

A student receiving academic warnings in two immediately consecutive periods of enrollment is suspended. In the case of first suspension, the two consecutive periods are extended to three if the student attempts less than 12 credit hours during either of those periods. A first suspension also results from receiving a second probation.

Suspension is included in a student's permanent record. Course credits earned at other colleges during the period of suspension from the university (for academic or nonacademic reasons) are not accepted for the degree program.

A student's first suspension is for two academic periods, unless it is imposed at the end of the Summer Term, in which case it is for one semester. A second suspension is for one calendar year, for example, two regular semesters and a Summer Term. A third suspension results in dismissal.

Effect of Suspension on the Re-enrolled Student
A student re-enrolling after suspension is on probation for one academic period of enrollment. A warning received at the end of that period results in continuation of probation but not suspension; however, a student will be dismissed at the end of that period if the dismissal criteria apply. Two consecutive warnings immediately after returning from a suspension results in a new suspension.

A third suspension results in dismissal. An undergraduate is also dismissed at the end of any academic period when all of the following occur:

  1. The student has received at least one earlier suspension.

  2. The work done during the just-completed academic period is unsatisfactory; for example, the grade point average for that work is below 2.000.

  3. The student's cumulative grade point average for all work attempted at the university is below a minimum acceptable value that depends on the number of semester quality hours earned at the university plus hours transferred from other institutions or obtained by testing as follows:

For example, a student who transfers 30 credit hours to George Mason from another institution and has earned 40 credit hours at George Mason (not including courses graded S [Satisfactory]) must maintain a minimum level of performance of 1.571 on the courses taken at George Mason.

After being dismissed from the university a student is usually ineligible to reenter.

Effect of Academic Standing on Student Activities Only students in good academic standing are eligible to hold or run for elective or appointive office in any organization or activity associated with the university, or to participate in any athletic or other activity representing the university on either an intercollegiate or club level, or to serve as a working staff member of any student organization.

A student whose eligibility for an activity requires the completion of a semester will have fulfilled that requirement when the student's publicly scheduled exams are over, unless the student's continued eligibility depends on the grades received. In the latter case, the student will not become eligible until the end of the semester as defined for probation and suspension purposes.

The Undergraduate Major

Academic Advising
Each undergraduate is urged to see an academic adviser regularly to discuss academic programs, educational goals, and career plans. In consultation with the adviser, each degree student should plan an academic program to meet the general degree requirements and the specific requirements within a major field. Responsibility for reading the catalog and knowing and fulfilling the requirements of a specific baccalaureate degree rests with the student.

Individual departments establish their own advising processes; each student should check with the appropriate department. Students who have not yet decided on a major or who are considering a change of major are advised in the Academic Advising Center.

Every student must meet with an adviser upon entrance into the upper division (completion of 60 or more acceptable hours) to adopt a program of study. (See Advising upon Entrance into the Upper Division for complete details.)

Selection of a Major
To plan a sound academic program, the undergraduate should select a major as soon as it is practical, but no later than four weeks before the end of the sophomore year. For declaration of a major, a student should confer with the appropriate adviser or designate of either the new major program or the Academic Advising Center and obtain signatures from both departments in the Change of Major section of the Change/Declaration of Academic Program form, available in the Registrar's Office.

Change of Major
A student who wishes to change majors should see a faculty adviser or the Academic Advising Center. Departmental sections of this catalog contain requirements for acceptance into the major programs. A student not meeting the requirements may appeal to the department chair for an exception.

Once a student has completed 60 hours, a change of major requires an extended session with an adviser in the new major before the change is complete. To file a change of major, signatures of advisers or designates in both the new and former major programs must be obtained on the Change/Declaration of Academic Program form available in the Registrar's Office. (See Advising Upon Entrance into the Upper Division for details.)

Credit for More than One Undergraduate Major
A student who desires to graduate with a B.A. degree or a B.S. degree in two or more subjects having established degree programs must meet departmental requirements for the major in each field.

Students given permission to pursue two or more concurrent majors must complete the Declaration of Second Major section of the Change/Declaration of Academic Program form, available in the Registrar's Office. The applicant must present a detailed program of study for both majors and obtain the authorizing signature from the chair or director of the second major program (and from the dean or director, if required by the college, school, or institute). Department chairs and deans/directors when required must also approve all changes to the programs of study.

A student may begin the program at any time that permits its completion prior to the contemplated graduation date.

Students may elect minor programs of study in addition to their major fields by completing the Declaration or Change of Minor section of the Change/Declaration of Academic Program form, available in the Registrar's Office. Minors require between 15 and 21 credit hours of study. At least 6 hours of the minor must be completed at George Mason, and no more than 3 hours of D in the minor is accepted. Students interested in a minor should consult the departmental listing to determine whether a minor is offered and its specific requirements.

Baccalaureate Degree Requirements

Literacy, the ability to read, write, and understand complex ideas in prose, is the cornerstone of a liberal education. Everyone involved in educating university students should consider literacy of paramount importance. Because literacy is an essential part of a university education, a substantial amount of writing, in some appropriate form, is required in all university programs.

The English Composition Requirement
Because the ability to write well is so important to success in university studies and professional careers, the university requires students to complete two semesters of English composition. Students must enroll in ENGL 101 (or 100) upon admission, unless they have received credit through transfer or proficiency examination. The remaining university composition requirement is satisfied by English 302, or an equivalent transfer course. Students must attain a minimum grade of C in composition courses to fulfill university degree requirements.

Students enrolled in the Honors Program in General Education/Plan for Alternative General Education (PAGE) complete the English composition requirement by completing their PAGE program.

Writing-Intensive Course Requirement
In addition to English composition and as part of the university's commitment to literacy in all programs, at least one course in each major, and often more than one, has been designated as "writing-intensive." While other courses in the major might require written projects, the "writing-intensive" courses emphasize the process of drafting and revision. Faculty in these courses give constructive comments on drafts of at least one course project, which the students then revise and resubmit. Writing-intensive courses are numbered 300 and above. See description of each major for the specific courses that fulfill this requirement in that major.

Core Requirements
Each undergraduate degree program requires a substantial core from the arts and sciences (30 semester hours). Six semester hours must be in English composition (see English Composition Requirement). Of the remaining 24 hours, at least 6 must be in each of the following three areas:

Area A
Art Astronomy
Foreign Languages
Performing Arts
Area B
Computer Science
Geography 102 and 309
Area C
(except 102 and 309)

Catalog Requirements
Bachelor's degree candidates may elect to graduate under the provisions of the catalog in effect at the time of admission or under the provisions of a catalog subsequent to admission if the student has been enrolled in a continuous progression from date of admission to the receipt of a degree (summer sessions and one-semester absences are excluded). A student who fails to register for two or more consecutive semesters must meet either the requirements of the catalog in effect at the time of initial admission, if readmitted within five years of the last attendance, or the catalog in force at the time of readmission.

When the university or one of its academic units makes changes in course requirements, grading procedures, and/or the level of qualitative performance expected of its students for acceptance into particular programs, academic standing, or graduation, the changes apply to all students enrolled in the university at the time of the implementation of the change and thereafter. The Special Collections section of the Fenwick Library has a copy of all previous catalogs for use by staff and students. Copies may not be checked out but may be photocopied.

Residence Requirements
At least one-fourth of the total semester hours presented on the degree application must be completed at the university and must include at least 12 semester hours of advanced-level courses (numbered 300 or above) in the major program.

Students are expected to complete the final one-fourth of their college study at the university. However, a student of junior standing who has completed 24 semester hours of advanced-level courses, including 12 upper-level semester hours in the major, may apply to the appropriate dean for permission to complete the remaining degree requirements elsewhere. Such applications must follow the procedures outlined in the section Credit to be Earned at Other Colleges. Permission is granted only in special circumstances, such as moving from the area or enrolling in an accredited professional school.

A student who gains early admission to an accredited professional school may be granted a George Mason bachelor's degree while enrolled in a professional school if certain conditions are met. In this context, a professional school is defined as a school of dentistry, law, medicine, optometry, osteopathy, or veterinary medicine. Before leaving the university, a student must obtain certification signed by the department chair and the appropriate dean that the residence, general education, and major requirements for the degree have been met. The student also must secure from the dean prior approval of those professional school courses which are to be applied only as elective credits to the total semester hour requirement for the bachelor's degree.

Academic Requirements
To qualify for a degree, a student must have been admitted, must have fulfilled all stated requirements for the specific degree, and must have earned a GPA of at least 2.00 on the courses presented for graduation. An undergraduate may present all courses in which satisfactory grades have been received and up to 12 hours of courses in which D grades have been received. However, a student may not use a grade of D in BIS 490 and may not use more than six hours of D grades in the major or in the BIS core of study. Some programs may have a more restrictive policy regarding the number of D grades allowable in the major. Please refer to the appropriate section of the catalog for further information.

Students seeking a bachelor's degree must apply at least 45 hours of upper-division course work (numbered 300 or above) toward graduation requirements.

A Graduation Appeals Committee in each college or school considers written appeals from students failing to meet degree or certain area requirements.

Application for Degree
Students who expect to complete graduation degree requirements must complete an Application for Degree Form and return it to the Registrar's Office by the date designated. A graduation fee is payable at the time of submission; payment is required each time a new application is submitted.

A person undertaking academic study with the university, including supervised research, must be registered as a student and pay the prescribed charges.

Second Bachelor's Degree
A second bachelor's degree may be earned, either concurrently or sequentially. Application for a second bachelor's degree declared after graduation from a first degree must be conducted through the Office of Admissions. In order to graduate with two degrees, students must present at least 30 additional George Mason credits beyond those required by the first degree.

Students who are currently pursuing a bachelor's degree at Mason must present a detailed program of study for both degrees and obtain authorizing signatures from the chair or director of the second degree program (and from the dean or director, if required by the college, school, or institute). They also must present at least 30 additional George Mason credits beyond those required by the first degree.

Students may declare the second concurrent degree by completing the Declaration of Second Bachelor's Degree section of the Change/Declaration of Academic Program form, available in the Registrar's Office.

Graduation with Distinction
A student graduates with distinction from the university when at least 60 semester hours earned at the university are applied toward graduation and the student's grade point average in all work applied toward graduation is at least equal to one of three values:

Students admitted before spring 1989 may choose to satisfy the conditions for graduation with distinction in the 1988-89 Undergraduate Catalog instead of the above conditions.

Graduation with Distinction and Recognition
A student graduates with distinction and with recognition of a distinguished senior project if, in addition to meeting the criteria for graduation with distinction, the student completes a research project or other substantial piece of creative work directed by a faculty member and judged by the student's department to be of distinguished quality. The departmental faculty establishes criteria by which a student graduating with distinction may attempt to receive this recognition.

A BIS student attempting this recognition is evaluated by the BIS Advisory Committee.

Comprehensive Examinations
Undergraduates who have passed with distinction a voluntary departmental comprehensive examination may have the following notation placed in the remarks section of the transcript: "Voluntary comprehensive examination in (area) passed with distinction (date)."

Commencement exercises provide an opportunity for students and their families to share in the conferral of academic degrees. Students wishing to participate in commencement exercises must complete a Participation/Ticket Reservation form to reserve a place for themselves in the academic procession and to reserve tickets for their guests. The form must be returned to the Office of University Activities by the date designated in the Schedule of Classes.

Knowledge of University Policies
Each student is responsible for knowing the rules, regulations, requirements, and academic policies of the university. A student in doubt concerning an academic matter should consult a faculty adviser or dean.

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