MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - University of Hawaii leaders are defending a move to lower the grade point average graduation requirement in one of its largest programs from a B- to a C.
The number of UH Manoa students graduating within four years has increased by 40 percent in the last four years and those figures got a boost because GPA requirements were lowered for its psychology degree.
There are about 750 psychology and pre-psychology majors on the UH Manoa campus. It's one of the five largest majors at the flagship campus.
The psychology department used to require its graduates to have a grade point average of 2.5 in courses in their major.
But three years ago, UH Manoa lowered that GPA requirement to a 2.0, which is the same GPA required of nearly all other UH Manoa undergraduate programs.
"It is not lowering the quality of the degree to remove artificial obstacles so that students can get degrees. We have not watered down the quality of the Manoa degree in one degree," said Reed Dasenbrock, the vice chancellor for academic affairs at UH Manoa.
He said about 50 psychology majors had fallen below the old 2.5 requirement in 2012 when UH decided to lower the psychology requirement to 2.0.
"They were never going to be able to graduate with a psychology degree so they needed to change majors and maybe spend another two or three years, even though they'd met the Manoa requirements. That's the wrong way to try to create rigor or high standards," Dasenbrock said.
But Ashley Maynard, who chairs the UH Manoa psychology department, said, "We feel this lowers the quality of our degree."
She said students knew coming in to the program that a 2.5 average for psych courses was the graduation requirement.
Maynard is one of 23 faculty members who filed a complaint against Dasenbrock, claiming he bullies people, particularly women, and has made inappropriate racist remarks.
Maynard said Dasenbrock would not approve a new, more rigorous bachelor of science in psychology program until the department lowered its GPA graduating requirements for the bachelor of arts degree in psychology.
"He withheld approval of the bachelor of science until we cowered and were coerced into lowering our GPA to 2.0 in the BA," Maynard said.
Risa Dickson is in charge of academics across the entire UH system as its vice president for academic affairs.
"If somebody meets the graduation requirements for the university but not for the program, then we're holding up their graduation," Dickson said.
"A better way to do those kinds of things is to have students either test in or meet certain requirements to get into the program and then have specific classes where they have to get a B or better to progress," Dickson added.
The UH Hawaiian Studies department has a GPA requirement of 3.0 -- or a B -- that's much higher than the UH Manoa requirement to graduate of a 2.0.
Dasenbrock said he asked Hawaiian Studies to lower the requirement to 2.0 but leaders of the Hawaiian studies program were against the idea, so the 3.0 requirement there remains.
Dasenbrock said very few if any Hawaiian Studies students were “trapped” by the higher GPA requirement, so he felt the problem was not as “urgent” as the situation was in the psychology department.
He said no other UH Manoa department s have lowered their graduation GPA requirements in recent years.