'CLEPPING' OUT NOT ALWAYS BEST, CTS OFFICIAL SAYS

by Michael P. Martin

News Reporter

CLEP tests, offered monthly by the UH Counseling and Testing Service, might seem like a quick way to complete troublesome class prerequisites, but there are dangers, according to CTS Associate Director Patrick Daniels. "It (the CLEP program) isn't a short cut," he said.

CLEP tests are part of the College-Level Examination Program of the College Board. The main goal of the program, according to the board's CLEP brochure, is to allow students "to earn college credit for what (they) already know."

The UH Undergraduate Studies Catalog states that credit can be earned by successful completion of the appropriate tests for courses like Math 1310, U.S. History I and II, Biology 1431 and 1432, and other courses that serve as prerequisites for higher-level UH courses.

The purpose of CLEP, according to Daniels, is to allow a student -- especially one who is returning to school after a long absence -- to avoid sitting through material he or she already knows. "Here they are. They're motivated. They want to learn new stuff. If we tell them they have to take the old stuff over again, it's demoralizing for them," Daniels said.

The danger, according to Daniels, lies with students who "CLEP out" of the prerequisite courses without possessing the skills necessary to successfully complete the higher-level classes. Using the CLEP program to satisfy the Math 1310 requirement might work if a student is very proficient in algebra. If, however, the student is only marginal, Daniels said problems could lie ahead.

"Some of the math courses are prerequisites for some of the other courses you might take in chemistry, physics, biology or engineering," Daniels said. "You might CLEP out, but then you might not have the kind of prerequisite skills to do well in these other courses."

Credit-by-examination programs, Daniels added, are only one part of total student assessment, a process he says is purely subjective. Each student, according to Daniels, should examine his or her own goals to determine whether obtaining credit in this way will really help them achieve their long-term educational goals.

"I CLEPped out of all eight hours of freshman biology," said former UH student Valerie Anderson, "but I can't say I'd recommend it for everyone."

Anderson, a high school mathematics teacher in a suburban Houston school district, had returned to UH to take the science courses necessary for her to teach sciences at the high school level.

"I already had a master's, and I knew quite a bit of biology," Anderson said, adding, "It would have killed me to sit through two semesters of freshman-level courses again. But take it from me, you can know enough to pass the test and still get in real trouble in the advanced classes and labs."

Even the older, returning student should give careful consideration before making credit-by-exam part of his or her college program, Daniels said. "If you have not reviewed the material for 10 years, why make it more difficult on you? You might as well get a fresh look at the subject," he said.

All students should take a close look at their plans with the help of an academic adviser and consider the placement tests offered by CTS as a tool to measure their real knowledge, Daniels added.

"Placement testing will make sure you have the prerequisite skills to enroll in those courses," he said.

 

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STATE FUNDING CUTS HAMPER HFAC

by James Aldridge

News Reporter

In the midst of legislative cutbacks and university reshaping, program heads in the College of Humanities, Fine Arts and Communication have had to tighten their belts as the university receives reductions in state support.

Between fiscal years 1986 and 1993, state revenue for the university has fallen 18 percent, according to a report issued by the Office of Media Relations last semester.

The reduction of funds relates to large classes, the loss or limitation of full-time faculty positions and inadequate facilities, the report said.

The School of Communication wants to expand to provide doctoral programs, but cannot right now because the funds aren't available, Director Robert Musburger said. The school currently offers only bachelor's and master's of arts degrees.

An obstacle for the School of Communication was having $15,000 withheld from its budget, preventing it from hiring more adjunct and full-time faculty, Musburger said.

Although David Jacobs, chairman of the Art Department, is uncertain what the reductions in state support will mean for his department, plans are under way to continue operating under normal levels.

"It (the funding cuts) has not reached the departmental level yet. We are making the fall schedule with anticipation of at least base-level funding," he said.

However, one department that has suffered because of budget cuts is the Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

Chairman Julian Olivares said, "There are more students that we can serve. We have to close sections that students need for graduation," he said.

Also, there is a high demand for the foreign-language lab, and the facility is insufficient, Olivares said.

In addition to the loss of sections and poor teaching equipment, foreign-language department faculty have not received any raises in years and may possibly lose benefits.

"We haven't had a merit increase in four years," Olivares said. "(State Comptroller John) Sharp proposed a 0.5 to 1 percent cut in retirement benefits. That's a decrease in salary."

What Olivares is referring to is the Comptroller's Report for the next biennium. In the recommendations, listed in the Texas State Appropriations Bill released Jan. 20, there is a proposal reducing the state's contribution to the Optional Retirement Plan to 6 percent from 7.3 percent, a ceiling on employment at 1994 fiscal year levels, and no increase in the state's health care contribution for its employees.

However, some other recommendations include $14.2 million to the university to cover enrollment shortages and previous funding changes and the doubling of Higher Education Assistance Funds to the UH System.

The administration's trend of reshaping comes at a time when the state is becoming more fiscally conservative about public university funding.

Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock said a few years ago that it is time for institutions of higher learning to dramatically change the way they are organized, financed and run.

"Thirty years of no-questions-asked growth and prosperity are over. Like corporations and state government, universities must streamline management, trim expenses and consolidate programs. They must re-evaluate their mission and establish priorities," he said.

 

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MONSANTO FEST BRINGS LATIN CULTURE TO UH

by Jessica Ellis

Daily Cougar Staff

The fifth annual Arturo Monsanto Latin American Folk Festival boasted salsa and merengue contests, performances and a variety of foods Sunday in the UC. This is the first year a student group, Kappa Delta Chi, has participated in the event's sponsorship.

The festival is held annually in memory of UH graduate Arturo Monsanto, who died in a car accident. He is the son of UH Professor Carlos Monsanto.

The festival's proceeds go toward funding academic and textbook scholarships for qualifying UH Hispanic students.

UH's chapter of Kappa Delta Chi, a Hispanic-based sorority, sponsored the event, as well as the UH Honors College and the Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

In September, Carlos Monsanto expressed his concern during the planning stages of the festival that the event needed support from a campus student organization in order to take on the responsibilities of arranging and organizing such an event.

"I'm very excited about the fact that Kappa Delta Chi revived the festival," Monsanto said. "We (family and friends) felt that we couldn't do it (by ourselves), and it (the festival) was going to die."

Houston-area dance groups representing different Latin American countries performed in the UC's Houston Room.

Countries represented in the program included Brazil, Panama, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, El Salvador and Mexico.

Hispanic-student organizations sold food and beverages, including mole, beans and rice in the UC Arbor. One quarter of the proceeds goes to the Monsanto Scholarship Fund, Hispanic Student Association President Russell Contreras said.

"It (the festival) was a pretty good way of learning about Latin American culture if you are not from that region," junior biochemistry major Hamel Patel said.

UH alumnus Patricia Cabrera attended the folk festival as part of her weekend birthday celebration with her family.

"My parents always come to the festival," Cabrera said. "Whenever there is a presentation of Latin American folklore, I always try to make it."

"People just assume that because you're Hispanic, it means you're Mexican American," said Imelda De La Cruz, Kappa Delta Chi vice president and director of this year's event. "People take Latin American culture for granted.

"We hope that the festival unites us all -- we're all Hispanic," she said.

In addition to the dance performances, two salsa and merengue dance contests were held in the Cougar Den. Airline tickets were awarded to the winning couples.

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PROGRAM TARGETS COMMUTER

STUDENTS' NEEDS

by Shahida Amin

News Reporter

President James H. Pickering calls it "reinventing urban education," but for some first-year students like Josie Pickens, the Scholars' Community has come to mean much more.

"(Fall 1994) was a difficult first semester, but I think it could have been a lot worse," Pickens said. "I do not think I would have made it through without the Scholars' Community."

Commuters often feel little identification with the campus because they perceive it as complex and intimidating, said Edwin Willems, co-director of the program.

Established in fall 1994, the Scholars' Community was intended to raise low retention rates by making UH more than a "drive-through" education for commuters. Willems added that the program's aim is to help students build a sense of community, improve morale and academic attitudes, and achieve high-level skills for working in teams and groups.

The program -- sponsored by the Exxon Education Foundation, which has donated $500,000 to UH in the form of a challenge grant, the Butler Foundation, other private sponsors and UH -- provides its members with a home base on campus located in the Quadrangle's Law Hall.

The program houses a lounge/reception area, lockers, a message-exchange center, telephones, administrative offices, faculty offices, counseling and learning support services, peer tutors, work space and graduate teaching assistants. Classrooms, seminar rooms and a computer laboratory are under construction in the basement of the hall.

Commuters like Pickens, who make up more than 80 percent of UH's student population, are seriously at risk for dropping out because of outside pressures like part-time or full-time jobs and family obligations, Willems said.

"It's not like they can get in the car and drive away to school and come back four years later with a B.S. or a B.A.," said Terrell Dixon, co-director of the program. "They are in the city with jobs and family, and they're pulled in a lot of directions."

"What really brought me here was that a lot of the stuff was here just for us," said Jabari DeBerry, a freshman. "It's nice to have something that belongs to you, something that helps you out."

The program includes linked courses and collaborative and cooperative learning, in which students learn to work in teams instead of as isolated individuals.

"It gives us smaller classrooms to where it's not the big lecture (halls) colleges traditionally have, and you get to know your classmates as well as your teachers," said Tony Ponce De Leon, a freshman engineering major.

The program recruited 300 freshmen this year. For each of the next three years, a new group of 300 students, fitting the same criteria, will be selected. Once students join, they stay until graduation.

UH is the first university in the nation to attempt the program on such a large scale. As an experimental program, it will be evaluated closely for four years. If the program succeeds, it will become the basis of education for all commuters at UH and "reinvent urban education."

"(Students) get more out of the dollars they spend on college, we get better retention rates and the country gets a better-educated work force," Dixon said.

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UH notebook

3-22-1

FIELDS FINISHES 2ND IN BIG APPLE'S GARDEN

Cougar sports services

Houston junior Sheddric Fields finished second with a long jump of 25 feet, eight inches Saturday at the Milrose Games open indoor track meet in New York's Madison Square Garden.

Fields finished behind former Middle Tennessee State athlete Roland McGhee, who jumped 27-2. It wasn't the first time McGhee had defeated Fields, who was beaten out by McGhee for the silver medal in the 1994 NCAA Championships long jump also.

Fields' jump was 3 1/2 inches farther than 1994 Milrose long jump winner and 1994 NCAA outdoor long jump champion, Erick Walder's 25-4 1/2.

Cougars golf to start season

The No. 13 Houston Cougars golf team will open up its 1995 season today at the PING Arizona Intercollegiate in Tuscon.

A total of 14 teams, eight ranked in the <I>Golf World Magazine<P> Top 20, will compete at the 54-hole Randolph Park North through Tuesday.

 

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OPERA GIVES A TASTE OF <I>MILK<P>

by Ivana Segvic

Daily Cougar Staff

The struggle for rights has existed since the beginning of man. The fight for women's equality with men, the fight of minorities to gain the same standards as whites, the rights of immigrants, the fight for and against abortion. The list continues, but what makes the list real and concrete are the individuals who carry the torch of freedom and equality.

The Houston Grand Opera chose to create an opera about such an individual. Yet one facet keeps the "traditional" out of this opera. David Gockley, innovative general director, came up with the idea of an opera about Harvey Milk, a Jewish politician who fought for all minorities.

Milk was also a homosexual. He struggled with his own closet homophobia until the age of 39. When he confronted his own fears and announced his sexual preference, his life turned into a battle for the rights of minorities and, especially, gays.

Because of the close-minded ideas about homosexuality in the 1970s, Milk, the first openly gay elected official, was abruptly prevented from continuing his fight for rights. As San Francisco's city supervisor, Milk was shot and killed on Nov. 27, 1978, by a man who could not open his eyes to this lifestyle.

Baritone Robert Orth led the audience through the life of Milk. Although his voice was flawless, the acting failed to evoke emotions. Perhaps part of the problem the entire cast had with evoking emotions was the atonal melodies that combined to form the music of <I>Harvey Milk<P>. Composer Stewart Wallace failed to create the atmosphere this opera was in need of.

However, librettist Michael Korie successfully created language that was not only filled with irony and emotion, but also told the story of <I>Harvey Milk<P> with great passion. Milk's turmoil was evident when he sang "I stand up for myself as a Jew, why not a man who loves men. My star is a pair of triangles, one pink and one yellow." Korie also managed to keep comic relief within the opera with phrases like "I pitch, I don't catch."

Ross A. Perry, the choreographer, and Paul Steinberg, the set designer, deserve the highest praise for their imagination. The set and choreography these two artists created told the story without words and without actors or singers. One of the most memorable aspects of the set was a pink triangle coming forth from the ceiling and a yellow one following, forming the Jewish star. The stage was also in the form of a triangle. At one point the chorus lines up along the two sides of the triangle with Milk at the base.

Tenor Raymond Very sang Dan White, the man who assassinated Harvey Milk. His performance was the highlight of the opera. Very showed both emotion and talent with his voice, excellently portraying the man who could not let his neighborhood fall to "fags."

Milk's boyfriend was sung by tenor Bradley Williams, who added comedy and support not only for Milk, but also for the audience.

The rest of the performers gave all of themselves to make <I>Harvey Milk<P> a memorable and unique opera. Conductor Ward Holmquist directed the orchestra with finesse and energy. Although the music wasn't memorable, Holmquist made it flawless.

Many of the traditional opera goers were not present at this opera, but those who previously did not have the interest to go to operas came to see <I>Harvey Milk<P>.

HGO is currently performing <I>Porgy and Bess<P> and <I>Dido and Aeneas<P>. Student tickets are available at a discounted rate. Call 546-0200 for more information.

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