The Daily Gamecock

Some students required to take zero-credit courses

Students' workload defined by more than academic hours

USC students may be receiving an unfair number of credit hours for the amount of work and effort put in to courses that are required for their majors.

Some schools, such as the USC School of Music, are requiring students to take multiple zero-credit classes and participate in activities outside of the classroom in addition to a heavy course load.

First-year vocal performance student Nicholas Hawkins was heavily influenced to join the on-campus opera group in addition to his normal courses, which include two zero-credit classes.

“You need 130-something hours to graduate, but you still have to take these classes that count for nothing,” Hawkins said. “They can be long and take up a lot of time, so it can be a pain.”

As for participating in opera, Hawkins says it can be taxing, but worth the experience in the end.

“As a vocal performance major I have to do opera, which is fun and you learn a lot, but it also consumes your life,” Hawkins said. “You have to keep your voice in good condition on little sleep, lots of other school work and everything else. It’s hard. It’s really, really hard, and these classes and outside activities that we don’t get credit for make it even harder.”

Students enrolled in zero-credit classes receive grades of either “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” which don’t impact grade-point average. A “satisfactory” grade must be earned in order to graduate, though.

“The students gain an appreciation and understanding of musical literature and concepts of performance practice, which is essential in their development as musicians,” said School of Music Associate Dean and Director of Undergraduate Studies Robert Pruzin. “These courses assist students in preparing their musical careers, whether it be as performers, educators or researchers.”

Zero-credit classes aren't the only reason students feel as though they aren’t earning the credit hours they deserve.

Fourth-year print journalism student Cameron Powell currently participates in the traditional senior semester within the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. During this 18-week period, Powell works with his classmates to create an online and print newspaper, as well as taking four courses — copy editing, reporting, feature writing and graphics design — that total 12 credit hours. Almost all journalism students participate in senior semester. They are required to work on the newspaper and go to class from approximately 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during their final undergraduate semester.

“The way I look at it is, for a three-credit-hour course, I go in three times a week or two times a week for a total of three hours that week,” Powell said. “For our 12-credit-hour courses, we’re in there from anywhere from 40 to 60 hours a week, so by the typical standards of a university course, I don’t feel like we’re getting the credit hours that we deserve.”

Carol Pardun, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, believes the rewards reaped from programs like senior semester outweigh the long work and low credit hours.

“Students [are given] a ‘real world’ experience — one they usually cherish,” Pardun wrote in an email response. “You could argue that lots of classes in the university require a lot of work, so it’s difficult to say that these 12 hours of credit require more than 12 hours of credit in other areas. I can understand why students think 12 hours of credit is not enough, but it is all we can give, given our other requirements, accreditation, etc. The bottom line is the students, for the most part, love the experience.”

Pardun also said that the number of hours required to graduate makes it difficult for most students to graduate in four years, an idea that crosses into other fields of study as well.

Second-year student Courtney Malo is focusing her studies on biology with minors in chemistry and psychology, and says the work load will make it strenuous to graduate on time.

According to Malo, a lab course for which she received only one credit hour was three hours in length.

“I need to be taking 17 to 18 hours per semester,” Malo said. “The problem is I can’t because my one-credit labs are more work than my three-hour lectures. BIOL 301L (Ecology and Evolution Lab) was more work than the corresponding lecture. It was a one-credit course, and the lab itself took three hours.

“It is ridiculous that a one-credit lab always seems to be way more work than a three-credit lecture,” Malo said. “It prevents me from taking the hours that I need to graduate on time.”