Exactly 462 of the 4,679 currently enrolled undergraduate students at American University of Sharjah—almost 10 percent—are on academic probation this semester. While some students say the workload is too stressful, and most faculty members disagree, it falls to the university’s Academic Support Center (ASC) to resolve the issue.
According to Senior Academic Support Advisor Dipti Bley, reasons vary as to why students allow their cumulative grade point average (CGPA) to fall below the minimum requirement of 2.0, at which point they are placed on Probation I status. Many students are not well prepared for university studies, she explained; others face personal problems, and have time management or motivation issues.
Bley said that upon entering Probation I, students must seek guidance from Academic Support Center advisors and sign a contract promising to visit them on a regular basis throughout the semester for support and to learn strategies to get back in good academic standing.
If students fail to adequately raise their CGPA after a semester on probation, their status is changed to Probation II. If the CGPA still shows no improvement, they face dismissal afterwards.
“They can apply for reinstatement, but we accept very few students and only those that had extenuating circumstances impacting their studies,” noted Bley. Only five were reinstated this semester, she confirmed.
Academic Support Center personnel would rather the students get off of probation.“Our goal is to make sure students are on the right track,” said Bley, noting that in addition to individual advising, the center conducts seminars and workshops on time management, study skills and other related issues.
On March 18 and 19, for example, it offered a workshop on test taking strategies and anxiety. Only a handful of students attended, and those who did said their professors had urged them to do so.
“We started doing these programs about five years ago,” said Academic Support Advisor Simeon Fields, who gave the March 19 workshop. “We had 12 different areas that we focused on for students to succeed in.”
He added that when the programs first began, they were only for students on academic probation but now they are open to all undergraduate students. And Bley noted that all students are welcome to speak with Academic Support Center advisors if they feel they need help.
However, students along the years have been complaining AUS-related stress. Students and faculty subsequently weighed in their opinions regarding stress-induced workload via Facebook crowdsourcing.
“AUS is stressful as a university,” wrote mass communication student Rabee Morra, one of many who chimed in. Coursework assigned in different classes is often due in the same period of time, added Morra. Amy Adam, a 2012 graduate, agreed that professors assigned “too many things at once.”
Professors, however, disagreed, arguing the workload is not as stressful as students say it is.
“Professors today report that they assign lighter reading loads to students than they had when they [professors] were students,” wrote Assistant Professor of English Language and Literature Nicholas Karavatos.
“Students are complainers,” he added. “A university education is rigorous and intensive training, which is stressful.”
Assistant Professor of Psychology Mark Aveyard noted that AUS graduates with full-time jobs undergo greater stress and workload.
Nonetheless, mechanical engineering alumnus Omar Sharaf said as part of the online commentary that “It all boils down to your level of motivation and commitment to pre-set goals in every semester.”
Nour Al-Ali is an English Literature and Mass Communication double major junior at the American University of Sharjah.
For more information about American University of Sharjah, please visit www.aus.edu