Endorsement of "White Paper on Student Success"


AS-3322-18/AA (Rev)


: That the Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU) recognize that graduation rates and time to graduation should not be used as the primary dimension of student success; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU endorse the “White Paper on Student Success,” which presents the myriad dimensions of student success and focuses on faculty-student interaction as a critical component of student success; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU distribute this resolution to the CSU Board of Trustees, CSU Chancellor, CSU campus Presidents, CSU campus Senate Chairs, CSU Provosts/Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs, California Faculty Association (CFA), California State Student Association (CSSA), Emeritus and Retired Faculty Association (ERFA), President, Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, and the Chair, Academic Senate of the University of California.


RATIONALE: It is difficult to separate a definition of student success from the ways that institutions try to cultivate it, and how they assess it. Institutions have ways to gather data about the easily measurable forms of student success, and because that is the case, they define it only by way of what is easily measurable. Those forms might include degree completion and time to degree, admission to further degree programs, career entry time, career entry salary, and GPA.

From what is easily measurable, institutions then turn to the promotion of those criteria as evidence of student success. Thus, resources are provided for programs, offices, curricular initiatives and extracurricular activities and supports that are directed specifically to the criteria that are most easily measurable. If an institution can demonstrate good numbers in these elements, they then produce a self-confirming circle: from what is easily measurable, to a definition of student success based on these elements, to what is promoted and resourced, and back to the measured elements for assessment.

One of the problems with the criteria that are easily measurable is that they necessarily standardize and homogenize the students, categorizing their experiences in lump-sum form. We believe we must define student success by way of each individual student. We must meet each student where they are, and then count their successes by way of their unique situations. We need an agreed-upon definition of student success that encompasses, for instance, the mastery of a threshold concept—the moment of enlightenment, the hurdle gotten over, and the student’s joy in their own intellectual capacities. This can happen to a 2.4 GPA student as well as to a 3.8 GPA student; but in our assessments and measurements right now, we have no way of accounting for this real example of student success. Moreover, it is this moment that retains the student for another term, and more terms, until graduation. We understand that linking this moment to a measurement is difficult, but it is not impossible, and it is where our attention to student success must turn.

In any definition of student success, it must be recognized that faculty see every day evidence of student success in their classrooms in forms that are not easily measurable. This white paper, then, is intended to de-familiarize our perception of what counts as student success. It is time to reclaim faculty’s knowledge of and experience with students in the classroom as primary for understanding what the term “student success” entails.



Approved Unanimously – May 10-11, 2018




Academic Senate Home | Calendar | Search Resolutions | Contact Us | Helpful Links