University of Illinois
March 17, 2003
Senate Committee on Educational Policy
Final - Information
EP.03.18 Report of Information to the Senate on Alternatives to Dissection in Undergraduate Courses
Last September, the Illinois Student Government unanimously passed Assembly Resolution 02-08-06, "ISG Support for Alternatives to Dissection." In part, the resolution asserts that "there is a portion of the student body whose deeply held religious or ethical objections require them not to dissect or vivisect" and asks that instructors "provide alternatives to students whose religious or ethical beliefs directly conflict with the act of dissection or vivisection." The Senate Committee on Educational Policy has welcomed the opportunity to work with students and faculty members to address concerns about the instructional use of animals in undergraduate courses.
The aim of this report is to describe an approach to harmonizing two important institutional values: respect for students' religious and ethical beliefs, and excellence in undergraduate education-specifically education that investigates the nature of vertebrate life. It is the role of the Senate to guide departmental and school policymaking by explicating the norms of campus culture relevant to the matter at hand. To the extent possible, then, the recommendations contained in this report recognize that
- the use of animals in specific undergraduate courses and programs is best decided at the departmental or school level; and
- the interpretation of instructional animal use policy is best accomplished in the context of the regular advising relationships that students have with faculty or academic professional advisors.
At the same time, these recommendations acknowledge that
- long-standing initiatives to diversify the campus' undergraduate population are increasing the number of students whose religious beliefs compel them to request alternatives to dissection and vivisection assignments; and
- students have valid personal reasons apart from religious beliefs for wanting to avoid animal dissection and vivisection.
The Senate Committee on Educational Policy urges the Senate to accept this report, thereby establishing a framework within which schools and departments may continue their efforts to foster teaching and learning of the highest caliber while according full value to the myriad cultural traditions and beliefs evident in the student body today.
If a class on the Urbana-Champaign campus is to involve students in the dissection or vivisection of vertebrate animals, the following information shall be readily accessible to students at the time of priority registration:
Availability of Alternatives
- whether alternative assignments will be made available to students who request accommodations;
- when and how such an accommodations must be requested;
- how the denial of accommodations may be appealed;
- how to inquire about the unavailability of accommodations.
A course that requires dissection or vivisection without alternative is not a general education course, but rather a specialty course.
Departments reserve the right to designate certain degree programs, concentrations, or options as requiring dissection. However, if the upper-division courses in a degree program involve little or no dissection or vivisection, the program's lower-division prerequisites (regardless of the department offering them) should make alternatives readily available if dissection or vivisection is required. This criterion must be met as a condition of Senate Committee on Educational Policy approval for new or revised programs of study.)
In all courses that require students to engage in dissection and/or vivisection activities, alternatives shall be made readily available to students requesting accommodation, but only if the offering department deems it academically appropriate and economically feasible to do so.
As it stands, the instructional use of animals must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), which requires instructors to provide, among other things, a detailed rationale for using animal subjects. Instructors are encouraged to use the process of securing IACUC approval for classroom or lab dissection to consider non-animal alternatives for students who might request them. If practical, the alternatives most likely to be requested should be ready to deliver upon request.
The availability of alternatives to dissection should be announced in the Timetable and its successor under SCT Banner. Suggested notifications are: (1) DISSECTION REQUIRED: ALTERNATIVES AVAILABLE FOR ALL ASSIGNMENTS; (2) DISSECTION REQUIRED: ALTERNATIVES AVAILABLE FOR SOME ASSIGNMENTS; (3) DISSECTION REQUIRED: ALTERNATIVES NOT AVAILABLE.
Requests for Accommodation
Students should ask their instructors for alternatives to dissection and vivisection, preferably in writing, during the time of registration and no later than the end of the first week they attend class. In responding to requests, instructors should be mindful that the campus Statement on Individual Rights stipulates that "information about student views, beliefs, and political associations that instructors acquire in the course of their work as instructors, advisers, and counselors should be considered confidential" (§2.C). Particulars about how and when to request alternatives should appear conspicuously on a department's or school's webpage.
Students whose requests for alternatives to dissection and vivisection are denied may appeal the denial to the appropriate Unit Executive Officer (e.g., Chair, Head, or Director). Concerns about the availability of alternatives should also be directed to that person. Students whose requests grow out of religious convictions (see Statement on Individual Rights, §7) may appeal the denial or unavailability of accommodations by following the process defined in the Code of Policies and Regulations Applying to All Students
, Rule 24, "Grievance Procedures in Matters of Religious Beliefs, Observances, and Practices."
The process for appealing the provision of an inadequate alternative assignment is described in the Code
, Rule 26, "Procedures for Review of Alleged Capricious Grading-All Students."
Nothing in the policy recommendations above is intended to alter the pathways students currently follow toward completion of majors in the life sciences. Instead, the recommendations seek to map these pathways more clearly for the benefit of students who have objections to dissection and vivisection. It is likely that, as is now the case, some pathways within majors will require students to dissect vertebrate animals without the choice to do otherwise. But along other pathways, dissection may not be required, or may be avoided.
Departments and schools should identify these pathways in the Programs of Study
document and should provide academic advising that helps students achieve their degree goals and career aspirations without compromising their beliefs regarding animal life.
The development of alternatives to dissection and vivisection assignments is not without cost. To underwrite expenditures for faculty time and material acquisitions, departments and instructors should make full use of internal sources of support for instructional development and the acquisition of information resources (e.g., the Teaching Advancement Board, CITES Educational Technologies, college Teaching Academies, departmental libraries, and the Office of Instructional Resources), as well as extramural sources (e.g., Mellon Foundation Program in Teaching and Technology).
In Spring 2004, the Senate Committee on Educational Policy shall undertake a review of school and departmental policies governing the instructional use of animals in the undergraduate curriculum and at that time shall submit its findings in a Report of Information to the Senate.