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May 5, 2003

University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign Senate

Senate Committee on Educational Policy
(Final - Action)

EP.03.35 Report 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 requires 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." 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' beliefs (religious and otherwise) 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 presented herein recognize that

At the same time, these recommendations acknowledge that

The Senate Committee on Educational Policy urges the Senate to adopt 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. (In the next sections, the committee's policy recommendations appear in boldface type. Note that these recommendations do not apply to courses offered in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Note, too, that throughout this document, dissection refers to the dissection of vertebrate animals.)

Policy Recommendations


Recommendation 1: If a class on the Urbana-Champaign campus is to involve students in the dissection of vertebrate animals, the following information shall be readily accessible to students at the time of priority registration: (a) whether alternative assignments will be made available to students who request accommodations; (b) when and how such accommodations must be requested; (c) how the denial of accommodations may be appealed; (d) how to inquire about the unavailability of accommodations.

Availability of Alternatives

Recommendation 2: In General Education courses that require students to engage in animal dissection, alternatives to dissection must be made available to all students who request them. A course that requires dissection without alternative is not a General Education course, but rather a specialty course.

Recommendation 3: In all other courses that require students to engage in dissection activities, alternatives shall be made readily available to students who request accommodation, but only if the offering department deems it academically appropriate and economically feasible to do so. In upper-level classes where dissection is required, and no suitable non-animal alternatives can be found, departments and faculty are strongly encouraged to locate sources of animals that are not harvested for the express purpose of dissection. If a repository of such animals can be identified that does not represent an undue financial burden, departments are urged to procure these animals should students request alternatives to traditional dissection. such dissection protocols continue to be subject to IACUC approval. IACUC approval does not, however, preclude the use of alternatives to dissection as long as it is understood that alternatives must not be fully educationally equivalent to an IACUC-approved dissection exercise.

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, and to consider non-animal alternatives and explain why such non-animal models are not adequate substitutes for the use of animals. If practical, in courses in which alternatives are likely to be requested, instructors are encouraged to develop alternatives that are most beneficial educationally so that they will be ready for delivery upon request. Sources of funding for such course development are discussed below.

Recommendation 4: The availability of alternatives to dissection shall 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. Departments are encouraged to augment these notifications so as to convey the best possible sense of how dissection will figure in students' course work.

Requests for Accommodation

Recommendation 5: Students should ask their instructors for alternatives to dissection between the time of registration and no later than the end of the first week they attend class. Requests should be made in writing. 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.

Recommendation 6: Students whose requests for alternatives to dissection 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."

Advising Recommendation

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. 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.

Recommendation 7: In the Programs of Study document, departments and schools in the life sciences shall identify pathways toward undergraduate degrees according to whether or not students are required to engage in the dissection of vertebrate animals without alternative. Such departments and schools should provide academic advising that helps students reconcile their degree goals and career aspirations with their beliefs about animal life.

Curriculum Development

The development of alternatives to dissection 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, the University Library, and the Office of Instructional Resources), as well as extramural sources (e.g., Mellon Foundation Program in Teaching and Technology).


Recommendation 8: In Fall 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.

Educational Policy Committee
Peter Mortensen, Chair
Dominic Frigon
Dick Mintel
Abbas Aminmansour
Guy Garnett
Jerome Packard
Paul Beck
Phillip Geil
Roscoe Pershing, ex officio*
Sheryl Benson, ex officio*
Felipe Hillard
Alice Poehls, ex officio*
Bruce Branham
Krista Jurs
Sue Searing
Vernon Burton
Naomi Makins
Amy Sponsler
James Campion
Sarah Mangelsdorf, ex officio*
Douglas Wiegmann
Bettina M. Francis
Keith Marshall, observer*

*Denotes non-voting status