Approved by the Biological Sciences Department on 3/26/2010



Instructional Use of Organisms: Pedagogy and Policy

HSU Department of Biological Sciences





The HSU Biological Sciences Department has a long and highly regarded tradition of undergraduate instruction. It has been a special quality of our programs that they provide and emphasize direct hands-on experience of real organisms from diverse taxonomic groups. Such experience includes handling, maintaining, experimentally manipulating, dissecting, and preparing specimens of real organisms. These experiences are necessary because learning about life is a necessary but insufficient step for reaching the goal of being a practicing scientist. Students must also do science in order to achieve this goal.


Biological science is first and foremost the observation and study of real organisms and the evidence of natural processes they provide.Biological knowledge is based on direct observation, experimental manipulation, and empirical measurements of organisms. A student in the HSU Biology program will be trained how to handle, manipulate and observe organisms in order to become a practicing scientist.


In an era of increasing reliance on manufactured instructional materials, our Department is committed to maintaining and augmenting our tradition of direct hands-on experiences of real organisms in our courses. The study of textbooks, internet resources, simulation packages, etc. can be effective in learning material such as the names and locations of anatomical features, but simulations cannot fully reproduce the process and practice of advancing science through discovery and interpretation of unanticipated results.


By its very nature, an academic curriculum is constantly updated and revised by faculty. Over a period of many years our curricula have been carefully constructed through the efforts of faculty from a wide range of biological disciplines.Course content is, by right and law (California Administrative Code, Title V., Section 42711), the responsibility of the Departmental faculty members qualified by education and experience in the discipline.


It is the nature of biological science that it will at times necessitate the killing and death of organisms. It is the position of the Department faculty (and the overwhelming majority of biologists worldwide) that the use of real organisms in education and the conduct of science have intrinsic value of the highest order.

As a faculty, we recognize that students come from a variety of religious and ethical traditions, and that students hold diverse philosophical viewpoints. We believe that this diversity enhances the learning environment and improves the intellectual and educational climate of the department. Because we are dedicated to student learning, we recognize that some students require individual accommodations in order to learn effectively, and we are willing to provide such accommodations so long as they are not impediments to becoming a practicing biologist. However, it is not possible for HSU Biology majors to avoid the use of all organisms in the course of their study. For example, in cases where cells or groups of organisms are the primary focus of a course, a student should expect to be manipulating those cells or organisms.


By choosing to enter into instruction in any of the programs of the Department of Biological Sciences, (or any other CSU department) students are agreeing to the right of the faculty to determine any and all aspects of curricula. Accordingly, the following policies apply to any students choosing to enroll in any course in the Department.





-- At all times in all instructional settings, strict compliance with policy and law applicable to the care and use of organisms will be observed by Department faculty and staff. This includes any guidelines, rules, regulations or laws officially enacted at the campus, university, state, or federal levels. HSU's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is specifically charged with approving and inspecting the use and care of vertebrates in teaching and research.


-- In any course, students may be required to work with real organisms. It is the responsibility of students of biological science to understand that course activities will, at times, necessitate the death of organisms.


-- In a few cases, a course may require students to experimentally manipulate and cause the death of vertebrate cells, tissues, or early embryos (i. e., prior to the development of the nervous system). Students will not be required to kill any other vertebrate specimens used in any studies. Vertebrate specimens used in courses will be killed outside of class in the most humane manner possible (e.g. as recommended by IACUC) by faculty or other professionals trained in specimen preparation.


-- In any course, graded exercises or activities may require that students work directly with real organisms. Failure to participate in such required activities may result in a loss of graded points and directly influence a student's final grade for the course. The instructor of record for a particular course in a particular semester will make the final decision whether or not such activities are required or graded. The policy may change from any one course offering or semester to another.


-- In any course requiring that students work directly with real organisms or specimens, the instructor of record for a particular course in a particular semester may make the decision to allow students an alternative assignment that does not involve real organisms. The instructor will determine the availability and grading requirements of such alternative assignments on a case-by-case basis. The availability of alternative assignments may change from any one course offering or semester to another.


-- The syllabus for any course offered in the Department will clearly state the general nature of real organism use that is required of students. For example, when appropriate to course content, a syllabus might state: "Organisms may be killed in this course. It is the responsibility of the student to understand the departmental policy on organism use (reference website)." If a student has more specific questions regarding the extent or nature of such requirements, it is that student's responsibility to contact the instructor within the first week of class.



Any students not in agreement with any aspect of the instructional use of organisms, whether on moral, ethical, religious, or any other grounds, have the following options available:


i.) Students may contact the instructor of record for a particular course offering in a particular semester to inquire whether certain activities (such as dissections) are required and graded, and whether or not any alternative assignments would be available. Students may then choose not to enroll in that course.


ii.) Students may contact their academic advisor for guidance and discuss general course content before finalizing their choice of major or major emphasis.Certain activities are more likely to be required in some curricula; e.g., the Zoology Major is very likely to include more animal dissections than some other majors or major emphases.