Undergraduate Council

Members present:  Brian Colle, Cynthia Dietz, Donna Di Donato, Sarah Fuller, Norm Goodman, Cheryl Hamilton, Joe Mitchell, Scott Sutherland, Joseph Antonelli, Leo Kamenetskiy

The meeting was called to order on April 4, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.  Brian Colle volunteered to take the minutes. This was an emergency meeting to discussion the deactivation of hundreds of Arts and Sciences courses a few days before Fall registration. The memo below summarizes the Council’s discussions.

MEMORANDUM
TO:                  Eric Kaler, Provost
                        James Staros, Dean Arts and Sciences

CC:                  Shirley Strum Kenny, President
Other Deans
Nancy Tomes (A/S CC)
Gary Marker (CAPRA)
Cynthia Davidson (President of A&S Senate)
Bernard Lane (Senate President)

FROM:             Brian Colle, Chair Undergraduate Council

SUBJECT:        Supplemental Instuctional Budget (SIB) Cut Impacts

DATE:             April 4, 2008

Dear Provost Kaler and Dean Staros:

This Undergraduate (UG) Council met in an emergency session Friday AM (4/4/08) to discuss the proposed budget cuts to Arts and Sciences, which resulted in the deactivation of 388 discrete course sections this week. We understand the tough economic conditions of New York State and the University, but the proposed budget cuts, whether its the full Supplemental Instructional Budget (SIB) or even a fraction, will have negative implications on the university and its mission in several respects:

  • Students can not register for courses that they need to fulfill their graduation requirements, make progress in their major, or complete their General Education (DEC) requirements.
  • Even if the courses are just deactivated now, from a student perspective they are canceled, since they do not appear on SOLAR online. Students are currently searching for courses for the Fall and planning their schedules, and they are shocked not to see certain courses. In other words, the current university actions are already having negative impacts. The university Undergraduate Bulletin is in some sense a legal document, and students expect required courses to be offered regularly.
  • If the university can not offer the courses the students need, the students will likely transfer of choose to attend other schools in the region. This will hurt student retention and recruitment of new students in the Fall and will create a highly negative impression of Stony Brook in high schools and community colleges throughout New York State.
  • It is overoptimistic to expect redeployment of faculty to provide a significant percentage of the resources necessary to activate presently deactivated courses. If faculty workloads are increased across the board, Stony Brook can no longer sustain itself as a research university with AAU status. Increased faculty load hurts morale and will likely result in more faculty leaving the university.
  • The university has been devoting considerable resources and energy to improve the first year experience for our undergraduates and following through with high-quality education in subsequent years. Cutting courses undermines this effort and puts the university back to the time when the institution had a tarnished reputation as a place for undergraduate study.
  • If we do not retain many of our adjuncts and instructors, they will seek employment elsewhere. Moreover, those graduate students who depend upon salaries earned as adjuncts (and there are many) will be forced to drop out of their degree programs. It will be difficult to find qualified adjunct instructors unless courses and course sections are reactivated immediately.

We do not believe this problem can be solved by simply redeploying the faculty to teach more sections. Even if faculty who are viewed as not teaching enough are assigned to teach more, this will likely result in at most 30-60 additional lectures, not the 300-400 currently required. Even if half of the proposed deactivated courses are made available again next week, there is still a problem, and the university still can not fulfill its mission of undergraduate education.

The Undergraduate Council recommends that the SIB budget be reinstated, so that students can get the courses they need. We hope that the Deans and Administration can meet soon to discuss ways in balancing the budget in more practical way, such that the students, faculty, and university reputation as an AAU institution are not damaged.

Given the importance of this to the students, the Undergraduate Council also recommends that the Fall registration for students, which is supposed to be this Monday (April 7th) be delayed one week, so that all parties can continue to discuss this problem.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

Regards,

Brian Colle (Chair, UGC)