Undergraduate Council
April 25, 2008

Present: Michael Barnhart,  Brian Colle, Donna Di Donato, Cynthia Dietz,  D. Kane Gillespie, Sarah Fuller, Richard Gatteau, Norman Goodman, Joseph Mitchell
Guest, Mark Aronoff

Old Business:
B. Colle began the meeting by asking the Council to review a communication that had been prepared to be sent to undergraduate program directors on west campus.  The memo addressed the upper division writing (UDW) requirement and asked program directors to respond to several questions about how this requirement is implemented in the departments.  After some minor discussion, the Council agreed to have the survey sent to program directors.

New Business: 
Mark Aronoff, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education requested a visit with the Undergraduate Council to discuss activities over the academic year and upcoming plans.  Initially, he followed up on the Council's brief discussion of the DEC with the comment that the Provost would like to see a joint Provostial/University Senate task force established to review Stony Brook’s general education requirements.  He added that he is planning a project for the summer to review the requirements of selected science majors (e.g., PHY, CHE and GEO) at other AAU publics.  His hunch, after some preliminary investigation, is that the number of requirements/credits for some majors at Stony Brook is significantly higher than at other peer institutions. 
M. Aronoff also mentioned that according to some data recently presented by Institutional Research, Stony Brook (along with the University of Iowa) is a strong outlier when it comes to grading--we grade harder than most other AAU publics.

N. Goodman responded that he thought the idea of exploring the structure and requirements of other major programs was a good idea and it always help to have more information about grading and majors.  NGoodman also remarked that it is inappropriate for the Provost to assign a committee to review the DEC.  The recommendation for any investigation should come from the Undergraduate Council.

M. Aronoff also reported on changes to the writing and math placements for new incoming students.  Math placement will be by proctored exam only.  Over the last few years we have attempted variations of on-line and proctored placement exams for math and are now convinced that proctored placement is superior.  Placement exams will be given at Stony Brook, SB Manhattan and SB Southampton.

Attempts to improve writing placement have been ongoing for some time.  A few years ago we adopted use of the IMOAT on-line writing placement created by MIT.  Students would take the exam through the summer and in some cases not at all which made registration advising difficult at Orientation and made resource planning difficult for CAS.  Recently, the Committee on the Undergraduate Experience (CUE) proposed to supplement the IMOAT by using SAT writing and verbal scores to place students.  Specifically, students whose combined writing and verbal SAT score is 1220 or higher would be placed in WRT 102 and students with a combined score of 1000 or below would be placed in WRT 101 (with the exception of ESL who would be identified through a separate process).  These cut-offs were established after looking at the scores and placement of students recently admitted to the University.  Students with scores in between 1000 and 1220 will be placed in 101, but be given the opportunity to take the exam to place into WRT 102.

N. Goodman responded that this placement proposal should have been brought to the Council earlier--he has no objection to the proposal--only to the process.  He also asked how this might affect writing more broadly on campus.

M. Aronoff said that he had been requesting a meeting with the Council for some time and agreed that the Council might have been informed about the placement changes earlier.  As for the affect on writing more generally, this was merely the placement tool, and with a new Director of the Writing Program coming on board who has been alerted to the need to consult broadly and encourage the Writing Program to have a less isolated role on campus-he hoped for positive change in this area.

M. Aronoff continued about the placement process, and said that for ESL, a proctored writing sample is best.  Since the University is entitled to copies of the SAT writing samples of students, these will be used as a preliminary step in placement for ESL, followed by questions asked of students that are useful determiners for ESL placement.  ESL candidates will ultimately take proctored writing exams.

M. Aronoff continued with a report on the First Year Matters project which he and close to 100 faculty, staff and students have been working on for the better part of this academic year.  This project is an assessment of the first year of college and a guided self-study.  The guide is John Gardner, first year guru and Director of the Policy Center on the First Year of College.  The study is divided among nine different dimensions with a committee for each dimension.  The committees prepare a report which is first sent to Gardner who responds in detail. 

M. Aronoff expects concrete recommendations to come from this exercise, for example the creation of a standing committee on the first year of college.  Recommendations will be vetted campus wide.  J. Gardner feels that SB is in a good position to address many issues given our commitment to the first year of college in the last five years.