SBU Undergraduate Council
Minutes of the Meeting of December 4, 2008

Attending: Brian Colle, Cynthia Davidson, Donna Di Donato, Cynthia Dietz, Arlene Feldman, Sarah Fuller, Jeff Ge, Kane Gillespie, Norman Goodman, Cheryl Hamilton, Joe Mitchell, Ashley Reji, Beverly Rivera, Scott Sutherland

1. The Nov. 6 minutes were approved.

2.  The Nov. 20 minutes were approved after several amendments. 

a.  Regarding 2e, Norm suggested that the minutes reflect that he was against voluntary participation in the Writing Program, but in fact he does not think students will participate voluntarily. 
b.  Cynthia Dietz said she was unsure (re: 2a) of the year span 5-7 for the overturn I Writing Program directors; Scott suggested that she alter this to “several directors over the past few years.” 
c.  In reference to point 2u, Kane stated that the passage “Gene [Hammond, the Writing Program Director] thinks that we can do away with a placement test”  is unnecessary to include because technically this is already in place in the next Undergraduate Bulletin.

{What follows are in reference to remarks made regarding the new Undergraduate Bulletin that appear in the Nov. 20 minutes and need clarification.)

d.  Regarding 2v—Sarah clarified that #5 was in reference to University Skills Tier 1 in reference to Donna’s asking whether writing courses should be transferable after matriculation; we had added that they could only be transferred if approved by the Writing Program. 
e.  Sarah suggested (regarding 2v and 2w) that it be clarified points 2 and 5 came from the new bulletin copy.  Regarding 2w, “The committee needs to decide how to enforce in “continuous sequence,” Kane said we delegated that to the Registrar’s Office. Scott said we will keep the words “in continuous sequence,” but we won’t decide how it is done.
 f.  Regarding 2h, “Bev suggested that SBU can enforce the dropping of a WRT program class,” it was suggested that we need to clarify how this can be accomplished.  Beverly said that PeopleSoft can prevent the dropping of a writing class.  The committee voted to approve the proposed new bulletin copy with these amendments.
g.  Norm suggested that we give Gene a chance to see what he can do to improve the situation with undergraduate writing before we make further suggestions or come up with a philosophical statement about how we can improve things further. 

A few more typographical adjustments were suggested, and the Nov. 20 minutes were approved.

3.  Policies on Undergraduate TAs

a.  The first item discussed was the university’s policy on undergraduate TAs proctoring exams.  Arlene found the prohibition against this on page 102 of the bulletin.  However, it is not being adhered to.  Sarah said that we either need to change the policy or come up with a solution. 
b.  Donna expressed concerned about the lack of a standard minimum GPA requirement for teaching assistants.
c.  Norm said that we need to consider what the undergraduate TA is all about, philosophically; he thinks it should be primarily to give students some experience teaching, but that grading other students puts the undergrad TA in a terrible position. 
d.  Scott discussed some of the problems faced by the Math Department with sometimes 900 students in a class and 5 instructors/TAs to do the grading (?) 
e.  Sarah suggested we set a policy for a minimum GPA and minimum grade in the course to be TA’d, with a mechanism whereby undergraduate TAs will not grade exams except in cases where chaos would ensue if they could not grade—in these cases, the instructor could apply for special dispensation to Donna. 
f.  Jeff said that he thinks we should not have a universal policy on undergraduate TAs, but that each academic unit should set its own policy on this.  He said that his department sets a minimum GPA requirement. 
g.  Donna asserted that it should be a privilege to TA, and expressed concern because you can have a situation in a class where a student with a 3.79 GPA is being mentored by one with a 2.1 GPA. 
h.  Kane said that the minimum GPA and the grading issue are two separate issues.  He suggested that it be an option for departments to select a minimum GPA for the practica. 
i.  Scott suggested that each department develop an explicitly stated set of criteria for TA standards, which would be approved by the relevant Dean.  Kane suggested this be a recommendation of the UG rather than an enforcement.  Arlene and Donna expressed concern that this would not be sufficient to ensure that standards were held in place by the department or individual instructors.  Scott suggested that departments should set policies, and faculty members could ask for exceptions when necessary. Norman said it would be appropriate for UG to require that departments set up criteria that are approved by their Dean to select undergraduate TAs.  However, this is separate from the grading issue. 
j.  Sarah said that it would be good to require that someone from each department send us the criteria after the department sets them up, so we could compare them to ensure there is some parity.  Joe asked, then why not set a minimum?  Instructors often are just given TAs and don’t screen them, and are often unaware of the policy regarding grading and proctoring.  Arlene reminded us that students must be given permission to register for these courses. 
k.  Scott said that it is viable to look at the enrollment in teaching practica courses and run a report to look at the GPAs and identify the low end.  Donna said that students often apply pressure to faculty when they are in a crisis to offer them a TAship. 
l.  Jeff said he thinks each unit should set its own standards, but there should be a universal policy on proctoring exams. 
m.  Scott suggested a basic 2.0 minimum GPA for TAs, with departments setting their own standards above that.  Donna said at present there are TAs with less than a 2.0 GPA, not in good standing.  There is temptation to take these courses that are graded S/U which carry a lighter commitment.
n.  After further discussion, Sarah suggested that we come to some kind of consensus today about the TA criteria and save the grading policies issue for a later meeting.
o.   Joe moved for a junior or senior 3.0 GPA and good standing for both TA and independent study criteria.  Kane suggested junior class standing (U3 or higher, not the number of years they have been here). 
p.  Sarah asked Donna to bring a proposal to the next meeting that would address both issues (TA and independent study minimum requirements); Donna said she would bring relevant data. 

Minutes respectfully submitted by Cynthia Davidson