Minutes of the Meeting of the Undergraduate Council
November 6, 2008 Rev
Present: Mark Aronoff (for Donna Di Donato), Cynthia Davidson, Arlene Feldman, Sarah Fuller, Kane Gillespie, Joe Mitchell, Ashley Reji, Scott Sutherland.
1. The Minutes of 10/02/2008 were approved as amended.
The Minutes of 10/23/2008 were approved as amended.
2. Scott Sutherland mentioned the difficulty of getting someone in a position of authority to speak about various aspects of instruction and curriculum at Stony Brook Southampton. (See Minutes of 10/23/08 under ‘New Business’.) A search for a new Dean for that campus is in process. Despite the fact that the administration of SB Southampton is in a transition phase, there was general consensus that the Council should acquire information about current hiring practices and undergraduate curriculum delivery and initiatives there. Scott will invite Interim Dean Martin Schoonen to speak with the Council.
3. The Council discussed a document brought to our attention by Donna Di Donato that concerns fulfillment of DEC Category A, the English Composition requirement, for students enrolled in WRT 101 this academic year. The Undergraduate Bulletin specifies satisfaction of this requirement through completion of two courses, WRT 101 and WRT 102 or 103 (or demonstration of an equivalent competence). The proposal from the current Writing Program is that some high achieving students currently in WRT 101 should be allowed to present a portfolio of writings that meets the specifications of those submitted for WRT 102. Those WRT 101 students whose writing portfolios are evaluated positively by two WRT 102 instructors, would be deemed to have satisfied DEC Category A, and would be exempted from taking WRT 102 in the Spring semester. Discussion centered around: a) the nature of the proposal itself, and b) the nature of UG Council jurisdiction over such a matter.
a) This proposal has already been approved by the CAS Curriculum Committee and announced to students currently in WRT 101 and their instructors. Whatever its merits or shortcomings, it would be disruptive to rescind the policy now.
The UG Council could declare the portfolio method of exemption from WRT 102 invalid for students enrolled in WRT 101 in Spring 2009, but that would be to treat them unfairly relative to the Fall WRT 101 students.
For this Fall semester, the expectation is that around 150 WRT 101 students (approximately 10% of those enrolled) may apply for the exemption from WRT 102.
A logistical problem is that present WRT 101 students will have to register for Spring classes well before their portfolios have been evaluated for exemption from WRT 102. Students should be advised to pre-register now for WRT 102 and to drop it later if their portfolios are accepted for WRT 102 equivalency.
Students exempted from WRT 102 through the portfolio procedure would not receive credit for the course. Their transcripts would simply record that they have satisfied DEC Category A.
This procedure is not expected to be invoked for the next academic year, 2009-10. Cynthia Davidson reports that the Director of the Writing Program is proposing a revision of the University-wide undergraduate writing requirement, and will bring that proposal before the Council at our next meeting.
Given the circumstances, the UG Council endorsed the proposed procedure for exemption from WRT 102 by students who pass the portfolio evaluation at a WRT 102 level.
The matter of UG Council jurisdiction hinges on whether the exemption from WRT 102 is simply a department/program matter with oversight from the A/S Senate Curriculum Committee or whether it is a matter of a University Requirement that is subject to UG Council oversight. Mark Aronoff argued that since DEC Category A is a university-wide undergraduate requirement for graduation, the UG Council does have jurisdiction over any change in fulfillment of that requirement, however temporary it might be. For that reason, Donna Di Donato and he brought the ‘portfolio proposal’ before the Council. Referencing the constitutions of the two bodies, Kane Gillespie argued that the A/S Senate Curriculum Committee did not view the proposed exemption from WRT 102 as a fundamental change in how DEC A is satisfied, but rather as a departmental/program matter (with oversight from the A/S Senate Curriculum Committee alone) of how learning objectives for DEC A are satisfied.
After due discussion, the UG Council took the position that it has jurisdiction over general degree requirements, including the DEC, that pertain to undergraduates across the University. Any proposed changes to those requirements need to be brought before the Council in a timely manner, before they are implemented. Due to the nature of this request there appears to be overlap in jurisdiction and the approval of both committees is appropriate.
4. Other Matters
News that the Director of the Writing Program will present a proposal for changing the DEC writing requirement is of considerable interest. Scott Sutherland was asked to request a copy of the proposal in advance so that the members of the Council can review it before out meeting. He will also circulate to the WP Director last Spring’s document on Council concerns about the writing program.
Joe Mitchell asked whether there was a general policy regarding Undergraduate TAs proctoring or assisting in the administration of examinations in undergraduate courses. Although the practice seems to be widespread (at least in certain departments), the Council was not aware of a general policy on it and will discuss it in the future.