SBU Undergraduate Council
Minutes of the Meeting of November 20, 2008

Present: Brian Colle, Cynthia Davidson, Donna Di Donato, Cynthia Dietz, Arlene Feldman, Sarah Fuller, Jeff Ge, Kane Gillespie, Norm Goodman, Gene Hammond, Joe Mitchell, Ashley Reji, Beverly Rivera, Scott Sutherland

  1. Cynthia Dietz took notes.
  2. UGC Meeting Minutes of November 6, 2008 were not approved. Discussion was tabled because Scott the discussion would exceed 15 minutes, and infringe upon discussion with Gene Hammond regarding Writing Program changes. Kane had wished to modify section 3b, and submitted a proposal attached, starting “I proposed amending the minutes….”. Kane also submitted excerpts from the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, Academic Year 2008-2009 from the Oct. 27, 2008 minutes, approved on 11/17/2008. Scott had submitted a similar memo with the subject “Re: Next UGC meeting on 11/20” which included Sarah Fuller’s memo from last semester and the notes from 11/6/08.
    1. Scott introduced Gene Hammond, the new Writing Director, who arrived at SBU in July, succeeding 6-7 directors in 5-7? years. Gene has heard complaints about students writing skills: that juniors and seniors do not write well enough, that the undergraduate level requirement is not rigorous, and that the program has no dollars. He submitted a page detailing problems: “Brief Notes on Writing Program”, and a sheet entitled “Twenty-Seven Goals: Stony Brook Writing Program”. He has devised a plan that would require no money. He proposes that DEC A language would change. Currently, 60% of undergrads enroll in 2 writing courses. His proposal to exempt students with a combined SAT Verbal and Writing score of 1000 or more would help reduce the number of students in WRT 101. The exempted students would be placed in WRT 102. Gene aims to offer required writing courses at the junior level, where he envisions they would have a major impact. A variety of courses would be tailored to appeal to juniors (e.g., writing for health professions, writing for a humanity theme).  He proposes a grammar course at the 200 level to be offered 2-3 times per semester. He proposes a course that would be parallel to WRT101 designed for students for which English is their second language. He envisions supervising 25 lecturers, of which many would be assigned to at least one department liaison. That lecturer would discuss with the department head/representative the frustrations and/or recommendations of the department pertaining to the writing program. Already Business, History and Materials Science are discussing their frustrations/recommendations.
    2. Joe Mitchell asked whether similar efforts were being made with the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Sarah noted that the changes appear to reflect a huge improvement.
    3. Scott noted that we need to discuss how writing program changes might impact the undergraduate experience.
    4. Gene noted that the changes require lots of advising. When students pass the program, several teachers have participated in grading the student. Ideally, good writing standards would be reiterated in each class.
    5. Norm is against voluntary participation in the writing program. Over half of his students need help with writing, whether sent to the Writing Center or not. He noted that very little writing gets done with large class sizes.
    6. Sarah voiced concern about standards for passing a student. She also asked whether there was a strategy for improving implementation.
    7. Gene referred us to the writing portfolio, and said that they contained a standard for spontaneous writing.
    8. Bev suggested that SBU can enforce the dropping of a WRT program class.
    9. Gene said that students without SAT scores will need to come to the Writing Program office for placement. He also said that there will not be low performers in 103 anymore. Gene is offering a new option: if a student passes 101 with an A grade, that person will bypass 102.
    10. Joe Mitchell voiced concern that people who pass writing courses still would not get 3-5 profs to say that their writing is adequate. Joe wants students to perform well in writing for a “spontaneous” sample.
    11. Gene said that he cannot guarantee that any student will carry over what he/she learns in one course to another. He mentions that writing skills need constant attention.
    12. Joe M. says that he sees no consistent guidelines or criteria. The samples he sees are atrocious. He would like to see a spontaneous sample as a requirement.
    13. Gene says that with large classes it is hard to focus on writing.
    14. Sarah would like to see more attention on genre writing, and on training students to write “identifications”.
    15. Brian asked how you get students to practice, faculty to give feedback, and students to acquire the skill.
    16. Kane mentioned that a global change outside the WRT program was needed at SBU to turn out better writers. He asked whether the 27 goals were the outcomes expected from WRT102.
    17. Gene said that not all are measurable, and that if a bar were set that it might be too high.
    18. Donna asked whether after matriculation if writing courses can be transferred.
    19. Jeff noted that in technical reports required by Engineering that the appearance is horrible, and that some seniors do not know how to write down their ideas.
    20. Gene indicated that people think in two ways: what they did, or what they thought. Lots of work is needed to format it properly.
    21. Gene thinks that we can do away with a placement test, and make do with the SAT and xyz? ESL students will have different requirements.
    22. The committee voted to approve unanimously #5? as approved by the curriculum committee with the phrase “unless approved by the writing program”.
    23. A change is required for #2. The committee needs to decide how to enforce in “continuous sequence”.

What is found in writing portfolio:
II. Meeting Portfolio Standards
A passing portfolio will meet program expectations in each of the following areas:
• Critical Thinking: reasoning and analysis, engagement with sources
Competent analysis of writer’s own ideas and source material: Writer signals engagement, questioning, or nuanced relationship with her or his thoughts and the materials being incorporated into her or his argument. The essay communicates an ability to interact with ideas, but it lacks the sophistication of a more mature writer.
• Genre Knowledge: engaging an academic audience in argument
Competent knowledge of the conventions of the academic essay: Writer shows some ability to use content (e.g., quotes, examples, hypotheticals), diction, and tone to engage an academic audience with a plausible argument appropriate to an academic audience. Essay’s form of presentation fits with task.
• Rhetorical Knowledge: organizing to achieve rhetorical effectiveness
Competent knowledge of rhetorical organization and paragraphing: Thesis drives flow of essay, though content may on occasion wander from its focus. Paragraphs are usually clear and unified. Evidence within paragraphs usually links to the main idea, and paragraphs have adequate detail. Transitions usually operate as simple signposts to link ideas, so the writer’s ability to use them is not sophisticated.

• Mechanics and Usage: Using appropriate sentence structure , punctuation, & documentation
Competent ability with sentence structure, sentence boundaries, and language usage (especially punctuating clauses and using correct verb forms). Sentences are clear and syntactically correct but may lack variety and suffer from wordiness or imprecise diction. Errors are infrequent and do not interfere with reader’s understanding or attention. Formatting of references usually fit with assigned style.]