Minutes of the Meeting of the Undergraduate Council
November 18, 2009
Present: Michael Barnhart, Ora Bouey, Jian Cao, Donna Di Donato, Cynthia Dietz, Arlene Feldman, Sarah Fuller, Kane Gillespie, Norman Goodman, Cheryl Hamilton, Joe Mitchell, Beverly Rivera, Scott Sutherland.
1. Sarah Fuller agreed to take the Minutes of the meeting.
2. The Minutes of 10/21/09 were approved with the addition of a) concern about faculty staffing at the Stony Brook campus if faculty were to be posted to Songdo and b) Ora Bouey’s observation that on-line courses to a distant place in a time zone 9 or more hours separate from ours puts a heavy burden on the coordinator and instructors.
3. The Minutes of 11/04/09 were approved as emended and as supplemented by the Power Point slides provided by Nicole Sampson. Paragraph 3 should read that 650 new students have been targeted for admission in Spring 2010. In paragraph 4, more accurate data on students who repeat a course will be forthcoming. The general situation, according to Kane Gillespie, is an initial grade of W for 20% of those who undertake to repeat a class, an initial P/NC option for another 10%, and an initial grade between C- and F for the remainder who repeat a class. In the chart of suggestions: #8 should read ‘Allow only those students who have over 105 credits to repeat a course,’ and #12 should read ‘If a student receives a grade of C or better in a course, that student will not be allowed to repeat it.’
4. Scott Sutherland reported on various ongoing matters:
a) for Spring 2010, students may register at first for only 16 credits. On December 4, the credit limit rises to 17, and on January 22 (the Friday before Spring classes start) the limit rises to 19. There are already problems of courses being closed out in Economics and in other departments.
b) We need now to generate ideas about managing enrollment needs versus course capacity for Fall 2010. A recommendation should be formulated by the end of January. One idea that seems to have considerable support is to restrict ‘repeat’ enrollments for students who have already taken a class, including those who started by withdrew with a W on their record.
c) The present status of the Songdo proposal is uncertain. Many issues remain vague, and the degree of commitment promised in the initial memorandum of understanding is not generally known.
5. Discussion during the remainder of the meeting centered on concerns regarding the implementation of a Stony Brook undergraduate curriculum at the Songdo location.
a) Many curricular issues need to be clarified. For instance the general education (DEC) requirements in the sample program suggested seem far too restricted, and the degree to which Stony Brook would be relying on other universities in the Songdo group for general education courses was quite opaque. In addition, the requirements in core majors for courses in other departments seem not to have been adequately addressed. A concrete plan for the full range of courses to be offered and for how that curriculum is to be delivered needs to be formulated as soon as possible.
b) Formulation of a Songdo curriculum should not be done only by the major departments proposed for Songdo. Faculty from departments who will be contributing required electives and DEC courses should also be involved.
c) There is considerable concern about faculty and staff hiring for the proposed Songdo campus. If Stony Brook faculty are posted to Songdo, what will be the impact on the number and quality of course offerings at our main campus? How will Stony Brook faculty be chosen for such service, and how, and at what level, will they be replaced? Our campus is already facing serious problems regarding our ability to offer an adequate range of courses and sufficient seats in heavily subscribed courses. (See earlier discussions.)
d) What will be done to ensure adequate faculty continuity at the Songdo location? Each core major should have a group of essentially ‘permanent’ faculty (for instance, at least 4 years on site) to afford students opportunities to develop mentoring relationships with faculty. Guidance through a program, advising, letters of recommendation, and other mentoring will need to be ensured by stable faculty over a period of time at least in the major departments and to some degree in auxiliary areas, such as the DEC.
e) How will the main campus be able to accommodate Songdo students on the main campus if a substantial number of them come here for part of their undergraduate program? Besides the issue of adequate course offerings and sufficient seats in scheduled courses, what are plans for staff to deal with visa and financial matters?
f) It is expected that intensive English programs will need to be in place at Songdo as well as for students who will do part of their program at the Stony Brook main campus. What are the plans for designing and implementing such a program, and how would it be assessed? There are definite shortcomings in Stony Brook’s current ESL program with students being ‘mainstreamed’ before having adequate skills in English writing, or speaking, or reading—or some combinations of these skills.
g) The question was raised whether Stony Brook’s primary research mission is at odds with a priority of offering a Stony Brook undergraduate education in Songdo. To what extent would the Songdo campus drain resources desperately needed for undergraduate programs here? In areas such as adequate provision of courses each semester, staff support, and library collections for teaching and research the main campus is already experiencing severe difficulties.
Scott Sutherland will draft a statement outlining our grave concerns about the Songdo proposal in its present indefinite state as it pertains to undergraduate education both at the Songdo location and at the main campus.
6. After the meeting had partly dispersed, Joe Mitchell raised the question of accommodations for student absences due to illness. There is no general policy in place that applies to all faculty and all situations.