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Minutes of Undergraduate Council Meeting of February 13, 2017

Present: Leo Bachmair, Diane Bello, Jennifer Dellaposta, Arlene Feldman, Rick Gatteau, Kane Gillespie, Norm Goodman, Dana Haugh, Ellen Hopkins, Rob Kukta, Roy Lacey, Hanna Nekvasil, Charles Robbins, Deborah Serling, William Stanley, Alan Tucker (Chair) and Michael Bernstein (Guest)

The meeting was called to order at 4:00 pm in the University Senate Conference Room. The minutes of the January 30, 2017 was approved with one addition, Arlene Feldman’s name added as present.

The first part of our meeting was dedicated to a discussion concerning our undergraduate teaching assistant policy. There seems to be some differences between policy and practice. While it is recognized that a teaching assistant position can be a valuable experience for the student teaching assistant, the policy as stated in the current undergraduate bulletin states that:

Undergraduate teaching assistants must not grade any work that contributes to the final course grade, although they may be assigned to read and criticize drafts of work that have already been graded. All evaluations of student performance that contribute to the final course grade are the exclusive responsibility of faculty and cannot be delegated to undergraduate teaching assistants. Undergraduate teaching assistants must not see any version of any quiz, test, or examination …

Some points made during the discussion are as follows. A reason behind this policy originally was to minimize pressure from peers. One suggestion was made to update the current policy and leave it up to the College Deans to define their own policy as needs vary. Another suggestion was to have close supervision for grading for both graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants. It was brought up that departments have different needs. Lack of resources necessitates some departments to use undergraduate teaching assistants to grade and possibly teach a course. Some expressed that regardless of the situation students should not be put into a situation that permits grading. Some committee members suggested that Stony Brook is out of the norm from other universities including some AAU Universities where there appears to be some involvement with grading with supervision. Concern was expressed about involvement in grading that might presently be taking place against stated policy.

It was suggested that the use of rubrics and the need for clearly outlined supervisory measures be considered. This discussion will be continued at a later date.

The next part of our meeting centered around the agenda item, “Faculty caring about undergraduate students.” Provost, Dr. Michael Bernstein, joined today’s meeting for this discussion and led off stating that those involved with scholarly endeavors and/or research should also be connecting with students. Research and teaching need to coexist at Stony Brook, and there needs to be a balance between time spent with teaching, conducting research, preparing professional applications, etc.

A few committee members shared that students have indicated some faculty lack respect for undergrads, are less engaged and approachable, and do not have enough time to connect with students as much as they would like to as they wear many hats.

Suggestions:

  1. Build the right attitude - doesn’t have to mean more time
  2. Administration should set tone of environment
  3. Faculty should get to know students
  4. Faculty should indicate that they enjoy teaching
  5. Respect students, teaching and learning
  6. Faculty should be given incentives and rewards for being involved (Not necessarily money)
  7. Need a cultural change on campus - research is the focus
  8. Respect and care for students

Stony Brook has made huge strides toward the culture of success although we still have further to go. Some ways to work toward this goal and to send positive messages:

  1. Senior faculty teaching
  2. Administrators teaching
  3. Better utilize faculty talents
  4. More engagement of faculty

The final topic of discussion led by Dr. Charles Robbins was devoted to how to include diversity in our existing Stony Brook Curriculum (SBC). At the present time, it does not appear that it is being planned to present as an additional SBC objective but rather having the learning outcomes infused into our currently offered courses.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:15pm.

Respectively submitted,
Arlene Feldman

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