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Undergraduate Council Meeting of May 8, 2017

Present: Leo Bachmair, Diane Bello, Jennifer Dellaposta, Arlene Feldman, Rick Gatteau, Norman Goodman, Dana Haugh, Steve Marsh, Pat Rasso, Charles Robbins, Deb Serling, Alan Tucker (chair), Madeline Turan.

1. The whole meeting was devoted a discussion of the recommended suspension of undergraduate majors in Theater Arts, Comparative Literature, and Cultural/Visual Studies. Tucker had circulated before the meeting an email from Kane Gillespie giving recent numbers of majors in the three programs slated for suspension along with a statement that minors and SBC courses in these programs would not be affected. The draft recommendation from A&S Dean Sasha Koop also involved suspending two doctoral programs and combining three humanities departments. Koop has stated that all students in these majors would be ‘graduated out’, i.e., given course selections to complete their majors.

Goodman led off with a summary of what CAPRA was doing—meeting with key administrators and asking for the financial savings associated with each of the suspensions. He explained there was a severe financial crisis in Arts and Sciences, acerbated by an unfunded UUP 2% salary increase, that CAPRA felt that Dean Koop was being as transparent as reasonable under the circumstances, and that cuts to programs were necessary. He stated that Koop had given metrics he used to CAPRA but that ultimately the choice of where to cut had to be a judgment call by Dean Koop as opposed to a calculation that faculty might dissect. Indeed, providing metrics that highlighted weaknesses in certain programs would be very destructive.

Some Council members still asked to be given more information about the fiscal details of the cuts in hopes of avoiding them, but Tucker and Goodman emphasized that they could not be avoided, only shifted somewhere else.

Rick Gatteau and Charlie Robbins both spoke about the efforts to look out for the interests of students in three affected programs, on an individual basis. Only about 40 continuing students are likely to be in these majors next fall, given that Koop recommended that admission to these majors be suspended. Robbins did not know if admitted students who stated an intention to major in these three programs would be allowed into them. Robbins voiced a concern that students were being unduly aroused and used as pawns by some faculty to protect affected programs.

Bachmair asked for data about the enrollments in these programs. Comp. Lit and Cultural/Visual Studies each had only 5 majors in all years combined. Rather, attention focused on the Theater Arts major. Marsh, from Theater Arts, had data about 100-level Theater Arts courses- typically 50-100 students a course.

Marsh discussed various facets of the problems in Theater Arts whose major count had declined from 100 to 50 (approximately) over the last several years. The graduate program was eliminated about 6 years ago [STEVE, IS THIS NUMBER RIGHT] in favor of the Theater Arts graduate program at Southampton, and without grad students it was hard for the Stony Brook Theater Arts program to put on plays, a critical part of a Theater major. He raised questions about the focus of the department and the collective department leadership. He hoped that the department’s major could move out from suspension in a few years with new leadership and a new focus. Everyone strongly agreed with his assertion that the public university close by the nation’s heart of theater should have a strong Theater Arts program.

The discussion turned to next steps. Goodman reminded the Council that within a week the Council needed to submit a report to the Senate Executive Committee with its comments and suggestions about the proposed major suspensions. Tucker noted that the final determination about suspending majors was not just the end of the decision process, but also the beginning of a more important process, where the Council has a significant role to play, of dealing with the impact on students of these cuts as well as the larger educational impact across the University of these cuts. Several Council members stated that, before looking forward, the Council report needed to argue that the fiscally based cuts, now contemplated, had to take into account intangible as well as tangible consequences to the University community, and that these consequences should guide the details of how instructional cutbacks are made.

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