Undergraduate Academic Council


Meeting Date:

Monday, September 19, 2005, 9:00-11:00 AM.




J. Philippe Abraham, Jeanette Altarriba, Scott Barclay, Seth Chaiken, Richard Collier, Sue Faerman, Chris Faugere, Ingrid Fisher, Robert Gibson, Anne Hildreth, Carolyn Malloch, Karin Reinhold-Larsson, Crystal Rion, Lisa Trubitt; Sue Phillips (Guest),




Minutes from the September 12, 2005 meeting were reviewed and corrections acknowledged. Those minutes, with required updates, were approved


Chair’s Report:


- The Chair mentioned the following additional volunteer members for UAC’s subcommittees.

Joan Savitt will continue being a member of the Committee on Admissions & Academic Standing. Ingrid Fisher has volunteered to be a member of the Gen Ed Committee. Daniel Doyle, Director of the UAlbany Fund, will join the Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies. Dina Anthony from ASC/US will become a member of the Committee on Academic Standing.


Optional S/U Grading:


Handouts were provided showing additional information produced by Bob Gibson showing usage of the S/U option and by Dan Smith showing grade change option appeals for academic years 2003-2004 and 2004-2005.


In recent years the Committee on Academic Standing started to question whether the S/U grading option was being correctly interpreted, whether it was actually being used for the purposes originally intended. The Committee also had questions on grading, graduation, grad school acceptance, etc. Some instructors were questioning the need for S/U grading. There are grad schools that look poorly upon a student utilizing the S/U grading option. A comment was made that from the provided data, it does not show if the S/U grading option function is being correctly followed. One member commented of their surprise in learning that History courses are the most frequent use of the option. Would it be a good idea to limit S/U grading options to only freshmen and sophomores? One member mentioned that her students look at this option as a means to assist with their GPA. Students sometimes require a reduction in grading pressures by opting for a S/U. Opting for a S/U grade would result in only six credits out of the required 120 credits to graduate. At times a student obtains a good letter grade, and both the student and teacher request an appeal to drop the S/U grade and revert back to a letter grade. “C-“ grades translate to no credit being given towards a student’s degree since a “C or better” is required for a grade of “S.” Is a S/U grading option truly a problem since only 50 students out of 1300 appeal each year? It was noted that the data show a slight increase in appeals granted for 2003-2004. Could the time line be pushed to the future so a student could choose the S/U grading option after obtaining material back from an instructor showing their progress? It was noted that the current deadline was chosen because students should make a choice before knowing how they are doing in their course, since otherwise all “S’ grades would be considered “C” work if the date was moved to the future, and might be recalculated that way by graduate and professional schools. Some schools will not allow any type of S/U grading, and a student would be required to repeat the class to obtain a letter grade. One of the Council members stated that he informs all

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his students that a S/U grade is not looked on favorably by grad schools and employers. Advisors should thoroughly inform students of the consequences in opting for a S/U grade. Dean Faerman mentioned that 1/3 of students assume they would receive a better letter grade, appeal for an S/U grade, and then the appeal is denied. Additional information should be placed on the card informing students of how S/U grading could potentially affect their graduation. Since we pursue raising our profile, should S/U grading be optional at all?


The great majority of S/U usage is by upper division students. Gen Ed forces certain students to try “something different,” but some S/U-opted grades are not Gen Ed requirements. A comment was made that some students prefer to register for some “fun” courses to enable them to concentrate more on courses in their major. One Council member noted that the S/U grading appeal process is actually a case-by-case situation. Dean Faerman mentioned the form could state that there are some issues where a student cannot appeal under certain circumstances. The question was raised with the Registrar whether the form should be modified. Unfortunately, new forms were recently ordered. Could this information be placed in PeopleSoft? Since People Soft does not have the capability to perform such functions, this is not an option. The comment was made that this is an example of a need for advisors and administrative offices to explain S/U grading to students in a thorough and consistent fashion. For S/U to A-E appeals based on “grading” arguments, the data show that the year before last three out of five appeals were approved while last year’s appeal process resulted in five out of seven being approved. Scott mentioned the Committee usually does not say “no” to students in need of graduation. It appears that approved versus denied appeals are what has changed. Instructors are writing more lengthy appeals in support of their students, and it is difficult to say “no” to instructors’ appeals.


The Council agreed to review the form before making a final decision. It was suggested that the form be changed to include additional information: A grade of C or better is required for credit, grad schools possible disapproval, and listing additional reasons that do not justify an appeal should be added to the form. Bob Gibson will provide updated wording.


We should examine our policy versus other universities. Should we allow other universities’ translated S/U grading option rules affect us? An example was given where Cal Tech provides only S/U grading for first year students. Med students are required to have only letter grades. The University in the past attempted only S/U grading, but the practice was soon eliminated. It was noted that some schools allowing S/U grading will not publish those results on external transcripts. Carolyn mentioned that at universities where she previously worked students were allowed to repeat a class for replacement of a low grade. The drawback happens when the student’s second try results in a lower grade than their first attempt. The policy is to only allow the second attempt’s grade be posted as the final letter grade. This could result in lowering the student’s GPA. Carolyn volunteered to compile information from other “peer” universities on their policies for both S/U grading and grade replacement policies.


A suggestion was made to place a three-day waiting period on students for S/U grading. It  was decided this would prove to be more time consuming and also would not simplify the process.


Other Business:


Dean Faerman mentioned that in the UAC-UPC Honors Working Group meeting last Friday, our new Provost, Susan Herbst, was in attendance. The Provost revealed strong support for

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University-wide honors colleges and also provided suggestions. Dick Collier and Vivien Ng are working together to compose wording for an honors college policy. Background material will be forwarded next week to both UAC and UPC.


The Chair noted that Sheila Mahan sent him the revised advisement policy proposal, which he has e-mailed to UAC members. It will be discussed at next week’s meeting.


Dick mentioned an e-mail he received from Bill Rainbolt regarding the Journalism major proposal. Dean Wick-Pelletier prefers not to go the route of faculty-initiated. Dick stated that courses will not be offered until the policy goes into effect the Fall of 2006. At that time, appropriate courses will be created.


Discussion on Change in Senate Charter:


Seth Chaiken composed a draft proposal. The Council chose to discuss the proposal even though Seth departed early for his class. It was clarified that “ex officio” means the person is a member because of that person’s position/title and includes full voting privileges.


Jeanette Altarriba mentioned her attendance at last Friday’s UAC-UPC Honors Working Group meeting. In the meeting Provost Herbst stated that an individual would be hired for the honors college.


The question was raised if it was necessary for the individual to be ex officio. Could they function in an advisement capacity only and update the Council periodically? Almost every issue is connected somehow to advisement, some issues are not evident enough for advisement needs, different constituencies should be represented, and Advisement Services should be part of these committees/councils. Scott mentioned that any of these individuals can be present at the different meetings, since they are “open meetings”. Those individuals are allowed to attend but cannot vote and are allowed to speak only when invited by the Chair.


It was noted that the curriculum is one of the items essential to advisement. No decisions have been made on whether there will be an advisement committee and, if so, whether it will be a committee of the UAC. While such a committee would have representation from ASC and EOP among others, there is no decision on how a Chair would be designated.


One member said we can gain a lot from having a representative from Advisement Services because of their interaction with transfer and freshmen students. Another issue is ensuring that individuals interacting with students are given information coming back from the Senate to their constituencies. The individual sitting here should take back both to their office and students information on what is upcoming, changes being considered in the future, etc. Dean Faerman believes an ex officio status is important since that enables that individual to vote, but the matter should first be discussed.


Dean Faerman mentioned that the Associate Dean for Honors does not touch the whole university the same way as advisement would. It was mentioned that EOP interacts with many students but not in the same way as Advisement Services.


A council member mentioned that upon first reviewing the proposal, the question came to mind as to why other areas such as criminal justice, EOP, etc. are not represented on UAC. But then, it

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was realized that advisement services does impact more of the whole university community. How are we to represent a broad spectrum of students? There is nothing in the proposal that looks directly at advisement. Should a committee be created? Dean Faerman mentioned Provost Herbst will convene university-wide implementation of the policy, and that a committee could be designated at a later date.


It was noted again that this would require changing the senate charter, which could be a slow process.


The Council moved to continue inviting Sue Phillips to attend UAC meetings as a guest, but the ex officio proposal would be placed on hold until the Council reviews the entire advisement proposal and the possible creation of an advisement committee.


Next Meeting:

The next Undergraduate Academic Council meeting will be held Monday, 9/26/05, 9:30 AM, LC-31.


Minutes Taken:

Notes taken by Joanne Baronner, Undergraduate Studies.