Undergraduate Academic Council

Meeting Date:
Thursday, March 25, 2004, 9:45 AM-11:12 AM.

Gerald Burke, Richard Collier, Sue Faerman, Robert Gibson, Anne Hildreth, Reed Hoyt, Sue Phillips, Joan Savitt, Helene Scheck, Greg Stevens

Minutes from the March 18, 2004 meeting were reviewed and corrections acknowledged. The minutes, with required updates, were approved.

Chair's Report:
- The Chair mentioned the Senate request that members wishing to renew their council and
committee affiliations respond to the form that was recently sent out since new committees
will soon be formed.
- Campus-Based Assessment will be discussed today.
- UAC will continue the discussion of defining applied electives.

Proposal From the Campus-Based Assessment Committee

Dick Collier discussed the e-mail from University Faculty Senate President Joe Hildreth and the proposal from the ad hoc group of representatives of UFS, Faculty Council of Community Colleges, Student Assembly, System and the Trustees. Last summer's original mandate for system-wide assessment on six categories has been changed where the only national- or SUNY-normed assessment would be for only three categories: writing, mathematics, and critical thinking. They are to be assessed by a three-year sampling with System picking up the tab for external testing chosen by campuses. Stronger assurances were given that results will not become a public "report card", not lead to undesirable comparisons among campuses or student populations, etc. Also, campuses are not obligated to take a value-added (pre- and post-test) approach on any of the three assessments. Dick has requested critical thinking exam samples from Joe Hildreth. UAC's response could be presented to the University Senate at the April 19th meeting.

Writing intensive courses at Albany should and do involve critical thinking. Although we previously voted to support our campus-based assessment, this request asks us to support system-wide assessment. Will our unique system be acceptable? How does our data conform with nationally normed scores? For science-related courses, there are standards for what are acceptable norms. For critical thinking, there are no acceptable norms. Can our desires be accommodated in this proposal by creating an explanation where GEAR will approve our agenda? It was noted that under "Safeguards re (sic) the Utilization and Reporting of Assessment Results" section, the proposal speaks of the vast diversity existing among SUNY campuses. Campuses are all different and do not necessarily follow the SUNY-wide assessment/mandates in the same manner. Dick Collier mentioned that in his research of 57 campuses, there are 696 approved Math courses, many of them found on only one or two of the campus, so there is no "norm."

It was suggested we compare the level of preparation of UA students to all of SUNY to emphasize our campus is above the lowest permissible score. Some campuses such as Buffalo State wish to use a value added approach.

It was strongly emphasized we do not have an "exam" and will not develop a local instrument or exam for critical thinking or writing. We do not want an instrument as a test of something not necessarily well tested.

Faculty have participated in the assessment process. At the beginning of the semester, the instructor determines what percentage of exams, papers, etc. will be assigned for a student's grade. The instructor is required to show the connection between the class objectives and SUNYGER category objectives. At semester end, the instructor indicates students' achievement on those portions of course requirements relevant to the general education category.

It was questioned how SUNY defined "critical thinking." In the 2/5/04 UAC meeting, the handout on learning objectives/outcomes for the general education program has a reference on page 6. It states: "Students will identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments as they occur in their own or others' work; and develop well-reasoned arguments".

UAC determined it will not support this proposal for several reasons: the Council previously voted on a campus-based assessment already based on SUNY's original guidelines; the new proposal speaks of "instruments" when our assessment is specifically embedded in the full structure of our courses; and, although it is improved from earlier SUNY submitted proposals, it still remains unsatisfactory to us.

This will be reported to the Executive Committee on Monday and the University Senate is expected to take up the matter at its April 19th meeting.

Revised Music Proposal

The revised music proposal has been sharpened and clarified, and the Curriculum and Honors Committee approved it. UAC has received the report.

Departmental, Free, and Applied Elective Credit

Discussion continued from last week. Dick Collier's reported that his research for a definition of applied elective credit yielded little information. At the University of Buffalo, all credits from accredited schools are accepted and there seems to be no stated distinction concerning "liberal arts and sciences" work. Harpur College defines "non-liberal arts and sciences" as work that would not be offered by Harpur College (such as business and education). Without already-established wording to reference, we have the opportunity to compose our own description. There are courses we will never allow to be counted, ones we say "here are what you need, and as long as you do this, we don't care what you bring/transfer in". The Bulletin states under the Liberal Arts and Sciences Courses section: "The following undergraduate courses offered by the specified school or college during 2004-2005 are considered liberal arts and sciences courses for the purposes of degree requirements for the B.A. and B.S. degrees." Will this disappear if there is a re-write? Business and Accounting have their own definition of liberal arts for AACSB and CPA accreditation concerns. A B.A. degree requiring 120 credits must consist of 75% liberal arts and sciences credits (i.e., 90 credits) while a B.S. degree must have 50% (i.e., 60 credits). It was noted that having a statement in the Bulletin while keeping track shows we are following the Department of Education's B.A. and B.S. degree policies. Issues of "truth in advertising" arise if a school says all credits are transferable when only a smaller portion is actually usable in the student's program. It was suggested we review the student's record and count backwards. The majority of advanced work must be completed here at the University. We should consider no longer making a distinction between a two and four year school (64 credits for two year and 90 credits for four-year school). It was noted that there are no SUNY-operated two-year schools (as opposed to community colleges). Would "applied credits" then simply be counted within the non-liberals arts and sciences electives? The liberal arts definition may need to be addressed, but it will be difficult to revise. It was mentioned that the Math Department has reviewed classes and stated that there are certain course credits they will not accept under any circumstances even if from an accredited school. A similar distinction is made for "remediation" coursework. It was also pointed out that Albany has a specific exclusion of "sectarian theology courses." Dick Collier will formulate new wording to present for a future UAC meeting, so the council will have a document to work from. We will determine from there where to go with the definition of elective credits.

The next Undergraduate Academic Council meeting will be held Thursday 4/1/04, 9:45 AM,

Notes taken by Joanne Baronner, Undergraduate Studies