Undergraduate Academic Council

Meeting Date:
Monday, November 1, 2004, 2:00-3:28 PM.

J. Philippe Abraham, Scott Barclay, Seth Chaiken, Richard Collier, Rachel Dressler, Sue Faerman, Robert Gibson, Trudi Jacobson, Sheila Mahan (Guest), Carolyn Malloch, Karin Reinhold-Larsson, Joan Savitt, Dave Smith, Lisa Trubitt

Minutes from the October 25, 2004 meeting were reviewed and corrections acknowledged. With the early departure of the Chair, the minutes were not approved for passage. Thus, minutes need to be voted on at the next meeting.

Chair's Report:
The Chair mentioned the meeting’s discussion today would include review of the minutes, Senate resolutions regarding Mission Review II, and continuation of the discussion for Mission Review II.

Committee on Academic Standing Discussion:

The Chair earlier spoke to Dan Smith regarding the Committee on Academic Standing and its first meeting tomorrow. He mentioned a watch and review policy for the Committee. When Philippe Abraham, CAS Chair, submits his report to the Chair, this should be considered. Philippe expressed concern over the meaning of this request. The Dean mentioned differentiating between policies and procedures in CAS, especially with respect to withdrawals. She gave the example of where a psychologist providing a letter might outweigh faculty recommendation for a student’s withdrawal. The Dean suggested the word “procedure” is preferred over the word “policy”. The Chair mentioned that the Council should be knowledgeable about rules and practices in proposing resolutions. He mentioned that a faculty member’s concern is whether students will be academically successful and have a good chance of graduating when it comes to their readmission. The Dean mentioned she was speaking earlier of late drop and not withdrawal. The Chair questioned grounds for readmission. Dick Collier noted that the CAS is involved only with students who seek readmission and have less than 2.0 GPA. The committee would very rarely readmit such a student against the faculty recommendation. CAS however might allow readmission to such students if they declare a different major. Unfortunately, the problem still exists where when the original major is not restricted since the student readmitted under the different major could turn around and go back to the original failed major. Dick noted the committee has at times added to the probation stipulations that the student may not take courses in the previous area and may never switch back to that area.

The Dean mentioned the concern for UAC to understand reports, needing more of a sense of key issues to look at, and what are particular procedures where UAC needs more information. She mentioned how much uniqueness there is to CAS cases. The Dean mentioned information from various UGS staff meetings and information obtained from Withdraws and Reentries, this uniqueness translates to a difficult way to classify what readmission is based upon. The Chair questioned whether tracking can be pursued for outcomes of readmissions. The Dean mentioned that CAS presently does not track this information. If this data needs to be tracked, a CAS subcommittee would need to be formed. Dick Collier mentioned the Joanne Malatesta previously kept a readmissions report and most students readmitted were successful.

Mission Review II:

The Chair recently spoke with Carolyn MacDonald, Senate Chair concerning how senate councils, UAC in particular, should respond to the call for governance input to the Mission Review. The Chair questioned the floor as to what extent should the Council consult with various academic deans so input to Mission Review will be submitted? Is our role to not only listen to mission review input but to also be a part of the writing process for submission? Do we need to coordinate the responses since Mission Review was sent out and interested parties can submit their input to their department? The Chair questioned how feedback is expected to be transmitted from the community?

Sheila Mahan stated that December 15th is the deadline for expected feedback. She mentioned that there were initial expectations in early meetings, but she took feedback and as well as listened to input. The Chair mentioned that the channel for input from governance and how governance has input will be discussed at the Executive Committee meeting this afternoon. The Chair requested members place in writing and send to him any issues or concerns on Mission Review.

The Chair mentioned that Mission Review II should encourage a broader support for core programs, not just for new programs but also the need to convey support for already-established programs. We will not make the University better by taking away support from what is already established and not restoring what is seen as having been weakened. It was mentioned that some core programs may have been weakened and undergraduate students are unhappy with closed courses, lack of support, etc. The Chair mentioned the perception of student attitudes via the Princeton Report. When insufficient departmental faculty exists, the program suffers (e.g., less homework given to students since faculty does not have time to grade papers). The Princeton Review designating the University as the “#1 party school” is another reflection of student unhappiness. The Chair mentioned his review of a previous Princeton Review publication and how the review is based in part on an evaluation of attendance and academic attitudes and not just partying. It was mentioned that if we are to attract more Group 1 students, it would be foolish on our part to deny we have a problem.

Sheila mentioned Section 1 “Overall Institutional Reputation” and that Bruce Szelest completed the analysis of different categories. US News & World Report magazine’s annual college report shows we have been averaging on the Tier 2/Tier 3 cusp. The Dean mentioned two issues affecting the report: (1) class size and the time to degree which depends on class availability for students, and (2) the nature of the class and again availability. The University was not originally designed for small classrooms. Previous medium-sized classrooms have been turned into offices. The University was never constructed to incorporate the amount of students presently enrolled. 40-60 classroom-sized rooms are not sufficiently available. Dick Collier mentioned how Binghamton faculty loves to recount how they participated in tearing down and remodeling large classrooms so they could be converted to smaller ones.

It was also mentioned that Binghamton has a four-credit system and small classes are the norm at the upper level division. The University twice rejected the four credit system, once in the late 80’s and then again in the mid-90’s. Students at Binghamton take 30 courses as opposed to 40 at the University. It was expressed that decreasing the number of courses would affect the quality of academics. The Dean mentioned our inconsistencies with some courses having the same faculty, students, course, and class. Yet, one with non-writing intensive portion results in three credits versus four credits for a course that has writing intensive included. The Chair mentioned that at MIT a three-element credit count is used: hours in lab, hours in classroom, and hours thinking. It was mentioned that many honors courses are beginning in writing intensive and that could become an issue. There should be more emphasis on what a student enrolls in and what is needed by the student.

The Dean mentioned she presumes the reason for considering a move to 4-credit courses is so resources can be reallocated to reduce class sizes. It was noted that if each of the general education requirements had to be met with a four-credit course, this would consume much of the student’s undergraduate program. If three-credit courses are combined into one four-credit course, the students are learning less. Will we decrease what is learned as well as lessening the learning breadth if four credit courses are implemented? The degree value decreases in some cases for four credit courses when the credit increase is not commensurate with superior content. Also, there are discipline and subject variations in three credit courses.

“Student Outcomes” on pages 41-44 was discussed. Regarding undergraduate retention, budget cuts affect class availability and impacts whether a student graduates within four years. When students discover they are unable to graduate within the four year period, they arrive at either the Dean’s or Registrar’s offices. One problem affecting the four year graduation period is that students change majors several times. When questioned about the graduation rate of “rising juniors” on page 43 as well as transfer students in the rising junior category on page 44, Sheila mentioned council members interested in reviewing that information may contact deans who have that information.

Sheila mentioned that transfer data coming back from SUNY are the latest stats.

The Chair questioned whether we are being successful with transfer students. Sheila commented that we do not have that data.

A question was raised regarding freshmen to sophomore attrition on page 32. Sheila mentioned that of enrolled freshmen students, 75% make it to the junior year.

What about students leaving due to financial problems? Sheila mentioned that Binghamton freshmen retention rate is 90%. What happens to those students during their freshmen year? Some believe their retention rate is due to students being allowed to take more credits. At the University, three groups that have special attention during their freshmen year have the highest retention rate (Project Renaissance, Presidential Scholars, and EOP students).

What are dynamics that stop retention? Sheila mentioned that the 93% figure does not change much via internal and external differences within students. An example was given where a student gives the reason to leave is due to a parent’s illness when in reality, the student is unable to handle the school, their courses, or their major. Sheila also mentioned that we do not have data on why students return to the University.

In closing, Sheila emphasized that Interim Provost Mumpower prefers a document that reflects the community’s interests, worries, and concerns.

The Dean thanked Sheila for her presentations at the Council meetings and mentioned how much was learned by the Council.

Next Meeting:
The next Undergraduate Academic Council meeting will be held Monday, 11/8/04, 2:00 PM, LC-31.

Minutes Taken:
Notes taken by Joanne Baronner, Undergraduate Studies.