Academic Senate
Santa Barbara Division

General Education Workgroup
Minutes of the Meeting of May 30, 2003

Members Present: J. Heinen (GSA Rep.), D. Kohl (Chair, Committee on Student Affairs), H. Marcuse (Co-Chair, GE Workgroup; Chair, Committee on Undergraduate Academic Programs and Policy), C. Michel (Co-Chair, GE Workgroup; Vice Chair, Undergraduate Council), D. Montello (L&S Executive Committee), A. Wyner (Dean, Undergraduate Studies, L&S), X. Zhao (Undergraduate Council)

Others Present: D. Blake (Analyst, Undergraduate Council), C. Chapman (Director, Academic Senate)

Although adoption of the formal criteria was proposed at yesterday’s Faculty Legislature meeting, no action was taken due to lack of a quorum. There was some discussion, however, and a straw vote was taken, resulting in a 14-2-1 vote of the Faculty Legislature representatives present when the question was called. Concern was voiced by 2 faculty members that foreign language courses, particularly those that fulfill the literature requirement, would be adversely affected by the prerequisite criterion. David Kohl agreed to find out how many students use these courses for GE credit. It was suggested that establishing a non-course prerequisite for these courses might be a satisfactory solution. [question by Marcuse: I think we suggested that having ONE higher-level language course as the prerequisite would suffice (even though it, in turn, would have several prerequisite courses). The intent was to reduce to one, not increase to one, the number of prerequisites, thus allowing literature courses in foreign languages to continue to fulfill GE when the new criteria are implemented.]

There was discussion of whether a special meeting of the Faculty Legislature should be called in order to have the criteria legislated before the end of this academic year. There was strong sentiment that we should get the Committee on Rules, Jurisdiction and Elections to rule on whether this is even necessary. [note: RJ&E later ruled that these criteria do NOT need to be approved by the Legislature. It is within CUAPP and the UgC's purview to establish such criteria.]

Undergraduate Council Chair Denise Segura informed the workgroup of her memo to the Senate Chair summarizing the progress of the workgroup and the Council on behalf of the GE Program. The memo will also be forwarded to the L&S Executive Committee.

There was brief discussion of a suggestion that a limit be set on how many courses can be approved for GE per department. Denial of courses on this basis could be accompanied with a comment that the course meets the philosophical intent of the GE Program, but that the department has simply reached its quota. The purpose of this would be to give the future GE committee a tool to motivate departments to manage and keep current their selection of GE course offerings. In order to add new courses after the limit is reached, departments would have to prune old courses.

The two key planned agenda items were the possible establishment of a petition process and a faculty director or oversight position for the GE Program. Current practice regarding GE-related petitions is that the College of Letters and Science will sometimes approve a substitution for a GE requirement, but not a waiver. There are occasionally situations in which a student has completed a lot of coursework in a given area without completing enough GE-approved courses to satisfy the formal GE requirement for that area. In two recent instances, when the level of difficulty of the work completed was considerably above that of the requirement, the GE committee requested that the administration make an exception. The administration already makes exceptions in extraordinary circumstances. The example given was when a student is called to active military duty.

It was expressed that, due to the nature of faculty governance on this campus, allowing students to petition for exceptions to GE requirements essentially provides them a way to go around the authority vested in the faculty by the Academic Senate. Since the Senate would be the body legislating the petition process and the conditions under which exceptions can be made, this was not seen as a problem by some members. The participation of the proposed faculty director of GE in oversight of the petition process would also obviate this concern.

It was asserted that, if we have a petition process, it should be advertised in the General Catalog, so that all students can be made aware that they have access to it. There was concern that advertising such a process will invite a multitude of petitions, thereby creating a heavy volume of work for whomever is responsible for reviewing and responding to the petitions. There would need to be very clear-cut guidelines as to what constitutes grounds for petitioning, as well as for how reviewers of petitions should make decisions. The clearer the guidelines, the easier the process would be to administer.

A summary list of problems inherent in the establishment of a petition process included the following:

  1. equity and fairness issues
  2. potential for students to circumvent faculty authority
  3. breakdown of the expectation that students be held responsible for making sure they complete all the requirements of the GE Program as a condition for graduation
  4. additional complexity created by allowing an alternate route to fulfilling GE
  5. increased workload for staff and faculty in terms of both processing and evaluating

One member commented that he preferred the current practice of occasionally granting exceptions after careful consideration of all facets of extraordinary cases, over mandating a process whereby substitutions are made on a more frequent basis. It was pointed out that the reason L&S doesn’t currently see too many requests for exceptions is that students generally go to the departments with their GE problems, since they know there is little promise in going to the College. Departments have been in the habit of responding to individual student GE problems by proposing that the course needed by a student be approved as a GE course – hence, the proliferation on the GE list.

CUAPP (and the former GE Committee) had no way of knowing that the course proposed was submitted for the benefit of one or two students. However, inadvertent comments made by staff members who submit the proposals indicate that this approach to solving students’ problems has been quite commonly used. The likelihood of this is also evident in data collected by the GE Task Force, which indicates that the vast majority of students fulfill their GE requirements with a relatively small subset of courses on the GE list. Recently collected data indicates a large number of courses that have been approved for GE are either very infrequently or no longer offered. This could in part be due to the fact that courses often get on the GE list based on individual student need rather than for those courses' particular value as regularly offered general education courses.

It was acknowledged that the writing requirement presents a somewhat different situation as far as petitions are concerned. Writing Program Lecturer Nick Tingle has for some time been charged with making decisions in response to student requests for course substitutions to fulfill the writing requirement. While writing is an area in which some members see room for flexibility, others expressed concern about having a single faculty member serve as arbiter. It was agreed that this process should be addressed to determine how well it’s working.

The workgroup was informed that sometimes controversies arise regarding the date a course becomes eligible as a GE course. It was suggested that the quarter the course will first appear as a GE course in the General Catalog be used as the effective date of the approval. This was seen as problematic, since there are often circumstances that require the use of an earlier effective date than annual catalog publication deadline would accommodate. [see also separate discussion document on petitions, 6/4/03]

Eric Smith, Chair of the Committee on Rules, Jurisdiction and Elections, briefly visited the meeting to discuss the line of authority for implementation of the proposed GE formal criteria. He stated that, in his opinion, the criteria would not need to be legislated by the Faculty Legislature. However, when asked to put it in writing, he said he would check with his committee. The workgroup will wait for a written response before requesting a special meeting of the Faculty Legislature to vote on the criteria.

Following the day’s discussion of a possible petition process, most of the members present (in contrast to the members present at the previous meeting) were not in favor of establishing one. This item was tabled until all members have been consulted.

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to discussion of whether there should be a "GE director" of some kind. There were numerous questions, such as:

The possible tasks this administrator might be assigned include:

The person who coordinates the College Honors Program was suggested as holding a similar position to the one we are considering.

There was discussion of whether it would be more effective to have a GE committee similar to the former one, with a director, rather than granting authority to a single person. It was argued that the previous Senate committee responsible for GE didn’t have the time to do the job to the extent it needs to be done. Continuity is also hindered by the turnover of members. It was noted that chairs of Senate committees, such as the Committee on Academic Personnel, have received a stipend due to their extensive workload. It was considered that the duties associated with effectively administering the GE Program might form a comparable workload.

Attest: Harold Marcuse

prepared for web by H. Marcuse on Oct. 22, 2003
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