School of Arts and Sciences

2010-11 Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Report

Meeting Dates

Sept. 16, Oct. 14, Oct. 28, Nov. 11, Jan. 27, Feb. 10, March 3, April 7, April 28, May 12.

Members of the Committee

Sofya Bronshvayg, Bernadette Brooten, Zvonimir Dogic, Stacyann Gabbidon, Charles Golden, Laura Goldin (fall), Usman Hameedi, Susan Lovett, Adam Jaffe, Thomas King, Eileen McNamara (spring), Jenna Rubin, Elizabeth Terry. Ex Officio: Kim Godsoe, Mark Hewitt, Elaine Wong.

Sections in This Report

Procedures for Conduct of UCC Meetings

The UCC reviewed procedures for the conduct of its 2010-2011 meetings.

Back to top

Approval of 2009-10 UCC Report

Committee members approved the 2009-10 UCC report.

Back to top

Appointment of Subcommittee for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors

Elizabeth Terry and Laura Goldin volunteered to serve on the joint UCC/COAS subcommittee to review independent interdisciplinary majors.

Back to top

Proposed Changes to the Music Major

Sarah Mead, Associate Professor of the Practice and Undergraduate Advising Head for the music department, presented her department's proposal to add two new tracks to the music major. While most current music majors like and strongly identify with the four existing tracks (performance, composition, cultural studies and history), some students do not want a track, and/or may not be at the level necessary for the performance track, which requires a high level of proficiency and is designed for students who plan on further graduate study. The new “general” track is designed for students who do not wish to specialize in a particular area, and is different only in allowing total flexibility of elective choice, while maintaining the same core of theory, history and ensemble requirements. In addition, two graduating seniors in the class of ‘10 pioneered a track in musical theater performance, which the department would now like to formalize. This track is similar to the performance track, but allows one of three required music history courses to be replaced with a course from the theater arts department, and also allows students to substitute two semesters of participation in a theater department musical for current ensemble options. Electives would also include Theater Arts courses.

Tracks are not listed on diplomas, but the music department makes its own certificates for distribution at graduation. UCC members asked if the general track will draw students away from the other tracks. The department will monitor enrollment in all six tracks, but the specific tracks currently appear to be attractive to prospective students. It’s possible that the more specific tracks will no longer be useful in the future. Currently, there are nine students in the performance track, with about half of the remaining 27 majors in the composition track and the other half split between the cultural studies and history tracks. Both of the two new tracks allow students more flexibility in choosing courses than do the current tracks.

The UCC first approved the new general track, and then approved the new musical theater performance track.

Back to top

Justice Brandeis Semester Proposals

Dean Jaffe provided a brief overview of the Justice Brandeis Semester (JBS), which enables groups of approximately 12-20 students to earn 12 course credits (the equivalent of three courses) during the summer, or 16 or more credits during fall or spring terms. All Justice Brandeis Semesters include integrated courses with experiential learning components, and count toward the Brandeis residency requirement. The JBS program is no longer expected to solve problems related to planned increases in the undergraduate population, but still holds promise as a signature program that could be attractive to prospective students.

The UCC considered four proposals presented by Alyssa Grinberg, the Justice Brandeis Semester Program Manager; all have been recommended for summer or fall 2011 by the JBS committee, a small group of faculty and staff, appointed by Dean Jaffe. The UCC must grant curricular approval to the programs, while the dean is concurrently reviewing the program budgets for final approval. The UCC approved the fall 2011 “Environmental Health and Justice” program proposed by Laura Goldin. This JBS builds on the highly successful summer 2010 JBS with the same title, and will likely be offered in alternate years, in rotation with the “Environmental Field Semester” JBS. In this multi-disciplinary, community-engaged learning program, students will collaborate directly with community organizations and government agencies to address critical environmental health problems of low-income residents in the Waltham and greater Boston communities, while becoming deeply immersed in the law, policy, social impacts and science of current environmental health issues challenging individuals, families and communities. The UCC also approved two summer 2011 Computer Science proposals proposed by Tim Hickey and Pito Salas, one in “Web Applications and Social Networks” and the other in “Mobile Applications and Game Development.” These two programs also build on a highly successful summer 2010 JBS in Web and Mobile Applications, but would allow more time to be devoted to separate but related topics. It is possible that only one program, “Mobile Applications and Game Development,” will enroll a sufficient number of summer 2011 students; however, UCC approval of both programs enables maximum flexibility to offer both, if there is sufficient demand from students. Each proposal combines a theory-based curriculum with an extended experiential component in which students apply theory to practice, both in a project of their own design and optionally in a full-time fall internship, if they participate in the Extended Semester version of the program. Over 50 undergraduates have satisfied the two programs’ pre-requisites, and MA students are also likely to enroll, as they did in the summer of 2010, on a space available basis.

The goal of the “Mobile Applications and Game Development” JBS is to teach the fundamental concepts behind mobile application development with a focus on mobile game design. The goal of “Web Applications and Social Networks” is to teach the fundamental concepts behind web-based application development with a focus on social networking. Upon completion of each program, students will have developed a solid understanding of the architecture of mobile (or web) applications as well as the software tools used to program, debug and analyze mobile (or web) applications.

The UCC also approved a summer 2011 JBS in “Filmmaking,” proposed by Mark Dellelo and Marc Weinberg. This program will enable students to gain a sound understanding of three phases of the filmmaking process--screenwriting, production, and editing--and then put this knowledge into practice, working as a group to write, produce, direct, and edit a 20-30 minute short movie. Students who complete this JBS will gain an enhanced understanding of the elements of narrative moviemaking and the rigors of a collaborative enterprise that requires intensive planning, organization, and communication.

UCC members asked if students in this JBS could repeat courses already completed for credit toward either the Film, Television and Interactive Media or Creative Writing majors. This decision must be made by the faculty committee of each major.

UCC members also noted that JBS programs should supplement options for completing majors, but not offer the only option to complete required courses.

Back to top

Pass/Fail Initiatives

Last year, the UCC reviewed a proposal, originated by students, to allow one general education requirement to be taken with a pass/fail grade. Although the Faculty Senate supported this proposal, the UCC did not reach consensus. This fall, a joint committee of the UCC and Faculty Senate was asked to review all issues related to pass/fail. UCC representatives Tom King, Sofya Bronshvayg, Mark Hewitt, Kim Godsoe, and Elaine Wong, joined from the Faculty Senate Esther Ratner, who has agreed to chair the subcommittee, and Judy Herzfeld, from the Faculty Senate, and Marla Merchut, the Student Union Director of Academic Affairs. The joint committee felt no need for broader changes, but did endorse a clarification of last year’s proposal.

This revised proposal would allow pass/fail grading for one general education requirement other than the University Writing Seminar, writing intensive, oral communication, or language requirements; the minimum “passing” grade in this course would be a C+ (instead of the current D- minimum required for other pass/fail courses). All other normal restrictions for pass/fail courses would apply. Currently, pass/fail cannot be used for major/minor or general education requirements. When students opt for pass/fail grading, they are giving themselves the opportunity to “cover” letter grades after they are received. Students are allowed no more than four pass/fail “coverings” in their academic careers, and no more than one pass/fail course per semester. In the current system, a fail becomes an E and counts toward the GPA. Students believe that the proposed change would encourage students to fulfill requirements out of interest and academic curiosity, and to challenge themselves in courses outside their majors and minors, thus strengthening the liberal arts model by supporting experimentation in other fields of study. To students, the proposal promotes flexibility for those who are particularly grade conscious.

Committee members asked: What courses or disciplines would be most affected by this change? Would more students be likely to utilize the pass/fail grading option? What would be the effect on grade inflation? UCC members also discussed other changes that could be made to the pass/fail system: faculty could be informed about which students are taking the course pass/fail, or there could be pass/fail grading with no “uncovering,” or the minimum grade required for a pass/fail course could be raised to a C+, or the university could revert to a system where failing grades no longer figure into the GPA, or the deadline for pass/fail declaration could be moved to much later in the term, without allowing uncovering. The latter might result in students “cleaning” their academic records by covering grades that are clearly lower than they would like. Students believe that allowing students to uncover grades provides an incentive to continue working hard. If they were not allowed to uncover grades, it wouldn’t matter if they earned an A or a C+, and more might aim for the C+.

Students are for the most part doing their work in pass/fail courses, according to data from the registrar, which reveals that the vast majority of covered pass/fail grades are in the B range. Committee members discussed the consequences of faculty knowing or not knowing who is taking a course pass/fail. Students worry that if faculty know which students are taking a course pass/fail, those students might be graded differently, or more cursorily. Faculty talked about the difficulty of figuring out how to approach students who don’t seem to be doing their work. When a student doesn’t attend class, and doesn’t reply to an instructor’s e-mails, is the student taking the course pass/fail or is s/he in need of additional support and concern? Instructors might also state in their syllabi that in order to receive a passing grade, students must complete all assignments, attend class and fully participate. With the amendment, faculty and students could talk with one another about grading options in relation to student performance.

Committee members approved a proposal amendment to inform faculty about students’ grading options in all courses. This information could be provided as a list of students who are opting for pass/fail, which faculty could choose to ignore. What is the administrative burden of these proposals? Almost all would include manual processing. The UCC could present two separate pass/fail proposals to the faculty, but the proposals might interact with and affect one another.

At a later meeting the UCC returned to its discussion of other the amendment. Mark Hewitt suggested that the best way (and least burdensome to the Registrar’s office) of providing information to faculty who wish to know which students are taking a course pass/fail would be to empower him to give instructors the names of these students, only upon request. Some faculty are not interested in having this information, and others are. Undergraduate representatives of the UCC were asked to gather more student opinions on this issue before the UCC prepares its legislation.

At yet another meeting, committee members considered amending the pass/fail proposal by changing froma C+ to a C- the covered grade acceptable for counting toward one general education requirement, while also raising to C- the letter grade that would be an acceptable pass in all other pass/fail courses. This new “satisfactory” grade would align with the letter grade accepted for most majors.

The UCC’s undergraduate representatives distributed the results of a student survey on pass/fail issues, which reveal that students support changing the “pass” grade which may be covered from a D- to a C-, if one general education course may be taken with this grading option. The majority of students also oppose enabling their instructors to learn which students are taking their courses pass/fail. More students commented on this issue than any other, expressing their fears of grading bias and discrimination.

In the ensuing discussion, most committee members advocated that the UCC not include in proposed legislation the proposal to allow faculty to ask for the names of students who are electing the “pass/fail” grading option in their courses. A motion to include this proposal in legislation was later defeated. Brandeis students probably do not know that faculty at other institutions usually are told which students are taking a course with the pass/fail grading option, and Brandeis faculty probably do not know that there are no rules against asking students about their grading status.

The UCC then approved a motion to change the pass/fail grading option by requiring that students earn a C- or higher in order to cover a letter grade with a P; D and E grades taken under the pass/fail option would be revealed as letter grades and count toward the cumulative GPA. A second part of this motion would enable students to take one general education course, excepting UWS, WI, OC and language requirement courses, with the P/F grading option. Students would be asked to declare pass/fail status at the beginning of the semester, noting if they are electing to take a general education course pass/fail. These changes would take effect for all students as of the 2011-12 academic year.

UCC members suggested that faculty discuss the issue of “transparency” at a Faculty Meeting. Some faculty want to know which students are taking courses pass/fail for advising purposes, but others wonder if an option for faculty to learn about pass/fail status would increase student paranoia/suspicions. Students’ fears that faculty will grade them differently may be unjustified, just as faculty fears about “slacking” students appear to be unjustified by grading evidence.

Back to top

Latin Honors/Dean's List/Grade Inflation

The UCC reviewed a confidential Grade Distribution Study prepared by the Office of the Registrar, which revealed that the average GPA has been rising since the late 1990’s. In the spring of 2010, undergraduates received 15% more A+, A, or A- grades than their peers who were enrolled in the spring of 1993; the mean GPA during this time period rose from 3.19 to 3.42. Academic honors related to GPAs, such as Dean’s List recognition and Latin honors, are thus now awarded to a larger percentage of the student body. More than half of undergraduates now receive Dean’s List recognition each semester.

UCC members asked a variety of questions. Is the rise in the mean GPA related to the increasing quality of our students, as demonstrated by rising SATs? Do the faculty fear that student won’t enroll in their courses if instructors are known to give “low” grades? Do we penalize our students if faculty award lower grades than the faculty in comparable institutions, or do graduate and professional schools learn to “discount” Brandeis grades, if they are known to be higher than those at other schools? How do our GPAs correlate with national trends? Does talking about the issue make it worse, by “pressuring” faculty to give higher grades? How can the university reduce or equalize pressures? Should grade inflation also be a topic for the Committee for the Support of Teaching? Is grade inflation more concentrated in upper level courses? Are grades higher in experiential learning courses, which, in some cases, emphasize cooperative group work and projects? Are there disciplinary differences in the average grade awarded? Are there differences in the grades awarded in first year and senior year courses in different disciplines?

The UCC asked if the Office of the Registrar could provide data on how many peer institutions award Dean’s List or Latin honors on the basis of “percentage of class,” rather than a numerical standard (e.g., 3.5 for Dean’s List). Could the Registrar’s Office also gather information on the average grade assigned over time in certain core courses, such as ECON 2a, CHEM 11a/b, MATH 10a/b?

At a later meeting, the committee reviewed the average grade assigned in ECON 2a, CHEM 11a/b,15a/b and 25a/b, PHYS 10a/b, and PSYC 1a. The data show that grades have not risen over the last five years in these specific courses, nor have enrollments dropped. However, since overall grade point averages are rising, it is possible that students are now enrolling in more courses that assign higher grades. Classroom participation counts toward the grading of more courses, and participation can boost grades. In smaller courses, it is harder to grade on a curve, and when an instructor asks a student in academic difficulty to meet with him or her, the student is more likely to do so, whereas in large courses, students in difficulty are less likely to meet with the professor to improve their performance.

Grade inflation appears to be complicated by many factors. Are more students dropping courses now, because they fear earning a “B” grade? Are more students willing to receive a “W” than a “B-?” Are the higher band of SAT students also earning higher grades as seniors? The UCC could choose to revise the standards for Dean’s List and Latin honors, even as it continues to consider and investigate grade inflation.

In the spring, the committee again resumed its discussion of grade inflation/Latin honors and Dean’s List recognition. Data reviewed in the fall show that about 50% of undergraduates receive Dean’s List recognition each term, the average grade given is about 3.40, and that this average grade might be related to the improving quality of our students, as indicated by SAT performance. While the UCC does not have specific proposals for reducing grade inflation, distributing information about the average grade given by departments or schools might be reinstated. Data on the average grade given in comparable courses (large lecture, experiential learning, seminar) might also be provided. Students suggested that the university might introduce a new recognition structure (Dean’s List, Provost’s List, President’s List). Like many other colleges and universities, Brandeis could also award Dean’s List or Latin honors on a percentage, instead of a grade point average basis, but students noted that this change would oblige students to compete with one another rather than one’s self. The UCC chose to take no action on the standards for awarding Dean’s List.

The UCC also discussed eliminating Latin honors, and replacing them with a new honor (“distinction”?). The Registrar’s office was asked to gather data about the distribution of departmental and Latin honors over the past few years. Data on Latin honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude, and no Latin honors) for first majors for the years 2000-2010 indicate that Latin honors are generally more prevalent for majors in the humanities and creative arts than in the sciences and social sciences. UCC members discussed the advantages of eliminating Latin honors (fewer upset students who have just missed a cut-off, and fewer upset parents; less emphasis on grades) and the reasons for not doing so (students like to have markers for their accomplishments). The UCC considered a range of possible actions (i.e., raising the grade point averages required for Latin honors and/or Dean’s List, utilizing a percentage standard in place of GPAs, eliminating Latin honors altogether, or keeping summa and eliminating the categories of cum laude and magna cum laude). A survey of 62 AAU schools revealed that only three of the schools (Carnegie Mellon, Princeton and University of Virginia) that replied do not award Latin honors.

After reviewing this data and its past discussions, the committee approved a motion to change the method of awarding Latin honors from a standard based on cumulative grade point averages (3.5 for cum laude, 3.7 for magna cum laude, and 3.8 plus departmental honors for summa cum laude) to a standard based on percentages (top 5% plus departmental honors for summa, next 10% for magna, and next 15% for cum laude), beginning for the class or 2016, if approved at faculty meeting. These same percentage standards are also used to award Latin honors at Boston College, Boston University, New York University, Rice, and Yale.

At the UCC’s last meeting of the year, Dean Jaffe reported that the faculty had returned the UCC’s Latin honors proposal to the committee, so that the issues of grade inflation and distribution by school could also be addressed. The Faculty Senate has agreed to convene the grading conversation in the fall, but in the meantime, Dean Jaffe asked committee members to suggest data to be assembled by the Registrar’s Office over the summer. Suggestions included average grade and Latin honors distribution by department, SAT scores by major over time (2004 to the present), grade distribution in large courses, electives, and requirements, and correlations between course evaluation scores and grade distribution. Student representatives were asked to survey their peers to learn if undergraduates have ever avoided courses because they assumed they would earn low grades in those courses.

Back to top

Discussion of the Report of the Arts and Sciences Faculty Workload Committee

The Faculty Handbook mandates that the UCC, along with the Faculty Senate and School Councils, must review proposed changes to faculty workload policies, before implementation by the Dean. The Faculty Workload Committee was appointed by the Provost, as an outgrowth of the CARS/Brandeis 2020 discussions. A member of the committee, Jerry Cohen, Associate Professor of American Studies, joined the UCC discussion of the “Report of the Arts and Sciences Faculty Workload Committee.”

A larger student body will likely increase faculty workloads, but the work must be distributed equitably so that all are helping to do what needs to be done. The Workload Committee reviewed current faculty teaching, scholarship and service expectations, and in January 2010 made initial recommendations, later modified, regarding procedures to review the work plan of every faculty member. In the past, faculty activities reports were reviewed by department chairs and the Dean, and faculty who were not contributing as much as their colleagues received smaller raises, without attempted interventions to ensure that all were contributing their fair share. In the new procedures, the chair will now attempt to develop a two-year work plan with the instructor to improve the situation (e.g., by restarting scholarship or suggesting other courses to teach), in consultation with the dean.

Has the university attempted to do this in the past? On a case by case basis, the Dean has worked with a few faculty at the initiation of their department chairs. At many public universities, there is post tenure review. The College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences have about 320 long term faculty, including about 75 outside the tenure track and about 60 who are tenure track. The average undergraduate class size is about 27 students. This set of recommendations focuses on tenured faculty, who might be asked to teach an additional course or to develop a new rotation of courses, if, for example, they are no longer active scholars. Departmental teaching loads are determined by historical practice and external competition, and this report does not attempt to alter the overall teaching loads at Brandeis. The report demonstrates that Brandeis is serious about rebalancing its commitments to address challenges facing higher education today. Faculty members noted that instructors are sometimes unsure about how to record some of their activities (e.g., contributions to interdepartmental programs, work with governmental agencies) on the activities reports. Attention to the wording of the report is warranted.

Back to top

Review of the Gateway Scholars Program

Sabine von Mering, Associate Professor of German and Women's and Gender Studies and a Gateway summer instructor; Nancy Nies, Director of the ESL Program and Gateway Scholars Program; Chrishon Blackwell, Assistant Director of the Gateway Scholars Program; and Katie So, Associate Director of Admissions, presented information about the Gateway Scholars Program. The Faculty Handbook requires new academic programs to be approved by the UCC and the faculty. This program was launched by Admissions and ESL in the summer of 2009 as a pilot to attract and admit high-performing international students in need of additional English language instruction. Originally conceived as a summer non-credit course of intensive ESL study to prepare admitted students for regular fall enrollment, it was soon determined that many of the students needed additional preparation in the form of one or two additional fall ESL/Gateway courses. The program has now been offered twice, and currently offers five-six weeks of intensive, non-credit, transcript-notated ESL courses plus complementary co-curricular programming in the summer, and (for some students) additional non-credit transcript-notated fall ESL courses, completed along with two other Brandeis courses selected from an approved list. The focus throughout is on critical listening, speaking, reading and writing skills, and orientation to American culture and higher education.

UCC members asked if similar programs are offered at other institutions. Some state schools admit students with far larger English deficits to year-long programs. Our required TOEFL score is considerably higher than that of other schools. The Gateway program allows us to tap into a new applicant pool. The largest cohort is from China, and many applicants are not seeking financial aid. The U.S. is now the top destination for Chinese students, because of the critical thinking, creativity and flexibility offered by American higher education, juxtaposed against the limited number of places available at Chinese universities. How do Gateway Scholars experience the transition to Brandeis? They are performing within the range of other admitted students, with many achieving Dean’s List recognition. A few would benefit from longer preparation. With experience, the university is doing a better job of determining who is best suited to the program, which has been tweaked and improved in its second year. The current number of students (about 40-45 admits each summer) is about right. 26% of 2009 Gateway Scholars and 48% of 2010 Scholars enrolled in a full load of fall Brandeis courses. As the university enrolls more and more international students, we need to ensure that sufficient writing and English language support is available. Is any thought being given to extending the program to graduate students? Perhaps a program might be designed for MA students.

The UCC approved the Gateway Scholars Program for a period of four years with a review (based on whether the program is meeting its curricular objectives, and its students are successfully transitioning to the Brandeis experience) to be conducted in 2014-2015.

Back to top

Approval of New Study Abroad Programs

In January, J. Scott Van Der Meid, Assistant Dean of Academic Services and Director of Study Abroad, presented seven programs for the provisional approval of the UCC. All of these programs met the criteria for new program approval (academic credentials, program duration and credit hours, language requirements, student services, course offerings, faculty and peer institutional support). The UCC granted provisional approval to: Stony Brook University/Turkana Basin Field School in Turkana Basin, Kenya; School for International Training (SIT)/Indigenous Peoples and Globalization in Cusco, Peru; Budapest Semesters in Mathematics/Technical University Budapest in Budapest, Hungary; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; CIEE/Santiago Service Learning: Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra in Santiago, Dominican Republic; CIEE/International Business and Culture: Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research in Mumbai, India; and School for International Training (SIT)/Health and Human Rights in New Delhi, India.

About 4-5% of undergraduates now study for a full year abroad, a marked decline from past years. Members of the UCC recommended that a memo be sent to students and faculty, stating both positive reasons for year-long study abroad, and addressing possible misconceptions about the residency requirement that may be contributing to the prevalence of study abroad for only one semester.

Back to top

Report from the Subcommittee on Independent Interdisciplinary Majors: Approved Majors

In January, Katie McFaddin, Academic Advisor and Coordinator of Sophomore Academic Programming, reported that the UCC’s Subcommittee on Independent Interdisciplinary Majors had approved the proposal of Calliope Desenberg ‘12 for an IIM in “Social Justice and Social Policy.”

In April, PJ Dickson, Director of Class-Based Academic Advising and Coordinator of First Year Academic Programming, presented information from Katie McFaddin on additional IIMs approved by the Subcommittee: “Communications and Media” for Eileen Hong ’13, “Communication and Media Studies” for Xuanlei “Lucy” Lu ’12, “Modern Communication and Media” for Li-Ming Pan ’13, and “Philosophy, Politics, and Economics” for Ariel “Avi” Snyder ’13. Ten of the last 28 IIMs have pertained to communications and media.

Back to top

Proposal for a New Minor in Sexuality and Queer Studies

Tom King, Associate Professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies; Sarah Lamb, Professor of Anthropology; Jim Mandrell, Chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and Sue Lanser, Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies, presented a proposal for a new minor in Sexuality and Queer Studies, offered under the auspices of the Women’s and Gender Studies interdisciplinary program. This proposal was originally created in response to student requests for a more focused and extensive academic program concentrating on LGBTQ issues and history. The new minor will aid student recruitment and retention, and contribute to the recognition of Brandeis in the larger world as a supportive place for LGBTQ students. Brandeis faculty have for many years been intellectual leaders in the field of Sexuality and Queer Studies, which is also at the cutting edge of interdisciplinary work in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

Five courses are required for the minor: a new core course, WMGS 6b “Sexuality and Queer Studies,” and four additional courses, at least two of which must be at the 100 level. With the approval of the Undergraduate Advising Head, students may substitute for one of the four courses a “complementary” course if writing a paper (or undertaking an equivalent project) on the topic of sexualities and/or queer studies, and/or substitute a WMGS independent study, internship, senior essay, or other capstone experience. Students who wish to minor in Sexuality and Queer Studies and major in WMGS may count no more than two courses toward both programs; students who wish to minor in both Sexuality and Queer Studies and WMGS may count no more than one course toward both programs.

UCC members asked: Will Queer Studies be the “term of art” 20-30 years from now? “Queer” is now the dominant term used in scholarship. How is this minor distinguished from the WMGS minor, since many courses overlap? The two core courses have zero to one overlapping texts, and though some courses overlap, the two fields are distinctive intellectual areas of inquiry. How many students do we think will enroll in the minor? 15-20 minors are expected per year. Why are the proposing faculty asking for a course replacement for the instructor of WMGS 6b? If WMGS 6b is primarily taught by professors from the English department, the English course that would otherwise be taught by the WMGS 6b instructor might need to be replaced to maintain the curriculum of the English department.

The UCC approved a motion to establish the minor in Sexuality and Queer Studies for a period of five years, beginning in 2011-12.

Back to top

Proposed Changes to the Theater Arts Major

Susan Dibble, Chair, and Jennifer Cleary, Arthur Holmberg and Alicia Hyland of Theater Arts (THA) presented the department’s proposal to change the requirements for the THA major and minor.

The new requirements, which are designed to give students a solid foundation in dramatic literature, theory, and history as well as opportunities to explore all areas of practical theater performance and production, would require ten courses and three practicum courses, or the equivalent of 12 courses. Required courses include four “Foundational Courses” (THA 10a, Theater as Performance: Body, Voice, and Action; THA 10b, Theater as Design: Vision, Light, and Sound; THA 11a, Theater, Text, and Theory I; and THA 11b, Theater, Text, and Theory II ), three “Courses for Exploration” (selected from course options in each of three areas -- Performance/Directing/Playwriting, Design/Production, and Literature/History/Theory), and three “Courses for Immersion” chosen from a wide variety of departmental and cross-listed courses in performance, design, production, literature, history and theory. Majors would also complete a practicum attached to each of the three categories: Theater Practicum (two credits) at the foundational level, Theater Lab (two credits) at the exploration level, and Ensemble Production (four credits) at the immersion level. Students wishing to minor in Theater Arts would take either THA 10a or THA 10b, and a cohesive progression of five other courses. THA faculty developed the new curriculum to better reflect the liberal arts nature of the university, after finding that the current “track system” was keeping majors from taking a wide variety of THA electives, because electives did not count toward the highly specified tracks. Many THA courses are being renumbered, and new courses are being introduced in every category. The response of current undergraduates to the proposed change has been positive, with about half of the junior class wishing to shift to the new, more flexible curriculum.

The UCC approved the proposed changes to the Theater Arts major and minor, which were also approved by the Creative Arts School Council.

Back to top

Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: South Asian Studies

After reviewing the report from the chairs of South Asian Studies and the report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs, the UCC approved a motion to continue the South Asian Studies program for five years. The review report commented on the lack of Hindi or Urdu course offerings at Brandeis and the need for a specialist in South Asian history, but praised the program for its co-curricular colloquia and intellectual and social gatherings of students and faculty, which also serve the greater Boston community. The review report also recommended that the Religious Studies program alternate offering courses in Buddhism and Hinduism, which would better support South Asian Studies. While the SAS program, first offered in the fall of 2007, does not yet enroll many minors, its core and elective courses enjoy healthy enrollments, and the areas studied are increasingly important for world politics, the global economy, and global culture.

Back to top

Changes to the Requirements for Departmental Honors in Philosophy

Jerry Samet and Marion Smiley of the philosophy department were joined by the philosophy Undergraduate Departmental Representative, Savannah Pearlman ’12, in presenting a proposal to offer a second option for earning honors in the department. The concept for this second option was originated by UDRs in order to better prepare students planning to apply to PhD programs in philosophy. In addition to the current option of completing 10 courses including two “99” courses, and a 35-60 page, multi-chapter senior thesis, students would have the option of completing 12 courses including one senior essay course, and a shorter 15-30 page senior honors essay, which could serve as the writing sample for graduate school applications. While the eligibility guidelines for the two options both require at least a 3.3 overall GPA and a 3.5 GPA in philosophy courses, students must first complete five PHIL courses for track 1 and eight PHIL courses for track 2. Students in track 2 are also allowed to take a 200 level course, with permission of the instructor.

Philosophy UDRs found that many students interested in applying to graduate school were struggling to complete both a senior thesis and their graduate school applications. These students were also unaware that they needed to take more courses in philosophy for fuller subject coverage to strengthen their qualifications. Both Harvard and Princeton require 11 courses for their philosophy majors. A shorter paper, written on the model of a philosophy journal article, will not only serve as a graduate school writing sample, but will also better utilize faculty resources.

The Registrar suggested that the number for the senior essay course should be PHIL 97a instead of PHIL 99c. UCC members asked if philosophy would be the only department requiring additional courses for honors. The math department awards honors to students who complete an additional two courses, with four of six electives designated as honors courses, and Physics awards honors for either PHYS 99d or two additional PHYS courses numbered above 160. Don’t most students applying to philosophy Ph.D. programs already take additional courses? Couldn’t graduate school applicants be advised to take additional courses, without this option? Aren’t all students eligible to take 200 level courses, with permission of the instructor? Who would be likely to complete the track 1 senior thesis option? Students applying to law school and/or those interested in moral or political philosophy might be drawn to writing longer arguments. Shorter essays are more the norm in logic and analytical fields.

The UCC approved the proposed change to the requirements for departmental honors in philosophy, with an amendment requiring a total of 11 instead of 12 courses in the second option. These courses would include 10 PHIL courses in addition to the PHIL 97a senior essay course.

Back to top

Elimination of the BA in Biochemistry

Dan Oprian, Professor of Biochemistry (BCHM), presented his department’s proposal to drop the Biochemistry BA degree, while keeping the BS and combined BS/MS. The two reasons behind this proposal are that: 1. in addition to 12 courses and eight labs, the BCHM BA requires only one biochemistry course (BCHM 104b, Physical Chemistry of Macromolecules) beyond the introductory BCHM 100a course, which BCHM faculty do not feel is sufficient to warrant a degree in Biochemistry; and 2. most BCHM BAs also complete a major in one or more science fields, typically a BS in Biology, which results in the appearance of a BS degree in Biology and Biochemistry, since the university awards only one (BA or BS) degree. The department considers this unfair to students who have completed the more difficult requirements of the BCHM BS degree (that is, two additional advanced level BCHM courses, 101a and 103b).

Biochemistry is unusual in that the first two years of courses are offered by other departments; BCHM faculty do not teach their majors until the junior year. There are few to no elective courses offered due to staffing resources. When Brandeis offered only BA degrees, the requirements for the Biochemistry BA were the same as for the current BS. The majority of serious Biochemistry students are pursuing the BS degree, sometimes double majoring in such fields as biology, chemistry, IMES, economics, history, English, and math. UCC members asked if the department had considered strengthening the BCHM BA and BS, or eliminating the BS degree. It has not considered the latter option, because parents and students like the BS degree. Do any other majors offer only the BS degree? (Yes, Biological Physics.)

The UCC postponed its decision on this proposal, while the Dean discussed the issue of differentiating BA and BS dual degrees with the Science School Council, and also asked if other science departments had interest in eliminating their BA degrees. After learning that other departments were not likely to abandon their BA degrees, the UCC approved the termination of the Biochemistry BA degree, beginning with the class of 2016. The class of 2015, which enters in the fall of 2011, will still be allowed to complete the BA degree.

Back to top

Visit of President Frederick Lawrence

President Frederick Lawrence visited the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee in April, as part of his schedule of visits to standing university committees. Committee members shared information about UCC responsibilities and agenda items and actions, such as this year’s discussion of “pass/fail”, the creation and review of interdepartmental programs, the approval of changes to requirements of majors and minors, the review of interdisciplinary independent majors, and the approval of new study abroad programs.

Back to top

Proposal for a Health: Science, Society and Policy/Masters in Public Policy Joint Program

Peter Conrad, Chair of Health: Science, Society, and Policy, and Mike Doonan, Assistant Professor at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, presented a proposal for a new joint Bachelors in HSSP/Masters in Public Policy. This program would benefit a small group of excellent HSSP students, who would apply for the joint degree in their junior year, take one Heller course in each semester of their senior year, work for one year in an approved position while paying a continuation fee, and present their work experience when returning to Brandeis to complete three semesters of Heller School courses. The two Heller courses taken in the senior year (Historical and Contemporary Developments in Social Policy, and Public Finance) would count toward both MPP core requirements and HSSP electives. In addition, two HSSP core courses (American Health Care, and Introduction to Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Population Health) would count toward MPP electives, so that joint degree candidates would need only 12 additional courses for the MPP, and thus would graduate in three semesters instead of four. Students in the joint program would be assigned advisers/mentors in their senior year, who would stay in touch with them during their work year, when they would also visit the Heller School.

The continuation fee of $1300 would allow students to defer loan payments, and obtain university health insurance, but the Registrar had questions about whether or not students would actually qualify for this status. Conrad and Doonan believe there is considerable interest from HSSP students drawn to further health policy education, but a UCC faculty representative warned that students are not always ready to plan ahead in their junior year.

At a subsequent meeting, the proposal for the combined BA or BS in HSSP/MPP degree was approved. UCC members expressed some concern about the proposal’s experiential transition year and its continuation fee, but asked that these matters be addressed by the Graduate Professional School Council and the Provost.

Back to top

Proposal for a Hebrew Language Track in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Major

Vardit Ringvald, Director of the Hebrew Language Program, and Sylvia Fishman, Chair of the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies (NEJS) Department, presented the curriculum for a Hebrew Language track in NEJS, which would replace the major in Hebrew Language and Literature terminated by the faculty in 2010. The Hebrew Language track would require 10 courses, with no double counting allowed. The 10 courses would include: NEJS 5a, HBRW 167b, two advanced level Hebrew language courses, at least one course in Classical Hebrew (Hebrew readings, with English language instruction), two courses in modern Hebrew literature (taught in Hebrew), and at least two courses in Israel Studies (English or Hebrew language instruction), in addition to HBRW 97, the senior essay.

Current students would be able to satisfy the requirements of either the new track or the current major, which does not offer the new option of completing Israel Studies courses with readings or sections in Hebrew. About two to three graduating seniors have been majoring in Hebrew Language and Literature over the past few years, in comparison with about 20 NEJS majors. Although the new track requires 10 courses, many of these courses have prerequisites, unless a student has near native fluency in Hebrew. The number of required courses is roughly comparable to the number of courses required in other language majors.

The UCC approved the requirements and curriculum for the Hebrew Language track in the NEJS major.

Back to top

Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Neuroscience

After reviewing the report of the chair of Neuroscience and the report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs, the UCC approved a motion to continue the program for a period of seven years. Neuroscience, which involves the efforts of biology, biochemistry, chemistry, psychology and other faculty, graduates about 30 majors each year, in addition to MS and PhD students. The review committee praised the program’s faculty for building an interdepartmental curriculum and community and involving undergraduates in cutting-edge research (frequently resulting in publishable papers) while preparing them well for graduate or medical school. Issues to be addressed include the frequency of offering NBIO 140, a core course, and providing better information and pre-major advising about requirements and typical course sequencing.

Back to top

Report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies

The UCC continued the program in Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies for a period of five years after discussing the report of the program chair and the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs. The committee report commended the program for the strong mentoring provided by the program chair, the strong sense of student community, and the innovative teaching methods of program faculty. Students who met with the review team also expressed a desire for more electives, and more interaction with the Heller School’s MA program in Coexistence and Conflict and its faculty. The committee recommended that the program encourage the study of global languages, and the deeper involvement of other faculty and departments with the program.

Back to top