2018-19 Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Report
Meeting Dates: Sept. 21, Oct. 19, Nov. 9 and Dec. 7, 2018; Feb. 8, March 8, March 22 and May 2, 2019.
Committee Members: Vidit Dhawan ’19, Christina Dioguardi, William Flesch, Erin Gee, Dorothy Hodgson, Danielle Igra, Kate Moran, Carrie Sheng ’20, Sara Shostak, Brandon Stanaway ’19, Rebecca Torrey, Sabine von Mering.
Ex Officio Members: Mark Hewitt, Erika Smith, Elaine Wong.
Actions Taken During the 2018-19 Academic Year
Committee members reviewed procedures for the conduct of UCC meetings.
In September, J. Scott Van Der Meid, associate dean, and Darren Gallant, assistant director, of study abroad, presented the criteria for new study abroad program approval (academic credentials, duration of program/credit hours, language requirements, student services, course offerings, faculty and area institutional support) and details on six new programs. The UCC granted provisional approval to the following programs:
- IES Abroad — Business and Economics in Amsterdam.
- SIT Abroad — Policy, Law and Regional Autonomy in Bilbao, Spain.
- University of Minnesota — Study and Intern in Toledo, Spain.
- The School for Field Studies — Fire and Ice in Patagonia, Chile.
- Institute for Study Abroad — Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education Program in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
- Aquincum Institute of Technology — AIT/Computer Science in Budapest, Hungary.
In February, Van Der Meid and Alisha Cardwell presented four new study abroad programs that were granted provisional approval by the UCC:
- School for Field Studies — Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies in Bocas, Panama.
- IES — Business, Sustainability and Immigration in Nice, France.
- National Theatre Institute — Moscow Art Theater Semester in Moscow.
- CET in Cali, Colombia.
Chad Williams, chair of African and Afro-American studies, presented a proposal to update the name of this department to African and African American studies. This action was approved by the UCC, along with changes to the titles of two courses. The term “Afro-American” is no longer in widespread academic usage, and the new terminology is more consistent with the naming of departments at peer institutions. The faculty of the department were in unanimous support of this change, which was also approved by the School Council/Division.
Sara Shostak, Sabine von Mering (fall term) and Kate Moran (spring term) volunteered to serve on the Subcommittee for Independent Interdisciplinary Majors.
Lotus Goldberg from the language and linguistics program presented a proposal to revise the program’s name to “linguistics,” a request approved by the social science division, unanimously supported by all members of the program and also approved by the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.
Linguistics is the term consistently utilized by peer institutions across North America and the world. This change would reduce confusion among prospective and current students, and eliminate explanations necessary for graduate school recommendations and external communications. The curriculum for the major and minor would not be affected.
Proposal to Allow Senior Thesis Courses to Count as Options Toward Digital Literacy, Oral
Communication and Writing Intensive Requirements
At the October 4 department chairs’ meeting, which was focused on general education implementation, the chairs asked that departments/programs be allowed to propose to the DL, OC and WI oversight committees the utilization of senior essay/senior thesis courses for satisfying digital literacy, oral communication and writing intensive requirements.
Text modifying the Brandeis University Bulletin’s section on double-counting in general education would add the bolded words to the following sentence: No course numbered in the 90s may apply toward general education requirements, except senior essay or senior thesis courses as approved by the major and the appropriate general education oversight committee for writing intensive, oral communication or digital literacy. This proposal would not enable other 90-level courses (e.g., 92s or 98s) to count toward general education requirements; it is supported by the chairs of the digital literacy, oral communication and writing intensive committees and the dean of arts and sciences.
A UCC member explained how the option could be useful to advanced students who would normally place out/exempt from a course approved for a foundational literacy before pursuing advanced coursework and departmental honors. This exception could serve as a safety valve for science and other highly structured majors.
Another UCC member asked if a senior thesis is too late in the process to demonstrate DL, OC or WI competencies. Would only those who have already acquired these skills be able to utilize them in “99” courses? Would this exception lead to students begging professors to sponsor senior essay/thesis courses to enable them to complete graduation requirements? Most majors articulate qualifications and procedures for senior thesis approval, which would discourage last -minute, unqualified requests. What if a student utilizing this option doesn't complete the thesis? The student could still complete and receive a grade in the course, even if not awarded honors for the project. Since honors is over and above what is needed to complete a major, should it be an option for completing a foundational literacy requirement? Could the thesis be one part of a requirement, spanning more than one course for those departments that are considering requiring students to complete two courses to satisfy an FL requirement? Yes. Could the thesis course have a module that is also offered in other courses? Yes.
After lengthy discussion, the UCC continued its consideration of the proposal to its next meeting. Supportive statements from the chairs of the digital literacy, oral communication and writing intensive committees, and chemistry and physics departments were reviewed, as were the arguments of invited guest John Wardle, chair of the science division. The UCC then approved the proposal from department chairs to allow "99" or senior thesis courses to count toward DL, OC and WI requirements in a major, if proposed by the faculty in a major and then approved by the appropriate oversight committee.
Science faculty statements outlined the procedures and practices for science honors theses (drafts with feedback, abstracts, literature reviews, oral progress reports to research groups, practiced presentations and defenses), and explained that "99s" would be an option — but not the only option — for completing a foundational literacy in certain majors. An OC option proposed by the chemistry department (i.e., service as a peer assistant/undergraduate teaching assistant, trained to present weekly prelab instruction lectures or to run supplementary instruction sessions) will be referred to the OC committee.
A UCC member asked if the definition of foundational literacy refers to the foundations of academic studies at Brandeis or the foundations of a field or future profession/career. The Task Force on General Education and current oversight committees are alluding to the latter.
Phil Dolan, associate director of Summer School and the Justice Brandeis Semester, and Tim Hickey, professor of computer science, presented a proposal for a new JBS in marketing and app development. The course would be taught by Hickey and Grace Zimmerman (business), both experienced JBS instructors.
This 10-week program, which was approved by the UCC, would teach fundamental concepts behind the design, development, testing and deployment of web and mobile apps, before students develop a prototype web and mobile app and utilize a variety of social media and marketing communications techniques to effectively market the app. Its three four-credit courses would include two existing courses —Web Application Development (CS 152aj) and The JBS Incubator (CS 154aj), which count as electives for the major, minor and MA in computer science — and one existing course, Marketing Management (CS 154aj), which counts toward the business major/minor. It will be open to all students who have taken the first course in the computer science major/minor (CS 11a) or business major/minor (BUS 10a). Preference will be given to students who have taken both courses.
UCC members asked if the apps could address the needs of NGOs as well as the high-tech market, and whether the program could begin by having students consider problems, and not just products.
The dean’s office reported on the retitling of the minor in sculpture and digital media, which will now be known as the minor in studio art. The new title was proposed by the fine arts department and approved by the creative arts division and dean of arts and sciences; it reflects the expansion of the minor to other studio art areas by including new electives in painting, drawing and printmaking, while still requiring the same number of courses (six).
In December, UCC members discussed possible topics for spring consideration. In addition to reviewing IIM adviser guidelines, other items that may be discussed are:
- Should there be new incentives for team-teaching, and how should team-taught courses count toward faculty teaching loads?
- What should be the UCC’s role in relation to other faculty governance committees, such as the proposed Committee on Academic Standards and Policy?
- What is the status of the new general education requirements, especially foundational literacies in the majors, and will there need to be changes in the requirements of some majors?
- Should the length of the add/drop period and the deadlines for pass/fail declaration be changed?
- Should the UCC again consider triple majors?
John Wilmes, assistant professor of mathematics, presented his department’s revisions to the requirements for the applied mathematics BS degree, which were then approved by the UCC. This new major, which was first reviewed and approved by the UCC in spring 2018, will now require Introduction to Proofs (MATH 23b) — previously an option — in order to add rigor and satisfy the new writing intensive requirement in the major. To add flexibility and enable instructors to meet course demand, the department and division council have revised the major’s core and elective course lists, while still requiring fundamental math prerequisites, analysis, concrete examples of applied math, utilization of data, and experience with quantitative material in a different discipline. Twenty-three students who have already declared the applied math major will have the option of completing originally proposed or the newly revised requirements.
UCC members reviewed data collected by the registrar’s office regarding the length of registration at other AAU schools. Two weeks is the length at most schools (16), followed by one week (12) at other schools, with only three of 29 universities reporting a longer registration period.
When students add a course they have not been attending for two weeks, they may not be able to succeed in the class, especially when quizzes are administered in these early weeks. On the other hand, international and other students trying to add an internship course may need signatures from multiple (unresponsive) faculty and offices, thereby needing the full two weeks of the registration period, and it may also be difficult for students to add/decide upon seminar courses that meet only once per week, especially when choosing between classes that meet at the same time.
Faculty could add to their syllabi statements about required classroom attendance (e.g., students must attend the first day of class; three missed classes will result in a lowered grade; instruction begins on the first day of class; and students are responsible for learning from lectures and assignments from the beginning of the course) or change admission to a class to “signature of instructor” on the first day of class. Students who enroll in, but never attend courses, thus maintaining roster spots that could have been given to other students, also cause enrollment problems.
Changing the campus culture through an educational campaign will take time, as students in certain departments are not in the habit of enrolling in courses until the end of registration. Danielle Igra, Kate Moran and Becci Torrey volunteered to draft a list of recommendations for undergraduate advising heads and academic administrators, and for a pro-active registration campaign aimed at undergraduate and graduate students, including suggestions for peer messaging. But the UCC will not introduce a motion at Faculty Meeting to change the current registration dates.
The UCC reviewed data from other AAU schools regarding when students can select the pass/fail option. These declaration dates vary, from one week to the end of the term, with 17 of 31 universities offering a longer declaration period than Brandeis, four offering the same three week period, and 10 a shorter period. The UCC planned to introduce a motion extending the selection date at Faculty Meeting. Mark Hewitt consulted with his staff about the proposed date, which might be closer to a drop deadline or the mid-term point. The current date was selected to coordinate with the work schedules of the Registrar’s office staff, back when more transactions were still not automated. Students are currently allowed to utilize the pass/fail option to “cover” a letter grade up to four times during their Brandeis studies, with some restrictions for Brandeis Core (general education) and major requirements. With the current deadline, students sometimes drop courses they might stay in due to concerns about “low grades,” which could be covered with a later pass/fail deadline. The goal of a new deadline is to keep students in these classes so that they can learn the course content and earn course credit, even if grades are not recorded on transcripts. At a later meeting, the UCC reviewed legislation drafted by Mark Hewitt to change the deadline for initial selection of the pass/fail grading option to coincide with the last day to drop a course without a “W” grade (roughly six to seven weeks after the beginning of the term). This new date would align Brandeis’s deadline with that of more AAU schools, and would not adversely affect the work schedules of the Registrar’s staff. This change aims to reduce the number of dropped courses in subjects which students are exploring out of interest, and to help students make more informed decisions based on greater knowledge of the grading practices and difficulty of classes, the students’ overall time commitments, and their actual performance in these courses. Currently about 600-700 undergraduates declare pass/fail annually, with about 75% keeping their earned letter grade, instead of “covering” with a pass. After suggesting a few slight revisions to the wording of the proposed legislation, the UCC approved this motion.
The UCC accepted the recommendation of its Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs to continue the program in German Studies, without further periodic UCC reviews. Although some UCC members have found program reviews to be helpful and believe that the curriculum of all majors should be regularly reviewed, the following argument was accepted: German Studies is an interdisciplinary, not interdepartmental, program offered by the department of German, Russian and Asian Languages and Literature, and more closely resembles the French and Francophone Studies and Hispanic Studies majors and minors offered in Romance and Comparative Studies, which are not regularly reviewed by the UCC, instead of the programs in European Cultural Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies, which are regularly reviewed by the UCC.
The review report praised German Studies for its highly individualized advising and its attention to not only political, societal and artistic movements, but also contemporary issues through its literature and film courses The UCC referred to the humanities and social science division heads the review report’s recommendation that departments consider adding courses in modern German history and politics to supplement the German Studies curriculum and encourage student interest in German language courses and study abroad. Elimination of the two semester language requirement for study abroad will be referred to the World Languages and Cultures committee and relevant departments.
Dan Perlman, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, presented proposed changes to the Environmental Studies (ENVS) major and minor, which were initiated due to the retirement of Laura Goldin, who founded and established the ENVS internship course. The following changes to the major and minor were approved by the UCC: 1. the number of courses required for the major will be reduced from 13 to 12 courses, while still requiring a capstone experience, now including an approved environmental internship, no longer linked to a course, or an approved study abroad experience, and 2. the minor will still require six courses, plus one of the capstone options.
Almost all students in ENVS currently complete internships, even if they also pursue other capstone options. All capstones will be completed after the sophomore year and approved in advance by the ENVS Capstone Coordinator, who will assist students in finding internship placements in addition to overseeing three internship reflection exercises. Laura Goldin, in her emeritus position, also plans to provide assistance in placing students, who will continue to present their internship experiences in an annual Internship Symposium. As staffing for ENVS expands, the internship course for credit may be reconsidered, though ENVS faculty believe that placements must be organized by a core faculty member, who is able to maintain contacts and communications with internship sites over time. None of the current core faculty are able to dedicate two of the three to five courses in their teaching load to credit-bearing internship courses. UCC members asked how international students’ internship experiences would be facilitated; the Registrar suggested that ENVS 92a be utilized for students who must be enrolled in a credit-bearing course. Committee members also asked that the cohort building and peer learning opportunities provided by the internship course be maintained to the greatest extent possible.
After briefly discussing the Russian Studies self-study and review report, the UCC approved the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs to continue the program in Russian Studies, without further periodic UCC reviews, based on the rationale for its similar decisions regarding German Studies.
The review committee was impressed by the enthusiasm and engagement of Russian Studies students, who were eloquent in praise of their advisors and teachers. Students would appreciate more courses on contemporary Russian studies, especially in political science. The program is also to be commended for its engagement with Russian-speaking communities in greater Boston and for faculty support of student research projects and papers, and its “heritage” language learners.
Stephen Dowden, the Chair of European Cultural Studies, reported on progress made in addressing the 2017-18 UCC’s questions about the program. He noted the strong relationship between ECS and the Humanities Fellowship program for first year students, which provides students with a HUM/UWS taught by humanities faculty in satisfaction of the first year writing requirement, in addition to programming, a scholarship and small amount of funding toward a project or academic experience. The two programs share many events. ECS now has eight declared majors, and its faculty committee met once in the fall and once this spring to plan three events for next year and to prepare for this report to the UCC. Faculty have been helpful in recruiting students to the major.
What Dowden has learned from serving on a UCC interdepartmental program review committee this year is that a gateway course offered by the same instructor is important for program continuity and advising, as is a capstone experience. ECS is not a discipline or a cultural studies program, but is in fact a “literature in translation” major and special opportunity provided mostly by advising. The program is addressing the issue of identifying Foundational Literacy options in its major, but has not yet found a new name for the program. The current name is confusing for students (suggestions from a UCC members included “European Literature and its Context” or “European Intellectual Life”). The faculty committee has not yet resolved questions about ways in which the core course or the structure of the curriculum might be revised to determine which "striking and world-shaping features... of literary works,...music and history," and what aspects of "literary and cultural life...in Europe," and "struggles for social, political and economic change" its majors should understand. The UCC asked if the curriculum might require courses from different historical periods, or specific numbers of courses from different departments. Nearly all ECS majors double major in another subject.
UCC members agreed that ECS faculty should be expected by the spring of 2020 to attend a UCC meeting to propose a new name for the program, as well as to discuss revisions to the curriculum that would articulate vertical and/or horizontal connections (e.g., "period" and/or disciplinary requirements) and implement a culminating reflection activity of the program’s choice, as discussed at this meeting. ECS deliberations should begin in the spring of 2019 and result in proposed changes to the ECS requirements. The UCC looks forward to hearing about students’ reception of the new co-curricular programming, and asked that Dowden be reminded that the most sustainable programs identify more than one person who could serve in the roles of chair, primary advisor and instructor of the core course.
Antonella DiLillo, Tim Hickey and Jordan Pollack from the Computer Science department presented a proposal to replace CS 11a Introduction to Programming, which teaches programming in Java, with a new course, CS 10a Introduction to Problem Solving in Python, designed for students with no programming experience. This revised course would no longer count toward the requirements for the major or minor, thus necessitating revisions to required courses. While the original proposal of the department would have renamed CS 11a, the Registrar’s office strongly recommended that the new course number, CS 10a, be created to reduce student confusion. Changes to the curriculum will chiefly involve deleting CS 11a as a core requirement, and adding one more elective to maintain the total number of courses required for both major and minor.
Python is a user friendly programming language, which will be more suitable for students who are interested in learning how to program, without majoring in Computer Science. The new course will eliminate the mixed levels of experience and skills in the former CS 11a course, and may also aid in reducing the attrition of women and students of color, who often stopped taking CS courses after 11a. Students will now have to take a placement test or complete enrollment in CS 10a to enroll in the core course, CS 12a Advanced Programming Techniques. UCC members approved the proposed changes to the CS major and minor.
A faculty member suggested that the UCC consider revisions to policies related to grading for repeated courses. Brandeis is unusual in comparison to its peer institutions in that if a student retakes a course, the second grade only counts toward the cumulative grade point average if the student failed the course when first completed. Most other institutions count the most recent or highest rather than the initial grade toward the cumulative GPA. Mark Hewitt was asked to research and draft new policies, which could be acted upon at the next UCC meeting and forwarded to faculty meeting for final approval.
At a later meeting, Mark Hewitt presented a revised policy related to grading for repeated courses. After polling other peer institutions, he found that we are one of two out of 27 institutions that do not allow the most recent or better grade of a repeated course to count toward a student’s grade point average. The proposed policy would replace the original grade with the grade earned when the course is repeated, and specify other credit and course content matters related to repeated courses.
Kim Godsoe, Keith Merrill and Neil Simister, who are all participating in the HHMI Inclusive Excellence grant, attended the meeting to speak in favor of the new policy. They agreed to prepare a rationale for the proposal, which they and other faculty support because it will reward student persistence in overcoming failure, benefit those students who are less well-prepared for science classes, and help address attrition from the study of science at Brandeis.
The UCC approved the proposed policy, which would be implemented in the fall of 2019 after being considered at the next faculty meeting.
In December, Katy McLaughlin from Academic Services discussed procedures for Independent Interdisciplinary Major approval and reported on IIMs approved by the joint UCC/COAS Subcommittee on Independent Interdisciplinary Majors: Emily Arkin ’20, “Communication Studies”; Rachel Blau ’20, “Social Enterprise”; Maryam Chisthti ‘20, “Theater for Social Change”; Lillian Feinson ’19, “Gender and Sexuality Education”; Sophia Kupervaser-Gould ’19, “Italian Studies”; Noa Laden ’20, “Communication and Media Studies”; Lia Lewis ’20, “Cognitive Science”; Morgan Lloyd ’20, “Evolutionary Biology”; Stefania Molinaro ’20, “Italian Studies”; Sarah Nzisabira ’20, “Digital Media”; Quayshaun Owens- Figueroa ’20, “Multimedia Arts and Culture”; Elaina Pevide ’20, “Public Policy”; and Makayla Richards ’20, “Black Women’s Studies.”
McLaughlin and the subcommittee are considering revisions to the IIM proposal form and a new procedure to facilitate advanced planning and earlier faculty advising. The UCC was asked to consider questions about which faculty should serve as primary and secondary IIM advisors, whether to establish guidelines for Communication/Media Studies and related IIMs, and whether it might be possible for students to propose IIMs that would qualify for BS degrees
In May, McLaughlin reported on Independent Interdisciplinary Majors approved by the joint IIM subcommittee: Andy Manos ’21, “Architectural Studies”; Thom D’Angelo ’19, “Italian Studies”; Avraham Tsikhanovski ’21, “Philosophy, Politics, and Economics”; Rayelle Gardner ’20, “Critical Media and Cultural Studies”; Jesiah Matthews ’21, “Ethical, Social, and Political Thought”; Rebecca Goldfarb ’21, “Media, Culture, and Communications”; Michael Heldman ’20, “Urban Studies”; and Alina Sipp-Alpers ’21, “Labor Studies and Social Movements.”
In March, Katy McLaughlin attended a UCC meeting to discuss clarifying who is eligible to serve as primary and secondary advisers for independent interdisciplinary majors, and who might serve on the committee that approves IIMs. While two members of the UCC and two members of the Committee on Academic Standing currently serve on the latter committee, is it necessary for two members from each committee to continue to serve, or would it make more sense to include faculty who have previously advised IIMs?
UCC members agreed that tenure-track faculty in their first year at Brandeis, Kay Fellows and faculty who have less knowledge of the arts and sciences curriculum (that is, those who teach only one course, or who teach primarily in the Heller School or IBS) are not ideal candidates to serve as primary advisers responsible for approving changes to the major and signing off on graduation requirements. McLaughlin consulted with current members of the approving committee before returning to the UCC with finalized recommendations.
In May, McLaughlin reviewed recommendations, later endorsed by the UCC, regarding which faculty might be eligible to serve as primary advisers for students applying for future IIMs. Faculty who are in their first year of teaching at Brandeis, and Kay and other postdoctoral fellows may not serve as primary advisers, who become responsible for approving revisions to IIM curricula and informing the registrar’s office that IIMs have been completed.
Primary advisers must also be available to their students through the students’ graduations and appointed in the School of Arts and Sciences. Faculty in their first year of teaching at Brandeis may serve as one of two secondary advisers, who are asked to review and support the original IIM application, as may “union” faculty governed by the collective bargaining agreement, if approved by their department/program chair and the dean of arts and sciences. At least two of the three IIM advisers must be members of the School of Arts and Sciences faculty.
IIM application procedures in the next year will include a requirement that applicants identify prospective advisers several months in advance (perhaps by the end of the semester before their application is considered) to encourage a longer engagement and advising period with faculty. Members of the Committee on Academic Standing will no longer be asked to serve on the joint IIM review subcommittee, which will continue to consist of faculty from all four schools, with two representatives from the UCC and two former or current IIM advisers, ideally on staggered terms.
After considering the Latino and Latin American studies self-study and review report, the UCC approved the continuance of the LALS program for a period of five years.
The review report commended the program for the unity, commitment and engagement of its faculty, and noted past UCC subcommittee recommendations that had been addressed (e.g., new faculty positions in LALS, introduction of a new core course). UCC members then observed that student concerns regarding their desire for more sense of belonging to the program were also voiced by students in the previous review report.
For this reason, the UCC asked that LALS faculty create and implement during the fall 2019 term a plan to develop a cohort identity for LALS majors and minors, so that these students become familiar with one another as well as the faculty and are able to experience an increased measure of the unity and commitment shared by the faculty. It is hoped that these efforts will result in a higher degree of student satisfaction with advising, especially advising for those students who wish to pursue honors theses in LALS.
The UCC will invite LALS faculty (and staff and students, if suggested by the LALS committee) to attend a spring 2020 committee meeting to report on the effectiveness of its fall planning and implementation, which might be demonstrated through a student survey or focus group.
Report From the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs: Women’s, Gender and Sexuality
Studies and Sexuality and Queer Studies
The UCC considered the self-study and review report of the women's, gender and sexuality studies, and sexuality and queer studies programs. The report praised program faculty and staff for their collaborative engagement, strong contributions to the university and sense of community provided to students.
Because both the report and self-study discussed the possibility that WGS might transition to departmental status, the UCC approved the continuance of the WGS and SQS programs for a period of five years, understanding that WGS and SQS would no longer be reviewed by the UCC if the programs become a department.
Approval of Revisions to Requirements of Majors Related to Implementation of the Brandeis Core
The UCC reviewed and approved small revisions to the majors in classical studies, computer science, economics, mathematics and studio art. These changes were all related to the introduction of required foundational literacy courses or practicums in these majors.