2020-21 Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Report
Meeting Dates: September 11, September 25, October 9, October 23, November 20, February 5, February 19, April 9, April 23.
Committee Members: Cameron Anderson, Christina Dioguardi, Lyle James ‘21, Jeremiah Lemelson ‘23, Priya Patel ‘22, Thomas Pochapsky, David Powelstock, Joseph Reimer, Ellen Schattschneider, Marison Smiley, Sheida Soleimani, Krupa Sourirajan ’23, Brian Swingle, Elaine Wong
Ex Officio Members: Mark Hewitt, Dorothy Hodgson, Erika Smith
Actions Taken During the 2020-21 Academic Year
Among the items the UCC planned to consider in 2018-2019 were: Reports from the standings Committees on Interdepartmental Programs from East Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, Neuroscience, South Asian Studies; Approval of new study abroad programs; Reports on approved Independent Interdisciplinary majors; Latin American and Latino Studies proposed name change; Dean’s recommendation regarding Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies (PAX) program; and suggestions from committee members.
Steve Karel, Co-Director of Division of Science Operations, and Barry Snider, Chair of Chemistry, presented a Science Division proposal for Credit/No Credit grading for newly approved repeatable one-credit 91g “Introduction to Research Practice” courses in five majors (biology, chemistry, neuroscience, psychology and physics). These one-credit courses were recently created to enable continued participation in faculty research by undergraduates, after the late August announcement of new university rules that students must be either paid or receive academic credit to participate in what previously was considered volunteer work in science laboratories. This work often leads to paid positions or senior honors projects for many students through which students are able to carry out long-term independent research in the discipline.
Students are expected to spend a minimum of 3 hours/week on scientific research for these one- credit courses; standardized evaluation is difficult due to the variety of experiences, skills acquisition, and experiments, which will vary by faculty research group. Almost 40 students have asked to enroll in one of these courses, and all are aware of the proposed C/NC grading.
Before approving Credit/No Credit grading for 91g courses, UCC members asked questions about how undergraduates learn about science research opportunities, the overall diversity of lab participants, and whether or not students who wish to join labs after the enrollment period would need to wait until the next term to begin their work.
Dean’s Recommendation Regarding Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies (PAX) Program (September 25, October 9, October 23)
In September, Professor Gordon Fellman (chair) and Lauren Jordahl (academic administrator) from Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies were invited to discuss the preliminary recommendation to the Provost by the Dean of Arts and Sciences regarding discontinuation of the program at the end of the 2024-2025 academic year. The UCC is to provide the Dean with feedback on this recommendation, which would transition some courses and the Hahn and Karpf prizes to other institutional homes, most likely a new Community-Engaged Scholars program and Center for Civic Engagement.
The rationale for initiating this process is related to the University’s need to refocus its undergraduate curriculum due to expected budget shortfalls and the small number of students who now complete the minor each year (one to five graduates in the last four graduating classes), the school’s inability to support a new program chair for PAX, and the program’s shortfalls in relation to the UCC’s 2020 Rubric for Interdepartmental Program Review (e.g., lack of rotation in the chairmanship, number of students completing the program, and core course staffing).
Fellman argued that PAX should be maintained in its current or a more limited form until other programs/centers are funded/implemented, and that the costs of PAX are small (operating budget, staff support, and faculty time to oversee the program) in relation to the overall university budget. He is willing to continue his involvement with PAX until and after his retirement at the end of 2021-22, and believes PAX’s role in exemplifying Brandeis’s commitment to social justice is more important than organizational or financial concerns. PAX has also been instrumental in the creation of the Peace Room, a place for meditation and reflection, and the Peace Circle installation between Usdan and the library. Fellman stated that the PAX core course Deconstructing War, Building Peace is the only Brandeis course analyzing why war has persisted and could be brought to an end, and he hopes the course would be continued after his retirement. In addition Fellman believes that PAX teaches civil disobedience and nonviolence skills (for example, through the Inner Peace and Outer Peace course) that may become necessary to employ after the November presidential election when violent protests may be fomented. Jordahl emphasized what a great support Fellman has been to current students and alumni.
Fellman discussed his concern about not receiving a report from the committee charged by former Dean Susan Birren to review existing social justice curricular and co-curricular offerings and to consider possible future frameworks and programs. After this committee’s work was concluded, Dean Dorothy Hodgson charged a new committee with the design of what is now called the Community-Engaged Scholars program, which would be a transcript notation, not a minor, that records structured service and academic components for students who wish to participate in all majors. Fellman also noted that he has identified a faculty member who is eager to lead the program, though his appointment is not in Arts and Sciences; Dean Hodgson believes that faculty from the School of Arts and Sciences should lead interdepartmental programs in A&S, an issue also addressed by the 2019-20 UCC, which decided last year to recommend sunsetting the Social Justice and Social Policy program if the Social Science division could not assist in finding a new chair for that program. A UCC member asked if the identification of a new PAX chair might involve reaching out to all faculty, beyond the chairs of a division.
Other UCC members asked how frequently PAX reviews its course offerings and electives and how students learn about the program. New courses have been added to the electives, and the program participates in Academic Fairs and sponsors PAX workshops and events open to the community. A committee member asked about the 2017 UCC review report which asked the university to make substantial allocations to enhance the program and raised questions about a possible major, leadership succession, and collaboration with SJSP and CAST. What would give new life to the program, which has a proud history?
After Fellman and Jordahl departed the meeting, committee members discussed options for the program, which included recommending that the program continue through its next review period in 2021-22. Some would like to ensure that elements of PAX are incorporated into possible new structures, others wanted to learn more about the possible Community-Engaged Scholars program. Brian Swingle suggested wording for a possible recommendation that acknowledged PAX’s budget, enrollment and leadership issues, but recommended creation of a working group to further consider its future before a final decision is made. Swingle will draft a statement that will be shared as a google document with UCC members to consider before its next meeting.
In October, Dean Dorothy Hodgson attended the UCC meeting to present the rationale and background for recommending discontinuation of the Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies program, and to answer committee members’ questions. While she appreciates the contributions of PAX and its longstanding chair to the community, and supports its values and concerns, her recommendation is not based on the merits of the program, but on its structural role in the university in relationship to available resources. As an incoming dean three years ago, she read past program reviews, senior survey information, and other data before meeting with each department and program chair. Though she noted the leadership sustainability issues and declining enrollments in PAX, her original plan to wait for the next scheduled review was revised when Professor Fellman began conversations with her about a retirement agreement, at which time she began to discuss discontinuation of the program with him. Students have been voting with their feet in the last few years, by not enrolling in the program and also by more recent diminished enrollments in the core course.
Brandeis offers other curricular options to study social justice issues, including majors/minors in AAAS, ENVS, WGS, and the new program in Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies, which was created through the advocacy of students. The Social Justice Curricular Committee was charged by her predecessor, Susan Birren, with reviewing existing programs as well as co- curricular activities related to social justice; this was not a program review but an inquiry into possible synergies that might make our offerings more coherent and vibrant. Could the existing programs be tied together? The committee was asked to propose a way forward that might also align with the Framework for our Future, for which the President had begun conversations about a Center for Civic Engagement to provide more infrastructure for both curricular and co-curricular activities such as the Waltham Group and the Brandeis Justice Initiative. Additional committee work has resulted in a proposal for the Community-Engaged Scholars (CES) program, which would not be a minor, but a certificate program open to all students, including those in majors such as Music and Neuroscience that do not offer courses that would double count for the program. Dean Hodgson had planned to introduce the CES program, which would include a Foundations course on the theory and practice of community-connected teaching, learning, and research; recorded community service hours, and a capstone and other cohort-building experiences, at a faculty forum last spring, but these plans were delayed because of the pandemic.
Dean Hodgson also learned that the Sociology department is not planning to ask for a replacement who would replicate Professor Fellman’s course offerings. She has asked the head of the Division of Social Sciences to serve as chair of the program after Fellman’s retirement.
UCC members discussed Professor Fellman’s possible involvement in planning for new initiatives and the importance of maintaining such PAX elements as courses emphasizing empathy. Professor Fellman has a particular vision for the PAX program, which he has nurtured and supported for many years. What lenses are needed to look at this historic moment? Could the Ethics Center, which is already supporting the recently continued CAST program, be a location for some future activities? One UCC member expressed the opinion that it was more important to carry on with the subject matter of PAX than the actual structure of the minor. What will be the reaction of alumni who completed the PAX minor? The challenge will be in framing any changes to aspects of a Brandeis education that was core to some undergraduate experiences. The need for chairmanship rotation makes sense to one UCC member as having a program dependent on one person is not sustainable. Could a wider net be cast to find program leadership, or to modernize the PAX curriculum? The university doesn’t do a good job in making programs visible to students, as most of the UCC student representatives were unfamiliar with the PAX’s existence before our discussions. What one member liked best about the Community-Engaged Scholars program was the opportunity to take small satellite programs that were not very visible to students to create something much bigger and more central to the university’s identity, even though there is sadness in ending a program.
The UCC will continue its discussion of PAX at its next meeting. Because of new information considered, the committee did not focus on recommendations previously distributed, but is now considering either a split recommendation, or an attempt to reach consensus on either supporting or not supporting the Dean’s recommendation. The UCC is also considering recommending that a committee be constituted for a creative re-imagining of PAX and/or its core components.
In the continued discussion of PAX, the committee began its discussion of the PAX program by noting points of agreement (i.e., the long history of the program's contributions to the university’s social justice mission, its need for new leadership and more visibility) before individual members voiced their current views on the Dean’s recommendation for discontinuation. One faculty member urged the administration to guarantee that PAX’s subject matter and innovative pedagogical approaches be encapsulated into the university's broader strategy of social activism, and that Professor Fellman be invited to participate in planning discussions. Another asked if there should be a committee to rethink PAX, while acknowledging the additional labor involved and the need for a call for participation. What is the likelihood of revitalization and increased students enrollments?
What does the “sunsetting” process involve? The Dean will present to the Committee on Academic Standards and Policy her recommendation and the UCC’s advisory decisions as part of a deliberative process also involving the Provost. These recommendations will be reported to the faculty and brought to the attention of the Board of Trustees. Undergraduates would still be eligible to complete this minor up until the last year of the program in 2024-25. The website could continue, but discontinuation of the program would be noted in the Brandeis University Bulletin. When programs have been discontinued in the past, student enrollments also diminished along the way.
A student representative reported that undergraduates who attended a “meet the majors” meeting focused on PAX, SJSP, and Sociology expressed interest in the PAX program, when they learned about it. A faculty member noted that Neuroscience and HSSP are programs that benefit from the commitment and care of many professors who are invested in the subject matter and research and teaching mission. UCC members want to validate, commemorate and rejuvenate the good work of the PAX program, but is it in the best interests of the university to preserve a legacy program? What should be the role of a retiring professor to shape and guide the future? Some members wished for more complete information about both the Community-Engaged Scholars program and the Center for Civic Engagement, which might become the umbrella or rebranding opportunities for new or evolving activities. The university should recommit to its social justice reputation and initiatives.
At the end of the meeting, the UCC unanimously recommended that the administration ensure that elements of PAX (its subject matter and innovative pedagogical approaches) be integrated/encapsulated into the university's broader strategy of social justice activism going forth, and that Professor Fellman be included in planning discussions.
The committee was divided regarding the recommendation to discontinue the program as of 2024-25, and many committee members felt conflicted about their voting decisions. Five voted for discontinuation, and six voted against, with one abstention. Stated reasons for discontinuation included: the lack of a new chair to lead the program; the myriad of ways to organize social justice curricular initiatives, of which PAX is only one; and the belief that there are stronger ways to organize and bring greater attention to such initiatives, which are more likely to be enabled if energy is devoted to moving forward instead of preserving PAX. Stated reasons for voting against included: the possibility that with more visibility and publicity, PAX enrollments might increase; the discomfort with ending the program before its next scheduled review; and the concern that important PAX elements might be lost in the transition, since new structures don't yet exist. The UCC asked to receive the proposal for the Community-Engaged Scholars program, even though its discussion of PAX was concluded.
Proposal to Allow a Single Course to Satisfy No More than Two Foundational Literacies (FL) (November 20)
James Mandrell, Director of University Writing and Chair of the Writing Committee, and Jennifer Cleary, Chair of the Oral Communication Committee, presented a proposal from the four Brandeis Core Foundational Literacy chairs to allow a single course to satisfy no more than two of the four FLs (digital literacy, oral communication, quantitative reasoning and writing intensive). All chairs agree that a single course cannot assist students in achieving three very different competencies in one semester, while also ensuring that course content is mastered. This policy would guide future FL approvals; instructors who propose courses for three or more FLs will be asked to choose only two. Instructors of the small number of courses already approved for three FLs will be asked to select two of these FLs for future course offerings beginning in the fall of 2021. Students who complete courses that now count for three FLs in academic years 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 will have these courses count for all three FLs, unless their departments/programs have already stated that one course may count toward only one or two FLs in the major.The UCC approved a motion that the following sentence be added to the "Double Counting Restrictions" section of the Brandeis University Bulletin: “No single course may satisfy more than two of the following requirements: Digital Literacy, Oral Communication, Quantitative Reasoning, Writing Intensive
Katy McLaughlin, Assistant Director of Academic Advising, discussed procedures for Independent Interdisciplinary Major approval and reported on four IIMs approved by the UCC Subcommittee on Independent Interdisciplinary Majors: Prabu Gugagantha ‘22, “Statistics and Data Science”; Sesily Beridze ‘22, “Media, Culture and Communication Studies”; Charlotte Cooper ‘23, “Politics, Philosophy and Economics”; and Marisa Small F’21, “Biology and Society”.
Proposal for an Interdepartmental Program and BS degree in Engineering Science (November 20, February 5)
In November, Seth Fraden, Professor of Physics, and Avital Rodal, Associate Professor of Biology, presented a proposal from eight faculty members representing Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics to introduce a new interdepartmental program and BS degree in Engineering Science. This proposal has been reviewed and approved by the Division of Science, and would only be implemented if and after sufficient funds have been raised via the upcoming capital campaign to support new faculty positions detailed in the proposal. Preliminary discussions of an engineering science degree have been underway for over a decade, involving science faculty, senior administration, and the board of trustees. Fraden was asked over the summer/fall to convene a planning committee to draft a proposal for UCC and faculty consideration. Brandeis is the only top research science university in the world without an engineering program, and liberal arts colleges such as Smith and Swarthmore also offer engineering degrees. Basic science is abstract; engineering bridges science to society, as the mechanism by which science is conveyed, and would provide its majors with the tools to intervene in the world regarding issues of health equity, green design, and sustainability. For example, at Harvey Mudd, students identify an unmet need, and through teamwork and solving authentic design problems, participate in socially responsible, community development engineering projects. Olin engineering students have built instruments for Brandeis PhD students as their capstone projects. Engineering programs train students to enter the tech workforce and enable a cultural shift in departments. Advanced courses will supplement the curriculum of Neuroscience and Biology graduate and undergraduate programs.
This curricular proposal is based on recommendations by Olin faculty Brian Storey and Mark Somerville in response to a request by Dean Birren in 2016, and builds on existing Brandeis courses and our history of interdisciplinary collaboration. To meet standards established by ABET (the engineering accreditation agency), the major would require 12 engineering science courses: six courses in Engineering Process Fundamentals (“Introduction to Design”, “Introduction to Experimentation”, “Modeling and Simulation”, “Linear Systems and Controls” and a two semester “Senior Capstone Design Experience”); six courses in Engineering Science Fundamentals (“COSI 12b Advanced Programming Techniques in Java”, “Introduction to Materials Engineering”, “Introduction to Biological, Chemical, and Thermal Transport”, and three advanced engineering courses, which might include existing Brandeis courses such as BIOL 107A “Data Analysis and Statistics Workshop”, MATH 124a “Optimization”, QBIO 120b “Quantitative Biology Instrumentation Laboratory”, COSI 105b “Software Engineering for Scalability”, COSI 119a “Autonomous Robotics”, COSI 123a “Statistical Machine Learning”, COSI 129a “Introduction to Big Data Analysis”, COSI 177a “Scientific Data Processing in Matlab”, COSI 178a “Computational Molecular Biology”, or new courses such as “Ethics and Technology”, “Engineering Medicine”, or “Mechanics of Cells”). ABET also requires that majors complete at least one year of mathematics and science, which could be fulfilled by existing courses in math (MATH 10a and 10b, MATH 15a, MATH 20a, MATH 37a) and physics (PHYS 11a or 15a, and PHYS 11b or 15b, and PHYS 19a and 19b) and courses in biology (BIOL 15b and BIOL 18a).
Engineering Process Fundamentals are courses concerned with how engineers think and what they do. Engineers design and control the behavior of systems, and create experiments and models to inform these designs. These courses engage students in experiential learning and engineering from the students’ first year on. Engineering Science Fundamentals are courses that focus on disciplinary concepts, and introduce students to research areas that are Brandeis strengths such as computer science, materials science and biological and chemical science.
The faculty proposers would chair search committees for new positions (eight over time), and form the executive committee establishing learning outcomes, governance procedures and rotation of leadership responsibilities, in addition to assessing and improving the curriculum, and advising majors. The faculty hires would be located in the most appropriate home departments. New lab space/equipment would be less expensive than for basic science labs. The program and major would not be included in the Brandeis University Bulletin until sufficient funds are raised.
UCC members asked: Why not require a course in Chemistry such as CHEM 11a or 15a? How can the program ensure that social justice and ethics are fully integrated and embedded into the program to make it uniquely Brandeis in its liberal arts context? Committee members understand the timing of program implementation, but asked about the level of resources (new positions and space issues) required, and ways in which arts, humanities and social science divisions could benefit from new resources, given Brandeis’s current financial situation. Could fundraising include support for team-taught courses by humanities/social science/arts faculty with new engineering science faculty?
The committee praised the scope and seriousness of the Engineering Science proposal and asked that the proposing committee be informed that they are unanimously enthusiastic about the proposal. The following items of information were requested before resuming discussion of the program at the next UCC meeting:
- Examples of Engineering requirements from the following schools: Columbia, WPI, RPI, Smith, Swarthmore and Olin
- The full Olin report commissioned by Susan Birren in 2016
- The pre-reqs for each of the courses listed in the proposal. For example, what are the prereqs for CS 12b, and for the capstone courses? Are there pre-reqs for “Introduction to Materials Engineering” and other listed courses?
In the continued discussion in February, Seth Fraden, Professor of Physics, Timothy Hickey and Pengyu Hong, Professors of Computer Science, Avital Rodal, Associate Professor of Biology, and Jonathan Touboul, Associate Professor of Mathematics were invited to answer UCC questions about the proposed interdepartmental program and BS degree in Engineering Science. Brian Storey, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and one of the founding faculty of the Olin College of Engineering, also attended the meeting to provide background on the 2016 feasibility study commissioned by Dean Susan Birren, and to review key common elements of all engineering curricula. He noted that the proposal is an outline intended to leverage the strengths of the Brandeis curriculum and faculty. Resources needed to support the program include eight faculty members who could be hired over time, some upgrades to facilities to compliment existing lab spaces developed for Physics and the MRSEC grant, and Admissions and recruiting support.
Olin itself is different from other engineering schools in that it is small with an undergraduate focus. Olin emphasizes social justice through opportunities for students and faculty to address authentic socially responsible and affordable design problems. What has worked best is when faculty who are passionate about topics collaborate in small groups to co-teach courses such as “diseases that have changed the world”, and/or to address energy and design issues in architecture and construction, animation projects in the arts, and data visualization, digital communication, and information retrieval systems for the humanities. Olin students support a business owned by women in Ghana, and have built scientific instruments for science and music labs at Brandeis.
Strategic questions which the proposing committee has asked and discussed with other arts and sciences faculty include: what is new and different about this program, and what are the Brandeis values that can be enhanced by the engineering sciences. This proposal resonates with donors, who want to contribute to new initiatives. At other R1 institutions, the engineering faculty might number 50 or more. While eight new faculty may seem like a large number, with a teaching load of two courses per year (standard for physical science faculty at Brandeis), it is through networking and collaborative integration with one another and current Brandeis faculty that this program will succeed, in a manner similar to how other Brandeis science programs thrive with relatively small numbers.
A UCC member commented that the proposing faculty have addressed questions raised at the November meeting and appear thoughtful about building connections and outreach to other faculty and departments. Committee members suggested that the proposal could be strengthened by adding discussion of anti-racism components (faculty recruitment, curriculum, and student support) to the documents in addition to more discussion of ethical components and commitments to local and regional communities. It was also suggested that specific fundraising initiatives to enable and support team-teaching, similar to the Mandel humanities grants) be included.
The UCC unanimously approved a motion to advance the proposal to faculty meeting; the motion will note that the engineering science program must secure funds to begin within five years of faculty approval. Both the longer document and the executive summary will be sent to the faculty, at the UCC's recommendation.
Mark Hewitt, University Registrar, presented a modification to current policies regarding the dropping of courses after the end of the enrollment period. This change, which would eliminate the W grade on student transcripts, is driven by the implementation of Workday Student, as the drop functionality and security structures in this student information system software are very different from our current SAGE system. Workday Student streamlines the course drop process through reliance on student self-service and is not constructed to require instructors to grant permission for the drop, nor is it designed to distinguish between a drop with or without a W (Withdrawal) grade. The number of drop transactions occurring after the end of enrollment/registration have been: Fall 2020 - 1,315; Spring 2020 - 1,382; Fall 2019 - 1,606; Spring 2019 -1,397. Each of these transactions would require in Workday Student many manual steps by faculty and registrarial staff. For that reason, the Registrar’s office proposes that students be allowed to initiate and complete course drops without having to receive prior permission from the instructor, and that the university no longer utilize a W grade. The last drop deadline would continue to be the 50th day of instruction.
A student’s course history, that is, all courses enrolled in and the day on which they were dropped, will be visible to Academic Services advisors in the new Workday Student system, to assist them in understanding students’ time spent in a course, and any withdrawals. Students will be encouraged to consult their instructors in advance of a course drop, and the Registrar’s office will provide instructors with reports/notifications about dropped courses. A grace period could be allowed for students to request reinstatement to a dropped course, with the instructor’s permission. UCC members approved these proposed changes and suggested that the period for reinstatement be five instructional days.
Humanities Division Request for UCC Guidelines on the Practice of “Self-Grading” by Students (February 19)
At the request of the Humanities division, which asked for guidelines regarding the practice of student “self-grading” (that is, should it be allowed or not), John Burt an/d Joshua Williams from the English Department were invited to discuss the rationale for this practice, one that Williams has been experimenting with in alignment with a growing corpus of antiracist, crip and decolonial pedagogical theory which holds that traditional grading practices undermine a truly liberatory classroom. In his courses, in addition to assigning short and long papers and presentations, Williams requires students to submit process letters at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester, through which students reflect on the intellectual labor they have done and still have to do, assessing themselves according to the criteria they feel are most relevant to their circumstances and goals. He provides grading rubrics and extensive substantive feedback on all assignments, but tells students in the syllabus that they will determine their course grades in the final process letter, based on their particular situation and objectives; he reserves the right to alter final grades assigned by students to themselves, sometimes raising an unnecessarily modest final grade. By scaffolding self-assessment, the instructor enables the students to reflect on their progress and gives them intellectual responsibility for the subject matter. They no longer have to strategize about how to appeal to the instructor, and students seem to work just as hard if not harder, usually assigning a grade close to what Williams would have assigned.
A UCC member asked about the grade distribution for a class already utilizing self-assessment. Not all students received A grades, and the grade distribution was similar to other classes. Would it be appropriate to instead utilize the Credit/No Credit grading option? Students want to enroll in letter-graded courses, which they may need for graduate applications. Williams would like students to ask themselves: what does top level, innovative work look like? A grade must also be considered according to collective standards; Williams would like to generate collective standards without grades. A committee member noted studies that have shown that women, Asian-Americans and Native Americans tend to give themselves lower grades when asked for self-assessments. Williams usually adjusts for gender, cultural, and racial situations.
Another member noted that according to the Faculty Handbook, “Faculty are responsible...for the evaluation and grading of all work submitted in their courses and for final course grades…” If the instructor states that they can alter the grade, they are saying that they are implicitly responsible for the final grade. It is only fair to make it clear to students that students will submit a proposal for a final grade but that the instructor has final responsibility for assigning grades.
Williams agreed to add a new sentence to his syllabus, suggested by a UCC member as a "friendly amendment," to clarify his role in assigning final grades. UCC members very much appreciated his thoughtful, equity-minded pedagogy and commitment to his students' learning. The Dean’s office was asked to report this discussion to the humanities division and to suggest to senior administration (Mark Brimhall-Vargas, Provost, Deans, Faculty Senate) that they consider assessment and grading in a racial equity context as part of anti-racism discussions. There is a pedagogical difference between assessment and grading, and these issues deserve a broader conversation in an equity context.
The UCC approved a proposal presented by Elizabeth Ferry, Professor of Anthropology and Interim Chair of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program, to change the name of the Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS) program to “Latin American, Caribbean and Latinx Studies.” The motivations for this change, which have been discussed by the program for two academic years, include changes in the faculty and curriculum, shifts in the field, student feedback, and positioning and legibility within Brandeis. Adding “Caribbean,” which includes areas not colonized by Spain, such as Haiti, Jamaica and Martinique, makes more evident what the program encompasses. The word “Latinx” is preferred by students as a non-gendered replacement for the word Latino, and signals acceptance to the transgender and gender nonbinary communities. Latinx is a recently emerged descriptor for communities and people in the United States whose origins are in Latin America. The new name “Latin American, Caribbean and Latinx Studies” is more immediately distinguishable from “Hispanic Studies,” and acknowledges changes in the field, communicates a commitment to inclusion along several axes and better describes the program’s curriculum.
The UCC next reviewed the Environmental Studies self-study and report from the Standing Committee on Interdepartmental Programs before continuing the ENVS program for a period of five years. ENVS provides training for undergraduates who are planning graduate studies or careers related to the environment in government agencies, the private sector, and consulting. Its curriculum is directly relevant to the University’s social justice mission, and enrollments in the major, minor and courses have all grown in the last ten years. The review report primarily recommended that the program be supported by new resources (at a minimum, adjunct appointments in field biology,animal behavior, and environmental policy, history, data analysis, and chemistry) to bring this program up to a competitive level and to attract, retain, and prepare its graduates for successful careers.
Melissa Kosinski-Collins, Professor of Biology, Sue Marsh, Executive Director of Precollege Programs, Lynne Rosansky, Interim Vice President of the Rabb School for Continuing Studies, and Jennifer Walker, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, proposed a two-credit summer BISC 3a course “Bridging Research and Medicine: The Science, Genetics and Medical Implications of Diseases Impacting Women’s Health” for UCC approval. This course would be offered in conjunction with Brandeis Precollege Programs and the Summer School in the summer of 2022 to both undergraduates and high school students whom Brandeis may wish to recruit for undergraduate and/or later graduate studies. The course consists of two parts: 1. a four-week online asynchronous course consisting of 20 hours of instruction and assignments focusing on the genetic, anatomical and physiological aspects of women’s biology, including units on hormones, reproductive health, health care disparities for women, and diseases such as endometriosis and breast cancer; and 2. an eight-day residential course on the Brandeis campus, consisting of an additional 60 hours of instruction and assignments, including hands-on laboratories. Part 2 focuses on the molecular, genetic, medical and clinical basis of several diseases impacting women’s health, as well as government policy related to these matters.
Unlike Tufts and other competitor schools, Brandeis has not yet given credit for summer programs for high school students, so this proposal is a pilot, aimed at students between their junior and senior year of secondary school. Precollege programs will also continue to offer non-credit programs for high school students. Limited scholarships will be available for part 1 of this course; the program does not have sufficient funds for the residential portion of the course.The UCC approved the BISC 3a two-credit course proposal as a one time only summer 2022 course offering. An assessment of the course will be presented to the UCC in the fall of 2022, at which time, the committee could consider approving a second iteration of the course. The UCC is not approving this particular course structure for other future courses, nor is it setting a precedent for other two-credit courses with asynchronous and in person residential components.
Possible Enrollment in Remote Brandeis Courses by Students Studying Abroad in Academic Year 2021-2022 (April 9)
Alisha Cardwell, Director of Study Abroad, presented a question from students who ask if they could be allowed to enroll in remote Brandeis courses (usually in their minors, second majors or in a course offered only once per year) while studying abroad in 2021-2022. Currently, students may enroll in thesis courses on top of a full load of courses in their study abroad program. 90 students have been approved for fall 2021 study abroad, and 151 for spring 2022 programs. Of these students, 63 are seniors and 55 are students who deferred from this academic year after the suspension of study abroad.
After initial discussion, Cardwell was asked to return to the UCC with a proposed set of procedures by which students could petition the Study Abroad office, which would grant approval on a case by case basis and only with the permission of the Brandeis instructor, to enroll in a single Brandeis course in addition to their full load of study abroad courses. This temporary policy would not be announced to all study abroad students, but would be available to the small number of students who ask about such matters. It would not be a precedent, although could be reconsidered in the future. Faculty would prefer for study abroad students to be fully immersed in their in person classes and in getting to know the country’s culture, but also understand that students have experienced great difficulties and deferred dreams and opportunities in the past 13 months.
Timothy Hickey, Olga Papaemmanouil, Antonella Di Lillo and Pito Salas from the Computer Science department presented proposed changes to the COSI BS and BA requirements, which would now require CS 103a Fundamentals of Software Engineering for both degrees. The core required courses for the BS would increase from six to seven but the total number of required courses would remain at 14.5 by decreasing the number of electives from six to five, which will now include new distributional requirements to facilitate broad knowledge in three areas (Systems, Design and Software Development, and Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning). For the BA degree, adding CS 103a would increase the number of core courses from four to five, and the total number of courses from 9.5 t0 10.5, but there would be no distributional requirements.
The goal of these changes is to improve students’ software engineering and problem solving skills and help ensure that COSI graduates are better prepared to meet the challenges of a career in Computer Science. After faculty met with alumni, they learned that students’ software development skills needed to be strengthened, as a few students were not well-prepared in this area. The curriculum committee also studied curricular recommendations of the CS professional organization and reviewed the curricula of comparable CS departments before revising the requirements. The UCC praised the department for adding rigor to the program and improving students’ internship and job prospects, before approving all proposals.The UCC also encouraged the department to present its use of the GitHub portfolio, a CS 103a assignment, to the Science Division, and possibly to departments outside the sciences through a workshop organized by the CTL, as others might benefit from learning about this way for students and alumni to present their skills and accomplishments.
Report on Approved Independent Interdisciplinary Majors (IIMs) and Discussion of BS degrees for IIMs (April 23)
Katy Colohan, Assistant Director of Academic Advising in Academic Services, reported on four Independent Interdisciplinary Majors approved by the UCC subcommittee: Angel Motto ‘22, Cognitive Science; Tenor Matys ‘22, Creative Media and Visual Narrative Studies; Evelyn Inker ‘23, Communication and Media Studies; and Ruth Itzkowitz ‘22, Communication and Media Studies. Two other IIMs were approved, pending revisions: Claire Kiewra ‘22, Communication and Media Studies; and Leah Fernandez ‘22, Human Factors (title to be revised). Students demonstrate consistent interest in Communication and Media Studies, and more students are also proposing majors in the sciences.
Currently, the IIM program offers only a Bachelor of Arts degree, which consists of 12 courses, including a senior year capstone experience of either a one-semester independent study or a two-semester senior research project, but students have recently asked if they could be awarded a Bachelor of Science degree. The UCC asked Colehan to consult with the Division of Science regarding the total number and number of science courses that might be required for a BS degree,and for guidelines regarding the composition of the three faculty advisors (should the primary and/or both secondary advisors be science faculty?), other possible suggestions (such as Science Division sign off for any BS IIM degrees?) The UCC will consider the awarding of BS IIM degrees after the Science Division consultation is concluded.
Continued Discussion of Possible Enrollment in Remote Brandeis Courses by Students Studying Abroad in Academic Year 2021-2022 (April 23)
Pending Social Science Division approval (later received), the UCC approved new concentrations for the International and Global Studies (IGS) major presented by program chair Chandler Rosenberger. All IGS majors will continue to complete a total of ten classes--four foundational classes and six electives, which will now be configured as concentrations, in addition to requirements in foreign language, and either study abroad or an international internship. In the three new concentrations (Global Sustainability; International Order; and Law, Justice and Human Rights), students will complete a designated seminar and five electives selected from a list of specified courses. The seminars will be research-based courses that will help students learn methodologies useful when pursuing senior theses. A yet to be named fourth concentration will enable students to select six courses (two from each of three categories--Culture, Media, and the Arts; Governance, Conflict, and Responsibility; and Economy, Health, and the Environment) that are equivalent to the previous set of requirements. There will be no changes to the IGS minor.
The multidisciplinary concentrations will be used as advising tools to help students engage in the questions that most interest them, select courses that are better connected, and develop some expertise in particular fields. IGS faculty may add new concentrations to meet student interest, subject to further UCC approval.