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Subject: Protest: Motion to Change the Degree Requirements for All Undergraduate Students at UT Austin
Date: November 29, 2006 12:05:49 PM CST

To whom it may concern:

I would like to protest a portion of the proposal (D 5155-5163), as approved by the Faculty Council, which provided in the link:

I believe that the concept of Signature courses is flawed. I realize that the document does not give a class size. I think that it should since the feasibility of the Signature courses is dependent on this information.

In conversation, I know that proponents envision a small class size of 20 or so. I think that this is not practical. The only reasonable solution that I have heard (but have not seen in print) are large classes which consist of primarily freshman but which have a small number of upper classmen who act as mentors. The large signature course would be divided into smaller groups or team. Each one of these groups/teams, would be under the charge of a single mentor. Each group would work together to complete each task. I think that this would provide a vertically unifying experience for the student body and would stimulate real discussion.

To be frank, I also worry about the fact that we will have "science" courses taught by non-scientists. I know that the document does not say anything like this. But this is a likely outcome of the Signature course proposal. I realize that scientists can elect to teach these courses, however, because of other pressures I predict that few will be able to do this. I think that science taught by non-scientists would damage all of the programs.

Nigel Atkinson
Nigel Atkinson
Associate Professor of Neurobiology
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The University of Texas at Austin
Section of Neurobiology
1 University Station C0920
Austin, Texas 78712-0248

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The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712-1064

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