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Educational Policy Committee

The Educational Policy Committee met seven times over the course of the 2008-09 academic year: October 5, November 6, December 11, March 9, April 6, April 17, and May 6. Average attendance of the 20 official members was 13. Registrar Shelby Stanfield was invited to attend as well, given the significant involvement of his office with many of the issues considered by the committee. At the April meeting the committee elected Professor Alan Friedman (English) to serve as chair elect.

Using Credit by Exam Coursework to Fulfill Course Prerequisites
In response to a question from the registrar and the Division of Instructional Innovation and Assessment (DIIA), the committee approved the use of pending course credits, such as those earned through credit-by-exam or advanced placement but not added to a student’s official transcript, to fulfill prerequisites for registration for advanced courses.

Proposal to Improve Course Availability for Undergraduates
By request from the provost’s office, the committee reviewed disapproved portions of 2005 Faculty Council legislation (D 3835-3837) which had been only partially approved by the president.

Original item 1, creating a new symbol “N” to be assigned when a student drops a class for a documented non-academic reason, and original item 5, which would limit the number of “Q” drops for a student, were felt to be unnecessary in light of SB 1231 (2007), which limits number of courses which can be dropped.

Original item 2, which proposed to shorten the add-drop period, was not approved, since data examined showed that adds and drops were unlikely to be exerting major effects on course availability.

Original item 4, establishing a University-wide policy on the number of times a course can be repeated, was not supported. The majority of the committee felt that this type of restriction should be enacted by individual colleges and schools rather than on a University-wide basis.

Recommended Addendum to Course Syllabi Addressing Plagiarism
The committee considered a proposal from the Senate of College Councils to require detailed information about plagiarism in syllabi for courses in which students are graded on written work. While the committee shared the concern motivating the proposal, the motion to approve was defeated largely because of a desire for course syllabi to be kept brief and specifically focused on the course, rather than conveying as well general University-wide policies and recommendations.

Proposal to Approve One and Two-Hour Courses to Carry Flags
The committee received a proposal from the School of Undergraduate Studies recommending a change in policy to allow courses of fewer than three semester credit hours to carry flags. The proposal would allow courses to carry a writing, global cultures, cultural diversity, ethics and leadership, or independent inquiry flag if that component constituted one-third of the course grade for three credit courses, one-half of the course grade for two credit courses, and all of the course grade for one credit courses. For the quantitative reasoning flag this component would have to constitute one-half of the course grade for a three credit course and three-quarters of the grade for a two credit course. This proposal was presented to the Faculty Council at its April meeting (D 6967-6968).

Core Curriculum Student Competencies
At the request of the provost’s office and the School of Undergraduate Studies, the committee reviewed the current catalog description of core curriculum student competencies and the current list of courses approved to fulfill these general education requirements. These competencies are of critical importance with respect to University accreditation by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC), in terms of regular review of academic programs by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), as well as in guiding core curriculum reform.

Communication (Core Component 010) – the committee felt both speaking and writing should be demonstrated and assessed. Including an “institutionally designated option” writing component course in this section was identified as an issue requiring further study, since it is not in full compliance with THECB guidelines.
Mathematics (Core Component 020) – the committee discussed the importance of involving the Department of Mathematics in the selection of qualifying courses and the value of considering qualifying courses that may not be offered by the Department of Mathematics.
Science and Technology (Core Components 030 and 031) – the committee discussed the importance of adding engineering courses to fully include technology in these sections.
Humanities (Core Component 040) – the committee discussed constraints and advantages of the current specification that all students must fulfill this requirement by taking E 316K. This course is currently well designed and delivered for this purpose. Problems include issues of transfer and dual enrollment coursework, as well as the impact of change on already tightly constrained degree plans. The committee recommended that a subcommittee explore this issue in greater depth.
Visual and Performing Arts (Core Component 050) – the committee saw no problems with the current description and implementation of this requirement.
Social and Behavioral Sciences (Core Component 080) – the committee saw no problems with the current description and implementation of this requirement, though some concern was expressed about the legislative requirement for history and government constituting such a large portion of the required core.
First Year Signature Course (institutionally designated option) – the committee felt no changes were needed with this component.

Changes to Criteria for University Honors Day Participation
In response to a request from the School of Undergraduate Studies, the committee reviewed a proposal to change the criteria for participation in Honors Day ceremonies. The primary rationale for this proposal was to reduce the number of participants, making invitation more of a special honor, and to simplify the calculations needed to determine eligibility. The committee approved a slightly modified version which would establish minimum qualifying characteristics of (a) current registration as an undergraduate student; (b) no prior undergraduate degree; (c) completion of at least 30 semester credit hours (SCH) of coursework at the University, excluding credit by exam, and at least 60 SCH of college coursework, including transfer credit and credit by exam; and (d) an in-residence University cumulative GPA of at least 3.50. Additionally, criteria were approved for the two levels of recognition: Distinguished College Scholars must rank in the top 4 percent of their class, in each college or school in which they are pursuing a major, based on in-residence cumulative GPA; College Scholars must rank in the top 20 percent of their class, in each college or school in which they are pursuing a major, based on in-residence cumulative GPA.

Proposal for Recognizing Academic Minors on Official Transcripts
The committee received a report from the Admissions and Registration Committee recommending standards for recognizing academic minors on official undergraduate transcripts, similar to the proposal approved last year for recognizing certain certificate programs on transcripts. Discussion of this proposal included a number of issues, including the amount of overlap allowed among core, major, and minor courses; how students would be officially admitted into academic minors; which academic units would establish the content of academic minors; how this policy would affect or be affected by course availability; whether this policy would encourage students to take additional courses and delay graduation; and whether interdisciplinary minors should be included in this practice. The committee recommended that this proposal be forwarded to the colleges and schools for discussion, perhaps by the academic associate deans, with a request for feedback that could inform further discussion by the committee in the coming academic year.

Recommendation for Adding the Registrar as an Ex-Officio Member of the Educational Policy Committee
Because the registrar is uniquely positioned to offer advice on many matters of educational policy, including historical perspective, implementation feasibility, and administrative constraints, and because this year the regular participation of Registrar Shelby Stanfield was very helpful, the committee voted to request the addition of the registrar to the list of regular committee members. This request is being forwarded to the Faculty Rules and Governance Committee for further review and action.

Lawrence Abraham, chair