Index of Topics 1/16/2007

Defining a Passing Grade – DISCUSSION

           For Approval 1/30/07–to Faculty Senate 2/5/07       

 

 

WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

ACADEMIC COORDINATING COMMISSION MINUTES

Regular Meeting  --  January 16, 2007

 

Chair Jim Hearne called the meeting of the Academic Coordinating Commission to order on January 16, 2007, in OM340 at 4:01 p.m.  There were thirteen (13) members present, and six (6) others for a total of  nineteen. (19). (See attached roster).  Chair Hearne welcomed Dan Boxberger who will be a permanent member of ACC through 2008, and David Wallin, returning for Winter and Spring quarter.

 

Approval of ACC minutes

Commissioners approved the minutes of December 5, 2006 as written.

 

Items from the Chair

§    Chair Hearne drew attention to the report to ACC on Writing Proficiency Courses prepared by Karen Perry, a useful 4-page list which Commissioners received in their packets.

§    Hearne also brought a concern regarding the practice of voting by email.  Hearne suggested the practice is to be avoided.  Commissioners pointed out the distinction between email balloting, and the closed ballot that should occur following discussion.  Many committees have discussion first and in this case a later email vote on the topic would be okay in certain circumstances.  However this is generally discouraged.

§    Commissioners heard a brief discussion of what is meant by “accepting minutes”.  What ACC is actually doing is approving the actions in the minutes submitted from its committees.  That is particularly relevant at this meeting since it frees the commission to accept most language in the minutes that does not involve new catalog language with alpha suffixes. Commissioners began reviewing minutes and immediately hit snags regarding alpha suffixes (see below):

 

AGENDA ITEMS.  The following curricular minutes came before the ACC on 1/16/07

 

CURRICULUM COMMITTEE

DATE

INFORMATIONAL ITEMS

Action at previous meeting

 

 

General Education Requirements

10/26/06

Question about CLST117 –what category and is it an FYE?

Postponed

Not Reviewed

 

College of Sciences & Technology

11/13/2006

Questions arose about alpha suffixes

Geology -  Bob Mitchell (guest) withdrew suffix courses.  Action with respect to Geology not up for approval:  withdrawn.

Postponed

Remainder not Reviewed

 

New Items this Meeting

 

COURSES and ACTION

1

College of Fine and Performing Arts

11/17/2006

POSTPONED

Dnc 338a, b, c; alpha suffices no longer in use.  Must explain rationale for use.  Dnc 236 and 237 (237 reserved for international studies -- use new numbers.)

Increasing in size of major requires presentation of rationale to ACC

Please keep catalog language simple (“enchainements” is technical term?).   See ACC Handbook

2

Council on Humanities and Social Sciences

12/07/06

ACCEPTED EXCEPT NEW CRITERIA for entry to SOCIOLOGY MAJOR (currently being revamped). 

ISSUE (under continued discussion):  Whether it is appropriate to have grading standard for every department coincide with university standard.   See p. 13, Soc 210, 215, 310

Challenges when alpha suffix removal affects unknown numbers of courses across the university.


 

 

 

CURRICULUM COMMITTEE

DATE

ITEMS and ACTIONS

 

3

College of Sciences and Technology

11/20/06

NOT REVIEWED

 

4

 

 

 

5

6

Graduate Council

 

 

 

11/07/06

 

 

 

11/14/06

12/05/06

No exceptions to alpha suffices rules

Approved except new catalog language with illegal numbers, page 7.  Require going through an expedited ACC review process.  Resubmit application information, take out letters, etc.

Not reviewed

Not reviewed

7

Honors Program

12/01/06

Not reviewed

 

8

9

10

Huxley College of the Environment

 

 

 

10/12/06

10/19/06

11/01/06

Not reviewed

Not reviewed

Not reviewed

 

11

12

International Programs Adv Cte

10/9/06

11/20/06

Not reviewed

Not reviewed

 

13  

Teacher Curriculum & Cert Council

12/05/06

Not reviewed

 

14

Western Libraries

11/08/06

Not reviewed

 

15

16

17 

Woodring Curriculum Council

 

10/27/06

11/03/06

11/17/06

Not reviewed

Not reviewed

Not reviewed

 

 

MOTIONS with hand count vote

College of Fine and Performing Arts, 11/17/07.   Dave Wallin moved to approve the minutes, seconded by Jim Stewart.  The motion passed 6 for, 3 against, 1 abstention.  Following discussion and several issues which were raised in Dnc 338 and 236 and 237, Jim Stewart moved to reconsider the minutes, seconded by James Sanders.  The motion passed, 8 in favor, 1 opposed, 1 abstention.  Discussion ensued, and James Sanders moved to approve the minutes, seconded by Shelby Sheppard.  The motion failed, 6 against, 1 in favor, with 2 abstentions.  All votes were done by hand count.  The minutes of CFPA were not approved.

Council on Humanities and Social Sciences, 12/7/07.  Shelby Sheppard moved to approve with the exception of the Sociology Major, seconded by James Sanders.  The motion passed, 8 in favor, 1 opposed, 1 abstention (by hand count)

 

DISCUSSION: 

DEFINITION OF PASSING GRADE

Ø    Commissioners described the University Standard of C- or better in the major and questioned the individual department’s actions to set different standards such as C or B for entry or completion of the majors.  Joseph St. Hilaire, Registrar, is challenged to add all the exclusionary riders to the catalog, and all agreed that extra riders put pressure on the grading system.

Ø    Commissioners agreed to work toward a formulated policy which does not yet exist.  Kathy Knutzen would like to see a policy developed and then have departments (such as Sociology) implement the policy.  The only exception would be Woodring, where there are State requirements.  Requiring a C in all of the Woodring classes may influence the inflation of grades on campus, but the real challenge is that there is no clear policy.

Ø    There are two sides to the question:  One, is the question that departments ought to and should maintain control over their majors.  Two, is the argument that the University Requirement of 2.0 overall should apply across the board.  Otherwise, increasing the requirement puts more pressure on General Studies.  Provost Bodman argues for two, that University standards should be enough to apply to all, and he suggests that we are denying students the right to do what they would like to do, even if they do it badly.  Students can retake courses when they miss the required C the first time.

Ø    Group One argues that you can tailor the course so that the C- is competent, and D+ would be insufficient, again reiterating that there is no fixed policy.

Ø    Commissioners asked what is in the best interest of students?  Students can take both sides of the argument and say both sides are in their interest.

Ø    Chair Hearne proposed that as a public institution, we must create as much access as we can, and limiting access in this way is objectionable, especially since it appears to be an inflating problem, with more and more departments designating gateway requirements to their majors.

Ø    On the other hand, admitting a student who is not competent in the field does not do anything for us or for him/her.  It seems fairer to that student to let them know this is not the area they should be in.  Access to the University is not necessarily a guarantee of a degree. 

Ø    Then again, perhaps only departments understand best what happens in their disciplines, and we cannot impose an arbitrary or universal standard, since the departments best understand the culture of their courses, materials, and grading. 

Ø    On the other hand, why do we need to invent a new “dialect” for each area on campus.  A through C has a meaning that everyone should understand. 

Ø    However, the meaning has changed over time, and the departments have established unique meanings for their areas.  For university credits in general, the criteria for passing is D.  For majors it is a C-. 

Ø    Commissioners asked if requiring a higher grade in certain courses is putting power in assessment or in a course grade that goes beyond teaching students themselves.  Raising the curve in a course to limit majors is a disservice to our central educational mission, and conflates purpose.

Ø    Commissioners asked if the catalog language can be changed; some indicated that it was ridiculous that students and the Registrar have to deal with all these exceptions.

Ø    Commissioners referred to the Biology major requiring an average of 2.9 or better in 3 courses that are prerequisites for the major. Bodman reported that this had only been approved on a temporary basis because we have to deal with this within a general policy review.  He repeated that he is leery about approving all these exceptions.

Ø    Lisa Zuzarte pointed out the challenges with the Capp encoding with all these exceptions.  St. Hilaire’s office has to seek compromise with the department when a student challenges grade conflict with the Catalog restrictions.

Conclusions:

Ø    Specificity:  Commissioners expressed concern that where departments invent what A, B, or C means, we will continue to have grade inflation.  Jim Stewart would like to have some specificity with the list of majors and grade averages in classes so we can focus our discussion.  Stewart would like to see a “well-defined problem” for future conversation.

Ø    General Question:  Provost Bodman would like focus on a general question:  To what extent are we operating to the benefit of the students?  The more exceptions there are the more difficult it is to roll back the exceptions.

Ø    There are no easy answers since we are arguing theoretically about the meaning of grading letters, when the question is really about enrollment management and control.  It even sounds like there is a contradictory policy is written into the catalog.  What is listed in the catalog is the A, B, C, D definitions.  Only whole numbers are defined. How can you make an argument that C- is passing if you don’t have a definition of a C-.  It is not defined anywhere.  Currently the GPA of the average students is 3.05.  

Ø    Hearne summed up with a resolve to formulate policy questions and distribute them next time.


Commissioners’ Concerns

Lisa Zuzarte reported that additional work is being done on the Revision or Cancellation of a Course FORM, and it will be ready in a short while. 

 

Adjournment

Commissioners adjourned at 5:46 pm.

Rose Marie Norton-Nader, Recorder, January 16, 2007

 

ACADEMIC COORDINATING COMMISSION 2006-2007 ROSTER

 

 

Membership (term ending 2007)

 

 

Chair – James Hearne 2006-2007

 

1

A -  James Hearne, Computer Science, Chair

P

 

Vice Chair – Roger Thompson

 

2

A -  Jim Stewart, Senator, Physics Astronomy

P

 

 

 

3.

D – *Grant Donnellan, Music, ( NElig)

Exc

 

Ex-Officio

 

4

E -- George Zhang, Decision Science, CBE

--

17

Bodman, Andrew (Provost) (nv)

   P

5

G – David Wallin, Huxley

P

18

Lisa Zuzarte (Catalog Coordinator)

P

6

H – Shelby Sheppard, Woodring (Wtr Qtr for Marsha

                              Riddle-Buly)

   P

 

 

 

 

Membership (term ending 2008)

 

 

Registrar, Recorder, Guests

 

7

A –  Michael Meehan, Senator, Computer Science

P

1

Joe St. Hilaire, Registrar

P

8

B – Dan Boxberger, Anthro; rep to GER

P

2

Rose Marie Norton-Nader, Recorder

P

9

C -  Leonard Helfgott, History

P

   3

Karen Perry, former Catalog Coord.

   P

10

C -  Roger Thompson, Senator, History

P

4

Kathleen Knutzen, Associate Dean, CHSS

   P

11

F -  Marie Eaton, Fairhaven

--

5

Kathleen Kitto, Associate Dean, CST

   P

12

I –  Stefanie Buck, Library, rep to EESP

P

6

Bob Mitchell, Geology

 

13

S -  James Sanders, ASVP-Academics, 2006-2007

P

 

 

 

14

S -  Christian Opfer, 2006-07, rep to UPC

P

 

Members Present

13

15

S -  Eddie Jenkins, 2006-07

--

 

Registrar, Recorder, Guest Present

6

16

S-   Nate Warren, 2006-07

--

 

TOTAL PRESENT  January 17, 2007

19

 

      *Not Eligible for Re-election (served 4 yrs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Members (18)

 

 

 

 

 

12 faculty (2yr terms) representing each area with 2 as Senators.  6 more members include:  Provost (nv), Catalog Coordinator (ex officio) and 4 students (1 ASVP).  ACC sends reps:  to UPC and to GER Cte.  Registrar & Recorder are permanent guests