Boston College
College of Arts & Sciences

Educational Policy Committee
Minutes: Meeting of 14 February 2002 (386) approved version

Attendance:
quinnj Joseph F. Quinn (Chair) Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
barrya Ann Marie Barry Communications / Humanities (2003)
behnegaa Alice P. Behnegar Honors Program, designate for Michael Martin
boydmb Mikaela Boyd Class of 2002
burnsj J. Joseph Burns Assc Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
cnnmj M.J. Connolly (Secretary) Slavic & Eastern Languages / Humanities (2004)
defuscoa Andrea DeFusco Asst Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
dunsford Clare M. Dunsford Assc Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
jan Jan Engelbrecht Physics / Natural Sciences (2002)
gelfand Mark I. Gelfand History / Social Sciences (2002)
green Carol Hurd Green Assc Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
jaramicb Carlos A. Jaramillo Class of 2005
kafka Alan L. Kafka Geology & Geophysics / Natural Sciences (2003)
malec Michael A. Malec Sociology / Social Sciences (2003)
mcguines Thomas P. McGuinness Director, University Counseling
murphyro Robert G. Murphy Economics / Social Sciences (2004)
oconnocn Clare O'Connor Biology / Natural Sciences (2004)
okeeffe Mary D. O'Keeffe Assc Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
reifm Michael D. Reif Class of 2002
rosserh Harry L. Rosser Romance Languages & Literatures / Humanities (2002)
viechnib Barbara A. Viechnicki Asst Dean for Administration, College of Arts & Sciences
williafq Derrick Williams Class of 2004

Agenda items:
1. Opening of meeting
2. Academic Affairs
Biology AB proposal
3. Appeals
Case resolution


1. Opening of meeting

The Dean opened the meeting at 16.07h.

The EPC approved the minutes from the meeting of 29 November 2001 (385) as corrected.


2. Academic Affairs (Barry)

BA Biology proposal
Action: By a vote of 14-1-0 the EPC approved the proposal for an AB degree in Biology.

Quinn: The Academic Affairs subcommittee has received from the science departments further materials and responses to the questions raised at the last EPC meeting .
Barry: The subcommittee has reviewed the materials, has discussed it by eMail and on a specially constructed WebCT site, and continues to recommend acceptance.
--BI is the most qualified to decide what is in the best interests of its majors.
--CH seems unconcerned, the pre-medical advisor sees no impact, and only PH has some issues;
--The proposal offers new opportunities for students, similar to those offered for International Studies majors, whereby the subcommittee stresses the interdisciplinary involvement foreseen in the proposal.
--The proposal makes sense overall and a good case for its acceptance.
--Present requirements (BS) have made it necessary for some interested students to abandon the study of Biology and the program.
--PH have not really proven the points behind their objections.
--The proposers have performed the outreach that the EPC has requested.

Comments:
--If this major proceeds, it will be interesting to track the numbers of withdrawals from Organic Chemistry and Caluclus Physics.
--One must view the BA as a different degree. Does this require the same rigorous engagement as other sciences?
--Education in the sciences has become critically important, and the general public is undereducated in science. As we all know, a major is not necessarily a preparation for a career.
--Could a student take more non-BI courses than BI ones? If only seven BI courses are absolutely required?
If courses are not BI courses, they would have to be cross-listable as BI, as determined by the departmental curriculum committee. The list on pp.4-5 of the proposal is a sample listing of readily acceptable course types, not exhaustive.
--Why have outside courses at all? Why not just let students pick these up as extra?
Not all majors coincide with departments or disciplines, e.g. Biochemistry, Geochemistry, Environmental Geochemistry, Slavic Studies, International Studies, and in some already existing A&S majors more courses are taken outside the department than inside, not that this is what the BA Biology proposes.
The distinctions between sciences is melting away.
--We seem to have established that this proposal will have no effect on pre-medical students whose study is actually independent of their major, even if many of them, but far from all, gravitate, understandably, to the BS in Biology.
--The AB Biology degree might be compared with the Environmental Geoscience major. Are we to view it as a 'consolation prize' for those who can't hack the 'real' major or shouldn't we rather trust students to make wise decisions and to heed advice coming from the pre-medical program and from pre-professional advisement?
--This proposal lets students who love Biology stay in it and develop a competent preparation for a number of related careers or for general science education. It is not a major with 'no requirements', just with a different set of requirements.
We have assuranced that the undergraduate program committee in BI will review the electives list. As with any major, this will be an evolutionary process. This is not a weak major, but a different major.

When the Dean called the vote, fourteen votes (14) were cast in favor of the AB Biology proposal, one vote (1) was cast against, and there were no abstentions (0).
By EPC procedures, the associate deans share one vote, and the above count reflects this.


3. Appeals (Gelfand)

Case resolution
Action: By a vote of 15-1-0 the EPC supported the resolution of a grade appeal as proposed by the Appeals Board.

The Appeals subcommittee now has two appeals before it and is seeking advice on how to handle a specific appeal.
The explanation must proceed slowly in order to preserve confidentiality.
In the case at hand a student was upset about how she was been treated in a course, believed the instructor to have been biased, and believed that her work was not properly appreciated. She took her case to the instructor first under existing regulations and procedures (A&S Regulations 9.1-9.3).
This was not a simple matter of miscacalculation, and the instructor insisted that the student was treated fairly and did not understand what was required in the course.
Normally this would come to some resolution through the process of escalation from instructor to department chair to the A&S Appeals Board.
In this case the process has not been successful. Further, per the enabling EPC resolution (1976), the Appeals Board can only exercise moral suasion but not change the grade. The Appeals Board would like to see the student be given a withdrawn grade (W) for the course instead of the letter grade actually registered for. This would allow the student to re-take the course with a different instructor, which is her desire. The Appeals Board does not intend by this action to set a precedent, but to acknowledge the uncertainties and difficulties encountered in this specific case.

Discussion:
--This seems a good resolution, less because the system 'broke down' but because all the evidence was destroyed and the written appeal was filed and processed late. It raises, of course, many questions also: Should we have policies on retention of materials? How can students be made more aware of the regulations and procedures?
--A more proper resolution might be for the Appeals Board to reject the case on material grounds but to recommend that the Associate Deans look into the appropriateness of a late W grade for the course. The process worked but the case was defective.
--Clearly we need to rethink and redraw procedures? Are there reasonable alternatives? The time between the final examination and the discarding of course materials was suspiciously short.
--The department chair has recommended a W. The student would welcome the opportunity to re-take the course with a different instructor, which a W would permit. An annotation to the student file would also be appropriate.
--One could also consider conversion of the grade to a P, but this might be too great a reward? The system is not really flawed, only its execution. A faculty member cannot give a W, only a dean.
--One can conceive of a situation where a faculty grade can be overruled, even if this has never been done to date.

When the Dean called a vote, the EPC by a vote of 15-1-0, supported the resolution of the grade appeal as proposed by the Appeals Board, namely that the "the student should be granted a W and allowed to take the course again, because of the flawed way in which the student's concerns were handled."
By EPC procedures, the associate deans share one vote, and the above count reflects this.


 
Respectfully submitted
--mjc
M.J. Connolly cnnmj@bc.edu
Secretary to the EPC

http://fmwww.bc.edu/ASEPC/386.html