College of Arts and Sciences

Educational Policy Committee Meeting


Minutes of the 400th Meeting

Thursday, March 31, 2005






PRESENT:  Joe Quinn, Lisa Cuklanz, Paul Davidovits, Solomon Friedberg, Michael Graf, Tom McGuinness, Bill Petri, Jennie Purnell, Catherine Schneider, Robert Scott, Eileen Sweeney, Barbara Viechnicki, Tina Corea, Carlos Jaramillo, Helina Teklehaimanot.


ABSENT:  Joe Burns, Andrea Defusco-Sullivan, Michael Martin, Ourida Mostefai, Sr. Mary Daniel O'Keeffe, David Quigley, Harry Rosser, Stephanie Fernandez, Akinseye Akinbulumo.


CALL TO ORDER:  Dean Quinn called the meeting to order at 4:05 p.m. 


MINUTES:  Minutes for the meeting on February 17, 2005 were accepted with some minor editorial changes.





Academic Affairs Subcommittee.  Ellen Sweeney summarized the proposed changes recommended in the subcommittee's Report on Undergraduate Teaching Assistants.


Most of the discussion centered on the question of whether or not undergraduate TAs could and should be used for grading.  The subcommittee recommended that TAs only be allowed to grade objective homework and quizzes under a system of blind grading.


Solomon Friedberg noted in that in the Math Department, such a policy would result in significant changes in undergraduate math education.  Homework is an important part of the learning process in math classes, but blind grading would be so cumbersome in large classes that professors might well stop assigning it or counting it as part of the grade.


Various practical solutions to the problem were discussed, such as assigning each student a number to use on homework assignments.  The discussion then turned to legal and ethical issues.  Bill Petri raised the question of whether students should be put in the position of grading the homework of friends and roommates.  Solomon Friedberg noted that this is usually not an issue in math classes, since upper division students grade the homework of lower division students.  Paul Davidovits argued that we would send the wrong message to our students if we suggested that we could not trust our TAs not to cheat.  Robert Scott pointed out that privacy laws prohibited the posting of grades by name, social security number and Eagle ID number;  they might also prohibit undergraduate grading.  Joe Quinn suggested that the subcommittee consult the university lawyers about the legal issues involved in undergraduate grading.


Bill Petri noted that as a general rule we don't want to say that it's OK for undergraduates to grade, and that any such grading should be limited to homework.  Eileen Sweeney said that the report could say that blind grading in principle is desirable, leaving practical solutions up to the departments.  Even in the absence of any abuses, such a policy would relieve UGTAs of any possibility of pressure by peers to cheat.


Discussion then turned to the few courses that would have TAs earning credit.  Tina Corea noted that in the Introduction to Feminisms course, TAs do considerable grading.  She said that prohibiting the use of such TAs as graders would greatly change the role of TAs in the course.  She also asked whether changing such courses to pass/fail would limit the number of students willing to act as TAs.  Bill Petri argued that if students would only act as TAs if they could get an A for doing so, there is a problem with the course.  Tom McGuinness asked whether or not faculty would resist the change to a pass/fail system of grading.  Eileen Sweeney responded that the subcommittee did not ask faculty about this question, and that students gave a mixed response.  Some said they wouldn't act as TAs under a pass/fail system.


Discussion then returned to the legality of having TAs grade at all.  Joe Quinn thanked the subcommittee for its work and asked it to resubmit the report for EPC approval at the May meeting, after consulting with university lawyers over the legal issues involved.


Eileen Sweeney then presented the proposal for a Jewish Studies Minor.  She pointed to the importance of such a minor for Boston College as a Catholic University, and the minor's "fit" with the Institute for Christian and Jewish Learning.  About 20 faculty members would be involved with the minor.


One EPC member raised questions about courses that were not so obviously connected to Jewish Studies, and pointed to similar minors at other universities that have some additional structure as to which courses should be taken.  A question was also raised about introductory Hebrew.


Carlos Jaramillo said that a language competency requirement would be a good thing, particularly in light of the oral component of Jewish tradition.


Joe Quinn asked whether the faculty involved in the minor were proposing to add additional structure to the minor's four elective courses based on student interest.  He also asked if the courses were taught often enough to allow students to complete the minor.


Ellen Sweeney responded that the proposed minor already had more structure than many of the existing minors because of the introductory and capstone courses, and that at least two courses would be offered per semester.


Joe Quinn suggested that the faculty sketch out the course offerings over a four year period, and asked how often Hebrew would be taught.


Paul Davidovits moved to approve the minor.  Solomon Friedberg seconded the motion.  He added that while the Jewish Studies faculty could set up a website to provide interested students with structured sequences of courses, there was no need to hold up approval of the minor.


Discussion then turned to the question of when EPC approval of the minor would go into effect.  Could students begin taking courses for the minor before the introductory course was available, as happens with other minors?


Solomon Friedberg moved to call the question but his motion was not seconded.  Additional discussion ensued.  EPC members expresses concern over the leadership of this minor as well as other interdisciplinary minors, noting that leadership is always up in the air.  Joe Quinn said that the Dean's Office keeps track of student enrollment in all such minors and suggested that the EPC not worry about the fluidity of the Jewish Studies Minor or of the other interdisciplinary minors.


Joe Quinn then moved that the EPC vote to approve the Jewish Studies Minor and to ask the faculty involved to create a website and address other issues raised in the discussion.  The EPC voted unanimously to approve the minor.


ADMOURNMENT:  Joe Quinn adjourned the meeting at 5:20 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,


Jennie Purnell

Acting secretary to the EPC