FALL SEMESTER WITH THE SENATE , cont.

Carr

. . . Liberal arts colleges face the challenge of sustaining majors that focus on the essential content and praxis of their academic fields, while remaining alert to the innovative edges in the disciplines. We do not want to let our curricula spiral into endless sub-specialties, even as we need to ensure that our students are aware of the disciplinary advances that they will encounter in graduate school and in professional endeavors. The Innovative Edges grant project will seek to help departments pursue this balance.

As questions began to emerge about academic programs, we realized that we have a general set of guidelines for defining a minor but no description of what the general parameters should be for an academic major. So the Senate developed such a description, broadly reflective of what we currently offer, but a useful set of guidelines when we might be developing new proposals, assessing transfer credits from other institutions, ensuring integrity and quality in our own programs, and advising those students who are developing individualized majors.

Aware that our Mayterm enrollments have been declining in the past couple years, the Senate did survey the data and has helped craft a panorama of class offerings that best enable students to complete graduation requirements. The absence of a few basic general education offerings has, most likely, been one of the reasons for an enrollment drop. Now we have a wider span of offerings and, thanks to the good work of Michelle Hardley, we have made students and faculty advisors aware of the Mayterm offerings earlier in the academic year so that they can plan more effectively. (Click here for list of Mayterm options and GE categories that they cover.)

Last spring the Senate tightened the attendance policy, especially related to excused absences for college-sponsored events. This fall the Senate decided that it needed specific language in the policy related to Mayterm, so the policy was updated to indicate that only three absences during Mayterm would be allowed for college-sponsored activities, unless there were unusual circumstances. That exemption needed to be granted by the provost.

The Senate discussed possible next steps for the First-Year Seminar program, and concluded to keep the course as a one-credit seminar. We are hopeful of increasing enrollments with more robust advising and promotion of the course. We are also anticipating that the one-credit seminar will be aligned with other programs, such as Inoculum. In one or two cases, we will offer sequential First-Year Seminars: a one-credit course that continues for seven weeks, and a subsequent one-credit course that runs the rest of the semester. Students will have the option, then, of completing the two seminars for two credits.

Westmont has an extensive and well-crafted statement on plagiarism, though there are some varying documents related to the larger issue of academic dishonesty. A task force is working on harmonizing these statements. Furthermore, we have discovered that the practice has been for some faculty to report academic dishonesty to Student Life and for others to report it to the Provost's Office, so we are endeavoring to refine the process so that we have clear and comprehensive records in one place.

Along with these refinements, the Senate has devoted substantial time this fall to hearing reports on our Institutional Learning Outcomes (e.g., the results of the Information Literacy assessment and the preliminary results and future plans for the Quantitative Literacy assessment). It is also exploring a proposal related to expanding options for students in the Oral Communication area of our general education curriculum.