Academic Policies Committee - 05 Nov 09

Attended by:  Ashwin Patel, Chair, Kevin Nelson, Scott Newman, Julie Luekenga, Jason Mullins, Scott Cohn, Jessica Schocker, Anthony Miccoli, Debra Clark, Harry Heil, Martha Violett, , Reid Edwards

Excused:  Robert Cohen, Gary Pierson

Absent: none

Call To Order:  The meeting was called to order at 3:35pm

Approval:  The minutes from the October 15th, 2009  meeting and the November 5th 2009 agenda were approved.

Old Business

Mandatory declaration of majors for freshmen – Committee members who had not had a chance to garner feedback from their respective departments reported on their departments’ votes.   Several committee members stated that while their departments were against forcing incoming freshmen to declare a major, they were in favor of dedicated GE advisors.  The committee generally supported professional advising of undeclared.

There was a brief clarification of which departments are assigned undeclared majors by the Registrar’s office.  NES, ORLM, ART, BASS, and CALL do get undeclared, while BAE and RESS do not, due to their large numbers of majors. 

The committee voted on mandatory declaration of majors for freshmen.  2 were in favor.  5 were opposed.  The motion failed.

Discussion then turned to the First Year Experience.  The committee sought clarification as to which students were at risk of leaving Western and whether or not the college had research to support the belief that non-declared majors were more at-risk than other students.  Debra Clark explained that Students who were “doubly deficient” in testing were encouraged by the Registrar’s office into ENG 099 and MAT 098/099.  Other students were advised into certain general education classes according to their interests.  It was then determined that most students were lost in the first 4-8 weeks of classes, and those students cited lack of support/advising.  Julie Luekenga added that some of these students are often academically underprepared, suffer from learning disabilities, or are first generation college students. 

Members of the committee pointed out that Western’s retention rate was similar to peer institutions; but that at those institutions (Elon, Drury, UNCO, etc), first year experience programs helped increase retention by 3%-7%. 

The committee came to a consensus that given the current fiscal climate, that changes to our orientation program would be the most practical way to deal with retention.  Taking into consideration the uncertainty regarding the budget, a motion was made to table the discussion until more information regarding the budget was released from the state, especially since the Academic Resource Center currently does not have the resources to assume advising for undeclared or to take on other first year experience responsibilities.  The motion was seconded and the discussion was tabled.

The committee then discussed FYE alternatives that could be delivered within our current fiscal constraints, including required participation in service programs.  If service programs were folded in with orientation efforts, it would allow students to bond among themselves and with the larger Gunnison community.  It was pointed out that UCLA put forth a similar initiative this year with great success, and that such service could help revamp residential life.  The committee noted that “Giving back” to the community is something upon which Western prides itself, and those values could be instilled immediately in incoming students at graduation.  Faculty involvement with orientation could also help bolster retention.  Other committee members noted that campus/community service could be made a requirement for SGA funding of clubs and organizations. 

A motion was made to suggest to faculty senate that an ad hoc committee be created for exploring the possibility of including a service component in orientation.  The motion was seconded and passed unanimously. 

Meeting adjourned at 4:25