Faculty Talks Requirements and Pass/D/Fail Option

By Philip Bohlman

On Friday, the faculty convened for their monthly plenary session to discuss the Cultures and Civilizations Distribution Requirement, the expiration of the Pass/D/Fail option in Dec. 31, 2015 and student mental health. In attendance were roughly 80 faculty. Per committee bylaws, select students were also in attendance, including the Campus and the Student Government Association (SGA).

The Faculty Educational Affairs Committee (EAC) presented a proposal to revise the current geographic areas covered in the requirement as well as refine the comparative (CMP) requirement with the introduction of the Critical Perspectives (CRP) designation.

In an email to the Campus, Jiya Pandya ’17, Director for Academic Affairs in the SGA and chair of the Student Educational Affairs Committee said that the proposal was encouraging, and that faculty at the meeting posed thoughtful ques- tions and counter proposals.

“I think the conversation needs to continue, because while the Cultures and Civilizations amendment is pressing, it is also about bigger questions about the ‘ethic of diversity’ (as President Laurie describes) in our classrooms and curricula,” she said. “I’m excited to see that changes are happening and to see where they will go (hopefully, of course, to a vote that passes to change AAL), and also that the ad- ministration has been responsive to student feedback from the SEAC.”

Under the proposal, students would be required to take any three courses in three of the seven geographic designations: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Middle East and Oceania. Faculty have called into the question the relevancy of the Oceania requirement, as few if any classes offered at the College receive the designation. There has also been controversy over the optionality of the NOR requirement. If accepted, the new requirements would go into effect in the Fall 2017 semester.

The EAC also presented legislation vote to reinstate the Pass/D/ Fail option, which is set to expire this year on Dec. 31 after a three year pilot program that began in Spring 2013. The stated goal of the original legislation was to encourage students to explore the curriculum outside their usual comfort zones.

In their proposal the EAC noted that the data they had collected regarding utilization of Pass/D/Fail did not conclusively point to its efficacy in encouraging students to move out of their academic comfort zone. In each of the five semesters in which the option has existed, more than half of the students invoking it have been seniors.
Both proposals will be voted on at a plenary session in January.

The session then moved into a discussion of student mental health. At this point the faculty voted 45 to 33 in favor of initiating an executive session. Only voting members of the Faculty committee may be present during executive session, and all proceedings are confidential. Non-voting members, including certain administrators and students, were asked to leave.