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Faculty Senate endorses Cultures, Ideas and Values

STANFORD -- Four years after approving the Cultures, Ideas and Values (CIV) graduation requirement, the Faculty Senate endorsed the program by turning back a proposal that members said would begin to erode it.

On a divided voice vote, senators on Thursday, May 28, rejected a request from the Committee on Undergraduate Studies to allow transfer students who have not satisfied a similar requirement elsewhere to fulfill Stanford's freshman survey course by substituting other classes.

If the proposal had passed, transfer students would have been able to substitute any three courses approved for distribution requirements in world cultures; American cultures; literature and fine arts; philosophical, social and religious thought; and social and behavioral sciences. The courses would not have been double-counted to satisfy those distribution requirements.

Cultures, Ideas and Values is a year-long freshman requirement; students choose one of eight tracks designed to provide broad knowledge of culture and society. In its current evolution, the tracks place greater emphasis than the predecessor courses -- Western Culture and Western Civilization -- on the contributions of women and minorities to society. The tracks are Great Works; Europe and the Americas; Literature and the Arts; Europe: From Antiquity to the Present; Literature and the History of Ideas; Philosophy and Human Existence; the Program in Structured Liberal Education; and Technology and Culture.

Civil engineering Prof. David Freyberg, chair of the committee and associate dean of engineering, told the senate that CIV program organizers feel the addition of sophomores and juniors to the freshman program has led to problems.

Transfer students have trouble fitting the program into their schedules because of work on their academic majors, he said. These students usually have a "more focused set of academic interests," he said, and often experience significant scheduling difficulties.

Many CIV instructors are concerned, Freyberg said, that the older, more experienced students often either dominate discussions or fail to participate in class because of fear that they will dominate sessions.

When the old Western Culture requirement was transformed to CIV in fall 1989, it was assumed that most transfer students would bring in acceptable credits to satisfy the requirement, Freyberg said.

That has not happened, according to history Prof. Paul Seaver, head of the CIV program committee and a member of the senate.

"Many universities have no course sequence that resembles ours," Seaver said.

As a result, 80 to 90 of approximately 130 transfer students annually have to enroll in all or part of CIV. Eliminating that number of students from the eight tracks also could save money because fewer discussion sections would be needed, Freyberg said.

Because of conflicts, Seaver said, most transfer students choose a CIV track based on schedule rather than interest. An obvious solution, he said, would be to establish separate sections just for transfer students, but that would be too expensive. Seaver reminded the senate that he was involved in creation of the program, implying that he was not seeking to diminish its importance.

Several professors who teach in the program disputed the notion that upperclass students dominate classroom discussions.

"I can't recall a single complaint or single anxiety expressed about dominance or lack of participation," said classics Prof. Marsh McCall.

English Prof. George Dekker seconded McCall, saying transfer students are not a problem in the Great Works sequence. He acknowledged, however, that junior transfer students find it difficult to graduate in four years because of scheduling conflicts.

Dekker said he opposed the proposal because other courses are not a good substitute for the broad, interdisciplinary approach of CIV.

English Prof. Ron Rebholz also said he had no difficulty incorporating sophomores and juniors in his classes. The proposal for alternate courses lacks a provision to help transfer students choose classes that cover similar issues as those taught in CIV, he said.

A possible solution that would satisfy the scheduling conflict, he suggested, would be to require transfer students to take three courses that satisfy both CIV and other distribution requirements, carefully monitoring that the courses are roughly comparable to CIV.

President Donald Kennedy told Seaver that more careful analysis was needed to prove the notion that students one or two years older and more academically experienced cannot interact successfully with Stanford freshman.

"That, I must say, contradicts every experience I've ever had around here. I'm just very, very dubious about that," he said.

Interestingly, engineering professors who might have pushed to ease their students' requirements instead spoke of the need to maintain CIV.

The proposal for change amounted to using "tape and bubblegum" to end up with a "Rube Goldberg set of academic requirements," said Prof. John Eaton, mechanical engineering.

"The very least that would be acceptable to me is an alternative program that is a coherent package," he said.

Other interest groups will claim hardship and ask for changes, he warned.

Civil engineering Prof. Ray Levitt also was skeptical of the proposal. He suggested distinguishing between sophomore and junior transfers, acknowledging the greater scheduling burden for juniors. However, he did not support "leaving it wide open" for students to pick their own CIV substitute.

Profs. Mary Pratt, Spanish and Portuguese, and Halsey Royden, mathematics, both said that juniors would be better served if they could substitute upper-division courses.

Pratt said she sympathizes with the complaint from transfers who want more challenging and sophisticated work rather than "panorama, one-book-a-week" courses.

Royden offered an amendment that would have limited the proposal to transfers who enter Stanford as juniors, but it failed after Edward Harris, medicine, and McCall spoke against eroding the intent of the legislation passed on March 31, 1988, that created CIV.

Faculty members must face the reality that most transfer students come to campus not having met a requirement deemed important at Stanford, Harris said.

"Starting the erosion here, it seems to me, is clearly headed in the direction of reversing" the original intent.

McCall said "there is no hidden advertising" -- all literature mailed to prospective transfer students spells out the need to fulfill the CIV requirement.

"Transfer students come to Stanford able to read and knowing what they face," he said. "If they don't want to face that, they don't have to come."

Prof. David Kennedy, history, also expressed support for uniform graduation requirements, saying more persuasive evidence would be needed to justify a change.

Other senate actions

In other actions proposed by Freyberg's Committee on Undergraduate Studies, the senate renewed authorization for the interdisciplinary Public Policy Program for five years and approved 124 nominations of courses to fulfill the distribution requirements (some courses count in more than one area). Sixteen nominations were rejected, Freyberg said. Reviews of another 45 courses are in process and those will be submitted in the fall.

The senate also heard a report from Freyberg on the foreign language requirement. An ad hoc committee that reviewed the requirement for the Committee on Undergraduate Studies recommended eliminating a provision that allows students to pass out of the requirement simply by completing three years of foreign language in high school. Instead, students would be required to score at least 4 out of a possible score of 5 on the foreign language advanced placement test, - language comparable to one year of study at Stanford - regardless of their high school units.

Freyberg told the senate that Profs. Anne Peck and Susan Stephens, both associate deans of humanities and sciences, gave his committee three reasons to delay any recommendations.

  • The financial impact would be substantial, if not prohibitive.
  • The changes should be considered in light of the impact on students of last year's distribution requirement modifications.
  • The School of Humanities and Sciences is now reviewing the entire language instruction program, and the outcome should be taken into consideration.

Freyberg said that the committee agreed to the delay. The senate asked the committee to report back early next academic year.

After spending much of the meeting reporting, Freyberg finally was able to relinquish the hot seat to Prof. Albert Gelpi, chair of the Committee on Graduate Studies.

Gelpi presented a proposal that would require Academic Council members, when called upon, to chair oral examinations outside their areas of academic appointment once a year. Responsibility for selecting chairs would reside with the schools.

After numerous questions and suggested revisions in wording, the senate voted to send the matter back to committee for further refinement.



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