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CUE to recommend that new culture course replace CIV

STANFORD -- The Commission on Undergraduate Education will recommend that the distribution requirement for culture studies be met with a course similar in structure to Cultures, Ideas and Values (CIV), but with a different name, said history Professor James Sheehan, commission chair.

In an all-day meeting Saturday, June 4, and a brief follow-up meeting Monday, June 6, commission members decided, Sheehan said, to recommend that CIV be replaced with a course that would focus on the problem of culture, its history, development, boundaries and central issues. While the particular culture to be examined might vary from track to track, he said, all of the tracks would have to consider the relationship between Western and non- Western cultures, as well as the particular problems of American cultures.

The commission will recommend, Sheehan said, that by fall 1998 the five courses that now make up the required culture core (the year-long three-course CIV sequence and courses in world and American cultures) be replaced by a three-quarter course similar to that described above.

The commission will recommend that the precise character of the tracks and their relationship to one another be worked out by a group of faculty members who would be responsible for teaching them. Like CIV, Sheehan said, the new course would consist of lectures and small-group discussions.

In discussing the breadth requirements, the commission reaffirmed its recommendation that the university develop a one- year science course for non-science majors. "That will require resources, but we feel it's very much worth doing," Sheehan said.

The commission also will recommend that the social sciences and humanities requirements be combined and that students take three social science and/or humanities courses outside their majors. The students would choose courses linked by a common theme and would put together a sequence with the help of their advisers.

There was some feeling on the commission, Sheehan said, that at least one of these courses should be from the social sciences and at least one from the humanities. That view will be represented in the report, he said.

The commission will recommend that students be offered an optional minor, composed of six courses as defined by departments and programs. The minor could be an alternative to the double major for some students, Sheehan said.

In addition, he said, the minor could be seen as an invitation to departments to think of ways of arranging their offerings. Students could take a group of courses, instead of enrolling in random classes, and come away with a deeper experience of a particular subject, Sheehan said.

The commission also devoted a considerable amount of time, Sheehan said, to discussing its belief that Stanford should reaffirm its dual commitment to excellence in both research and teaching, in particular, the teaching of undergraduates.

The commission members talked about issues related to excellence in teaching, Sheehan said. They explored the definition of teaching, which should not be limited to formal course instruction, Sheehan said, but should also include supervising research and advising.

"We need a better way of evaluating teaching programs," Sheehan said. "Our ability to evaluate research is strikingly greater than our ability to evaluate teaching."

In order to make the university's commitment to teaching meaningful, Sheehan said, there must be ways of assessing teaching, both by individuals and by departments. "We have to be able to discriminate between excellent teaching and popular teaching, not always the same thing."

And in order to sustain a dual commitment to research and teaching, the university must find ways to make teaching a much more integral part of the rewards, incentives and appointments processes, Sheehan said.

This emphasis on a dual commitment will be key to the commission's report, which members will write this summer, Sheehan said. The report will be presented to the president by Oct. 1, and will be shared with the university community through the Faculty Senate.

Sheehan will make an interim report to the Faculty Senate on Thursday, June 9.


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