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Faculty Senate proposes fewer requirements, regular review of CIV

STANFORD -- In response to concerns raised by the Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE), the Faculty Senate on March 9 unanimously passed two advisory resolutions that would require regular review of the Cultures, Ideas and Values (CIV) program and would reduce the number of distribution requirements from 11 to 9.

The recommendation for review of CIV, which now goes to the provost for consideration, would require the initial review to be completed by the end of the academic year 1996-97, with regular reviews every five years thereafter.

The resolution regarding distribution requirements would, among other provisions, permit the CIV track (Area 1) requirement also to fulfill a distribution requirement in one of several other areas. That resolution now goes to the senate's Committee on Undergraduate Studies, which is charged with making a full proposal to the senate.

The two resolutions represent a compromise between proposals from the Commission on Undergraduate Education and an alternative plan developed by Paul Seaver, director of the CIV program.

In its October 1994 report to President Casper, the commission had recommended revamping the CIV program, which was established in 1988, and folding into it the world cultures and American cultures distribution requirements, which were added in 1990.

At the senate meeting, commission chairman and history Professor James Sheehan reiterated the principles behind the commission's recommendations: that requirements are a “necessary evil,” that there should be few and they should be as clear and simple as possible; that the university must take more responsibility for “testing, evaluating and assessing the effectiveness of our operations”; and that Stanford should not require something “that we can't explain and justify.”

Sheehan said that for a university that is committed to research and the production and dissemination of knowledge, “we know, it seems to me, a scandalously small amount about our own activities.”

He also said there is a “legitimacy gap” among students regarding distribution requirements. In particular, students interviewed by CUE complained about the wide variation in content, work load and grading among the nine CIV tracks, wondering how the tracks could be fulfilling the same requirement.

But when the commission's recommendations came to the senate this year, many faculty members who teach in CIV defended the program and, in February, Seaver offered an alternative proposal that maintained world and American cultures but permitted CIV tracks to fulfill more than one requirement.

Based on discussions of the proposals among various faculty groups - including the Humanities and Sciences Faculty Council; the Area 1 Committee, which oversees CIV; and the senate - the senate's steering committee consolidated the recommendations into three resolutions for senate consideration.

Alternative proposal

At the March 9 senate meeting, the proposal regarding distribution requirements passed quickly, and discussion focused on how best to undertake the review of CIV.

Judith Brown, history, said that the Humanities and Sciences Faculty Council had voted unanimously to oppose a proposed resolution that the provost appoint a committee to conduct “a thorough evaluation of the mission and objectives of CIV and the distribution requirements.”

Reasons for the opposition ranged from a feeling that there are already too many committees to a belief that there already have been repeated assessments of the mission and objectives of the program, Brown said.

An alternative resolution from John Bender, English, proposed that the dean of humanities and sciences, in consultation with the provost, appoint a committee that would “determine the success of CIV in meeting its programmatic objectives,” either as originally charged by the senate or as redefined in subsequent legislation.

Brown said that she thought the alternative would be satisfactory to the council because “it puts the center of the starting and ending points in the senate legislation.”

The alternative resolution was substituted for two of the steering committee resolutions and passed unanimously.

Details of resolutions

Under the approved resolution, the CIV program will be initially reviewed by the end of the 1996-97 academic year, and every five years thereafter.

The system is similar to the model currently used for periodic review of interdepartmental programs. The reviews would be conducted by a committee appointed by the dean of humanities and sciences, through the School Curriculum Committee and in consultation with the provost.

It would focus on “CIV's in meeting its programmatic objectives.”

Among the questions a review committee would assess would be:

  • How CIV compares with programs of similar purpose at peer institutions.
  • The results of systematic, carefully designed studies of student opinion about CIV: a) upon finishing the program and b) during the senior year or soon after graduation.
  • The analysis by a “balanced visiting committee” of the objectives and implementation of the CIV program.

The resolution regarding Distribution Requirements would reduce the number of courses students must take and simplify the certification of courses as appropriate for satisfying area requirements. The resolution recommended:

  • Requiring that each CIV track, which fulfills the Area I requirement, also be certified as fulfilling the requirement for one other area requirement from World Cultures (Area 2); American Cultures (Area 3); Literature and Fine Arts (Area 7); Philosophical, Social and Religious Thought (Area 8); and Social and Behavioral Sciences (Area 9).
  • Allowing students to satisfy remaining distribution requirements in Areas 2, 3, 7, 8 and 9 by choosing three courses, each in a different area, from the four areas not covered in their CIV track or major.
  • Continuing to certify courses as suitable for Areas 2 and 3 and the gender requirement by current procedures,
  • Allowing all courses that are certified by departments and programs as covering Areas 7, 8 or 9 to satisfy the Area 7, 8 or 9 requirement without further certification.

Senate members raised questions about a number of specific implementation issues, but Simoni indicated that most of those questions would be addressed by the proposal from the Committee on Undergraduate Studies, which is due by the end of the academic year.


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