April 2, 2009 Dear Helen and Becky, This vote was not included in my earlier tally; so assuming you count it, the vote would be 3 yes, 4 no and 2 no vote Steve Sent: Thursday, April 02, 2009 7:31 AM To: Bill, Steven Subject: RE: Science Curriculum Committee Honors vote Steve, I cannot remember if I submitted a vote. If not can I still do so? I am voting an emphatic no largely because of the uncertainties of the program. It is clear to me that some very important details, especially commitments from the departments to supply courses, have not been thought through and until they have this should not proceed. -Vince Science School Curriculum vote: Honors As of 4:30 April 1, 2009, these are the votes and opinions that I have received concerning the Honors Program For 3 Against 3 No vote received 3 As you can see it doesn’t get more split than this! I also note that a couple of the YES votes are condition and express concerns about the present configuration of the program, particularly with respect to resources. Assuming the proposal goes forward, please note that some of the course proposals are not ready for the catalog. The course description for HNRS 301 is more than 50 words. HNRS ‘discipline’ course descriptions are not and we oppose them being included in the catalog in their present form; they are more like templates and not course descriptions. INDIVIDUAL OPINIONS I am voting a qualified yes. I like the interest in attracting highly qualified and enthusiastic students, even if it is a small number. Besides some issues with the mechanics of the program, my main concern is with the resources to make the program viable. Integrated studies is already struggling to find instructors; offering honors sections will have a small but measurable impact on these shortages. I am also concerned about the financial resources; I understand honors expenses are largely externally funded presently, but given the financial times I have serious doubts this will continue into the future. There are already ‘rumors’ about cutting small programs and if honors takes resources that would have supported a more diverse academic community I would view that as a bad decision. There is the larger question of whether the resources invested in honors is worth it, but maybe we need to try it for a couple years and evaluate its effectiveness down the road. Regretfully, I am voting against the program. I support the idea but not the structure as it currently stands. I hope my vote is not too late (your day and date don’t match up below). I am going to have to vote against the Honors proposal. My comments about the proposal were clearing represented in my department advisory opinion and I don’t feel as though they need to be mentioned again. I now vote yes. Helen changed my mind. I am voting against this version of the Honors Program and feel I should explain my reasons to some degree. Although I felt the documents explaining the program design and the individual courses themselves were much more clear than earlier versions, there still seem to be some issues that need clarification/correction. One issue brought up in our meeting was the entry into the program for students who have already been here for a semester, possibly two. Right now, it is not clear if there will only be a fall semester-based intake or whether students who begin in the spring semester can somehow access the Honors program in the following fall. I realize this may be a small number, but it is yet another ‘unknown’ element of the current program. In fact, the current program, again following our discussion with Helen, seems to harbor very many ‘unknowns’, including (but not limited to) the specific courses that will be taught beyond Fall’09 and who will teach them (which clearly impacts upon a student’s ability to plan their course of study) and the seemingly uncertain state of the finances available to continue the program beyond single year commitments. In this respect, the program seems to only have a reliable budget one year at a time for students who will enter into a program with a four-year commitment. Ethically (maybe legally), once we accept those students as Honors students, we are responsible for providing the program of study we advertised, but this is based on our assumption that the source of funding will continue to exist. If it doesn’t continue to provide financial support, where will the money come from? Financially, at least for right now, this seems a tenuous situation. Both of these issues (courses to be offered and funding) highlight a common concern/criticism raised in a number of the advisory opinions, namely resources. There are some other concerns about the connections to ISP, given that ISP seems to be having some difficulties, but I won’t pursue those in this e-mail. Essentially, and this was brought much more into focus for me following our last meeting, the Honors Program seems to be like a bridge that is half-built. We’re not sure whether it will make it to the other side, but we’ve already allowed people to start walking across the bridge. What we should have done is build the bridge first, made sure it was safe, and then let people use it. Rather than pile more people onto an unfinished bridge, possibly increasing the likelihood that it will collapse, perhaps we should stop allowing people onto it until it actually reaches the other side. I see this as prudent. We may still need to airlift those from the bridge so that they can make it to the other side, but the fewer people on the bridge to begin with, the fewer that will need rescuing. I agree that if the Honors Proposal does not pass this time, we should probably stop the intake of more students. This actually raises a question concerning whether the students currently on the bridge, those about to walk onto it, and their parents are aware of the fact that the bridge is, in fact, not finished. Observation This is the second year that the Honors Program has come to this committee for a vote. Last year it was voted down on the basis that it did not meet the basic and essential criteria for an academic program. While I am still not 100% satisfied with the proposal in its current form, I have noted a significant improvement over earlier versions. Four areas of concern are the related resource assessment, curriculum content, level of acceptance, and the need/support for such a program. Resource Assessment: Just making a statement that college resources will not be affected by the introduction of the new program is both naïve and disingenuous, since it requires faculty to administer the program and teach the related courses. The same thing was done for the Integrated Studies Program (ISP), and we have now seen the effect of this. Curriculum Content: Earlier versions of the proposal failed to specify what courses would comprise the new program, and the sequence in which they would be pursued by participating students. The current proposal attempts to address this problem by proposing a structure that includes some specific courses, and some generic courses. Level of Acceptance: There was widespread opposition to earlier proposals from various academic departments on campus. While opposition is still strong, there is a noticeable reduction in the hostility to the proposal. Level of Need/Support: Currently, there are several students enrolled in the program, thus confirming that there is an identifiable need for it. It is also evident that the program has strong support among the college administration. The program is currently dependent on a grant from a lone donor. This appears to be a tenuous situation. Conditional Vote Given all of the above, if I was asked to rank this proposal on a scale of 1 to 100, based on the above criteria, it would probably come out in the range of 55% – 60% — not a scintillating performance, but a pass nonetheless. I am therefore inclined to vote YES on this proposal, contingent on the following recommendations: There needs to be a more credible resource assessment. There needs to be a more reliable source of funding for the program (this can be achieved by having a formal memorandum of understanding with the current donor, and perhaps having other donors as well).
Senate Curriculum Committee
Keene State College
"Honors Advisory Opinion - Science School CC" (2008). Approved Curriculum Proposals. 234.