UAC Gen. Ed. document

Carolyn MacDonald,
At nearly every one of the weekly meetings of the Undergraduate Academic Council last
fall and this spring the need for "reengineering the general education requirements" was
on our agenda. If you look through the UAC minutes for this year, you will note several
meetings where that was the principal item under discussion.
Teaching faculty, professionals and students on the council raised several good ideas for
change, and one student, Daniel Truchan, took it upon himself to poll other students.
Despite these efforts, nothing has been done. Each time it seemed some progress was
being made, it was sidetracked or the issue was clouded by the repeated suggestion we do
away the requirement of a minor instead or we were told that the General Education
Committee will be taking up the idea.
Some members of the Council expressed that general education is not a problem and why
Albany is "more generous" than other SUNY schools in its implementation of SUNY
general education. On one occasion, I prevailed upon UAC staff person Dick Collier to
provide information on some of those issues, and his material, showing what sort of
courses meet the requirements on other campuses, indicate we have a rather obstructive
On a related manner, in the second half of the fall semester, UAC was faced with a rather
short deadline surrounding Albany’s response to SUNY's call for "Strengthened CampusBased Assessment. We received the response a week before the deadline to present it to
the University Senate for its February 13th meeting. This left very little time to
thoroughly revise the document and we approved it “under the gun.”
As for assessment of general education, the committee charged with it is a subcommittee
of the General Education Committee of the UAC. While we would like to have
information about the quality and effectiveness of our general education courses, we have
been more concerned with getting some sort of policy proposal from the parent
I do not think the UAC has been convinced that doing away with the requirement of a
minor is a solution to the problem, and some members feel very strongly that the minor
requirement must be retained, and others have noted why eliminating the requirement
may make the general education problem worse (as more students take more lower
division electives). The wisdom of our retaining "Global/Cross-cultural" and "U.S.
Diversity and Pluralism" is at least worthy of being revisited by the Senate, particularly if
there are not far more opportunities to double-count these additional requirements with
those mandated by SUNY. The requirement of two Natural Sciences and two Social
Sciences was repeatedly questioned, especially when it was noted that transfers to Albany
are only required to take one of each (though this doesn't seem to have been formally
approved and isn't mentioned in the bulletin). The very restrictive and narrow
implementation definitions that were added by Albany on such SUNY requirements as
"Europe" and "Regions Beyond Europe" were a concern. The failure of Albany to deliver
sufficient supplies in lower level writing suggests to many members that we have no right
to require that one of the two writing requirements be lower division [but the requirement
of two courses, at least one at the upper division level, has strong support].
When the practices of other campuses were examined, which either designed courses
specifically for SUNY general education or demanded of their departments that courses
be put forward for the requirement, members wondered why at Albany departments are
allowed to refuse to put forward courses that clearly meet the SUNY guidelines.
Somewhat related is the Honors College, which we understood would draw upon major
and general education courses that new freshmen and sophomores need to take. The
policy UAC and the Senate approved stated that the Provost and the Governance Council
would work together to decide who in addition to college and school deans would make
up the Governing Council for the Honors College. This matter is still pending.
Sadly, in a year when UAC was extremely productive and responsive in so many other
matters, we have been able to do nothing regarding general education. It is our hope that
this coming year will bring significant change in the approach taken by the UAC and that
issues of importance to the undergraduate students such as those mentioned above will be
addressed and decided upon by the new membership. Special attention should be given to
the make up of the Undergraduate Academic Council for the upcoming year.
J. Philippe Abraham, Chair
Undergraduate Academic Council