Committee on Pedagogical Improvement- Meeting Summary, 12-1-08

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The full Committee on Pedagogical Improvement met for the first time since adding new members on Monday, December 1. The committee is composed of 3 subcommittees: assessment, peer review, and learning spaces. Each subcommittee chair presented what the subcommittee has worked on so far and its goals for the academic year. Below is a compiled list of what was discussed.

Learning Spaces

General Issues On Which to Focus:

  • Access to Power
  • Blackboards vs. Whiteboards
  • Internet Access

Classroom Design Issue

  • Projectors over blackboards
  • Walk through of rooms to figure out what works best (SC rooms)

Goals for the year

  • Document to describe issues with space
  • Prioritized list of short-term vs. long-term goals
  • Statement to get Faculty and students involved

Peer Support

  • Support vs. review aspect
    • Needs to be support to get support (haha) from faculty
  • Peer Support groups consist of 2-3 faculty each, observe class rooms
  • Reports would be written up
    • Should they go into faculty dossiers?
  • Also write-up executive summary about course (as opposed to professor)

Goals for the year

  • Review series of models to choose best way to implement peer support
  • Need recommendation of fundamental principles of PS

Assessment

  • Expand quantitative assessment beyond CUE
    • Perhaps add another quantitative number that would work w/ CUE
  • Need better way to use the data that we have
  • Concept tests (basic tests to test fundamental knowledge)
    • Grades ≠ learning

Goals for the year

  • Need something to give Mike at end of spring with lots of statistics about how best to implement assessment

Notes:

January meeting has been cancelled in favor of subcommittee meetings. Next full committee meeting is Feb. 8, 2009.

Campus Safety Committee- Meeting Summary

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Safety Cards – We discussed the possibility of producing wallet-sized safety cards which will help students access crucial information in emergency situations. These cards could have taxi service numbers, administration hotlines, UHS numbers, as well as the usual emergency contacts (HUPD, 911).

“Playing It Safe” – HUPD would like to emphasize an often under-used resource.  This manual entitled, “Playing It Safe,” is a detailed guide to safety in all aspects of Harvard. HUPD encourages all students to download a copy of the PDF and read it. Here is the link: http://www.hupd.harvard.edu/prevention_h…

Cambridge Commons & Garden Street – First, HUPD recommends always taking Garden Street, and avoiding Cambridge Commons whenever possible, because the street is busier and better lit. When asked about the issue of better lighting in Cambridge Commons, Harvard said that it has had trouble on solving this problem because Cambridge has jurisdiction over the area. Further, the City of Cambridge has “historical commissions” which prevent many alterations to the scenery. This makes the process of installing more street lights and emergency phones legally cumbersome. Nevertheless, Harvard is working with Cambridge to reach a compromise that helps everyone.Also, we have been informed that HUPD will employ 11 new officers straight out of the Police Academy. They will be deployed throughout campus and should make things safer. This, of course, does not mean we should be any less vigilant.

Poor Cell-Phone Reception in the Quad – Many people agree that this poses severe security problems to students in the Quad. Right now, FASIT is considering logistics. The cell-phone issue will be on the agenda for the next Safety committee meeting, and I will keep you posted on it.

Committee on Writing and Speaking- Meeting Summary, 11-21-08

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The committee discussed the new Writing Intensive Program, where certain courses will be designated “Writing Intensive” and receive an assurance for smaller sections and more TFs as a perk.  The committee discussed the publicity process for this new program, looked over a letter sent out to faculty members, and discussed ideas such as sending another email in December, emailing Head TFs, pulicizing through the Bok center, house writing tutors, and departmental writing fellows, designating “Writing Intenseive” in the course catalog, and going door-to-door to visit directors of undergraduate studies.  Additionally, the committee discussed the idea of, within this program, developping Graduate positions in the Writing Center, where Graduate students are assigned to a Writing Intensive course as a liaison and support.

The committee then discussed principles and questions about expos.  The discussion began with sentiments that the writing center has gathered from science faculty, who are concerned that students are not coming in with the skills necessary to write in their discipline, but at the same time do not want freshmen to rush ahead, and wish them to have a humanities-based background in foundational writing.  Some of the suggestions were diversifying course topics, having advanced graduate students collaborate with preceptors teaching a social science or science topic in order to assist with the content (i.e. informed papers).  The committee went on to discuss the merits of foundation vs. specialization, in terms of the assignments and syllabus in an expos class.  Some of the points raised were that in many expos classes, data is not evidence, but rather texts and close readings are evidence- this is often a problem for students who then go into the social sciences.  Some pointed out that there need to be more diversity in assignments, to have for example at least one assignment that is on cause and effect and testing a theory.

The committee then discussed the idea of combining expos classes with Gen Ed classes.  Jay Harris spoke and said that one of the best things to do might be to have certain expos sections for students in very freshmen heavy, problem set oriented classes like Life Science 1A and Ec10.  The idea is that this would expand the discipline and help students who wish to see how to apply the skills they are gaining in those classes on a wider level.  The committee thought it might be good to look into the possibility of a pilot experiment, there is, understandably, some hesitation from the science and econ professors in terms of student burnout.  The committee also wishes to look more closely at peer institutions who do this.

HUDS Advisory Committee- Meeting Summary, 11-19-08

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We met Ted Mayer, David Davidson, Rudy Gautschi, Larry Kessel, and Coordinator Theresa McCulla. Mr. Mayer gave us a brief overview of everything HUDS does.
We then brought up Zags’ proposal regarding Brain Break in Annenberg. Mr. Mayer seemed very open to it and said he would contact Eric Engel, the Memorial Hall Building Director, to coordinate the implementation. The biggest issue is Mem. Hall security, even though there hasn’t been a history of problems. Regarding House Brain Breaks, HUDS funds the HoCos to provide Brain Break.
We then discussed the nutritional info. There is a substantial hypersensitivity to nutrition with negative effects on a campus like Harvard’s so HUDS put together a committee to discuss what should be done, consisting of Suzy Nelson, UHS nutritionists, and some others. The committee determined that Harvard’s food system was very different to other campuses because the food plan is essentially mandatory, and there is a unique house system and community. Also unlike the 25% obesity rate nationwide, Harvard’s is substantially less. We then discussed the possibility of adding pictures to the display cards to show what 1 serving of the item looks like.
The Food Literacy Project should be heating up soon so keep a lookout for that.
Regarding the new card reading system, it was done to create a separate ISO number in order to separate personal information and avoid mass notification in case of a breach. The “tap card” proximinity chip cannot currenty be adapted for dining hall purposed, at least not for a few more years. HUDS will soon be recarding the rest of Harvard now that FAS is done. Currently every student really must remember to bring their ID to the meal, unless they care to memorize the 16 digit number. However, it is possible that HUDS can design a program to automatically enter the first 7 digits (because they are all the exact same) and people would just memorize the final 9 digits.

Library Committee- Meeting Summary, 11-4-08

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After a brief discussion of the September meeting’s minutes and general minuting procedure, Robert Darnton, chair of the committee and head of Harvard University Library, talked for a bit about the current situation with Google. A class action suit was filed against Google for the Google Book Search project, and a settlement was proposed at the end of October. Professor Darnton wrote a letter to library employees detailing Harvard’s objections to the settlement, which he said was misrepresented in The Crimson. Rather than rejecting the settlement, as The Crimson reported, Harvard simply has not endorsed the settlement at present. Stanford, University of Michigan, and University of California schools have endorsed the settlement. Harvard continues to allow Google to copy Harvard library books that are out of copyright.
The committee also discussed Electronic Document Delivery (EDD), also known as “Scan and Deliver.” One aim of this program is to decrease recalls of items from the Harvard Depository. It will allow those with Harvard IDs and PINs to order scanned excerpts from books at any library (including HD), with relatively short turnaround. Patrons will request the excerpts in the HOLLIS catalog and download them from a secure, PIN-accessible site (so copyright will not be an issue). The possibility of using EDD for entire classes was brought up, but that’s not part of the plan right now, as providing the excerpts to multiple users at the same time would require paying royalties. The program will be available in the spring, after some delays.
The initial discussion about the state of the College’s science libraries was next. Strictly speaking, Cabot and Tozzer libraries are the only College science libraries, but within the University Library, there are many, and they have a somewhat convoluted organizational structure. Especially with the new emphasis on interdisciplinary work within the sciences, this structure may no longer be optimal. The committee discussed general improvements to the science libraries, including more involvement of librarians in instruction. The committee discussed the importance of faculty and student input, but this probably does not mean a student survey (at least not yet), because there is a perception that undergraduates are experiencing a “survey fatigue” of sorts. Brittney asked whether HCL is considering renovating Cabot Library study space, given the library’s well-worn appearance. Nancy Cline, the Librarian of Harvard College, said that HCL was aware of requests to renovate the space, but HCL faces the challenge that Cabot is housed in an FAS, not HCL, building and does not have endowed funds of its own (unlike parts of Lamont and Widener) for its upkeep.
The final agenda item was the HCL budget, which the committee had previously discussed in September. Nancy Cline, the Librarian of Harvard College, outlined further information about the budget, specifically expenditures on monographs and serials, both print and electronic. The Library’s year-to-year funding is quite unpredictable, due to bequests and market fluctuations affecting the endowment. With the ongoing trend towards electronic media, most journals are now charging a larger, base fee for their electronic version, and a nominal or nonexistent fee for the print one, a flip of what they did in the past. This means Harvard Libraries are able to combine their electronic subscriptions while retaining their own print subscriptions, saving money. They are working to standardize serial subscription.

Committee on College Life- Meeting Summary, 10-22-08

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I.               Welcome, Introductions, and Charge to the Committee

In the first meeting of CCL, we discussed Crimson presence at meetings, three proposed student organizations, and the general growth of student groups.

II.             Crimson Presence at Meetings

We wanted to determine whether or not the Crimson would be present to cover CCL meetings. On the one hand, some were worried that its presence would negatively influence the free flow of opinions and ideas. Others pointed to the high value the Committee should place on freedom of the press and transparency, especially given that we are discussing issues pertinent to all students.

We ultimately decided that the Crimson would be present, but that as in years past, the reporter would refrain from attributing direct quotations to individuals during the meetings, and would instead seek out direct quotations from members of the Committee after the meetings. The Crimson reporter assigned to coverage of CCL Chelsea Shover.

III.           Proposed Student Organizations-

We reviewed three student groups: Harvard College Friends of Sri Lanka, Harvard College Global Hunger Initiative, and Harvard College Languages at Work. We approved Harvard College Friends of Sri Lanka and Harvard College Global Hunger Initiative as new student organizations.

We deferred final decision on Harvard College Languages at Work until a later date. We concluded that the group could use some more time to discuss the vision of the group and how the students in charge would go about fulfilling that vision. They will meet with Dean Kidd and Professor Conley to discuss their plans and ideas.

IV.            Growth of Student Organizations

Finally, we discussed the general phenomenon of the growth of student organizations. Harvard has over 400 student groups, and there has been a recent trend in specialization of student groups. For example, the Harvard College Global Hunger Initiative is now a student group, but we also have the Harvard College Global Health Forum. Due to specialization, redundancy of groups has become an issue. We discussed the position we want to take on the growth and specialization of student organizations. We agreed that we must be careful not to stifle student organizations and initiatives, while at the same time making sure that groups are not so numerous that funding for all groups becomes even further limited. As this is a developing issue, we did not reach a firm conclusion on it, but we will continue to discuss it as new student groups come before the committee for approval.

Student Advisory Board on Science- Meeting Summary, 10-31-08

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During its first meeting, the Student Advisory Board on Science discussed a wide range of topics, focusing on students’ awareness and participation in the changes taking place within the sciences at large. The issue of sustainability is perhaps one of the more notable (or at least noticeable) examples of the campus-wide changes currently taking place. While students generally feel well-exposed to the issues of global conservation, it may be beneficial to provide more concrete evidence describing the specific impact of these efforts. The discussion accordingly turned to the issues of inter-departmental advertising, specifically in reference to the Center for the Environment. Students are already inundated by e-mail lists and extracurricular websites, so communication between departments could benefit from a modification of Harvard’s existing online resources rather than the creation of new ones (i.e. making my.harvard.edu more use-friendly like yalestation.org). The committee subsequently turned to issues concerning undergraduate research experience. Though an increasing number of students seem to become involved in research earlier in their college careers, there are still challenges in terms of advising and exposing students to the innumerable opportunities that Harvard has to offer. Students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of resources, such as the Harvard Undergraduate Research Association and the Advising Fortnight, so these concerns do not necessarily need to be addressed through increased bureaucratic control. Rather, students may benefit from increased communication with the labs themselves. These relations could be improved, for example, by getting post-docs more connected to the college and providing sophomore advising that is more pertinent to the students’ fields of concentration. Students furthermore express both excitement and concern over the expansions taking place in Allston and the Northwest Building. While the state-of-the-art facilities are undoubtedly an educational asset, undergraduates feel as if they have not been consulted and seem unsure of what exactly the buildings are being used for. These uncertainties may best be addressed at this point by creating a focus group of students currently using the Northwest Building and/or updating a survey on undergraduate research experience as a whole.

Committee on House Life- Meeting Summary, 10-23-08

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Present: All student representatives (Tamar Holoshitz (SAC), Ben Schwartz (SAC), Eric Hysen (SAC), Amol Jain, Siri Uotila) and five faculty members, plus guests

The Chair of the Committee on House Life, Dean Suzy Nelson, called the meeting to order, and after brief introductions the committee discussed the role of the media in the meetings. Crimson reporter Abby Phillip explained the paper’s policies and standards on reporting on meetings, and after a unanimous vote the committee decided to keep CHL meetings open to the Crimson reporters. Dr. Paul Barreira from UHS then talked about the mental health screenings in the Houses, which everyone thought was a wonderful initiative. Students asked about future publicity for the events, and Dr. Barreira agreed more should be done to promote the screenings among students. House renewal was briefly discussed, and everyone agreed that it will be one of the major challenges for this committee in the coming years.  However, no details or dates are available yet. Finally, Campus Life Fellow Jason McCoy talked about upcoming Harvard-Yale policies and changes from 2006.

General Education Committee- Meeting Summary 10-23-08

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The full General Education committee met on the morning of Thursday, October 23rd; John Sheffield and I were present, as Shreya Maheshwari had a scheduling conflict with a midterm exam. The Committee approved Science B-35: The Habitable Planet for Science of the Physical Universe, Life and Physical Sciences A for Science of Living Systems, and Childhood: Its History, Philosophy and Literature for both Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding and Culture and Belief.

The committee also discussed how the Gen Ed requirements will work for transfer and advanced standing students. The Committee felt it needed more information, and so a decision was postponed to a future meeting.

Sincerely,

Daniel Asher

Welcome!

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Hello, and welcome to the UC Advocacy Blog!  In the Undergraduate Council, we are aware that it is difficult for many people to know what the UC does.  This blog is meant to serve as a place to get information about all of our advocacy projects and committee work, as well as a place for people to leave comments, questions, criticisms, or suggestions.  The best advocacy is done in collaboration with other interested students and student groups, so we hope that this will be one way to improve the work we all do to improve our community.

In terms of background, the UC is made up of 35 student representatives- 2 students who are elected for each upperclass house, a student representing Dudley House, eight freshmen from the Yard, and a popularly elected President and Vice President. Each student works in either the Finance Committee or the Student Affairs Committee.  The Finance Committee funds student groups through revenue from the student termbill- giving out nearly half a million dollars to student groups and House Committees each year!  The student affairs committee works on coordinated and individual advocacy efforts that are important to students, working on improvements such as a 24 hour Library a few years ago, Calendar change in 2007, or Amnesty Policy improvement and Mental Health resources this year.

The advocacy that the UC works on is done primarily through a whole host of committees.  There are certain Student-Faculty Standing Committees that the UC appoints students to every year.  The three main Student Faculty Committees are:

The Committee on College Life (CCL): Deals with issues of student group resources and student events, social space

The Committee on House Life (CHL): Works on all aspects of House and Residential Life

Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE): Examines aspects of undergraduate study.

The other committees that the UC appoints students to each year are:

– The Standing Committee on General Education

-The Standing Committee on Writing and Speaking

-The Standing Committee on the Library

-The Standing Committee on Pedagogical Improvement

-The Standing Committee on Athletic Sports

-The Standing Committee on Advising and Counseling

-The Student Advisory Board for Arts and Humanities

-The Student Advisory Board for Social Science

-The Student Advisory Board for Science

-The Commission of Inquiry

-The Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility

-The Educational Policy Committee

-Advisory Committee to the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response

-Campus Safety Committee

-Harvard University Dining Services Student Advisory Committee

-College-University Health Services Committee

Additionally, the Student Affairs Committee routinely appoints students to other Ad-Hoc committees that come up for specific purposes.  This year we have appointed students to the following committees that are currently meeting:

-Two Student Subcommittees on House Renewal

-Amnesty Subcommittee of the UHS committee

-University Committee on Public Service, as well as a UC Ad-Hoc committee on Public Service

The main feature of this blog is that it will feature posts and updates from the students who are sitting on all of these committees.  All together, these student representatives number more than 60.  Most of the students are non-UC members, but some are, and all of them are dedicated to representing student concerns to committees of faculty and administrators.  We hope that you will leave comments and questions here that will assist all the students in doing the best job possible on these committees!

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