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Faculty Senate Endorses Capstone Course Description

The Faculty Senate voted unanimously at its Oct. 20 meeting to endorse an Educational Policy Committee (EPC) recommendation to add a definition of capstone courses and experiences to the undergraduate catalog.

Senators, meeting in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge, offered some debate before agreeing to the suggested definition, which also will appear in the Curriculum Change Guide.

"I am very concerned that there's not a need for this," said Senator William Buxton, foundations and social advocacy. "We are creating a definition for something that doesn't exist. That seems odd."

Faculty Senate Chair Kathleen Lawrence, communication studies, explained that the EPC felt there was a need, while Senator Mary McGuire, political science, added that outside reviewers reiterated that viewpoint. President Erik J. Bitterbaum, citing his decade of earlier experience as a provost, said that service-learning as a concept was nearly non-existent and now it is prevalent in higher education.

"With capstone courses, I think we are just catching up with what's happening across America," he noted, pointing out that the concept varies within different academic disciplines.

"Geography has had a capstone course, a seminar, since the 1980s but we don't call it a capstone course," said Senator David Miller, geography.

Senator Richard Kendrick, sociology/anthropology, said the EPC discussions a year ago leading up to the final wording focused on general language to give the departments some latitude, at the same time providing the curriculum committee some guidance as they address the issue.

The approved definition of capstone courses and capstone experiences reads as follows: "Programs may create and offer capstone courses and experiences. These courses and experiences serve to integrate a student's learning in a program of study. Generally, capstone courses or experiences should comprise one or more 400-level courses taken in the final semesters of a student's program of study. Programs may allow more than one course to fulfill a capstone requirement, and they may allow capstone courses or experiences to fulfill other requirements in the program of study."

Student Government Association President Jesse Campanaro raised a question about the availability of required courses to seniors. He objected to capstone courses if students faced the possibility of being closed out of a course and not graduating on time.

Senate Chair Lawrence assured the students that, as part of any course approval process, departments must demonstrate they have adequate faculty to deliver the proposed courses.

In other action:

President Bitterbaum told senators that he would be issuing a campus update that addresses the governor's recent announcement of a $90 million budget reduction for SUNY and the impact for Cortland.

Tim Slack, physical plant, spoke to senators about getting them more actively involved in the discussion of sustainability on campus.

Student Senator Campanaro said Cortland students would hold a rally against the proposed $90 million budget reduction to SUNY. The event will take place at 12:55 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29, on the Corey Union steps. SGA is reaching out to a larger audience, including parents, and hopes to have special shirts printed for the occasion. The rally will be one of many taking place across the state on sister campuses, said Campanaro.