The first order of business at UWM’s Academic Policies and Curriculum Committee meeting on Nov. 14 was putting together a sub-committee that could make a decision about a change in the school’s psychology program. Three UWM professors with no stake in the outcome were needed to make up the ad-hoc committee, a committee that’s created for a specific purpose.
In this case, their purpose was to settle a dispute about renaming a psychology track “Neuroscience” because some faculty members from the psychology department believed that the title was too broad.
These committee members are elected every three years by the Letters and Science faculty, and represent social sciences, natural sciences and humanities.
This is a behind-the-scenes look at the process and planning of approving new classes and changes to existing ones.
The College of Letters and Science professors’ habits and personalities resembled those of the college students that they teach. Meetings are to professors what a two-and-a-half-hour long class is to college students.
“Can we just approve this course and move on so we can get through this meeting?” asked Committee Co-chair and history professor Joseph Rodriguez.
Any student who has ever had to listen to a professor drone on about a topic that’s not of interest to them can relate to this feeling.
It turns out that forming groups is another task that doesn’t get easier with age or experience.
UWM math Professor Suzanne Boyd took an interest in the issue, asking questions to get a better understanding of it.
“Sounds like Suzanne is volunteering to be on this committee,” joked Dave Clark, the Associate Dean of the College of Letters and Science.
Boyd, a young professor with tattoos peeking out from beneath the shoulder of her white knit sweater, sighed heavily and resigned herself to her fate.
While discussing qualifications for being on the sub-committee, one biosciences professor volunteered, “I’ve heard the word ‘neuroscience’ before.”
“That’s all that’s required,” quipped Clark.
The game of verbal hot potato continued until a philosophy professor decided to put everyone out of their misery and volunteer for the job.
“I have no interest in this at all, but I’ll do it,” said Joshua Spencer.
Spencer specializes in metaphysics and philosophy of language, and has a unique style that he expressed through a gray graphic t-shirt paired with a brown corduroy jacket.
And thus, the dream team was formed.
“I will bring donuts, I promise,” said Darnell, a skinny Santa Claus with salt and pepper hair bearing tidings of good food.
“You didn’t say that beforehand!” said Clark.
Clark, like many college students, knows the value of free food.
“Bring Scotch instead,” suggested a psychology professor.
Throughout the meeting, the Graduate Course and Curriculum Committee was a popular topic, although APCC members didn’t always agree with the GCC’s way of doing things, leading to some mutterings of disapproval.
“Is there a further motion to express hostility to the GCC?” joked Clark.
Darnell said that the GCC and APCC have some competing expectations of what should go on a syllabus. The GCC wants time estimates for how long each assignment is going to take, which the APCC seemed to find a little tedious.
The next order of business was to approve a syllabus for a new Communications class for older adults.
“Twenty-two-page syllabus, is that a record?” asked one committee member.
The committee quickly approved it. Before it came to the APCC, the course had to be approved by the Communications department. Now that they’ve approved it, it will move on to the Campus Undergraduate Committee for approval.
They continued to approve a new German master’s program and a hybrid course for international students that would allow them to do some coursework online. They also approved changes in the Communication major requirements, which will allow students to declare a major or minor in the subject after completing three credits of Communications coursework.
The meeting was adjourned. And as all college students do at the end of a long class, the committee members breathed a long sigh of relief and booked it out of the room.