Academic Integrity and a Modified Core Curriculum: Fall 2019 Wilf Campus Academic Updates
In advance of the Fall 2019 semester, the Yeshiva College Deans have enacted several academic policy changes that will impact academic integrity, the Yeshiva College Core Curriculum and the Hebrew language requirements. The Commentator sat down with Dean of Undergraduate Faculty Karen Bacon and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Shalom Holtz, as well as with members of student council who were involved in policy brainstorming conversations. A detailed presentation of the changes follows in the remainder of this article.
As was documented in The Commentator as recently as last semester, Yeshiva University has struggled with the problems of plagiarism, answer-sharing and general cheating for decades. Breaches of academic integrity have ebbed and flowed as policies and cultures changed over the years.
This year, Yeshiva College Student Association (YCSA) President Amitai Miller (YC ‘19) and Vice President Akiva Frishman (YC ‘19) worked closely with the deans to work on policies aimed at curbing the cheating problem. On Wednesday, April 3, the Deans Office released the following new policies regulating exams and reports:
1) To the extent appropriate and possible, exams and finals will be given in 3-4 designated rooms with video-surveillance. This policy will include introductory courses in Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, Psychology, Computer Science, Economic and Statistics.
2) Proctors will be present for all non-essay based exams, midterms and finals conducted in courses with over 25 students. Additionally, proctors will be present for all exams, midterms and finals in the pre-health track and within the Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics Departments.
3) Faculty will require students to submit reports through Turnitin, an online program for identifying plagiarism.
4) Both test banks and old exams that were returned to students of previous years are considered fair study materials and may be used to prepare for tests. We will be working towards setting up a repository of test banks and exams that were returned to students, to be accessed through the library to ensure equal access of resources.
5) Students will no longer be permitted to use personal calculators on examinations in the Mathematics and Chemistry introductory level courses. Students will be provided with university calculators for examinations when needed.
“Yeshiva College strives to ensure that each student will maintain the highest moral, ethical and academic standards,” the academic statement wrote. “The governing principle within the curriculum is academic integrity-accepting the responsibility for being judged on the basis of your own work and your own achievements.”
In addition to new regulations, the academic integrity statement also encouraged students to utilize the “Report a Violation Service” following observed breaches of academic integrity.
“Since the beginning of the year, it’s been our student council’s mission to work towards preventing violations of academic integrity,” expressed YCSA President Amitai Miller. “This effort took a lot of work, and though there is still a ways to go, I am hopeful that these new rules will start to curb the problem of cheating. Akiva and I are deeply appreciative to Deans Bacon, Sugarman and Holtz, for their willingness to hear from students and for their commitment to implement substantive policy changes.”
In addition to the new policies, the Provost’s Office, along with Prof. David Pelcovitz, over the following several weeks is conducting discussions with focus groups of student leaders to discuss academic integrity, for the purpose of brainstorming how to instill the importance of honor in classes and on written assignments. Dean Bacon explained that in addition to the importance of instituting policies, it is also important to work on changing cultures that might lead to breaches of academic integrity.
“Integrity is a life-long virtue that we cherish and expect everyone in the YU family to live by,” wrote Provost Selma Botman. “Academic integrity is a hallmark of higher education and a value that is a principle of Yeshiva University.”
Over the past few weeks, several curricular restructuring brainstorming sessions have been taking place. Most notably, a major restructuring of Yeshiva College Jewish Studies was announced last month. Among such discussions, Yeshiva College faculty have conducted several meetings to evaluate the General Studies Core Curriculum, and the curriculum has now been lightly modified for the upcoming Fall 2019 semester.
Going forward, there will no longer exist department codes for the six Core requirements — Contemporary World Cultures (COWC), Cultures Over Time (CUOT), Experimental & Quantitative Methods (EXQM), Human Behavior & Social Institutions (HBSI), Interpreting the Creative (INTC) and Natural World (NAWO). Instead, these requirements will be folded into standard departmental courses, eliminating cross-listing of such courses. Different classes will have Core “attributes,” in the same way that they currently have “Honors” or “Writing Intensive” attributes.
Dean Bacon explained that the purpose of this update is to encourage students to look for courses in departments that interest them. For example, a student might look to the History department for an interesting course, and perhaps pick a specific course that has an “HBSI” attribute to fulfill the Core requirement.
Starting next semester, two courses that are taken to fulfill for Core requirements may also count towards students’ major requirements. Dean Holtz explained that this new policy is an expansion of the science model that has existed until now, by which science and STEM majors were effectively exempted from taking EXQM and NAWO. Now, every student in Yeshiva College can effectively have two Core courses folded into his major.
According to Dean Holtz, these academic updates have allowed the college to increase the number of Core courses. Whereas last fall included only 25 Core offerings, Fall 2019 will include 40. Deans Holtz and Bacon emphasized the importance of increasing choice for students. The Commentator reported last month about how increasing curricular choices is in line with President Berman’s recent experimentation with the notion of “optionality,” the idea being to maximize academic options for students, in some cases by reducing requirements, to address issues such as the limited time during the day and other factors that currently, in theory, turn potential students away from Yeshiva University.
Like before, AP exams will continue to fulfill requirements, although they will now fulfill Core requirements as well. For example, “AP American Government & Politics” will fulfill COWC, and “AP Physics 1” will fulfill NAWO. The full list of AP equivalency can be accessed online.
[Update: Since this article was published, The Commentator editors have learned from the Yeshiva College Deans Office that the previously-shared document pertaining to updated rules for AP equivalencies, which was originally obtained from YU’s S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program Office, was not faculty-approved. As of this time, the Deans Office has declined to share the current status of AP equivalencies with The Commentator.]
Dean Holtz told The Commentator that no professors had to be dismissed due to the academic updates. Dean Bacon as well emphasized that no faculty were exclusively Core Requirements faculty, which allowed for easy reshuffling between departments.
As the new requirements are categorically subsumed under the old requirements, current students who have already fulfilled their Core requirements will not need to make any changes to their academic plans.
At the present time, the Hebrew language requirements remain unchanged. Since this Spring 2019 semester, as The Commentator recently reported, male undergraduate students have been required to take between one and three semesters of Hebrew language, depending on their track placement as determined by a YU-administered language competency examination.
This being the case, Dean Holtz shared with The Commentator that the “06” course in each Hebrew track, which is the terminal course that students are required to take, will focus more on conversational Hebrew, instead of grammar. Additionally, students at the advanced “1300” level will have the option of taking either conversational of grammatical Hebrew. Dean Holtz also said that there will likely be an option for advanced students to take Biblical Hebrew to fulfill the language requirement.
Additionally, whereas students were previously placed into Hebrew tracks by taking a placement exam during freshman orientation, they will now take placement exams online while they are studying for the year in Israel. Dean Holtz explained that there is an online program that can ensure proper proctoring and fair exam-taking. Dean Bacon added that this new system will allow students to register for Hebrew language at the same time as registering for their other first semester courses. Students who do not spend the year in Israel will take the placement exam over the summer, similar to how such students take a math placement exam over the summer.
Dean Bacon noted that the new placement exam infrastructure will allow for students to benefit from more academic advising and guidance during their freshman registration process.
For the time being, there are no changes to Wilf Campus undergraduate policies for transferring morning program HES credits. As in previous semesters, Mazer School of Talmudic Studies (MYP) and Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program (SBMP) students continue to have the option to transfer up to three credits from their morning studies to their college transcript each semester, while Isaac Breuer College of Hebraic Studies (IBC) and James Striar School (JSS) students remain required to include a three-credit grade on their college transcript which is an aggregate of their morning program course grades.
Additionally, updates to the MYYU Banner system, which is used for course registration, continue to be discussed, but formal updates are being postponed for the time being.
Photo Caption: Gottesman Library
Photo Credit: The Commentator