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Skidmore College
Honors Forum

HFC -- Friday December 3, 1999


Michael Arnush, Amelia Rauser, Phil Boshoff, Ruth Copans, Jon Ramsey, Sue Bender, Kim Helms, Katie Cella, Tabitha Orthwein


Denise Evert and Holley Hodgins

The HFC extended an invitation to Skidmore faculty interested in developing Honors Forum curricula in their discipline; representatives from Psychology (Denise Evert & Holly Hodgins) joined the Council for lunch and discussion

The Psychology Department has offered generic approval of developing HF curriculum, but has voiced many concerns:

  • How comprehensive does Department involvement have to be in designing a curriculum compared to individual espousal of the Forum? The Council noted that contribution of a single course is an individual decision but commitment to an all-College program is a departmental responsibility.

  • A different level of performance and commitment is expected, even required in HF courses as opposed to regular courses. Will this make regular course offering seem less rigorous? Will it dilute the population of non-HF courses such that all the "smart kids" will be in a class of their own? The Council noted that it anticipates the overall impact of adding HF courses to departmental curricula to be one of raising the general level of standards rather than creating a gulf between HF and non-HF courses. The evidence from three semesters of HF courses overwhelmingly suggests that HF courses attract not necessarily the "smart kids" away from other sections or courses, but they do attract those most highly motivated to undergo a more nuanced and deeper intellectual experience. HF courses inspire students to achieve their best work; they don't diminish the academic experience for others.

  • Adding an HF course could over-extend a department that has been on the increase for a long time, since HF courses tend to have lowered enrollment caps. How will HF enrollments affect the enrollment numbers in non-HF courses and the demands placed on faculty having to deal with the changing enrollments? The Council reiterated that this issue requires a departmental commitment to Honors; witness the approach of the Anthropology faculty, where the Honors section has a limited enrollment of 20 students while the non-Honors section has over 100 students.

  • How do students not in the Honors Forum perceive the students and classes that are part of the Honors Forum? The Council noted that the campus seems to have accepted the Forum as part of the fabric of our intellectual enterprise and the feelings of discomfort with the program felt in its first year no longer manifest themselves in any substantive way.

Council members emphatically defended the "low barrier" design of HF, that is, that anyone is welcome to participate in the courses & events, and that the requirements for membership in the Forum are modest. The Council reemphasized the HF as a vehicle for raising standards and expectations across the board and invited the Psychology Department representatives to join it in the enterprise.

Other business

SCOPE: The next issue will feature HF- photo ops might include the English 105H reception on Dec. 14th and the Executive Committee meeting on Dec. 8th. We will discuss the Summer Workshop at the Dec. 12th Council meeting

Michael met with Matthew Hockenos and got a commitment from IA for developing one or two courses for the HFcurriculum.

Tabitha reviewed existing admissions procedures for screening selection of HF candidates. After some discussion the HFC decided it will not make any changes to this procedure: Admissions will continue reading the files and will determine the HF candidates.

An overview of the HF Student meeting held November 22nd will be provided by Anita via email.

Respectfully submitted,

Rebecca Burnham

Secretary, Honors Forum