Rice University logo
 
 
 

 

Faculty Senate Meeting 

April 4, 2012 

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall 

  

Agenda (and actions taken):  

I.        Call to order;  Announcements

II.       Speaker’s Report

III.     Old Business:  Motion to approve Distinction in Research and Creative Works
            (Approved as amended) 

IV.       New Business

           A.   Proposals from the floor

           B.   General discussion on proposed revisions to Conflict of Interest/Conflict of Commitment Policy 

           C.   Motion to approve revised Senate “Procedure for Investigating Accusations Warranting Severe Sanctions,
                  Including Dismissal, Against Faculty Members”  (Approved as amended) 

           D.   Motion to change procedure for Latin Honors (Approved)  

 

Senators present:  David Alexander, Randy Batsell, Kate Beckingham, Carl Caldwell, David Caprette, John Casbarian, Danijela Damjanovic, Rebecca Goetz, Ramon Gonzalez, Mikki Hebl, Michael Kohn, Anatoly Kolomeisky, Susan McIntosh, George McLendon, Fred Oswald, William Parsons, Brian Rountree, Stan Sazykin, David Scott, Robin Sickles, Moshe Vardi, and James Weston.

Senators absent:  Marcia Citron, Jane Grande-Allen, Shirine Hamadeh, Illya Hicks, David Leebron, Scott McGill, Helena Michie, Matteo Pasquali, Jane Tao, and Ruth Lopez Turley.

PROCEEDINGS (To listen to an audio tape of this meeting, email senate@rice.edu.) 

  

I.      Call to order, Announcements 

II.     Speaker’s Report 

           A.  The Rice 2032 session on Research will be held Monday, April 23, beginning at noon,
                 at President Leebron’s home.

           B.   Syllabus archiving, at the request of the Student Association, will be activated Fall 2012.

           C.   Senate leadership elections will be held April 18. Carl Caldwell and Jane Grande-Allen have agreed,
                  respectively, to run for Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Further nominations will be accepted;
                  contact Grande-Allen, chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee.

           D.   The dual- and joint-degree graduate program guidelines document is being revised
                  at the request of the Executive Committee.

III.    Old Business:  Motion to approve Distinction in Research and Creative Works 

Speaker McIntosh explained that the motion to approve the graduation honor “Distinction in Research and Creative Works” was tabled from the last Senate meeting.  The proposal was drafted by an ad hoc committee chaired by Matt Taylor; it was subsequently reviewed and recommended by the CUC.  Additional revisions to the document were made in response to comments received by the EC after circulating the proposal to all Deans and Chairs, as follows:

•       Selection process changed from new school-wide committees to individual departments

•       Expand beyond “Research” to include creative works

•       Increased specificity of university-wide criteria

•       Reporting and oversight procedures to avoid “distinction inflation”

•       Attention to additional burdens on faculty, including IRBs

•       Biennial review of the program by Dean’s Council

Since the motion came to Senate moved and seconded by the EC, McIntosh opened the floor for discussion. One concern was whether the distinction honor should be restricted to 30% of the students, similar to Latin Honors.  Provost McLendon stated that he did not want an obligatory quota, but he did want the honor to be somewhat uncommon. Moshe Vardi said that the “above and beyond” phrase in the proposal was ambiguous; and he wanted a cap of 20 – 30% explicitly stated. However, other Senators preferred keeping the language ambiguous. One Senator pointed out that the Deans’ Council will review the program every two years. Vardi made a formal motion to amend the proposal to include a review by the Senate in two years. The motion was seconded. There was one question to clarify whether the amendment was for a review by the Senate every two years, or if it was for one review two years from now. Vardi replied that the amendment is for one review in two years’ time (2015); after that, the Senate can decide if more reviews are warranted. The Senate voted unanimously to approve the amendment.

After further discussion regarding the now-amended proposal, including a motion that did not receive a second, the Senate voted to approve the program, with one Senator opposed and one abstaining. View the approved proposal here: Distinction in Research and Creative Works.

IV.      New Business 

A.       Proposals from the floor –none

B.      General discussion on proposed revisions to Conflict of Interest/Conflict of Commitment Policy 

Doug Natelson, chair of the University Committee on Research, stated that the federal guidelines regarding Conflict of Interest (COI) have changed. Institutions have until August 15, 2012, to submit a policy which meets the new guidelines. Therefore, the Senate needs to complete its work on the policy by the end of this semester. Natelson also stated that the Rice University Board of Trustees’ internal audit committee was quite concerned about the current COI policy. He added that one reason for the combining of the COI and Conflict of Commitment (COC) policies is that faculty will thus have only one annual disclosure form to complete.

Senators had some questions for Natelson, including a concern that identifying conflicts of commitment should be an issue between the faculty member and his/her dean; not Human Resources.  Another concern was the maximum of 14 working days per semester allowed away from Rice; does this include travel days, for example? Vicki Colvin said that if the days away are related to your scholarly interests, they would not be considered a COC. She said that an example of a COC is if a faculty member were a principal investigator on a project which is not located at Rice or does not involve Rice. Colvin added that the deans would like to have guidelines at the university policy level.

Vardi said that he served on a previous committee working on this issue, and it was hard to find the right balance. Regarding COI, there are federal rules, but COC is harder to define. He advocated slowing down to carefully make revisions. Provost McLendon suggested that an interim policy be produced, one that can be approved at the April 18 Senate meeting.  He stated that every other university has such a policy, and Rice needs one.  For example, a faculty member currently might state, “I don’t ever have to be on campus because I am advancing my intellectual horizons.” All agreed that the key question for faculty might be, “Are you living up to Rice’s expectations?” Robin Sickles proposed the phrase “consistency of commitment.”

Colvin agreed to revise the policy following this discussion, calling it an interim draft, and making it available to all faculty for their review prior to the April 18 Senate meeting.

C.      Motion to approve revised Senate “Procedure for Investigating Accusations against Faculty Members Warranting Severe Sanctions, Including Dismissal” 

McIntosh stated that an update is needed to the current policy, to insure consistency with the federally-mandated guidelines regarding sexual harassment accusations and research misconduct. Rice University Policy 201, section 8, stipulates that the Faculty Senate will come up with the procedural rules for investigations.  

Carl Caldwell, chair of the Working Group on Appeals, Grievances, and Hearings, thanked the individuals who offered suggestions during the revision process.  He said that the working group had consulted with Rice’s general counsel to come up with two significant changes to the current procedure.  He presented the two changes, the wording for the first of which was amended (in bold)  during the meeting to read as shown below.

 Section 3m:  “The Hearing Panel’s findings and recommendations, with supporting rationale, and if deemed necessary by any member of the panel, dissenting opinions, will be presented in a full report to the President, with copies to the Speaker of the Faculty Senate and to the accused.”  

Section 3i:  “The chair of the panel will write a short report describing the procedure followed, but free of details of the case, which will be kept by university legal counsel to aid future panels.”  

The Senate unanimously approved, first, the amended wording accepted during the meeting, and second, the main motion (moved and seconded by the Executive Committee) to accept the two proposed changes to the procedure.  McIntosh thanked the working group for its efforts, especially Caldwell.

D.      Motion to change procedure for calculating Latin Honors 

McIntosh explained that in December 2010, the Senate’s Working Group on Grade Inflation and Academic Honors presented data documenting significant grade inflation and disparities across schools in average grades and the percentage of students receiving Latin Honors, which is currently calculated on the basis of cumulative GPA across all graduating seniors. There was general agreement among the Senators that the current methods of calculating Latin Honors should be modified. The issue was sent to the University Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC), which has proposed the procedure shown in the motion below. The Executive Committee has moved and seconded the motion for approval by the Senate:

Motion to approve a change in the procedure for calculating Latin graduation honors:  

Recipients are determined by the following procedure:  At the end of the spring semester, and after receipt of all grades, the grade point average within the highest 5% of the year’s graduating majors within each school is recommended for the summa cum laude honor.  The grade point average included within the next highest 10% is used to determine those eligible to graduate with the magna cum laude honor.  Finally, the grade point average included within the next 15% is used to determine those majors eligible to graduate with the cum laude honor.  Thus, approximately 30% of each graduating class, distributed approximately evenly across all schools, receives Latin Honors on graduation.  

In the discussion that followed, Randy Batsell, chair of the original working group, stated that Registrar David Tenney ran an experiment using current data to see what would happen if the proposed process is implemented. The results of the experiment showed that relatively few students who would receive Honors under the current system would be denied them under the new system.  This is because the worst disparities are in the smallest schools:  Music (with 48% of majors receiving Latin honors in 2008 and 2009 graduating classes) and Architecture (4.7% receiving Latin Honors in those same graduating classes).  Vardi stated that although the students in the Natural Sciences might be penalized in this system, it is important that the Senate address the bigger problem. Sickles said that physics majors competing with economics majors for honors is not relative; honors should be awarded within a student’s own area.

Tenney was asked how students with double or triple majors will be affected. He replied that even if a student has more than one major, the top 30% of students in each major will receive honors.  A student with a double major could, for example, be awarded summa in one of his/her majors, and magna in the other.

Batsell called the question (a motion to end discussion), it was seconded, and the resulting vote was unanimously for ending discussion.

Next, a vote was held on the motion itself, which also received unanimous approval. McIntosh thanked John Hutchinson, previous chair of the CUC, David Tenney, and the Working Group on Grade Inflation and Honors, chaired by Batsell.

Just prior to adjournment, it was recommended that the Faculty Senate again address grade inflation during the next academic year.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:45 p.m.