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Faculty Senate Meeting 

 December 5, 2012 

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall 

  

Agenda (and actions taken):  

I.    Call to order and welcome
II.   Announcements; Speaker’s Report
III.  Reports from Working Groups:  Promotion and Tenure
IV.   New Business

        A.  Proposals from the floor
        B.  Motion to create Faculty Advisory Board (Approved)
        C.  Open discussion on  online education continued; focus on professional master’s programs and 2U.com
        D.  Proposed Senate resolution: Creating an online degree program, whether at the undergraduate or graduate
              level, constitutes a substantial change and requires approval of the Faculty Senate. (Approved)

Senators present:  Gregory Barnett, Kate Beckingham, Carl Caldwell, David Caprette, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Mahmoud El-Gamal, Christian Emden, Jane Grande-Allen, Illya Hicks, Christopher Hight, Betty Joseph, Rachel Kimbro, Michael Kohn, Anatoly Kolomeisky, David Leebron, Jonathan Ludwig, Lanny Martin, George McLendon, Fred Oswald, Rob Raphael, Brian Rountree, David Scott, Michael Stern, Ruth Lopez Turley, and James Weston.

Senators absent:  David Alexander, Robert Atherholt, Danijela Damjanovic, Rebecca Goetz, Shirine Hamadeh, Helena Michie, Stan Sazykin, and Moshe Vardi.


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

I.     Call to order and welcome 

Faculty Senate Speaker Carl Caldwell called the meeting to order at 12:00 p.m. He welcomed the senators and guests.

II.     Announcements 

A.       White papers written by six faculty members on the subject of teaching have been presented to the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) of the Board of Trustees for discussion at the December 12, 2012, board meeting.  The six faculty members who wrote the white papers are Bridget Gorman, Matthias Henze, John Hutchinson, Ann Saterbak, Sarah Whiting, and Jennifer Wilson.  The AAC will also review the interim report from the Senate’s Working Group on Online Education. Hutchinson and Caldwell will attend the meeting.

B.      Representatives from 2U.com will be at Rice the morning of December 6, 2012, to meet with faculty members from the Engineering School. A meeting of the entire faculty with 2U.com will be held in the afternoon, from 3:00 – 4:30, in McMurtry Auditorium of Duncan Hall. Senators are encouraged to attend the meeting.

C.      John Hutchinson, Dean of Undergraduates, announced that an administrative Working Group on Learning Environments has been formed at the request of the provost. Members include Hutchinson, Kevin Kirby, Barbara Bryson, David Tenney, Kamran Khan, and Paula Sanders. Hutchinson identified three points on which the working group has focused:

        1.        Identify ways that the inventory of classroom space on campus could be expanded within
                   existing structures.

        2.       Increase classrooms which can accommodate the scaler system of teaching.

        3.       Assemble a symposium to take place in the spring, bringing in outside speakers who have expertise
                  on the variety of learning spaces that colleges and universities are making available to their students.     

D.      Dr. Louma Ghandour, incoming director of the Office of Faculty Development as of January 2013, said that the office was developed with the goal of better responding to faculty needs.  Specifically, she listed the following items that the office will offer: 

  • Mentoring
  • Future Faculty Workshops
  • Search Committee Training
  • Department Chair Support
  • Networking Opportunities
  • Workshops and Speakers

E.       Deputy Speaker Jane Grande-Allen announced that the Senate’s Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC) will be forming soon. The duties of the NEC are to facilitate elections of the Promotion and Tenure Committee and the Faculty Senate, and to recommend faculty members to President Leebron for service on University Committees. Grande-Allen said that the NEC will begin its work in January, and she encouraged interested senators to contact her.

III.     Reports from Working Groups:  Working Group on Promotion and Tenure Committee  

Working group chair Mahmoud El-Gamal thanked the members of his working group for their service: Betty Joseph, Ben Kamins, Elizabeth Long, Kathy Matthews, Vikas Mittal, and Kyriacos Zygourakis.  El-Gamal said that the working group has recommended revisions to the Promotion and Tenure (P&T) Committee’s guidelines document to reflect best practices, and also to harmonize it with the actual practice in place at Rice University. 

Caldwell then presented the proposed revisions to section B.9 of the “Guidelines for Faculty Appointment, Promotion, Tenure, and Renewal of Contracts.”  He noted that the recommendations from the working group had been reviewed by Rice’s General Counsel and the Senate’s Executive Committee.

The first recommendation from the working group was to add the word may in the first paragraph of section B.9: “During its deliberations, the Committee may invite the dean and department chairs individually to discuss their recommendations.”  This change is recommended because, in most cases, the chair and dean have already expressed their opinions in a written report. However, if needed, these individuals may be asked to discuss their recommendations with the Promotion and Tenure Committee.

The second recommendation was to eliminate the paragraph which states that the Teaching Committee will prepare summaries of the candidates under review. The reason for this change is because the Faculty Senate voted two years ago that the Teaching Committee will not prepare summaries. The revision harmonizes the guidelines with existing practices.

The third revision, which was new language for the guidelines document, is to spell out as best practice that all members of the committee will read every case dossier. In addition, one member will present the case to the committee (provide a summary of the dossier).  At the conclusion of the deliberations, a member of the committee will author an executive summary, including summary statistics of the committee vote. The final draft of the executive summary should be approved by the committee and added to the dossier.

The fourth revision to the document was to identify conditions for which a member of the P&T Committee should be recused, as shown below:

  • A member of the P&T Committee who is in a candidate’s Department may not vote on the candidate's case at the level of P&T.
  • A member of the P&T Committee who is the candidate’s Department Chair has already made her/his recommendation, contained in the dossier, and therefore should abstain from voting and deliberations in the Committee, but may answer other Committee members’ questions as needed.
  • A member of the P&T Committee who has a conflict of interest or who feels he or she may not be able objectively to evaluate the candidate has the responsibility to disclose the nature of the conflict to the Provost or General Counsel prior to deliberations and, if deemed appropriate, will be recused from deliberations and voting.
  • The membership of the P & T Committee should be available to all candidates before the Provost forwards the dossiers to the P & T Committee. If a candidate believes there is a potential conflict of interest or asserts an inappropriate bias involving a member of the P & T Committee, the candidate must raise it prior to deliberations on the case so that the P & T Committee can evaluate the claim and act appropriately.

Each proposed revision was discussed by the Senate, especially the first point regarding recusal:

A member of the P&T Committee who is in a candidate’s Department may not vote on the candidate's case at the level of P&T.

During this discussion, the Senate decided to change the language for this point to:

A member of the P&T Committee who is in the candidate’s Department should not vote twice and must be recused in one or the other.

Caldwell stated that the proposed revisions from the working group had been moved and seconded by the Executive Committee for approval by the Senate. The Senate then voted unanimously in favor of the recommended changes to the guidelines document. (To view the revised Section B.9, please click HERE.) Caldwell thanked the working group members, and they received a round of applause from the Senate. 

IV.     New Business 

A.       Proposals from the floor—none

B.      Motion to create a new Faculty Advisory Board, with the status of a University Committee, to advise the Office of Faculty Development 

Caldwell presented the motion, which had been moved and seconded by the Executive Committee for approval by the Senate:

Faculty Advisory Committee:  This group of 6 faculty — with overlapping terms of three years to provide continuity — serves as an advisory body to the Office of Faculty Development and is responsible for regularly reviewing data gathered by relevant offices within Rice and ensuring on-going assessment of multiple dimensions of faculty status.  This group is a University Committee and appointed by the President on Faculty Senate’s recommendation.  Specific activities for this committee include:

•  Advise Director on priorities for OFD programs.

•  Review regularly data and policies relevant to faculty, including hiring, promotion, retention, climate, satisfaction, and equity.

•  Ensure that the Office of Faculty Development is identifying and meeting the needs of the faculty.

Caldwell said that this group would perform duties such as regularly collect and monitor data on salaries, a process that is currently done on an ad-hoc basis by Senate working groups every few years.

Illya Hicks asked how long each member would serve on the committee, and Caldwell replied three years. Hicks then moved that the motion be amended to indicate the three-year term length. The motion was seconded, and the Senate voted unanimously in favor of the amended language. Following that vote, the Senate voted unanimously to approve the main motion. (Amended language is shown in italics above.)

C.      Open discussion on online education continued: focus on the professional master’s programs and the 2U.com model 

Caldwell introduced Caroline Levander, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Initiatives, who was present to continue the discussion on online education from last month’s Senate meeting and to answer questions from the senators.  Levander said that the administration has been gathering information from Coursera, 2U, and other providers.

Levander said that Coursera is moving to a monetization model with alacrity. Regarding 2U, Levander said that this group began with an undergraduate model for online education, and they have now moved to a graduate program for professional master’s degrees. She noted that 2U will be meeting with Rice Engineering faculty and department chairs during the morning of December 6, 2012. She said that Kathy Collins, Vice President for Finance, has been examining the financial aspect of the program. Levander said that although the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Rice and 2U has a late January 2013 deadline, it can be extended.

Levander said conversations have also occurred with EdX. In addition, Levander mentioned Stanford’s internal platform entitled “Class2Go.” A question and answer session followed.

Senator:  On one hand, I am in favor of Rice exploring the use of online education. On the other hand, we seem to be moving very quickly, perhaps without a coordinated effort. Has anyone done a thorough study? Are we moving too fast without having things locked down?

Levander:  We are being very careful regarding exclusivity. It is our leading question to each of these providers. In terms of Rice and the strategic decision making that will occur, a lot of that will depend on the statement from the Faculty Senate’s Working Group on Online Education. The only thing that Rice has committed to is Coursera; we are still very much in the process with 2U.

President Leebron:  Coursera and 2U are very different from each other. We have faculty members who are already offering Coursera courses which do not require University approval. On the other hand, 2U is much more of a university-wide model.  We have seen movement in the models of both Coursera and EdX. The landscape is constantly changing. We have to be very careful; neither platform is under our control, nor under the control of a consortium of universities like us.

Caldwell:  There is a big difference between a professor going ahead and teaching one course under this model versus starting a professional master’s degree program. It is impossible to talk about a program until we are sure that the department has said we have enough faculty to do this; and that each faculty member has the time to develop the course. 2U has said it takes 150-200 hours to develop a single course.

Senator:  Where does one draw the line between an on-campus program versus an online program? Which entity has the final say, the department, the Graduate Council, or the Faculty Senate?

Senator:  Does a professional master’s degree in engineering already exist at Rice?

Provost McLendon:  Yes, we would create a parallel version of what is already on campus.

Senator:  It is likely that an online course in Electrical and Computer Engineering would have less flexibility than a residential course, but the requirements would be the same.

Senator:  Are the other professional master’s programs next in line?

Caldwell:  Specifically, 2U is just focused on Engineering, not necessarily any other department. No change can happen unless the faculty in a department agree to it.

President Leebron:  Change can be driven from both ends. A program cannot be successful unless the faculty in the department agree to it. When departments and schools want to investigate options, the administration wants to support them.

Senator:  Using the example of a Chemistry degree, students are required to take courses from other departments; who will decide which courses are allowed?

Levander:  One of the things that Engineering is considering for the online professional master’s program is a suite of introductory courses that students could take online.

Senator:  I cannot imagine a (hands-on) Chemistry course online!

Paula Sanders, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs: I want to remind senators that the “Creating and Changing Graduate Programs” guidelines document, approved by the Faculty Senate, requires that all new and significantly revised programs are required to obtain approval from the Graduate Council. Included in the questions that must be answered to the satisfaction of the Graduate Council and the Faculty Senate is the impact of the program on their department and their school, including resources.

Senator:  What if the only change is moving the course online?

Sanders:  That is considered a significant change. SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) will require approval by the Graduate Council, the Executive Committee of the Senate, and the Faculty Senate.

Caldwell:  The purpose of the proposed resolution is to make this issue clear.

Provost McLendon: Let’s discuss substantial change. What if you have one course with blended content, and the students still have to attend class occasionally? Is that a substantial change? On the other hand, what if every course had blended content; that is more complicated. What if one course was presented entirely online? At some point, we have to say what constitutes an appropriate educational experience. Will the Senate decide or will the individual faculty member decide the best way to teach his/her course?

Senator:  The online education experience is using a massive scale at a minimal cost; is it going to change the scope of the university?

Senator:  I can see online education working well, but only for a certain kind of class. A degree involves many kinds of classes. I can see online education enhancing what we do at Rice, but 2U and Coursera are massively available. I do not hear them being interested primarily in improving what we do at Rice with these tools.

Provost McLendon: Not necessarily; it depends on how you define “Rice.” For example, if I have a student in Shanghai, will we say that his/her education must occur on this dirt? Are students never allowed to study abroad?

Senator:  Most students are on campus for three or four years.

Provost:  Not if you are a graduate student. Most of your time is spent doing research. Online education might not be appropriate for a (music) composition student; departments can opt out.

Caldwell:  The principles depend on where you look; if you are looking at the residential college experience, or the experience of the graduate student in History, then online education might not be the right approach. This is one of the reasons that 2U is focusing specifically on the professional master’s.

Senator:  A mix of some classes being online and some not online seems reasonable; not everything can be translated to an online forum.

Levander:  2U has identified strategies to accommodate the hands-on need for certain programs, such as social work.

Senator:  It seems that the purpose is to sell Rice degrees for large amounts of money; any department might like that, but what about the overall university degree?

Caldwell:  We are coming to the end of the discussion. Please attend the 2U demonstration tomorrow and ask these same questions.

D.      Proposed Senate Resolution 

Caldwell then presented the following resolution, which came to the Senate having been moved and seconded by the Executive Committee: “Creating an online degree program, whether at the undergraduate or at the graduate level, constitutes a substantial change and requires the approval of the Faculty Senate.”

There was no further discussion. The vote to approve the motion was unanimous.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:40 p.m.