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Faculty Senate Meeting
April 17, 2013
Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall
 

  

Agenda: 

     I.            Call to Order, Recognition of Departing Senators, Introduction of New Senators

     II.            Nomination and Election of Speaker, Deputy Speaker

    III.            Announcements

    IV.            Working Group Reports
                     A.  Laboratory Safety (Mike Wong)
                     B.  NTT Faculty (Dave Caprette)
                     C.  Grade Inflation (Jane Grande-Allen)
                     D.  Research and Scholarship (Moshe Vardi)

 

Senators in attendance:  David Alexander, Randy Batsell, Kate Beckingham, Carl Caldwell, Dave Caprette, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Danijela Damjanovic, Christian Emden, Rebecca Goetz, Jane Grande-Allen, Christopher Hight, Betty Joseph, Rachel Kimbro, Anatoly Kolomeisky, David Leebron, Jonathan Ludwig, Lanny Martin, Fred Oswald, Rob Raphael, Stan Sazykin, David Scott, Michael Stern, Ruth Lopez Turley, Moshe Vardi, and James Weston.

Senators absent:  Robert Atherholt, Gregory Barnett, Mahmoud El-Gamal, Shirine Hamadeh, Illya Hicks, Michael Kohn, George McLendon, and Helena Michie.

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

I.     Call to order, Recognition of Departing Senators, Introduction of New Senators 

Faculty Senate Speaker Carl Caldwell called the meeting to order at 12:00 p.m. He thanked the senators whose terms were ending for their service:  Gregory Barnett, Randy Batsell, Danijela Damjanovic, Mahmoud El-Gamal, Christian Emden, Rebecca Goetz, Shirine Hamadeh, Illya Hicks, Lanny Martin, Rob Raphael, Mike Stern, and Moshe Vardi. He also welcomed the senators whose terms will being Fall 2013:

Engineering
Luay Nakhleh (Computer Science)
Laura Segatori (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)

Humanities
Graham Bader (Art History)
Claire Fanger (Religious Studies)
Julie Fette (French Studies)

Natural Sciences
Gerald "Jerry" Dickens (Earth Science)
Michael Wolf (Mathematics)

Social Sciences
Jeffrey Fleisher (Anthropology)

Architecture (rotating one-year term)
Dawn Finley

 

II.     Nomination and Election of Speaker , Deputy Speaker, Presentation of EC Slate 

Jane Grande-Allen, chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC), announced that Carl Caldwell had been nominated by the NEC to serve as speaker. The nomination was seconded by a senator.  She asked if there were any additional nominations; there were none. A vote was then held, and Caldwell was unanimously elected as speaker of the Faculty Senate for 2013-2014.

Caldwell thanked Grande-Allen for her two years of service as the deputy speaker. He presented her with a plaque from the Senate, as well as a gift. Grande-Allen thanked Caldwell for serving as speaker, and then presented him with a plaque and a gift.

Caldwell nominated James Weston for deputy speaker, and it was seconded by a senator. Caldwell asked if there were any additional nominations; there were none. A vote was then held, and Weston was unanimously elected as deputy speaker for 2013-14. Caldwell noted that Grande-Allen will continue to serve as chair of the NEC as it completes the task of appointing faculty to serve on University Committees.

Grande-Allen presented to the Senate the Executive Committee (EC) slate for 2013-2014, recommended by the NEC.  Per Section 6 of the Faculty Senate Bylaws, alternate slates may be proposed. The EC will be elected at the first Senate meeting of the fall semester. In addition to Speaker Caldwell and Deputy Speaker Weston, the proposed EC slate includes:

Humanities:                                        Betty Joseph
Social Sciences:                                 Fred Oswald
Engineering:                                       Keith Cooper
Natural Science:                                Anatoly Kolomeisky
Professional Schools:                      Christopher Hight
NTT Faculty:                                       Stan Sazykin

III.    Announcements 

  •  Fred Oswald will serve as Convener of the Appeals and Grievance Panels for 2013-14.
  •  A plenary session of the faculty will be held Friday, May 10, from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. In addition to the speaker's annual report and approval of degrees by the faculty, President Leebron will present: Emerging Priorities and Challenges for the Post-Centennial Years: A Discussion.  The lunch and presentation of teaching awards will accordingly start between 12:15-12:30.
  • End of Year Senate Party: Thursday, May 2, at 4:00 p.m., Brochstein Pavilion. Departing, continuing, and new senators are all welcome.
  • Formation of new Working Group on the Termination of Graduate Programs, Chair: Christian Emden. Charge: to determine, in consultation with the administration and Graduate Council, a  procedure and best practices to follow in terminating graduate programs. Members: Danijela Damjanovic, Duane Windsor, and Arnaud Chevalier.
  • Paula Sanders, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, announced that the administration is working on a plan to implement combined master’s and bachelor’s degrees. A few specific programs will be announced soon for implementation in fall 2014. A full report is available on the Senate’s wiki space and feedback is appreciated; see Report from Rice Leaders, April 2013.  

 

IV.      Working Group Reports 

A.       Working Group on Laboratory Safety 

Working Group chair Mike Wong (CHBE) listed the members of the working group and thanked them for their efforts:

·         Beth Beason-Abmayr (Biochemistry and Cell Biology)

·         Raj Dasgupta (Earth Science)

·         Tom Killian (Physics and Astronomy)

·         Kevin Kelly (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

·         Qilin Li (Civil and Environmental Engineering)

·         Michael Wong (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)

Ex officio members

·         Kevin Kirby (Vice President for Administration)

·         Vicki Colvin (Vice Provost for Research; Chemistry)

Faculty Senate members

·         Jane Grande-Allen (Deputy Speaker; Bioengineering)

·         Carl Caldwell (Speaker)

He also reviewed the charge for the working group: To assess the state of research laboratory safety across campus, to propose a new organizational structure that fosters and maintains a culture and practice of lab safety, and to issue recommendations to improve the process for safety training, oversight and compliance.

Wong then presented to the Senate three examples of incidents at other institutions which were caused by safety violations.  In addition, Wong said since 2001, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has gathered preliminary information on 120 different university laboratory incidents involving chemicals. At Rice, Wong said that the working group has found that compliance with local, state and federal agency codes and policies is uneven. He also said that there is a general lack of faculty engagement (although strong interest) in safety. Regarding oversight, the working group found that there is no consistent enforcement of safety standards in labs.

Wong presented to the Senate the Rice University polices regarding research misconduct and safety.  In addition, he discussed Rice’s Environmental Health and Safety Department (EHS), the Office of Sponsored Research, and the Rice University administration’s organizational chart. Wong said that safety aspects are scattered around the campus; holistic oversight is needed.

At the end of his presentation, Wong presented the recommendations of the working group:

  • Rice needs to improve its culture of safety
  • Rice University Safety Policy needs updating to establish clear roles and a clear problem resolution process
  • EH&S needs to go from a just-in-time approach to a proactive one
  • Safety training needs to be: tailored to each lab; high-quality; recorded in a database; and available as in-person + online sessions
  • Needed is a centralized repository containing compliance and training information
  • Rice needs a safety professional to lead this improvement effort

To view the working group’s full presentation to the Senate, see: WG on Laboratory Safety. 

Following Wong’s presentation, there was a question and answer session.
 

Question: How much time is spent by the professor training an undergraduate student to perform research? And why did you not include the safety training of undergraduates in your recommendations?

Answer:  A broad range exists; some faculty members work one-on-one with the student until he/she is ready. At the other end of the spectrum exists the faculty members who delegate this task to a senior graduate student or to a post-doctoral staff member. We consider the training of undergraduates as a necessary part of safety training overall. Everyone needs safety training, including, for example, the high school students who might be in Rice laboratories over the summer, visiting faculty, etcetera.

Comment: Department chairs are responsible for compliance with all local and state regulations.

Answer:  Right, the practitioner/professor should not have to know all of the rules; oversight should come from above. Also, we need not just know the rules, but practice safety.

Question:  What about the use of a clearly delineated checklist?

Answer:  We tried to articulate that safety plans can include a checklist, but every department has different procedures to follow.

Question:  Is Rice stronger or weaker in safety procedures than the institution shown in your presentation?

Answer:  On paper, the institution’s system was working, but the level of enforcement was not high. Rice is operating in a similar manner. We have simply presented our recommendations today. We need a safety professional, a dedicated person who can now get these improvements going.
 

Caldwell thanked Wong and the working group for their report. He said that, if desired, the next step would be for the Senate to accept the report’s recommendations for action. Moshe Vardi moved that the Senate accept the report, seconded by David Alexander, and the Senate then voted unanimously in favor of acceptance.

B.      Working Group on Non Tenure Track Faculty (NTT) 

Dave Caprette, chair, listed the members of the working group, including their length of service at Rice, the average of which was over 12 years:

Engineering 

Scott Cutler, Professor in the Practice, 12 years (Senate rep. NTT teaching)

Ann Saterbak, Professor in the Practice, 14 years

Humanities 

Jonathan Ludwig, Senior Lecturer, 10 years (Senate rep. NTT teaching)

Jones School 

Kim Kimmey, Lecturer, 5 years

Natural Sciences 

Beth Beason-Abmayr, Lecturer, 15 years

Dave Caprette, Professor in the Practice, 26 years (Senate rep. NTT teaching)

Stanislav Sazykin, Senior Faculty Fellow, 13 years (Senate rep. NTT research)

Shepherd School 

Rachel Buchman, Lecturer, 11 years

Jeanne Fischer, Artist Teacher, 21 years

Social Sciences 

Beverly Mitchell, Lecturer, 5 years

Caprette also reviewed the group’s charge with the Senate:  “Develop a prioritized list of the most important issues concerning the future of NTT faculty at Rice, the rationale behind the ranking of items, and recommendations.  Relevant issues may include NTT job titles, opportunities for promotion, range of responsibilities, employment security, and/or equitable compensation.  Since these issues may require extensive work and research, and may therefore require a different kind of committee (e.g. with Human Resources representatives), the list is preliminary to formation of an expanded working group or committee.” During Caprette’s presentation, he cited this overall objective for Rice University:  Retain a stable core of experienced, highly regarded, NTT faculty who specialize in either teaching or research.

Caprette listed the recommendations for the expanded working group:

1.       Define career paths for NTT faculty and provide for improved employment security and provide for improved employment security

2.       Review how policies are applied towards NTT faculty

3.       Collect data on NTT faculty (necessary in order to achieve items 1 and 2)

The full presentation can be viewed here:  Working Group on NTT Faculty Following the presentation, a question and answer session was held.

Comment: Your phrase “employment security” is not appropriate; unless one is tenured, there is no security. Employment depends upon performance. However, at a minimum, due process must be followed. Currently the administration can simply let an employment contract lapse and the NTT faculty member is out.
Caprette: Yes, currently inaction can terminate NTT faculty; changing to deliberate action would be an improvement.

Sanders: The provost has directed me to make an administrative working group that will work collaboratively with the Senate’s working group on NTT policies, improved career paths, and best practices.

Question: You say that the working group is not asking for tenure; why not?
Caprette: It would raise a lot of objections. We seek to be a part of this great institution, one that we make even greater with our sustained efforts. We are not asking for tenure, but, for increased career path security, with rolling contracts, for example, or multi-year contracts.
Caldwell: Tenure is meant to offer security, or less risk, to faculty in order to enhance research.

Caldwell then asked if the Senate wished to accept the working group’s report and recommendations. There was a motion, seconded, to accept the report, followed by unanimous approval.

C.      Working Group on Grade Inflation 

Jane Grande-Allen and Evan Siemann, co-chairs, named the members of the working group:

Co-Chairs:   Jane Grande-Allen (Engineering)

                    Evan Siemann (Natural Sciences)

Members:    Ric Stoll (Social Sciences)

                    Peter Loewen (Shepherd School of Music)

                    Rebecca Goetz (Humanities)

                    David Tenney, ex officio (Registrar)

                    Chynna Foucek (Student Association) 

Staff Assistant:  Sharon Mathews

Grande-Allen reviewed the charge of the working group: To enumerate possible changes in policies and procedures that would work against grade inflation, and to evaluate the potential costs and benefits of such changes. The committee looked in particular at efforts by other institutions to work against grade inflation, and the effects of such efforts.

Grande-Allen also stated the progress of the working group:

•          Produced interim report with proposed recommendations

•          WG will stay active through the summer and early fall to collect feedback about these recommendations from faculty, students, and administration. 

•          Based on feedback, we will issue our final recommendations and report in early Fall 2013.

Grande-Allen and Siemann then listed four proposed actions, supported by data that they presented in chart form:

  • We recommend that each department develop guidelines for expectations of the frequency of the grade categories and the level of student performance expected in order to earn a certain grade, depending on the type of course and associated assignments.
  • We recommend that Deans and Department Chairs, after each semester, receive lists of their courses in which only A’s or A+ grades were given. The instructors of these courses should be asked to provide written justification for why these courses should continue to have letter grades given, and a plan for better distributing those grades, otherwise the course may be converted to S/F.
  • We recommend making an A+ worth 4.0, not 4.33, in calculating the GPA. Most of our peers do not award higher value for the A+ grade (or do not award A+ grades).
  • We recommend that LPAP and residential college courses be made S/F or removed from the GPA.

Grande-Allen added that David Tenney (Registrar) has said that the proposed actions are possible. Grande-Allen also stated that these actions are recommendations, not a plan for making them work. She added that the Student Association has requested that no action be taken at this time.  Following the presentation, there was a discussion session.

Question:  In regard to the low number of D’s given, how much of that is due to the late drop date? If a student is doing poorly, he/she often drops the class; thus no D is given.
Answer:  The working group did not analyze drop dates at this point, but David Tenney thought that students dropping these classes might indeed be a factor in the low number of D’s.

Question:  Shouldn’t the required posting of one’s syllabus force professors to state their grading policy?
Answer: Not necessarily; the required posting of syllabi does not require one to analyze his/her grading policy, simply to provide it to the students by the first day of class.

Question:  Why should I have one guideline when another department has a different guideline?
Answer:  That is not what is being proposed; papers vs. problem sets vs. labs all require different types of grading.  The discussion must start at the level of the school, developing guidelines, and perhaps distributing to faculty members all of the grades that are being awarded in that school.

As the discussion continued, several senators recommended that Rice move away from using student evaluations of professors as a part of the faculty promotion process, a system that could contribute to grade inflation. Grade collars (awarding a maximum number of A’s) were also discussed. Caldwell noted that the discussion to limit grade inflation was just beginning, and it could include topics such as student evaluations, Pass/Fail, and the drop deadlines.

Grande-Allen stated that the full report from the working group is available to all faculty members on the Senate’s wiki space: see Working Group on Grade Inflation. Grande-Allen asked for feedback from the faculty, which she predicted will be received from students, and which will be used to write the final recommendations. Caldwell thanked Grande-Allen and Siemann.

D.      Working Group on Research and Scholarship 

Moshe Vardi, chair, listed the members of the working group: Janet Braam, Keith Cooper, Michael Deem, Mahmoud El-Gamal, Michael Emerson, Richard Grandy, Randy Hulet, Steve Lewis, Seiichi Matsuda, Vikas Mittal, Jan Odegard, and Fred Oswald.

Vardi also presented the working group’s charge: The Senate Working Group on Research and Scholarship will assess the processes and structures currently existing on campus designed to support and improve Rice's research and scholarship efforts, including strategy, support structures, assessment, and coordination and planning from the department level to the upper administration level.

Vardi stated that he had recently made presentations of the working group’s full report to the faculty and to the administration. For today’s Senate meeting, he would present an executive summary of the working group’s report.

Major Recommendations:

  • Full-time VPAA, full-time Graduate Dean
  • Systematic rigorous regular review processes
  • Strengthen schools
  • External analysis of business processes
  • Need-based campaign

Vardi explained that Paula Sanders has done an heroic job as both the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. He said that she agrees that these positions should be filled by two people, not one. Vardi also said that each of these positions needs defining.

Vardi elaborated on the working group’s recommendations:

  • Much progress has been achieved, but our peers have also moved ahead.
  • We need to pursue vigorously points 1 and 3 of the V2C.
  • Over the past ten years we focused on building infrastructure.
  • It is time to invest in human and organizational capital -- a possible roadmap for the next decade.
  • We must examine all aspects of the university regularly.
  • We must continually raise the bar and push each other to improve.
  • We must establish more concrete lines of communication between faculty and administration to give one another input and feedback.  

In summary, Vardi quoted a Chinese proverb:  “If you want 1 year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people.”  

A discussion session followed the presentation. Vardi said that he wished to add “graduate recruiting” to the recommendations. He said that Rice has lost faculty members who have stated that it will be easier for them to attract graduate students elsewhere.

Regarding the success of Rice’s grant proposals, Vardi said that individual faculty members can only do so much. He said the problem is not that Rice faculty are submitting center proposals and not winning; it is that they are not submitting.

Regarding the working group’s recommendation to “strengthen schools,” Vardi was asked by a senator about his comment that the Rice University Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences were less strong than the other schools at Rice; on what was that comment based? Vardi replied that it was primarily an impression of the working group, but he said that he has noticed over the years that the Rice schools of Engineering and Natural Sciences rank fairly high, as do the schools of Music, Business, and Architecture. Vardi said, though, that rankings must be taken with a “ton of salt” and that the School of Humanities needs to develop its own matrix for success. The senator said that he generally agreed with that assessment, and that the problem may be the sort of support that the School of Humanities has received over the years.

Another senator agreed with the working group’s assessment that Rice is small and thus cannot do it all. Vardi stated that no institution can do it all; there must be trade-offs.

Caldwell said that the working group has been reviewing the entire university for a couple of years. He said that although the group’s first recommendation is being implemented because it is clear, the other recommendations do not explain what should happen and how. Caldwell said that the Executive Committee will need specific tasks for approval.

Vardi suggested that a separate working group analyze undergraduate research at Rice, which he said is currently underutilized. He added that the Working Group on Research and Scholarship will probably recommend that additional working groups address the other issues presented today. Caldwell thanked Vardi and the working group for their efforts.

President Leebron addressed the Senate following the discussion. He thanked Deputy Speaker Grande-Allen for her two years of dedicated service. Leebron also said that he had heard four extraordinary reports at today’s meeting, and he complimented the Senate overall on its thoughtful, productive work with the administration. He went on to thank the chairs of the working groups, as well as the members, saying that the reports provide helpful guidance to the administration and to the university.

Caldwell reminded the senators about the end of year party on May 2. The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.