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Plenary Meeting of the Rice University Faculty 

May 10, 2013 

International Conference Room, Baker Institute 



I.      Presentation and Approval of Undergraduate Degree Candidates

II.     Presentation of Undergraduate Honors

III.    Presentation and Approval of Candidates for Advanced Degrees

IV.    Year-End Summary of Faculty Senate Activities

V.      Presentation from President Leebron:  Emerging Priorities and Challenges for the Post-Centennial Years: A Discussion 

VI.    Announcements

VII.   Faculty Awards (move to Dore' Commons)

VIII.  Recognition of Retiring Faculty Members

I.  Presentation and Approval of Undergraduate Degree Candidates 

Faculty Senate Speaker Carl Caldwell convened the meeting at 11:00 a.m. He called on Professor Stan Dodds, chair of the University Committee for Examinations and Standing (EX&S), and Registrar David Tenney to present the list of baccalaureate degree candidates for faculty approval. Dodds and Tenney stated that there were no exceptions, and it was noted that this year's total of 885 degrees to be awarded is the largest in Rice's 100-year history. Caldwell stated that approval of the degrees comes moved and seconded from the Senate's Executive Committee. The faculty voted unanimously in favor of approval. 


Recommended Undergraduate Degrees 

May 2013 

Bachelor of Arts  (BA) 


Bachelor of Science  (BS) 


BS in Bioengineering  (BSBE) 


BS in Chemical Engineering  (BSCHE) 


BS in Civil Engineering (BSCE) 


BS in Computer Science  (BSCS) 


BS in Electrical Engineering  (BSEE) 


BS in Materials Science (BSMS) 


BS in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) 


Bachelor of Music (BMUS) 


Total (undergraduate degrees) 


Bachelor of Architecture (UP) 


Grand Total (undergraduate degrees) 



II.  Presentation and Approval of Undergraduate Honors 

The assembled faculty members were reminded that honors information is confidential until the commencement ceremony.

Tenney noted that this year is the first time for Rice University to use the system approved last year by the Senate, in which Latin honors are determined by school instead of university-wide. Tenney was asked about the procedure for students with double majors. He replied that if a student's two majors are in two different schools, he/she will be eligible for honors in each school. He said that is is possible, for example, for a student to achieve summa cum laude in one school and magna cum laude in another. Tenney added that if the student's two majors are within one school, he/she is defaulted to the higher honor. Caldwell stated that approval of the undergraduate honors comes moved and seconded from the Executive Committee. The faculty voted unanimously for approval.

Tenney announced another first for Rice this year; the awarding of "Distinction in Research and Creative Works," which 78 students will receive at commencement.

III.  Presentation and Approval of Candidates for Advanced Degrees 

Caldwell called on Professor John Olson, chair of the Graduate Council, and Registrar David Tenney to present the candidates for advanced degrees. Olson and Tenney announced that there are 654 candidates for advanced degrees, with no exceptions. Olson stated that approval from the faculty comes moved and seconded from the Graduate Council. The faculty voted unanimously for approval. 

Recommended Advanced Degrees 

May 2013 

Doctor of Philosophy  (PHD) 


Doctor of Musical Arts  (DMA) 


Master of Arts  (MA) 


Master of Science  (MS) 


Master of Architecture  (MARCH) 


Master of Music  (MMUS) 


Master of Business Administration (MBA) 


Master of Liberal Studies  (MLS) 


Master of Bioengineering  (MBE) 


Master of Chemical Engineering (MCHE) 


Master of Civil and Environmental Engineering (MCEE) 


Master of Computer Science (MCS) 


Master of Computational and Applied Mathematics (MCAAM) 


Master of Electrical Engineering  (MEE) 


Master of Mechanical Engineering  (MME) 


Master of Statistics (MSTAT) 


MS in Bioscience Research and Health Policy (MSBRHP) 


MS in Environmental Analysis & Decision Making (MSEADM) 


MS in Nanoscale Physics (MSNP) 


MS in Subsurface Geoscience (MSSG) 


Grand Total (Advanced Degrees) 


To view the full grade distribution information presented, please use this link: Commencement 2013.  

IV.  Year-End Summary of Faculty Senate Activities  

Caldwell presented to the faculty a summary of the Senate's activities during the past year. He began by listing the Senate working groups before giving specific information on each:
Conflict of Commitment, Grade Inflation, Laboratory Safety, Non Tenure Track Faculty, Online Education, Promotion and Tenure, Research and Scholarship, Termination of Graduate Programs.

A.  Working Group on Conflict of Commitment
         Chair: James Weston

  • New COC policy approved after extensive conversations with Senate, deans, and others across the university, March 20, 2013
  • To be incorporated into Policy 216, COI

B.  Working Group on Grade Inflation        
         Co-Chairs: Jane Grande-Allen, Evan Siemann

  • Analyzed grade inflation at Rice; examined the efforts of peer universities to curb grade inflation
  • Initial recommendations include:

departmental grading guidelines be developed;
deans/dept chairs receive lists of courses in which all A’s or all A+’s were awarded;
A+ be equal to 4.0 instead of 4.33, in line with majority of peers

  • WG will continue, requests feedback on the wiki

C.  Working Group on Laboratory Safety       
        Chair: Mike Wong


  • Rice needs to improve its overall culture of safety
  • 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 pro-active 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

D.  Working Group on Non Tenure Track Faculty        
         Chair: David Caprette

         Objective: Retain a stable core of experienced, highly regarded, NTT faculty who specialize in either teaching or research

          Recommendations for formation of an expanded working group or committee:

  1. Define career paths for NTT faculty and provide for improved employment security
  2. Review how policies are applied towards NTT faculty
  3. Collect data on NTT faculty

E.  Working Group on Online Education     
         Chair: David Alexander

  • Worked in cooperation with administration working group
  • Involved faculty at large and Senate:
  • Arranged faculty meetings with 2U, Coursera, and EdX
  • Presented interim report in November Senate meeting
  • Held discussion at December meeting and on the wiki space
  • Using feedback, presented final report in March meeting

The working group assisted the Senate with the following resolutions:

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.

(December 5, 2012)

The Faculty Senate recommends that Rice University consider a limited formal partnership with edX to pursue a small number of online courses with the understanding that edX certification does not constitute Rice University credit. 
The Faculty Senate favors, in principle, the conferral of certificates for successful completion of courses taken via edX, so long as a)they do not indicate that a student will receive Rice University credit for taking the course and b) they conform to best practice guidelines set down by SACS and related accreditation agencies.

(January 30, 2013)

F.  Working Group on Promotion and Tenure
      Chair: Mahmoud El-Gamal

  • Series of changes proposed to the way P&T functions, as described in “Guidelines”
  • Changes adopted, December 5, 2012, and February 20, 2013


G. Working Group on Research and Scholarship
      Chair: Moshe Vardi

  • WG began meeting in Fall 2011, examined processes and structures throughout the university
  • Major recommendations:
    • Full-time VPAA, full-time Graduate Dean
    • Systematic rigorous regular review processes
    • Strengthen schools
    • External analysis of business processes
    • Need-based campaign

H. Working Group on Termination of Graduate Programs
      Chair: Christian Emden

  • Finalization of policy to determine, in consultation with the administration and Graduate Council, a procedure and best practices to follow in terminating graduate programs.

Following the presentation regarding working groups, Caldwell cited the proposals approved by the Senate:

  • Undergraduate Minor in Neurosciences
  • Graduate Program in Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology (SSPB)
  • Dual Ph.D. in History between Rice University and Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil (the first of its kind between the US and Brazil) 
  • Policy: "Creating Graduate Dual Degree and Joint Degree Programs"
  • A hard cap on undergraduate enrollment at 24 credit hours per semester
  • Revision of University Policy 216 and Procedures
  • Revision of "Organization and Election of Promotion and Tenure Committee" and placed in Senate Bylaws, Section 9
  • Revised Section B9 of “Guidelines for Faculty Appointments, Promotion, Tenure, and Renewal of Contracts”
  • Syllabus Archiving on Esther as of Spring 2013 (follow up to Syllabus Standards Policy, Jan 2012)
  • Approved Faculty Advisory Board, a new University Committee, to advise the Office of Faculty Development
  • Arranged for faculty members to present white papers and hold discussions at the Board of Trustees meetings:
         September: Research
         December: Teaching

         March: Internationalization

  • Approved resolution in honor of James Crownover, outgoing chair of Board of Trustees

Caldwell then thanked the following senators whose terms are ending for their hard work:

Gregory Barnett
Randy Batsell
Danijela Damjanovic
Mahmoud El-Gamal
Christian Emden
Rebecca Goetz
Shirine Hamadeh
Illya Hicks
Lanny Martin
Rob Raphael
Mike Stern
Moshe Vardi

Caldwell cited his gratitude especially to the following individuals:

  • Jane Grande-Allen, Deputy Speaker, two years
  • Working Group Chairs:
              David Alexander
             Dave Caprette
             Mahmoud El-Gamal
             Christian Emden
             Jane Grande-Allen
             Evan Siemann
             Moshe Vardi
             James Weston
             Mike Wong
  • Jeffrey Kripal, Chair of CUC
  • John Olson, Chair of Graduate Council
  • Paula Sanders, VPAA, Dean of GPS

Finally, Caldwell thanked President Leebron and Provost McLendon for their attendance and participation in Faculty Senate meetings. He said that it is important for the faculty to be in contact with the administration.

Caldwell announced the senators who were recently elected to serve:

Engineering: Luay Nakhleh, Laura Segatori
Humanities: Graham Bader, Claire Fanger, Julie Fette
Natural Sciences: Gerald "Jerry" Dickens, Michael Wolf
Social Sciences: Jeffrey Fleisher
Architecture: Dawn Finley

Deputy Speaker Jane Grande-Allen presented several issues which the Senate will address next year:

  • Restructuring of the University Committee on Teaching to include recommendations from Working Group on Online Education
  • Consideration of the many recommendations from the WG on Research and Scholarship
  • Creation of a new working group to address several issues related to undergraduate education, including pass/fail, add/drop, AP, transfer credit for online courses, grade inflation
  • Review of interim policy for reviewing graduate programs for termination
  • Review of reports from several initiatives, including Office of Faculty Development, Program for Writing and Communication, Center for Teaching Excellence
  • Formation of expanded Working Group on Non Tenure Track Faculty
  • Implementation of Laboratory Safety recommendations

Grande-Allen asked the assembled faculty if there were any questions; there were none.

V.  Presentation from President Leebron:  Emerging Priorities and Challenges for the Post-Centennial Years:  A Discussion

President David Leebron thanked Speaker Caldwell and Deputy Speaker Grande-Allen for a very productive year. He then made a presentation to the assembled faculty regarding the university's emerging priorities for its second century.

The first slide presented was entitled "Moving West" which showed a series of building projects to be completed on the west side of the campus, including the George R. Brown Tennis Center, the proposed improvements to the football stadium and building, the Anderson Clarke Continuing Studies Center, the proposed Opera Theater site, the Moody Center for the Arts site, and the Klein Hall for Social Sciences site. Leebron added that Rice University Entrance 8, also on the west side of campus, is currently the entrance most used; it needs to be made more attractive.

Regarding the capital campaign, Leebron said that he expects the total to soon exceed the $1billion goal. He added that the administration's favorite gifts to receive are scholarship funding and endowed chairs. However, he said that a lot of other gifts "keep on taking," and the administration is being increasingly careful about accepting those gifts.

Leebron gave an update on the status of the university's endowment, stating that it continues to recover from the 2008 losses. However, he said that endowment spending remains at the high end of the target range.

Leebron then listed seven emerging priorities for Rice's second century:

  • Enhancing research
  • Quality teaching and digital learning
  • Texas Medical Center relationships; biosciences
  • Energy and environment/water
  • Arts initiative
  • International engagement
  • Entrepreneurial university

To view President Leebron's slide presentation, please click HERE. 

Following the presentation, a question and answer session was held. The first question asked was regarding parking. Leebron said that some university resources will be used to increase parking availability, along with some function-supported means, such as fees to park while attending events at the Shepherd School of Music. Leebron also said that while above ground parking lots are cheaper to build than underground lots, they are ugly. He said that there will be a general rise in the cost of parking overall.

Leebron was also asked to elaborate on the effort to seek alignment between university-level and school-level priorities. Leebron cited, as an example, the Latin American Studies program, which was achieved without centralized funding. Another example, he said, is sharing the cost of new faculty appointments by offering joint appointments. Leebron added that items which were very important when the Vision for the Second Century (V2C) was written are less important now as some of these items have been achieved; other things are in need of more attention now.

Leebron was asked about fostering the connection between alumni and undergraduates. Leebron said that the currently decentralized approach could possibly move to a more organized approach. He said that Rice has improved but needs to get better regarding its processes. Leebron stated that Rice has grown from a small university into a $500 million per year industry which needs to be administered in a professional manner.

The final question for President Leebron was in regard to the growth of the undergraduate student population. He was asked if the growth was now complete, and if it achieved the desired goal. Leebron acknowledged that the growth included some stresses on the university, but he stated that the growth in Social Sciences is far in excess of the growth of the student body. Leebron said that when the decision to grow the student population was made, there were two concerns:  1) will we be able to maintain student quality, and 2) will be we able to maintain diversity? He said that expectations have been exceeded on both counts. However, Leebron said that what Rice did not achieve is as much incremental revenue as was wanted. He said that Rice has to become more efficient and more responsive, both in classroom use and in teaching by faculty. 

In summary, President Leebron said that the seven priorities he stated are not set in stone, and he asked the faculty for ideas. He said that as fall approaches, these items will be clarified as strategic priorities for fund-raising.

VI.  Announcements 

 A.  Deaths 

President Leebron read aloud the names of faculty members who died during the past year, including their years of service at Rice::


    Adilet Imambekov             Assistant Professor, Physics & Astronomy         2009-2012

    Paul Pieffer                        Professor Emeritus, CAAM                              1947-1998

    Gale Stokes                       Professor Emeritus, History                              1968-2005

    Edward (Ted) Anderson    Assistant Professor, Art History                        2006-2013

    J. Bernardo Perez              Assoc. Professor of Spanish                             1979-2013

    John Meixner                     Professor Emeritus, English                              1968-1995

    Thomas McEvilley             Lecturer, Art and Art History                            1969-2005

    John Brelsford                   Professor Emeritus, Psychology & Statistics      1970-2000

    James Walker                   Professor Emeritus, Biochemistry                 1964-1992                                    

    Kyrstyna Ansevin              Professor Emeritus, Biology                               1964-1980 

     B.  Commencement 

     Professor Keith Cooper provided instructions to the faculty for commencement.

VII. Faculty Awards   


George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching  

   Michael Gustin, Professor, Biochemistry and Cell Biology

George R. Brown Awards for Superior Teaching  

James Brown, Professor, Economics

Alexander Byrd, Associate Professor, History

Brent Houchens, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science

Carlos Jimenez, Professor, Architecture

Rachel Tolbert Kimbro, Associate Professor, Sociology

Helena Michie, Professor, English

Ann Saterbak, Professor in the Practice, Bioengineering

Yousif Shamoo, Professor, Biochemistry & Cell Biology

Michael Wolf, Professor, Mathematics

Charles Duncan Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement  

          Elaine Howard Ecklund, Associate Professor, Sociology; and Director, Program for the Study of Religion & Public Life, Institute for Urban Research

Presidential Award for Mentoring  

Mark Embree, Professor, Computational and Applied Mathematics

Helena Michie, Professor, English

Sarofim Teaching Award  

           Shira Lander, Anna Smith Fine Senior Lecturer in Jewish Studies

Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business Award for Excellence in Teaching  

MBA for Executives Award for Teaching Excellence:  Robert Westbrook, Professor of Marketing

MBA for Professionals Evening Award for Teaching Excellence:  Prashant Kale, Associate Professor of Strategic Management

MBA for Professionals Weekend Award for Teaching Excellence:  Brian Rountree, Assistant Professor of Accounting

Full-Time MBA Award for Teaching Excellence:  James Weston, Professor in Finance

Alumni Award for Teaching Excellence:  Brian Rountree, Associate Professor of Accounting

Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize  

         Anthony Varilly-Alvarado, Assistant Professor, Mathematics


GSA Faculty Teaching/Mentoring Award  

         Leo Costello, Assistant Professor, Art History

         Helena Michie, Professor, English


Baker College:                       Tom Stallings, Professor in the Practice, Kinesiology

Brown College:                       Deborah Nelson-Campbell, Professor, French Studies

Duncan College                      Michelle Gilbertson, Lecturer, Chemistry 

Hanszen College:                    Mark Kulstad, Professor, Philosophy 

Jones College:                         Barry Dunning, Professor, Physics & Astronomy

Lovett College:                        Robert Curl, Professor Emeritus, Chemistry

Martel College:                       Frank Toffoletto, Professor, Physics & Astronomy

McMurtry College                  Royce Carroll, Assistant Professor, Political Science

Sid Richardson College:          J. Bernardo Perez, Associate Professor, Hispanic Studies

Wiess College:                         James Hannon, Professor Emeritus, Physics & Astronomy

Will Rice College                    Alma Novotny, Lecturer, Biochemistry & Cell Biology



Marie Speziale            Professor of Trumpet                                                                  11 yrs.

Sally Widener             Associate Professor of Accounting                                           12 yrs.

Kathleen Kaun            Lynne S. Autry Professor of Voice                                              15 yrs.

Susan Wood               Gladys Louise Fox Chair in English                                           32 yrs.

Linda Driskill              Professor of English and Management Communications           43 yrs.

John Hempel               Milton B. Porter Professor in Mathematics                                49 yrs.

Rex B. McLellan         Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science         49 yrs.


The meeting was adjourned at 1:10 p.m.