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Faculty Senate Meeting 

February 25, 2015 

Founder’s Room of Lovett Hall 

  

Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):  

 I.     Call to Order

II.    Announcements

III.   Reports from Officers and Standing Committees

       A.     Nominations & Elections Committee

       B.     CUC:  Revised GA text for Course Load, Transfer Credit (Approved) 

       C.     CUC:  Minor in Politics, Law, and Social Thought (Approved) 

IV.   Working Group Reports

       A.     Recommendations from the Working Group on the Faculty Ombuds (Endorsed) 

       B.     Recommendations from the Working Group on the Graduate Honor Council (Endorsed) 

 

Senators present:  Kate Beckingham, Gwen Bradford, David Caprette, Daniel Cohen, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Erik Dane, Claire Fanger, Julie Fette, Jeffrey Fleisher, Christopher Hight, Betty Joseph, Rachel Kimbro, Marek Kimmel, Michael Kohn, Anatoly Kolomeisky, David Leebron, Jonathan Ludwig, Susan McIntosh, George McLendon, Luay Nakhleh, Fred Oswald, Brian Rountree, Stan Sazykin, Laura Segatori, James Weston, and Michael Wolf.

Senators absent:  David Alexander, Robert Atherholt, Jerry Dickens, Michael Diehl, Illya Hicks, Susan Lurie, and Timothy Morton.

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

I.        Call to Order
Speaker James Weston called the meeting to order at 12:00 p.m.

II.       Announcements 

  •         Recent changes to Graduate Student Fellowships  

Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Seiichi Matsuda explained that fellowships for minority graduate students in the Schools of Humanities and Social Sciences are awarded in two ways: departments within those schools select students and the provost’s office selects a few additional students. However, the students who receive fellowships from the provost’s office are less prepared and often unable to complete the program. Matsuda said that control of the provost funds is going back to the departments in these schools. The funds might be used for additional graduate student fellowships, or to support fewer students with items such as tutors, books, or software.

  •        Concur 

Weston said that he has received many emails regarding problems with Concur, the university’s new expense reporting system. He said that while the Senate is advisory to the administration regarding curricular matters, it can also pass along to the administration the concerns expressed by faculty. Weston said that he had a conversation with Kathy Collins, Vice President for Finance, who is working hard to smooth the wrinkles out of the system.

  •         Grading Practices Discussions 

Weston reviewed the motion from the Working Group on Grade Inflation, approved March 2014 by the full Senate:  Every academic program that offers 100 to 300 level courses will have a faculty-wide discussion about grading practices before the end of the fall 2014 semester and thereafter at least once every 5 years. He then provided a list of the programs that have held their grading practices discussions:

Anthropology
Biochemistry & Cell Biology
Bioengineering
BioSciences
Center for Languages and Intercommunication (CLIC)
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Chemistry
Classical Studies
Computational & Applied Mathematics
Computer Science
Earth Science
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Economics
English
French Studies
History
Jones School of Business
Kinesiology
Linguistics
Mathematics
Mechanical Engineering
Naval Science
Philosophy
Physics & Astronomy
Political Science
Psychology
Religious Studies
School of Architecture
Shepherd School of Music
Sociology
Spanish & Portuguese
Statistics
Visual and Dramatic Arts

 

Weston said that a list of those departments that have not held their discussions would be presented in the April 2015 Senate meeting.

  •         Fewer Senate Meetings Fall 2015 

Weston explained that the Senate Constitution calls for a minimum of four meetings per academic year, but the recent practice has been to hold eight meetings per year. He said that the Executive Committee has discussed holding one fewer meeting during the fall semester. Weston asked the full Senate to consider the issue. The Senate agreed to hold three meetings in fall 2015, instead of the usual four: September 16, October 14, and November 18, 2015.

Senators also discussed the best use of time during Senate meetings. Mike Wolf said that some discussions held during Senate meetings can produce great results, such as the discussion regarding Fondren Library. Wolf asked that President Leebron present his priorities for the university at an upcoming Senate meeting, as he has done in the past. He also asked if the Senate could receive a list of the priorities two weeks in advance of the meeting. Susan McIntosh suggested that a few members of the Board of Trustees attend a Senate meeting, which has happened in the past. President Leebron said that he liked both of these ideas. He said that he would ask some board members to attend the March 2015 Senate meeting and that he would present his priorities at this meeting.

  •         Timing of Plenary Meetings 

Weston said that faculty members have expressed a desire to award Ph.D. degrees more than twice per year, especially since students who finish their Ph.D. requirements during the summer must wait until the January plenary session for their degrees to be awarded. Brian Rountree suggested that the September 2015 Faculty Senate meeting include a plenary session to approve degrees, as is done in January. He said that, in fact, the first part of every Senate meeting could be devoted to a plenary session to approve degrees. Registrar David Tenney said that some schools follow this practice, approving degrees once per month. Provost McLendon noted that the Senate meetings have as good or better attendance than the plenary sessions. None of the Senators voiced objections to the combined plenary-Senate meeting method of degree approval. Weston said that he would discuss the details with the registrar and then return the issue to the Senate

  •        Announcements from the floor 

There were no announcements from the floor.
 

III.        Report from Officers and Standing Committees 

A.     Deputy Speaker’s Report: Update on Nominations and Elections Committee 

Rachel Kimbro, Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC) chair, announced that the elections for the Promotion and Tenure Committee (Fall 2015-Spring 2018) were recently completed. Mark Jones will represent the School of Social Sciences, while Rebecca Richards-Kortum will represent the School of Engineering.

Kimbro said that nomination forms for the Faculty Senate were emailed to faculty this week, for terms beginning fall 2015. The deadline for completed forms to be submitted to the Senate is March 20, 2015.

Kimbro also stated that the NEC will meet March 11 to begin the process of staffing University Committees with faculty members.

 

B.     Revised text for the General Announcements regarding “Course Load” and “Transfer Credit” 

Susan McIntosh, chair of the University Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC), presented the revisions to the General Announcements regarding “Course Load” and “Transfer Credit,” recently approved by the CUC (shown in bold below).
 

Course Load:  

“Students must secure permission in writing from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduates before registering for courses if they want to:

§  Complete graduation requirements elsewhere

§  Register for less than 12 credits, which will move the student to part-time status 

§  Register concurrently at another institution, regardless of the delivery method of the course 

      1. In the absence of extenuating circumstances necessitating concurrent registration, such permission will not generally be granted 
      2. Credit for coursework at another college or university completed in a semester while enrolled at Rice will not be recorded by the Office of the Registrar without prior receipt of written permission from the Dean of Undergraduates.” 

Paragraph 3 of the Transfer Credit section: 

“After matriculation at Rice, students are limited to 15 semester hours of summer school transfer credit. This restriction is waived for credit earned during an official summer study abroad program through the Study Abroad Office. Additionally, transfer credit taken at another institution while concurrently enrolled at Rice is subject to Rice’s Course Load Policy <hyperlink to Course Load>. Individual departments may place additional restrictions on particular courses and/or institutions. Similarly, various majors, minors, certificates and degree programs may limit the amount of transfer credit that students may apply to them.”

 

Scott Cutler asked what happens when a student registers for 12 hours but later must drop a course. Dean Hutchinson said that students must obtain permission from his office before dropping to less than 12 hours, but if they drop below 12 hours, there can sometimes be financial aid implications.Tenney said that the opposite situation is more common. While students may only take a maximum of 20 hours per semester at Rice, some students are taking 21-25 hours in a semester by taking some courses at Rice and some elsewhere.

Keith Cooper asked McIntosh to define “institution,” and he asked if Coursera would be included. McIntosh replied that any institution where transfer credit might be earned would fall under this policy.

A senator moved that the Senate accept the revisions to the GA, and the motion was seconded. The Senate voted unanimously in favor of acceptance.

C.      Interdisciplinary minor in Politics, Law, and Social Thought 

Weston stated that the CUC approved the proposal for a new interdisciplinary minor in Politics, Law, and Social Thought, which was distributed to the faculty prior to the Senate meeting. Christian Emden (German Studies) explained that he and Carl Caldwell (History) were proposing the new minor, which he said is similar to a minor in political theory. Emden said that they worked with the CUC and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness to ensure that the proposal complied with SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) requirements. He said that a great deal of student interest exists for the minor. There was a motion to approve the proposal, and it was seconded. The Senate voted unanimously for approval. To view the proposal, please see: Politics, Law, and Social Thought.
 

IV.        Working Group Reports
A.  Working Group on Faculty Ombuds
 

Working Group chair Deborah Harter presented the report from the working group (see: Faculty Ombuds) which had been provided to the faculty prior to the meeting. Harter reviewed the working group’s charge: The working group will study the advisability of establishing a faculty ombuds and report to the Senate by the end of March 2015.
 

Harter listed the members of the working group, which included both faculty members and administrators:

Deborah Harter (Chair)                                  French Studies

Margaret Beier                                               Psychology

Carl Caldwell                                                 History

Mary Cronin                                                   Associate Vice President for Human Resources

Jane Grande-Allen                                          Bioengineering, Faculty Advisor to President

Tom Killian                                                     Physics and Astronomy

Paula Sanders                                                 Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

James Weston                                                 School of Business, Faculty Senate Speaker

Harter presented the working group’s recommendations to the Senate:
 

I.      We unanimously recommend that an ombuds position be established for the Rice faculty.  

II.     We unanimously recommend that the Faculty Senate be involved in the hiring of the ombuds as well as in a periodical review of the ombuds. 

III.    We unanimously recommend that the ombuds report to the president of the university.  

Harter explained the process that the working group used to come to its conclusions. She said that using research provided by the Office of Faculty Development, the working group learned that the majority of Rice’s peer institutions have an ombuds office. The members of the working group then examined, using public documents, the ombuds offices at 14 different institutions, and interviewed ombuds officers (or their associates) directly at such institutions as Brown, Duke, MIT, and Northwestern.  The working group also collected data from past and current Rice school deans, Speakers of the Faculty Senate, and Faculty Advisors to the President.
 

Harter said that the group discussed existing resources at Rice for conflict resolution. Rice faculty members with a conflict or complaint turn to their department chairs, deans, the provost, the VPAA, or faculty representatives such as the Faculty Senate Speaker and the Faculty Advisor to the President. However, she pointed out that no office at Rice is specifically charged with informal conflict resolution for faculty. Harter said that an organizational ombuds could ensure the confidentiality that eludes institutional personnel and structures, and he/she could provide both the time and appropriateness of status that faculty representatives do not have. 
 

Harter provided the definition of an ombuds, according to the International Ombudsman Association. “The primary duties of such an officer are (1) to work with individuals and groups in an organization to explore and assist them in determining options to help resolve conflicts, problematic issues or concerns, and (2) to bring systemic concerns to the attention of the organization for resolution.”

 

Harter reviewed how an ombuds could potentially add to current resources at Rice:

  • As an avenue for resolving conflicts at the earliest possible stage, an ombuds could forestall a percentage of formal grievances, saving the time, energy, and money of the university and its members. 
  • While an ombuds position represents an expense for the university, it has the potential to lower costs overall by (1) resolving long-simmering conflicts that reduce productivity; (2) defusing conflicts and crises before they reach the stage of formal grievances requiring extensive committee work; and (3) reducing stress at the workplace.
  • An ombuds would provide faculty members with a person, not merely an office, to whom they could turn for clarification with regard to organizational structures and procedures at Rice.
  • As a professional in conflict resolution, trained and supported by a broader ombuds organization, such an officer could help determine the gravity of a problem, recommend resources of which the faculty member might not be aware, speak informally with relevant individuals, and defuse conflicts.
  • An ombuds could serve as a neutral interlocutor not just for faculty but also for chairs or deans in the context of any sensitive or complicated discussion.  
  • An ombuds could help to identify and clarify inconsistencies and gaps in existing policies and procedures.  (He or she could not resolve such issues, but would be able to report them to leaders of faculty or administration.)  
  • Establishing an ombuds at Rice could result in a more positive work climate, signaling that faculty concerns are important and taken seriously.
  • Administrative officers have the critical task of promoting and protecting the interests of the university.  An impartial ombuds provides, instead, a safe place to seek advice and to air concerns, and in this sense does not act as an officer of the university.

Harter said that the working group had two issues for which it did not find complete consensus: 1) what sort of ombuds office to recommend, and 2) whether Rice needs to consider an ombuds who would serve not just the faculty but broader constituencies. Harter stressed, though, that the working group did not want the latter issue to delay establishing an ombuds for the faculty.

Harter briefly reviewed three models of ombuds offices:
 

Model 1 A faculty member as ombuds (late in career or retired)

A member of the faculty, current or retired, could serve as faculty ombuds for a certain set term. The ombuds would ideally have an office on campus – separate from their faculty office – from which to carry out their ombuds duties.  There would be remuneration for this person’s time and effort.

Model 2A professional ombuds

A professional ombuds would be trained in conflict resolution, mediation, and ethics, and would be certified by, and a member of, the International Ombudsman Association (IOA). This person would be housed in a private office on campus.

Model 3A professional ombuds on contract (as needed)

This model is similar to Model 2 in that a professional ombuds would be trained and certified in conflict resolution and mediation, and she or he would be a member of the IOA. This person would not be housed on campus but rather called upon “as needed.” 

Finally, Harter presented “The Actions We Urge the Senate to Take”
 

A.     To approve our recommendations 

B.     To invite to Rice one, or perhaps two, ombudsmen from other institutions (local or distant, and perhaps to include someone we have already spoken with) to share their insights 

C.     To proceed with the forming of a second committee whose task it will be, in consultation with the President, to work out the nuts and bolts of implementation.
 

Following this presentation, a question and answer session followed, during which Harter provided examples of situations in which an ombuds could be useful. She was also asked if the ombuds offices at peer institutions primarily serve faculty. Harter replied that these offices usually serve multiple constituencies, and by using a variety of ombuds models.

 

McIntosh asked if the working group was able to assess how much time previous Faculty Senate Speakers spent on conflict resolution and how often they felt inadequate. McIntosh said that issues such as bullying or harassment could be very difficult to handle. Harter agreed that some of the problems that faculty face could be profound.
 

President Leebron said that although he did not want to disagree with the recommendations, he wondered how the ombuds office would interact with the formal processes already in place. He said it would be a problem if someone in the midst of the tenure process, grievance process, or in some kind of disciplinary process, then turned to the ombuds office.
 

As to McIntosh’s question about Faculty Senate Speakers, Leebron said it would be hard to assess the need for an ombuds that way; it would depend upon each one’s personality and visibility as to how often they were approached by faculty members. Regarding the Faculty Advisor to the President, he said that this person goes out and talks to faculty members and brings to him a collective sense of concerns or questions, but not individuals’ complaints.
 

Leebron said that he agreed with the working group’s assessment that a need exists for conflict resolution at the department level, and at the school level, for those who feel wronged but do not want to invoke a formal process; an informal process could work.
 

Leebron also said that the last bullet point under “The Actions We Urge the Senate to Take” should be revised. He said that the Senate should either formulate a recommendation to the president, for the president to do with that recommendation as he and the administration decide, or the wording should be “… the president in consultation with the committee…” 

 

Harter agreed with President Leebron’s revision of the last bullet point. She also agreed that the ombuds should not interfere with formal processes. She said that one goal of the ombuds would be to prevent formal grievances from occurring.
 

Weston asked the senators if they wished to endorse the recommendations from the working group. There was a motion to endorse and it was seconded. The Senate voted to approve the motion to endorse the recommendations, with four senators abstaining.
 

Weston thanked Harter, and Harter thanked the members of the working group.
 

B.     Recommendations from the Working Group on the Honor Council 

Weston said that last year’s Senate Working Group on the Honor Council and Graduate Students, chaired by Graham Bader, recommended the formation and a general outline of a Graduate Honor Council, which the Faculty Senate approved. He said that the task for this year’s Working Group on the Graduate Honor Council (GHC) was to draw up the practices and procedures for the GHC. Prior to the meeting, the working group’s “Graduate Honor Council Policies and Procedures” document was distributed to faculty, in which it is stated that the GHC adopts the spirit of the constitution, by-laws, and procedures of the Honor Council except as modified by GHC Policies and Procedures. (Please see: GHC Policies and Procedures.)

Duane Windsor, chair, thanked the members of the working group, listed below, and noted that there were three members in attendance at today’s Senate meeting.

Keith Cooper                        School of Engineering
Elaine Ecklund                     School of Social Sciences
Christian Emden                  School of Humanities
Lynn Fahey                          GSA Representative
Michael Kohn                      School of Natural Sciences
Don Ostdiek                        Associate Dean of Undergraduates
Kyle Rojas                           Jones Student Association Representative
Duane Windsor (chair)        Jones Graduate School of Business

Windsor explained that the working group made two substantive changes from the previous working group’s report. First, the previous group called for the GHC to consist of six persons: three faculty members and three graduate students. He said that the revised recommendation is for the GHC to consist of eight persons:  four faculty members and four graduate students, due to the possibility of recusal, and using a distribution system outlined in the document.
 

Windsor said that the second substantive change was to add a third type of violation to the previous two types identified by the first working group. That group specified that research violations would be sent to the Research Integrity Office (RIO), while coursework violations would be sent to the GHC. Windsor said that the current working group discovered a third issue, “Advanced Degree Requirements Violations,” such as thesis and language exams violations. Windsor said that, as is currently done under the Honor Council, these type of violations would be sent to the department chair.
 

Windsor said that through the Senate’s wiki site, he had received three questions. The first question had to do with students pursuing a master’s program through the School of Continuing Studies. Windsor explained that a student who is enrolled in a master’s and/or doctoral degree program would be subject to the GHC jurisdiction, and the registrar would be able to determine the classification of any student.
 

The second question received via the wiki site was regarding interdisciplinary graduate programs, which may not have a single person identified as the department chair. Windsor said that this issue requires a slight revision in the document; see underlining below:

4c. In accord with Article III, Section 3, of the Honor Council Constitution, other than research integrity violations, "Any violation involving advanced degree requirements other than course work (i.e., language exams, theses, [dissertations], etc.) will be referred to the proper department chair."  In interdisciplinary programs, the “department chair” shall be the substitute governance entity. 

Windsor said that the third question from the wiki site was regarding fifth year master’s programs, where Rice undergraduates can complete bachelor and master degrees in a combined program of study. He said that there could be two variations, subject to university classification of student status, again by the registrar’s office:

Variation 1 – The student has received the bachelor degree and continues toward completion of the master degree.  Classification: graduate student (has moved to post-baccalaureate status).

Variation 2 – The student has not received (or has postponed receipt of) the bachelor degree and is simultaneously working toward completion of the master degree.  Classification: undergraduate student.
 

Windsor asked the senators if there were any other variations of student status. One senator asked about visiting post-baccalaureate students. Another senator asked about the fifth year students in the School of Architecture. For both cases, Windsor said that unless a student was clearly a graduate student, it seemed best that the student be referred to the (current, undergraduate) Honor Council for any violations of the Honor Code.
 

Windsor then addressed the "Diagram of Routes to Process Honor Code Violations," shown HEREWindsor was asked if there should there be an arrow from the department chair back to the DPGS or GHC. He replied that the diagram does not show every communication channel, but the document includes the many kinds of cross communication that are required.

Windsor was also asked how a plagiarized thesis would be handled. Windsor said that it would be a department issue because the remedy, or penalty, is whether the student would be allowed to continue. Windsor said that just like the Honor Council, the GHC is best used for coursework violations. He said that if a dissertation includes a plagiarized paragraph, the department would have to decide whether that student could continue or not.

Matsuda said that violations of this type are currently handled by the RIO. Windsor said that the working group did not wish to specify that only the department chair could address this type of violation. Matsuda also said that it would be difficult for the department chair to handle the very complicated cases.

Windsor said that the working group focused on typical course work violations that would go to the GHC, while recognizing that there are violations that should go to the RIO or department chairs/deans. Keith Cooper, a member of the working group, added that the group focused on the GHC and did not try to tell the RIO or DGPS how to handle their issues.

Weston asked the Senate if they wished to endorse the report. There was a motion to endorse the recommendations of the working group, which was seconded.

A senator asked if this action would formally establish the GHC using the description outlined in the report. Weston said that the Faculty Senate is the governance mechanism by which the faculty manage the curriculum and the academic affairs of our students. Weston said that a portion of this task was outsourced to the undergraduate judicial system, which the Senate is now modifying. Weston said that if the Senate votes to endorse the recommendations, the GHC would be established and begin hearing cases July 1, 2015.

Matsuda wished to clarify that the working group designed the GHC, but he had not been involved with the working group’s discussions, and he had remaining questions. Windsor discussed items such as file storage and the appeals process, which he said would be better determined by senior administrative personnel, and not by the working group. Working group members Keith Cooper and Christian Emden added that the group tried to create flexibility for administrators in the system since the appropriate course of action for many cases could be unclear. Windsor explained that with respect to graduate students, department chairs 'reported' to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Students, who thus had considerable discretion with how to proceed.

Windsor said that the GHC was designed to address course work violations by graduate students and that all other violations should be handled by other entities.
 

Weston then called for a vote on the motion to endorse the recommendations. The Senate voted unanimously for approval. Weston thanked Windsor and the other members of the working group.
 

The meeting was adjourned at 1:50 p.m.