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Faculty Senate Meeting
April 22, 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.     Update from the Task Force on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty
        B.     University Committee on Teaching (Endorsed pilot program for course evaluations)
        C.     Nominations and Elections Committee (Election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker) 

IV.   New Business

       A.     General Announcements Language regarding Non-Traditional Coursework (Approved)
       B.      Honor System (Approved formation of task force/working group)
       C.      Possible agenda items for 2015-2016

Senators present:  David Alexander,Robert Atherholt, Gwen Bradford, David Caprette, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Erik Dane, Jerry Dickens, Jeffrey Fleisher, Illya Hicks, Christopher Hight, Betty Joseph, Rachel Kimbro, Marek Kimmel, Anatoly Kolomeisky, David Leebron, Jonathan Ludwig, Susan Lurie, George McLendon, Timothy Morton, Luay Nakhleh, Brian Rountree, Stan Sazykin, Laura Segatori, James Weston, and Michael Wolf.

Senators absent:  Kate Beckingham, Daniel Cohen, Michael Diehl, Claire Fanger, Julie Fette, Michael Kohn, Susan McIntosh, and Fred Oswald.

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 12:05 p.m. He welcomed the assembled senators and guests to the meeting.

II.   Announcements 

  •  Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Klara Jelinkova was officially introduced to the Senate. She discussed her background in industry and in leadership positions at other universities, as well as her goals for Rice.
  • Weston welcomed the two senators newly elected to three-year terms beginning fall 2015, Charles Geyer (Shepherd School of Music) and Kerry Ward (Humanities), as well as those re-elected to serve: Scott Cutler and Jonathan Ludwig (Non-Tenure-Track Teaching), Christopher Hight (Architecture), Erik Dane (Jones Graduate School of Business), Keith Cooper and Michael Diehl (Engineering), Rachel Kimbro and Susan McIntosh (Social Sciences), Robert Atherholt (Shepherd School, one-year term), and Graham Bader (Humanities, returning from sabbatical). Weston thanked departing senators Betty Joseph and Susan Lurie (Humanities), and Brian Rountree (Jones School).
  • Senate End of Year Party:  Friday, May 8, at Valhalla, beginning at 4:00 p.m.
  • Plenary Session of the Faculty: Thursday, May 14, 10 a.m., Sewall Hall 301
  • Every department at Rice held discussions this year regarding their grading practices, as requested by the Senate.
  • The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) task force has selected two main themes, of which the university administration will choose one: Communication and Experiential Learning. A new task force will be formed for implementation of the QEP. The Senate voted unanimously to endorse the two themes.
  • Board of Trustees (BOT) members Bobby Tudor (Chair), Edward Adams, and Memo Trevino each introduced themselves to the Senate and briefly discussed their backgrounds. Their remarks are summarized below.

Tudor said that the most important resource at Rice is its faculty. He said that while the goal of the BOT is to help Rice improve in areas that need improvement, he also said that he learned from the last chair to “do no harm.” He said that Rice’s challenge comes in trying to balance the scope of its ambition with its size.

Adams described the BOT’s Academic Affairs Subcommittee, the Audit Subcommittee, the Building and Grounds Subcommittee, and the Trustees Subcommittee, which offers suggestions to the full BOT for future members.

Tudor said that one job of the BOT is to make sure that the finances of the university are sound, and he noted that Rice’s AAA credit rating was recently confirmed. He said that the BOT oversees the endowment, which funds approximately 60% of Rice’s operating budget. He said that the BOT is sensitive to tuition costs, and he noted that an advantage that Rice has always enjoyed is its comparatively affordable tuition. Tudor also said that the BOT wants Rice to be proactive in digital education.

Senator Mike Wolf asked Tudor which areas at Rice needed improvement. Tudor replied that there was a great diversity of opinion among the BOT members, but overall, he said that it is increasingly difficult to be as broad and as excellent as Rice wants to be. Wolf said that, in his opinion, the size of the Rice faculty was too small and grows too slowly. He said that this small size is a disadvantage in recruiting and in having a diverse faculty. Tudor replied that growing the size of the faculty would be difficult.

Wolf asked Tudor if he expected any current programs to be cut. Tudor said that although Rice made a commitment a long time ago to maintain excellence in Humanities and Social Sciences, and not become just a pre-professional school, he would guess that there would be more cuts in the future. Adams said that the BOT does not envision the faculty becoming smaller, but some programs may get smaller or be eliminated.

Senator David Alexander asked, in areas where Rice has advantages, which ones the BOT would like to grow. Tudor discussed programs that cross disciplines. He said that due to the investment in the Economics department, other areas became stronger, such as the Jones Graduate School of Business, and the Social Sciences in general.  He added that while all areas of Rice have new and distinguishing ideas, and the BOT wants to support them, resources are limited.

Professor Helena Michie asked the BOT members to describe the role of Humanities in the future. Tudor said that it was important to have students broadly educated, and that exposure to the Humanities was essential. He said that the question was, to what degree, noting the time-consuming courses required in the sciences. Michie stated that his reply was putting Humanities in a supportive role, and she asked that it be discussed by itself. Tudor replied that the BOT sees Humanities as a discipline worthy of support. He said that there was no sentiment on the BOT to back away from Rice being a broad-based university. Trevino said that Rice has to respond to students’ demands for a broader mix of experiences from higher education. Adams said that the BOT wants a School of Humanities that is world-class, but they also want students who are majoring in other areas to be exposed to Humanities.

Following the exit of the BOT members, President Leebron provided additional information about the BOT. He said that two of the three new BOT members are women, one-half to two-thirds are from Texas, and two-thirds are Rice graduates. Leebron said that the BOT members are asked to attend the meetings and to make Rice a big part of their financial philanthropy.

Leebron said that the BOT is fully aligned with faculty aspirations. He said the BOT has to be both prudent and bold, and that the current BOT is quite willing to respond to innovation. He also said that the BOT members understand the difference between governance and advice.

Wolf asked Leebron how the BOT members acquired expertise in academic matters, noting that they had mentioned several contemporary education topics. Leebron replied that prior to his arrival at Rice, only vice presidents attended the BOT meetings. He said that now the deans of the schools attend the meetings, many groups make presentations to the BOT, and some BOT members sit on boards in various parts of the university. Leebron said that the Academic Affairs Subcommittee hears from students and from faculty, including Speaker Weston, and some BOT members have had children attend Rice. Leebron suggested that five or six senators at a time could arrange to have lunch with BOT members, with the goal of involving about half of the Faculty Senate.
 

III.   Reports from Officers and Standing Committees 

A.     Update from the Task Force on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty 

Weston stated that last fall, the Faculty Senate approved the recommendations from the Task Force on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty (linked HERE). He asked Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Paula Sanders to provide an update on implementation of the recommendations.

Sanders stated that of the five approved recommendations, the one that requires the most work is to create a category of non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty career-track teaching positions. She said that high-level characterizations of three positions are being articulated (Assistant Teaching Professor, Associate Teaching Professor, and Full Teaching Professor), which will become policy. She added that the timeline calls for full implementation of the recommendations by June 30, 2016. Sanders said that she has been working with a variety of entities including the university’s legal counsel, the provost, the president, groups of tenured and tenure-track faculty, and NTT faculty. She said that she plans to meet with the provost-designate Miranda, and that she would be happy to meet with faculty groups or individuals who might have questions. Sanders said that she would be working on this issue throughout the summer, and she plans to have information for the first Faculty Senate meeting in the fall.

Wolf voiced concern about the term “non-tenure-track” faculty, saying that normally people are not described with traits they do not have. Sanders said that her office was concerned with respectful nomenclature. She said that for the time being, the term “non-tenure-track” is being used because it is a known term, but she said that she was trying to find better labels. She asked for patience, saying that writing the characterizations for policy is the most important issue right now. Sanders said that several proposals would come to the Senate regarding University Policy 201.

Sanders was also asked about the plan in which not all of the current teaching faculty would be appointed to one of the three new positions.  She indicated that this was correct, that she is discussing it with deans, and the resulting morale issues are a concern of hers.

Senator Keith Cooper asked Sanders about possible changes for NTT research faculty. Sanders said that her office is working on that as well, but she said that the NTT research faculty category already exists in University Policy 327.

B.     University Committee on Teaching 

Weston explained that the Working Group on Grade Inflation recommended that the University Committee on Teaching review the current teaching and course evaluations by students, and the recommendation was approved by the Faculty Senate. Weston said that the committee complied with the request, forming a subcommittee to research the issue and report to the Senate.

University Committee chair Mike Gustin introduced the co-chairs of the subcommittee, Betsy Barre and Randy Batsell. Batsell explained to the Senate (power point presentation linked HERE) the findings of the subcommittee, also shown below.

The teaching and course evaluations have three primary uses: 

1)      Assist faculty in improving their teaching;

2)      Assist students with relevant information as they select which courses to take; and,

3)      Assist decision-makers in the case of salaries, promotion and tenure. 

Batsell said that after the committee members reached out to stakeholders regarding their satisfaction with the current teaching and course evaluation system at Rice, they discovered that despite a few positives with the current system, there was general dissatisfaction driven by several key points: 

1)      The system was never fully validated -- that, is there was no objective, research-based evidence that good scores on our instruments are significantly related to greater student learning;

2)      The system does not address some teaching behaviors known to advance learning;

3)      In evaluating faculty teaching quality, the system does not control for factors like class size, composition of class (required or elective, student rank, class size, etc.).  Moreover, no stakeholder group seemed to feel our current system was ideal in serving any one of the three uses above.

Barre explained that as the possibility of replacing the current system began to look desirable, a smaller group of the subcommittee spent the spring semester assessing alternative systems. The working group consisted of Barre, Fred Oswald, and Scott Solomon. Three options were considered: 1) use the current Rice form, 2) use one of five external forms, or 3) use one of the external forms plus a Rice “Homegrown Revision.” The final recommendation from the working group to the University Committee on Teaching was to use one of the external forms (IDEA) as a pilot project. The University Committee on Teaching unanimously approved the recommendation.

At this point in the presentation, Batsell explained the questions that the committee considering in making its recommendation. He also described the benefits of using IDEA, shown below:

1)      It has been validated with hundreds of thousands of students, thousands of courses, and is currently used at hundreds of universities;

2)      This instrument is the most thorough and it adds questions on many dimensions of teaching and learning that our current system does not have;

3)      Responses to items on the instrument can help faculty improve teaching behavior.  Along with the additional value provided by the instrument, the methodology by which the data is captured (on-line, by smart phone, etc.) and the methods for analyzing, comparing, and detailing the results brings the process into the current state of the art, technologically speaking.  Finally, this instrument and a project piloting its introduction will facilitate progress on the NTT evaluation system currently being discussed.

Batsell said that the IDEA instrument could be run in parallel with the current system in a few selected courses and the results evaluated in advance of taking any further steps.  He said that the pilot could be run in the fall semester or spring semester of 2015-2016.

During the discussion that followed the presentation, Weston stated that while the Faculty Senate has jurisdiction over academic matters, it cannot make budget decisions. He said that the Senate could endorse the committee’s recommendation, and it would become a budget request to the administration, just like all other budget requests.

There was a motion for the Senate to endorse the recommendation, and it was seconded. The senators then voted unanimously for endorsement. The committee received a hearty round of applause for their work.

C.     Nominations and Elections Committee 

The Senate elected James Weston to serve as Speaker and Rachel Kimbro as Deputy Speaker for the 2015-2016 academic year. There were no other nominees.

Weston presented the slate for the Executive Committee:

Engineering: Laura Segatori

Humanities:   Graham Bader, Julie Fette

Natural Sciences: Anatoly Kolomeisky

Non-Tenure-Track Faculty: Stan Sazykin

Social Sciences: Rachel Kimbro

Professional Schools: Christopher Hight, James Weston

Weston said that alternate slates are welcome. The Executive Committee will be elected in the first Senate meeting of the fall semester.

IV.    New Business 

A.     General Announcements Language regarding Non-Traditional Coursework

Weston stated that the University Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC) approved the following language for the General Announcements, as had the Senate’s Executive Committee:

“Courses tailored for individual students provide a valuable opportunity for them to pursue an academic or professional interest under the supervision of a Rice faculty member. Such courses are typically titled as independent study or research, directed reading, or internships. Although the organization of these courses is quite variable, they are subject to the same basic requirements as other course offerings. In particular: 

- The subject matter and intellectual level of the course must be appropriate for Rice. 

- The instructor of record must hold a regular faculty appointment at Rice. This instructor is responsible for submitting the final grade, in consultation with the student's immediate supervisor, if appropriate. 

- The course must have a written syllabus that meets published Rice Syllabus Standards (link). In addition, the syllabus must include a description of anticipated activities and topical content.  

- Credit hours assigned are subject to the same amount-of-work considerations as other courses. Credit hours will be awarded in accordance with the Rice credit-hour policy (link), and fixed at the time of registration. 

- All Registrar deadlines for registration, add/drop, completion of course work, and grade submission must be met.” 

Weston was asked what would happen if the student cannot complete the program by the deadline. Registrar David Tenney replied that this situation occurs today, and the student simply petitions the University Committee for Examinations and Standing for an exception to the rule. Senator Christopher Hight noted that this language follows the guidelines currently being used in the School of Architecture. The Senate voted unanimously to approve the language for the 2015-2016 General Announcements.

B.     Honor System 

Weston said that the faculty, represented by the Faculty Senate, has responsibility for academics, including academic assessment, and it has been a while since the faculty has reviewed the honor system. He suggested that a broad task force be formed with this charge: “Assess the current state of the honor system at Rice and recommend any change, if needed.”

Senator Brian Rountree asked if this request had anything to do with the newly formed Graduate (student) Honor Council. Weston replied that although this issue came from undergraduate concerns, the entire system would be reviewed. He also discussed briefly the role of technology within the honor system.

There was a motion to approve the task force, which was seconded. The senators voted unanimously for approval. Weston said that the Executive Committee would begin forming the task force.

C.     Possible Agenda Items From Senators 

1.  The administration is asked to resolve, prior to July 1, 2015, the problems that some departments are facing with Concur.

2.  The administration is asked to consider an alternate work/salary plan for the staff members who work in locations such as the residential colleges. During spring break, these employees do not have work to perform and are thus not paid a salary.  It was suggested that alternate work on campus could be found for them to perform during the break, especially if Rice were to adopt a two-week spring break in the future.

3.  The Senate is asked to consider policy changes to our current grade reporting deadlines, perhaps proposed to the Senate by the registrar. Faculty members who wait until the last minute to report their grades cause a great deal of work for the registrar’s office.

4.  The Senate is asked to consider discontinuing the practice of reading aloud the Latin Honors recipients at the commencement service. Weston said that he would discuss this issue with the Executive Committee.
 

President Leebron spoke regarding item number 2. He said that the administration has focused on assisting lower-paid workers on campus with actions such as reducing fees for parking and the recreation center, and he is proud of the administration’s record in this area.

Leebron asked that members of the Faculty Senate attend the 2015 University Teaching Award Ceremony and Reception, April 28, from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.