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Combined Plenary Meeting of the Faculty
and Faculty Senate Meeting
January 27, 2016

 

Plenary Meeting Agenda:

I.    Call to Order

II.   Presentation of Undergraduate Degrees (Approved)

III.  Presentation of Graduate Degrees (Approved)

IV.  Adjourn to Senate Meeting

Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):

I.  Announcements
     A.  Speaker Weston
     B.  Implementation of NTT Task Force Recommendations (VPAA Paula Sanders)
     C.  Strategic Initiatives, Creative Ventures website (Provost Miranda)
     D.  Update regarding Admissions (VP Chris Munoz)
     E.  Update regarding Digital Education (VP Caroline Levander)

II.  Working Group Reports
     New Course Review Process (Working Group Chair Susan McIntosh)

Senators present: David Alexander, Graham Bader, Gwen Bradford, Dave Caprette, Daniel Cohen, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Claire Fanger, Julie Fette, Charles Geyer, Christopher Hight, Illya Hicks, Rachel Kimbro, Anatoly Kolomeisky, Jonathan Ludwig, Susan McIntosh, Marie Lynn Miranda, Stephan Motowidlo, Brian Rountree, Stan Sazykin, James Weston, and Michael Wolf.

Senators absent: Robert Atherholt, Kate Beckingham, Jerry Dickens, Michael Diehl, Jeffrey Fleisher, Marek Kimmel, Michael Kohn, David Leebron, Timothy Morton, Luay Nakhleh, Laura Segatori, and Kerry Ward.

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

 

                                          Plenary Meeting of the Faculty

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

II.  Presentation of Undergraduate Degrees
Elias Bongmba, Chair of the University Committee for Examinations and Standing (EX&S), announced that EX&S voted unanimously in its meeting of January 25, 2016, to endorse the list of December 2015 undergraduate degree candidates, as prepared by the registrar. Bongmba announced that there were no exceptions being put forward, and that EX&S’s endorsement comes to the faculty as a motion to accept the list for conferral. Bongmba and Registrar David Tenney presented the following information:

Recommended Undergraduate Degrees– Conferral Date: December 30, 2015 # Degrees
Bachelor of Arts (BA) 97
Bachelor of Science (BS) 3
Bachelor of Music (BMUS) 1
BS in Bioengineering (BSBE) 1
BS in Chemical Engineering (BSCHE) 1
BS in Civil Engineering (BSCE) 1
BS in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) 3
BS in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) 3
Total (Undergraduate Degrees) 110
Bachelor of Architecture (UP degree) 1
Grand Total (Undergraduate Degrees) 111

 

Tenney explained that the December list of 108 students (111 degrees) included 14 transfer students. He said that of the remaining 94 students, 8 required 6 or more years to graduate, 45 students graduated in 4-6 years, and 41 graduated in less than 4 years.

A motion was made to approve the December 2015 list of degree candidates, it was seconded, and the assembled faculty members unanimously approved the awarding of the degrees.

III.  Presentation of Graduate Degrees
Graduate Council Chair Kathy Ensor announced that the Graduate Council voted unanimously in its meeting of January 21, 2015, to endorse the list of December 2015 graduate degree candidates, as prepared by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the registrar. Ensor said that there were no exceptions being put forward, and that Graduate Council’s endorsement comes to the faculty as a motion to accept the list for conferral.

A motion was made to approve the December 2015 list of graduate degree candidates, it was seconded, and the assembled faculty members unanimously voted for approval.


IV.   Adjourn to Faculty Senate Meeting


                                          Faculty Senate Meeting

I.  Announcements

     A.  Speaker Weston

Weston welcomed Illya Hicks, who returns to serve in the Senate following his fall 2015 sabbatical, as well as Brian Rountree, who will serve in the Senate for the spring 2016 semester while Erik Dane is on sabbatical leave.

Weston announced that the Executive Committee recently approved the formation of a working group to “arrive at a common core group of questions which will be appropriate to include in all dean reviews regardless of school,” per the “Review of Deans” policy, approved by the Senate in October 2014. He said that Julie Fette would chair the working group.

Weston asked if there were any announcements from the floor, there were none.

     B.  Implementation of NTT Task Force Recommendations
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs (VPAA) Paula Sanders explained that a Faculty Senate working group led to the formation of the Non-Tenure-Track Faculty (NTT) Task Force, which was comprised of faculty and administrators. Sanders said that the NTT Task Force disbanded after its recommendations were accepted, but several of its members are still engaged in its implementation. She said that she wished to thank the many individuals who have worked for several years on this issue.

VPAA Sanders discussed the proposed changes to University Policy 201, and she said that additional changes to the policy would come later. Sanders said that three or four different versions of Policy 201 currently exist, some parts are no longer relevant, and the administration would work on consolidating the versions of the policy next year. Weston thanked Sanders for the update regarding the progress in implementing the NTT Task Force recommendations.

Scott Cutler (one of the four senators representing NTT faculty) then addressed the Senate. Cutler said that he met with Sanders for 1.5 hours the previous day regarding the proposed changes to Policy 201. He said that Sanders suggested that he present a “friendly amendment” to the Senate following her presentation. Cutler stated the four categories in his presentation: typos/inconsistencies, items needing clarification, unnecessary differences between TT (tenure track) and NTT faculty, and Professors in the Practice. Please view the presentations from Sanders and Cutler on the wiki site, linked HERE.

Weston thanked Cutler for his careful and diligent reading of Policy 201. Weston also explained that the role of the Faculty Senate is advisory to the administration regarding University Policies. He said that the senators would not be asked to approve the information presented by Sanders, but they could endorse it.

Mike Wolf expressed concern with use of the term “non-tenure-track,” saying that it defines people by listing qualities they do not have. He said that titles exist to define research and teaching positions, reflecting what people do, and he advocated for their use.

Wolf stated a second concern, located in University Policy 201, Section 3.c.1.b. regarding the teaching professor ranks, which states: “… (pedagogical research may be regarded for promotion considerations).” Wolf wondered if research was required for promotion, and if so, he said that it should be supported with resources from the administration. Overall, Wolf said that he did not agree with use of the word “may.” He said that the duties and criteria for promotion should describe what happens for everyone; there should be one process for all, otherwise unfair practices could develop.

In her reply, Sanders agreed that the word “may” should not belong in a policy, and she said that her office is working on a guidelines document that would include a range of activities that could be considered when someone is being reviewed for promotion. David Alexander suggested using caution when making a list of possible contributions for promotion. He said that the requirements should be listed, and that clarity was needed. Wolf agreed, saying that the criteria for promotion should be uniform. Sanders said that she would take these concerns under advisement and discuss them with the provost and the Teaching Professor Promotion Committee (TPPC).

Dave Caprette said that he would like a clear set of expectations provided to new faculty. Sanders said that expectations would indeed be clear. She also said that the TPPC would provide oversight of the entire process for NTT promotions, similar to the role of the Promotion and Tenure Committee for tenure-track faculty, to ensure that the right items are being considered for promotion.

Stan Sazykin asked for a timeline for the proposed revisions to University Policy 327. Sanders said that she would bring those revisions to the Senate later this spring.

The discussion then turned to the number of positions available under the new titles. Sanders said that not all (current) lecturers would be appointed to the new ranks. She said that the deans of the schools have been asked as to their long-term needs; it will be up to the deans and the departments as to how many faculty members will be appointed to the new ranks at this time.

Deputy Speaker Rachel Kimbro asked the assembled senators if they would endorse the proposed changes to University Policy 201, along with the advisory comments, although she and Speaker Weston stressed that the role of the Senate was advisory to the administration regarding policy. The senators present indicated their support.

     C.  Strategic Initiatives, Creative Ventures website
Provost Miranda spoke about Rice’s three strategic initiatives, first announced in September 2015 (see announcement HERE), which includes molecular nanotechnology, data sciences, and research competitiveness. She said that the research competitiveness initiative includes an enhanced postdoctoral program, and that 14 finalists have been chosen out of 100 applicants. Miranda said that she was excited about the candidates, and she thanked the senior faculty fellows for their contributions.

Miranda said that $1 million is given to faculty members each year to fund pilot projects. She announced the upcoming Creative Ventures website, which will serve as an umbrella site for the submission of projects for funding. Miranda noted that with two deadlines per year, there would be an opportunity each semester to submit ideas for funding. She encouraged faculty members to look for the announcement email to come soon.

     D.  Undergraduate Admissions

Vice President for Enrollment Chris Munoz presented the Senate with information regarding the characteristics of the undergraduate students enrolled at Rice. Munoz explained that President Leebron’s “Call to Conversation” several years ago led to the “Vision for the Second Century,” which included the goal of increasing the undergraduate population by 30%. Munoz said that this goal was not to be achieved at the expense of student quality (academic preparation), and it included aspirations to increase diversity at Rice, not just ethnically or racially, but also geographically. Munoz said that Rice has achieved this goal, and he presented several informational slides to the Senate, from a presentation first given to the Rice Board of Trustees. Please view the slides HERE.

During the presentation, Munoz noted that more students with the very highest SAT scores (1550-1600) have matriculated at Rice in recent years, with one consequence being that many students who are friends of Rice and who have high SAT scores are no longer being accepted. He said that Rice’s admit rate is approximately 15%.

Regarding the geographic origin of students, Munoz said that Rice often has to deal with the negative perceptions of Texas that exist, especially with families who live in the northeastern United States. He said that the admissions office works hard to get families to visit Houston, and to come see the pretty Rice campus. He also stated that Rice currently has foreign national students from 26 countries, up from 16, and that the goal is to have 10-20% of each class consisting of foreign students.

Munoz said that while the state of Texas will still have growth in the number of high school graduates, less growth is expected in the Midwest and Northeast. He said that as a result, a hyper-competitive situation currently exists as more and more universities are coming to Texas to recruit high school students.

Munoz presented information regarding the majors in which students are interested, noting the recent growth in Engineering. Graham Bader said that declared interest among Rice applicants for fall 2015 admission in the Humanities was low, at approximately 6%. He asked if the Office of Admissions considers it a cause for concern. Munoz replied that it is a concern, and he furthermore stated that some of Rice’s Social Sciences and Humanities students are moving into Engineering, perhaps because of future employment opportunities.

Provost Miranda said that there are two points to consider when reviewing the low number of Humanities majors: its proportion to the total application pool, and how the Rice percentage compares to national trends. She said that large forces are keeping Humanities numbers lower nationwide. Bader replied that the percentage of students majoring in Humanities at peer institutions such as Yale, Harvard, and Stanford is double and triple the percentage at Rice. He wondered if the problem is the way that Rice is marketed. Miranda and Munoz asked that Bader send them this admissions information.

Miranda stated that engagement with faculty on campus visits is very important to students. She and Munoz said that they appreciated the activities that the Humanities faculty members have planned during March 2016 to interact with prospective students. Munoz added that the Engineering faculty have successfully hosted such events.

     E.  Digital Education
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Digital Education Caroline Levander provided an update on digital education to the Senate. She said that the Senate has been crucial to the university’s work regarding digital education, and she thanked David Alexander and Jeff Fleisher for chairing committees in the past. Levander said that there are currently 40 Rice courses available via edX or Coursera. Weston asked how many Rice courses are offered for credit online. Levander replied that there are five Rice courses offered for credit during summer school, and she said that the vast majority of the enrollees are Rice students. Levander then presented the procedure for faculty members wishing to participate in digital education. Please view the presentation HERE.

Susan McIntosh asked Levander if the initiative for developing online materials was coming from the departments, or if it was coming more broadly from the university level. McIntosh explained that in her work with the University Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum, she has found that some departments are unwilling to participate in interdisciplinary curricular programs because they do not want any additional pressure on their already oversubscribed introductory courses, such as Computer Science and Economics. She said she was interested in how the university administration was thinking strategically. McIntosh also repeated a question that she said she had asked previously of Levander: is there an effort to replace in-class learning with online learning? McIntosh asked if research exists that could show that these two methods are comparable, equivalent learning experiences for the students.

Levander said that her office collaborates with individual faculty members and with departments. She said that, for example, Rice students who are not majoring in Computer Science, but who want to take a Computer Science course, are often not able to get into these (on campus) courses due to their oversubscription. She said that offering the courses online allows them to do so. She said this was a department-level decision.

II.  Working Group Reports: Working Group on New Courses and Faculty Oversight

Susan McIntosh, chair of the Faculty Senate’s Working Group on New Courses and Faculty Oversight, provided an update regarding implementation of the group’s recommendations, which were approved by the Senate in November 2015. McIntosh said that the Office of the Registrar and VPAA Sanders have worked to shape the operational details concerning the New Course Request Form and workflow, and the new process is in place for fall 2016 courses. McIntosh provided the registrar’s website address where more information and the New Course Request Form can be found: http://registrar.rice.edu/facstaff/courseprocess/.

McIntosh discussed transition to the new system, including the formation of School Course Review Committees (SCRC), for which representatives will be needed from each department, center or program. She said that an informational session would be held in February 2016 with all SCRC representatives, deans, and department chairs, in order to answer questions, identify concerns, and address procedural details. Finally, she stated that the goal is for the SCRC to complete all new course approvals in March so that they can be added to the students’ course planner for the fall 2016 semester.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:02 p.m.