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Faculty Senate Meeting
February 22, 2017
Kyle Morrow Room, Fondren Library

 

Senate Meeting Agenda:

I.    Call to Order
II.   Memorial for Marjorie Corcoran
III.  Announcements and Presentations
       A. Working Group on Faculty Roles
       B.  Faculty Senate Electronic Voting
       C.  Announcements from the floor
IV.   Reports from Officers and University Committees
       A.  Nominations and Elections Committee Chair Julie Fette
       B.  Faculty Advisory Board for the Program in Writing and Communication
       C.  V2C2 (Provost Miranda)
V.    Reports from Working Groups: Working Group for Digital Education

Senators present: David Alexander, Graham Bader, Lisa Balabanlilar, Kate Beckingham, Martin Blumenthal-Barby, Gwen Bradford, David Caprette, Daniel Cohen, Scott Cutler, Erik Dane, Michael Diehl, Maryam Emami, Julie Fette, Jeffrey Fleisher, Charles Geyer, Christopher Hight, Christopher Johns-Krull, Kevin Kelly, Marek Kimmel, Steve Klineberg, Michael Kohn, Susan McIntosh, Marie Lynn Miranda, Ed Nikonowicz, Fred Oswald, Stan Sazykin, Doug Schuler, and Kerry Ward.

Senators absent: Andrew Colopy, Keith Cooper, Anatoly Kolomeisky, David Leebron, Timothy Morton, and Laura Segatori.

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

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

II. Memorial for Marjorie Corcoran

Professor Tom Killian, former Deputy Speaker, said that it was a great honor to speak about Marj Corcoran, the first Speaker of the Rice University Faculty Senate. Killian said that Corcoran was a great scholar, a beloved friend, and a role model. He spoke of her dedication to the scholarly community as a gifted high-energy particle physicist, which earned her many accolades in a field dominated by men. Killian noted that Corcoran worked at Rice for 37 years, and he said that she might have been most proud of her work mentoring young students of physics. Please view the full comments made by Killian HERE. Following Killian’s comments, the Senate observed a moment of silence in Corcoran’s honor.

III. Announcements/Presentations

A.  Working Group on Faculty Roles
Speaker Fleisher announced the formation of the Working Group on Faculty Roles, which was approved by the Executive Committee on February 17, 2017. He said that the working group has a one-month deadline to report to the Senate.

The Working Group on Faculty Roles will:

  1. Define explicitly the roles and responsibilities of each NTT rank (sections 3.b.1.a. to 3.b.2.c.), so that a reader can see clearly how and why it differs from other positions.
  2. Follow a consistent template for all NTT ranks after defining their roles and responsibilities. This will include terms of appointments, conditions of rank, and rights and responsibilities.
  3. Revise and, where needed, generate procedures for the promotion of research professors, teaching professors, and lecturers. These should provide as much procedural consistency and unity in spirit as possible across schools.
  4. Develop clearer positions on what is meant by NTT faculty rights to participate in faculty meetings.
  5. Address the ambiguities embodied in the Professor of the Practice language on thesis committees and PI status.
  6. Draw up policy spelling out how and how often NTT faculty are subject to performance evaluations. This language can be incorporated into the existing Policy 214.
  7. Formally create and define the rank of senior lecturer.
  8. Determine what position corresponds to that of 2-3 year postdocs, and what their rights and responsibilities are.
  9. Determine what "fellows" and “scholars” are and whether they count as NTT faculty.

Members:
Jeffrey Fleisher, Chair
Carl Caldwell
Kathy Matthews
Ann Saterbak

B.  Faculty Senate Electronic Voting
Senator Scott Cutler explained that the Senate leaders asked him to explore a change from the current show-of-hands method of voting used by the Senate to electronic voting. Cutler said that the IT Council’s Subcommittee for Academic Technologies was currently testing multiple pilots for classroom response systems, with roll out expected for the 2017-2018 academic year. He recommended that if the Senate were to approve electronic voting, it adopt the IT Subcommittee’s chosen system. Cutler then discussed several important issues that the Senate should consider, such as security, privacy, device used, ease of use, and cost. Please view Cutler’s full report HERE.

The questions and comments following Cutler’s presentation indicated that several senators were in favor of a change to electronic voting, while others were opposed, as shown below.

  • A proposal approved by the Senate in January 2009 allows for a secret ballot. I prefer anonymity via secret (paper) ballot to electronic voting.
  • If we switch to anonymous voting, there might not be as many unanimous votes.
  • I was uncomfortable with my vote being public over a contentious issue in the past.
  • A record of how each senator voted could be useful, but my colleagues are not interested in how I vote.
  • None of the classroom response systems I have seen worked perfectly; I am worried about liability.
  • Provost Miranda: President Leebron feels strongly that the Faculty Senate is a legislative body, representing faculty, and it is thus incumbent upon them to avoid anonymous voting. Electronic voting would be fine, but not anonymous.
  • Privacy can be achieved via paper, but our constituents have a right to know how we voted.
  • Senators can abstain if they are uncomfortable voting.
  • Electronic voting would allow us to keep a record of how each senator voted. Currently, only a tally of the votes is recorded.

Fleisher stated that the Senate was not voting on the issue at the current time, but the Executive Committee would discuss the issue and perhaps make a proposal to the Senate in the future.

C.  Announcements from the floor
Susan McIntosh, chair of the Senate Working Group on the Distribution System and General Education, announced that a draft of proposed revisions to the distribution system was currently being distributed to various groups, such as the Student Association, the residential colleges’ presidents and senators, and the department chairs, as well as the Faculty Senate. Provost Miranda suggested that each department’s director of undergraduate education receive the document. McIntosh asked for feedback by March 6, with the goal of making a presentation to the Executive Committee on March 22, and then the Faculty Senate on March 29, 2017. The draft report, dated February 23, 2017, can be viewed HERE.
 

IV. Reports from Officers and University Committees

A. Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC)
Deputy Speaker Julie Fette announced the recently appointed members of the NEC:

Julie Fette, chair (Humanities)

Kate Beckingham (Natural Sciences)

Martin Blumenthal-Barby (Humanities)

Charles Geyer (Shepherd School of Music)

Kevin Kelly (Engineering)

Marek Kimmel (Engineering)

Edward Nikonowicz (Natural Sciences)

Doug Schuler (Jones School of Business)

Fette also announced the results of the recent elections to the Promotion and Tenure Committee: John Casbarian (Architecture) and Anatoly Kolomeisky (Natural Sciences) were each elected to three-year terms beginning with the fall semester 2017.

Regarding Faculty Senate elections, Fette said that fifteen senators’ terms would expire at the end of the current semester, including two senators who have served the maximum time allowed of seven consecutive years, Dave Caprette and Stan Sazykin. Fette said that the call for nominations would be issued March 1, with a deadline of March 21 for receipt of completed forms. She noted that senators who are running for reelection must also complete the form, which is available HERE.

B. Report from the Faculty Advisory Board for the Program in Writing and Communication

FAB co-chairs Carl Caldwell and Kate Beckingham presented a report on the Program in Writing and Communication (PWC), as is required by the Senate. Caldwell said that he would report on the First-Year Writing-Intensive Seminars (FWIS), while Beckingham would discuss the Communication in the Discipline courses. Please view the full presentation HERE.

Caldwell presented information from student evaluations, which showed that the FWIS courses are consistently outperforming regular Rice courses in both overall course quality ratings and instructor effectiveness ratings. In addition, he said that the pre- and post-FWIS surveys show that students view the effect of FWIS on their writing positively. Caldwell thanked Tracy Volz for her extraordinary work in making the program successful. Speaker Fleisher encouraged senators to teach an FWIS course, saying that both he and Deputy Speaker Fette have taught these courses and found them to be very rewarding.

Beckingham spoke regarding the Communication in the Discipline (CID) courses, also known as Upper Level Communication. She said that while the PWC was making valiant, successful efforts to make the CID program succeed, it has not enjoyed the success of the FWIS program. Beckingham said that 13 departmental workshops were conducted last year, as well as 44 workshops to support co-curricular programs such as the Center for Civic Leadership. She said that despite these efforts, only 13 of the 50 majors offered at Rice include CID courses. Beckingham then explained in detail the two main approaches proposed to enhance the CID: integrate courses into undergraduate research activities, and increase systematic outreach to departments.

Several senators made comments following this presentation. Susan McIntosh said that she was glad to see a formal report presented to the Senate. She also said that when the Senate approved the program, one purpose was to align Rice with its peer institutions currently offering upper level communications courses. McIntosh recommended that Rice provide the financial support needed for the program to be successful. She also congratulated Volz for her success while operating with a very small budget.

One senator stated that although a gap exists between the FWIS courses and the CID courses, he was concerned that Rice students are expected to do many things, such as undergraduate research.

Student Association (SA) President Griffin Thomas spoke positively about the FWIS program. He also said that as important as communication courses are, they are not stressed to freshmen the way that many other options are, such as mentorships and club memberships. He encouraged both the SA and the Faculty Senate to help students to take seriously the opportunities to which they are exposed.

Gwen Bradford said that Humanities faculty members have a slight disincentive to teach an FWIS course because it counts as a D1 distribution course. Caldwell noted that a potential reform of the distribution system was occurring, and if approved, the FWIS courses would not count for distribution credit. McIntosh said one factor that may have contributed to the decline in registration for Humanities courses is that many students take introductory language courses for D1 credit. She said that the general education reform discussion includes the possible removal of distribution credit from language courses.

Fleisher thanked Caldwell and Beckingham for their thorough report to the Senate.

C. Vision for the Second Century II (V2C2)

Vice President Linda Thrane provided posters to the senators that listed the V2C2 questions and website address (https:/v2c2.rice.edu/), as well as Rice LIFT (https://ricelift.rice.edu/). She asked that the senators place the posters in their departments.

Provost Miranda said that several faculty members have posted their proposals to the RiceLIFT site, and she noted that any faculty member may post to the site; one does not have to have permission. She encouraged faculty to put forth their ideas. She mentioned upcoming opportunities for faculty members to meet with her in person, including a meeting over lunch at the Faculty Club entitled “Lunch Meet,” and a late afternoon session at the Brochstein Pavilion entitled “Cookie Jar.”

Miranda stated that 74 faculty members have replied to the V2C2 questions posted on the website, and she asked the senators to encourage their colleagues to respond. Miranda said that she wanted to ask senators one question at today’s meeting: What changes do we wish to see regarding graduate student education? The senators’ responses are summarized below.

  • Graduate students often seem distracted from their research. More and more investments are made in graduate students, but the students seem to spend more and more time on vacations.
  • The maturation of graduate students occurs too slowly; by the time a graduate student becomes very useful, he/she is ready to move on. I would like to see earlier productivity.
  • Faculty time spent in mentoring graduate students is not as effective as it could be.
  • There are very few opportunities for our graduate students to teach, which does not serve them well.
  • Perhaps there should be tracks for the graduate student to follow depending upon what he/she wants to achieve; a research track for the student with a tenure-track career goal and a teaching track for the student with a teaching goal.
  • One challenge is recruiting quality domestic students when there are 14 institutions ranked higher than Rice. If we can renew our efforts across campus to get the best students, some of these distraction-type issues will go away.
  • Some of the efforts we direct at attracting undergraduate students could be directed at graduate students. For example, we could have the graduate students each write a master’s thesis so that they know that they are coming into a professional academic environment, and they are not just lab helpers.
  • All of the graduate students in the Shepherd School of Music want a job, and the school has become very successful in placing them. We thus get applicants from all over the world. The word gets out through students, and it will advance the success of your departments.
  • The quantitative literacy of both undergraduate and graduate students (except for some international students) is concerning. I have seen a gradually falling level of interest in studying mathematics. We should do more to attract students who are more rigorously trained.
  • The publishing of papers has become very expensive. Rice should subsidize it so that graduate students can become published authors.
     

V.  Reports from Working Groups: Working Group for Digital Education

David Alexander, chair of the Senate Working Group for Digital Education, presented the working group charge:

Investigate the place of online courses within the Rice curriculum/experience.

a. What policies are needed to ensure that online courses match on-campus courses with similar requirements, workload, contact hours and credits?

b. What policies are needed regarding the number of allowed online courses for majors or for overall graduation requirements?

c. Should non-Rice online courses be treated differently than Rice online courses in terms of credit?

Alexander said that while a previous Senate working group focused on not-for-credit Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), the current working group focused its efforts on credit-bearing online courses. He went on to describe the many variations of online courses and said that the working group used the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) definition for an online course: one in which 50% of the course delivery is online.

Alexander then presented the recommendations from the working group:

COURSE APPROVAL AND SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE: All new online courses, in the sense noted above, must follow the standard university protocols for new course approval.

In addition, when existing courses are modified to include new components that result in a course being predominantly online, they must be approved via the university Course Change process.

ONLINE CONTENT IN DEGREE PROGRAMS (MAJORS AND MINORS): Individual departments or programs have the right to determine how many online courses, within Rice or as transfer courses, may be counted for credit toward the major.

TRANSFER CREDIT: Online courses taken at another university should be approved (or not) according to existing rules for approving transfer credit.

SPECIAL PROGRAMS: Multi-disciplinary programs, professional masters programs, inter-institutional agreements and other multi-institutional partnerships that incorporate online courses should carefully define their requirements in keeping with the recommendations stated above.

Alexander also presented the working group’s suggested guiding principles:

  1. The syllabus should be clear about the nature of the course and the nature of interactions with the instructor during the course. This should also be reflected in the course description posted by the Registrar’s office.
  2. The amount of work required for a given course should be comparable across delivery formats, and should be reflected in the number of credit hours assigned to a given course.
  3. All courses on the same subject at the same level should offer comparable coverage of material independent of delivery method. Students in a given course should be able to pass the same level of exams regardless of delivery method.
  4. Assignments, quizzes and exams should be equally rigorous across delivery methods and should allow for useful feedback from and interaction with the instructor.
  5. All programs and schools should have a process in place to assess online courses, in order to ensure that the principles listed in bullets 1-4 above are followed.

Fleisher explained that while Rice currently only offers online courses for credit during the summer, it is possible that in the future, courses for credit would be offered during the regular part of the year. Provost Miranda said that Rice is currently taking steps to allow non-Rice, non-Texas students to take Rice courses online for credit. She was asked by a senator if the student’s transcript would indicate whether the course was taken online or not, and she replied that it would not.

McIntosh stated that Rice has put financial support into the online course format for non-Rice students through Coursera and edX, and she advocated that the same be done for Rice students’ online options. Alexander said that we do not currently tell our fellow faculty members how to teach an in-person class, and we should not do it for online courses. McIntosh stressed that Rice needs a strategic vision regarding any online offerings.

Please view the report from the Working Group for Digital Education HERE.

As it was time for the meeting to adjourn, Fleisher said that the Senate would revisit the issue in its March 2017 meeting.

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