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Faculty Senate Meeting
March 29, 2017
Kyle Morrow Room, Fondren Library

 

Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):

I.   Call to Order
II.   Announcements
III.  Reports from Officers and University Committees
IV.  Reports from Working Groups
      A. Discussion of report from Working Group on Digital Education
      B. Report from Working Group on General Education and Distribution Requirements
V. New Business
      A. Interdisciplinary Minor in Museums, Cultural Heritage, and Preservation (Approved)
      B. Motion for approval: Electronic Voting in Senate (Tabled for consideration in April)
VI. V2C2 Discussion
VII. Adjourn

Senators present: Graham Bader, Lisa Balabanlilar, Gwen Bradford, David Caprette, Scott Cutler, Erik Dane, Julie Fette, Jeffrey Fleisher, Christopher Hight, Marek Kimmel, Steve Klineberg, Michael Kohn, David Leebron, Susan McIntosh, Marie Lynn Miranda, Ed Nikonowicz, Fred Oswald, Stan Sazykin, Doug Schuler, Laura Segatori, and Kerry Ward.

Senators absent: David Alexander, Kate Beckingham, Martin Blumenthal-Barby, Daniel Cohen, Andrew Colopy, Keith Cooper, Michael Diehl, Maryam Emami, Charles Geyer, Christopher Johns-Krull, Kevin Kelly, Anatoly Kolomeisky, and Timothy Morton.

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. Announcements

  • There will be two April Senate Meetings: April 7, 2:00 p.m., and April 19, 12:00 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the Founder’s Room of Lovett Hall.
  • The plenary meeting of the faculty to approve May 2017 degrees will be held Thursday, May 11, at 10 a.m., in McMurtry Auditorium of Duncan Hall.
  • A Major Concentration in Creative Writing, proposed by the Department of English, was approved by the CUC; Senate approval is not required.

III. Reports from Officers and University Committees: Nominations and Elections Committee

Deputy Speaker Julie Fette, chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee, announced that John Casbarian (Architecture) and Anatoly Kolomeisky (Natural Sciences) were each elected to three year terms on the Promotion and Tenure Committee, beginning Fall 2017. In addition, April DeConick (Humanities) has been appointed to serve one year (2017-2018) to replace Helena Michie while on leave.

Fette provided an update regarding the Faculty Senate elections. She said that six senators were elected to three-year terms and several one-year appointments were made, with a few more appointments needed. In addition, Fette announced that a contested election has begun for two seats on the Senate representing non-tenure-track teaching faculty. She said that she would provide full election results at the April 19, 2017, Senate meeting.

Regarding University Committees, Fette explained that 15 University Committees exist, of which 14 are staffed with faculty through recommendations from the Senate. She said that the Senate has received input from the current committee chairs and it has been requested from department chairs and deans. In addition, faculty members have been asked to volunteer. Fette said that the official appointment letters would be sent to faculty members from President Leebron’s office via email prior to the July 1 start of service.

IV. Reports from Working Groups

     A. Discussion of report from the Working Group on Digital Education
Fleisher recapped the report from the Working Group on Digital Education that was presented to the Senate in its February 2017 meeting. (Please see the report HERE.) He then presented the following concerns from the Senate’s Executive Committee.

  • Digital education raises questions about how to apply appropriate technologies to ensure effective pedagogy for course objectives in ways that differ from traditional classroom teaching. To date, this has been addressed by Rice Online, which has provided a great deal of support, including access to video equipment and technical expertise.
  • How will we ensure that new digital education efforts will adopt appropriate technologies for effective pedagogy?
  • Will every faculty member who wants to develop an online course for Rice credit have similar resources and support available? If not, how will these resources be allocated?
  • Will all online course development be organized through Rice Online?
  • How will Rice determine the comparability of online courses and on-campus courses?
  • How will criteria for the evaluation and assessment of online courses and programs be developed?

Several senators and faculty guests participated in a discussion following Fleisher’s presentation. Their questions and comments are summarized below.

  • Rice Online has spent a great deal of care, technical support, and resources on online courses. Is this level of concern going to be available for on-campus students?
  • Will there be priorities set or a strategic vision followed for credit-bearing online courses?
  • Will resources be provided by the university or by the departments?
  • The school deans need to be involved with their own curriculum.
  • The Rice Leaders committee concluded three points regarding online education: 1) beautiful, high-quality production values may not be necessary, in fact, some students report watching the tapes at twice the speed, 2) there is no way that the departments in the School of Humanities could produce the courses without support, and 3) visitors to the Rice campus always ask, “Will students be in the same classroom as their professor?”
  • How will an online course affect a faculty member’s teaching load? Will it count as a course?
  • We need to ask ourselves, “What problem is this going to solve?”
  • President Leebron: We see three questions that online education might address. First, what is the most effective pedagogy, in concert with the most effective use of faculty time, considering that Rice students expect more of the faculty than just teaching. Second, whom does Rice want to educate in addition to our on-campus learners; what is our overall educational impact? Third, in a competitive world, access to resources is important. Endowment returns are not what they used to be, and the pressure on tuition is intense, yet we are increasing tuition support. What understandably concerns faculty is autonomy. I agree that school-level thinking is required.
  • I have concerns about the learning curve for digital education for both students and faculty. SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges) is going to ask us to demonstrate that we have successfully met their criteria.
  • Business schools are scrambling for students, which is why we see the professional masters programs offered online. Rice prides itself on its quality of students. These online courses are poised to add many students; are we comfortable with that?
  • President Leebron: We do need to consider that these students represent Rice, but we are not considering a purely online undergraduate degree, only a limited set of courses. Student mobility is one factor to consider. There will be no move to create an online undergraduate degree without involving the Faculty Senate.
  • The Survey of all Students showed that Rice’s on-campus students do notlike the idea of paying additional for online courses.
  • A faculty committee determined that Rice Online was not what it wanted.
  • Considering finite resources (money, time, faculty members), digital education could create an efficiency that allows our students to participate in more experiential learning, as well as other benefits, but these are hard to picture without a strategic vision. The big picture is necessary.
  • What about prerequisite courses? Would the non-Rice students need to fulfill the prerequisites?
  • Provost Miranda: The current courses offered online do not have prerequisites. One thing we are considering is how to serve high school students. Many high schools cannot offer physics courses. If Rice were to develop a good physics course for high school students, that could be a “serve-the-world” purpose of digital education.

Fleisher said that he would take the comments from today’s Senate discussion and the concerns from the Executive Committee and incorporate them into the working group report. He noted that Rice Online and the school deans would need to be in concert in order to bring their proposals to the Senate. Fleisher said that his goal was for the Senate to endorse the revised report in its meeting on April 19.

     B. Report from the Working Group on General Education and the Distribution System
Working group chair Susan McIntosh presented a list of the working group members and charge:
Identify main areas of concern regarding the current distribution requirement system.
Review and evaluate existing criteria for distribution courses in groups I, II, and III.
Make recommendations for changes that will:
     a. alleviate or resolve problems and concerns

     b. improve the quality of general education for students by improving the quality of the general education requirements

McIntosh then reviewed the problems associated with the current system:

  • 12 distribution courses are a challenge for requirement-heavy majors:
    --18-hour semester credit hour cap constraints
    --Limit ability to take advantage of new curricular opportunities
  • FWIS distribution mandate
    --Humanities faculty are unhappy; most FWIS are D1
    --Limits interdisciplinary FWIS
  • Weak rationale, problematic definitions
    --D designations used to enhance or control enrollment
  • Variable practices for identifying distribution courses in different schools

Next, McIntosh presented the criteria used by the working group for changes:

  • Maintain flexibility of student choice
  • Avoid increasing credit hour burden
  • Favor solutions that resolve problems with the fewest modifications to the existing system, acknowledging the troubled history of attempts at more sweeping changes to the general education curriculum
  • Meet SACSCOC requirements for general education curriculum (specified in principle 2.7.3)

McIntosh discussed the wide circulation of the proposed changes to all stakeholders. She then presented the following three proposed changes.

*Proposed Change 1: Reduce general education requirements from the current 4 courses of at least three hours in each of three distribution areas (at least 36 hours) to three courses in each of three distribution areas plus a FWIS (at least 30 hours).

*Proposed Change 2: Revise the descriptive language for distribution courses and for each distribution group, as follows:

Distribution courses introduce the knowledge, intellectual skills and habits of thought characteristic of disciplines or of inquiry across disciplines within three main areas: humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences and engineering. They are broad-based, accessible to non-majors, and provide a foundation that enables students to integrate knowledge from multiple perspectives.

D1: In these courses, which are broad in theme and scope, students probe the modes of knowledge, inquiry or creative practice characteristic of the arts and humanities. Group I courses provide students with essential knowledge and tools for thinking critically about history and culture, and for understanding the centrality of such capacity to informed participation in social, political, and professional life.

D2: These broad-based courses introduce the theories, problems, methodologies, and substance of the social sciences. They are intended to familiarize students with different approaches to the study of human behavior and how individuals interact with and are shaped by cultural, social, economic, and political groups and institutions. Because of the complexity and scope of human behavior, these courses may be multi-disciplinary in nature. Group II courses provide a foundation for thinking about the social worlds we inhabit and the diverse behavioral factors that both structure human activity at multiple scales and contribute to the dynamism of social and cultural systems.

D3: In these courses, students undertake a broad overview of subject matter in the various disciplines of science and engineering and discover the importance of these topics to contemporary society. They receive a grounding in the scientific method, engineering design, quantitative analysis, or theorem development. Group III courses provide students with the essential knowledge and tools required to appreciate, understand, and critically assess the elegance and power of the natural world and our effect upon it, and to rigorously engage the civic and ethical issues that lie at the intersection of technology and human activity.

*Proposed Change 3 : Enhance consistency of process across schools by including the School Course Review Committee (SCRC) as the primary group responsible for recommending courses for distribution to the dean of the school during the initial review under the new criteria and thereafter during the annual “roll call” by the OTR.

Among the new courses submitted for the New Course Review process by the March 1 or October 1 deadlines, identify those that are appropriate for distribution credit by mid-term each semester, rather than only in the spring annually.

In the discussion that followed McIntosh’s presentation, Steve Klineberg noted that first year foreign language courses would not qualify for D1 credit under the proposed language. Gwen Bradford expressed a concern from Humanities faculty about the proposed reduction in General Education requirements and its impact on them. Graham Bader said that currently, 700 students take a first-year foreign language course to satisfy the D1 requirement. He predicted that these 700 students would now take more Humanities courses. Bader also stated that the reduction in the overall General Education requirements would allow students time to take more Humanities courses, which they have indicated they would like to do.

Marek Kimmel expressed concerns with the proposed D3 language. He said that while the old language underscores classical skills, the proposed text includes concepts such as the ethics of science. Second, Kimmel said two items needed inclusion in the proposed language: artificial intelligence and data science.

Fleisher asked the senators to speak to their constituents and for all faculty to post their comments to the wiki site. He said that the Senate would consider approval of the report at its April 19 meeting.

V. New Business

     A. Interdisciplinary Minor in Museums, Cultural Heritage, and Preservation

Susan McIntosh, chair of the University Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC), described the proposed interdisciplinary Minor in Museums, Cultural Heritage, and Preservation, which was provided to the faculty prior to the meeting. McIntosh said that the CUC approved the proposal in its March 2017 meeting after a thorough review. The Senate voted unanimously to approve the proposal. Please see: Museums and Cultural Heritage.

     B. Motion for approval: Electronic Voting in Senate

Deputy Speaker Fette said that in response to the report on "Faculty Senate Electronic Voting" delivered to the Faculty Senate on February 22, 2017, the Executive Committee moved that voting procedures should be improved in two ways: vote casting should be private; and vote recording should be public. (Please see the full motion HERE.) Fette presented the motion for Senate approval. In the discussion that followed, several senators expressed concern with various parts of the motion. Fleisher suggested that the senators post their comments on the wiki space for possible revision of the motion. The issue was tabled until the Senate meeting of April 19, 2017.

VI. V2C2 Discussion

Fleisher stated that the Vision for the Second Century II (V2C2) website survey was now closed. He said that the Executive Committee would review the faculty comments and write a report for presentation to the administration. He also said that the Faculty Senate meeting on April 19 would be an important one as it is another opportunity for the president and provost to receive faculty input.

VII. Adjourn

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