Rice University logo
 
 
 

Faculty Senate Meeting - Senate Meeting Minutes: October 19, 2005

Meetings of the Faculty Senate are open to all members of the University community, but may be closed at the discretion of the Senate.

Meeting time 12:15 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. in the Shell Auditorium, Jones School

Agenda

I. Announcements

  Introduction of Cinda Lack, Senate Executive Assistant 

  Survey to determine schedule of Spring 2006 Senate meetings 

II. Approval of September 21, 2005 Minutes

III. Proposal for priorities for the Senate for this year:

A.  University standing committee structure

Discussion led by Dave Schneider

B.  University-sponsored events during finals week

Discussion led by Duane Windsor

C.  Non-tenure track faculty concerns

Discussion led by Gautami Shah

D.  Open discussion of other issues that might be considered by the Senate

IV. Open discussion of relationship between Faculty Senate and Executive Committee

V. New Business

  Proposal for staggering Faculty Senator terms 

Submit Feedback


Proceedings

October 19, 2005

Attendance: Approximately 35

Senators present: Kyriacos Athanasiou, Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Marj Corcoran (Speaker), Bruce Etnyre, Deborah Harter (Deputy Speaker), John Hempel, Brian Huberman, Benjamin Kamins, Tom Killian, Phil Kortum, David Leebron (ex officio), Eugene Levy (ex officio), Peter Mieszkowski, Nancy Niedzielski, Anthony Pinn, Carol Quillen, Dale Sawyer, David Schneider, Gautami Shah, Michael Stern, Randy Stevenson, Joe Warren, Mark Wiesner, Duane Windsor, James Young

Senators absent: Jose Aranda, Vicki Colvin, Rebekah Drezek, James Weston

A verbatim recording of the proceedings is available by contacting the Faculty Senate at 713-348-5630.


Faculty Senate Speaker Marjorie Corcoran called to order the Faculty Senate meeting at 12:20 p.m.

I. Announcements:

Cinda Lack is the new Executive Assistant for the Faculty Senate.   She replaces Sarah Tobola.

There were several new Senators elected this fall to fill vacancies.   All Senators introduced themselves briefly to start the meeting.

Cinda Lack is working on the schedule for Faculty Senate meetings in the spring.   A show of hands indicated nearly unanimous agreement that the same meeting time (Wednesday from 12 noon to 2 pm) is agreeable for next semester.   The dates will be scheduled in consultation with the offices of the President and the Provost.

Corcoran is seeking at least two, or preferably three, Honor Council Appeals Board nominees (Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and/or Professional Schools - must be tenured).   Contact her if you are interested or if you have a suggestion; if the response is insufficient, she will solicit representatives.

Dave Schneider drafted a note of condolence to send to the parents of Rachel Tobias.   Jim Young suggested a change of wording from "On behalf of the Faculty Senate" to "On behalf of the Faculty".   As Speaker, Corcoran would sign the letter on behalf of the Faculty.   Ben Kamins moved to approve the language with the suggested change; Randy Batsell seconded.   The Senate indicated general agreement with a show of hands.

II. Minutes: The minutes were approved from the September 21, 2005 Faculty Senate meeting.

III. Proposal for Senate priorities this year:   Overhead slide presented that read "The Constitution and by-laws are a priority, but other work can proceed in parallel."   The list for the proposed Senate tasks followed:   "1. University Standing Committee Structure   2. Scheduling of university events during finals week/dead week   3. Policies with regard to non-tenure track faculty   4. Open discussion of other issues that might be considered by the Senate."

Corcoran first noted that the Constitution and bylaws are first priority, and those are moving ahead.   The Constitution was approved at the September 21 meeting.   The by-laws are still under revision, but there will be a new version soon.   Until such time as the by-laws are approved, the Senate is operating under direction provided by the Task Force on Governance Reform document approved by the faculty last year.   Corcoran proposed proceeding with the establishment of working groups in parallel with completing the bylaws, especially since some of the proposed items do have time constraints.   The Executive Committee compiled a list of possible issues to address this year, but Corcoran encouraged Senators to talk to their constituents and to bring forward other issues of interest.   She also noted that the Task Force document says the Executive Committee will appoint all Senate committees.

Anthony Pinn questioned whether the establishment of working groups could proceed in parallel with work on the Constitution and Bylaws, without the process seeming arbitrary or random.   Randy Stevenson supported a limit to the issues addressed until a structure is in place, but noted that the issue of University Standing Committee structure relationship with the Senate is a central piece of how governing will work and needs to be addressed at the same time.  

Bruce Etnyre asked about the proposed timeline for adoption of bylaws. Stevenson , Chair of the Bylaws Subcommittee, noted that they had intended to present a draft today, but the distinction between the establishment of an agenda for the year by the Faculty Senate and the establishment of an agenda for meetings by the Executive Committee was not clear in the current draft, so the committee is making further clarifying revisions.   The points from prior discussions are incorporated in the current draft.   Corcoranrecommended posting the revised draft to promote discussion before the next meeting.

Batsell moved to take up discussion of the listed proposed Senate tasks for the year, beginning with #2, then #1, and then #3.  Stevenson seconded the motion.   Carol Quillen inquired whether there is a mechanism for faculty to propose an issue to be addressed.   Stevenson pointed out that the simplest path would be to ask a Senator to bring forth an issue of concern.   Quillensuggested that, in absence of Bylaws, the Senate communicate that procedure to the faculty to remind them of procedures already in place.  

Discussion began on how the three issues listed were selected from the list of twelve topics from the Faculty Council.   Corcoranresponded that item #1 is the most important and time sensitive; item #2 has been brought to her attention by three faculty members who are not on the Senate; and item # 3 was brought up by a member of the Senate.   Eugene Levy noted that some of the twelve topics are being addressed in other forums due to a need to act quickly, specifically the scheduling of final exams.   The Provost and the Dean of Undergraduates will be making a proposal to the Faculty Senate.   A memo is being prepared.   This may not be how things should be addressed procedurally in the future, but it will allow us to move forward in the absence of bylaws.   Duane Windsornoted that if there is a proposal working its way to the Faculty Senate, it does not seem logical to have a working group to examine the question until the proposal arrives - and then the necessity can be determined.    Schneider called the question.   Batsell restated the motion.   Motion passed to discuss item #2, then item #1, and then item #3.

Windsor presented issue two:   Scheduling of university events during finals week/dead week.   He provided copies of the General Announcements language on this policy from General Announcements 2003-2004 and General Announcements 2005-2006 .   This language was inserted by the Faculty Council.   Communications have been received from Professor Zeff and Professor Haskell arguing that, with respect to athletic events sponsored by the university, it appears that having such events has become standard   practice permitted by EX&S, while the policy intent was that these permissions would be exceptions.   This working group would make inquiry into the facts and procedures in existence.   Corcoran asked him to chair a working group, and he agreed if Professor Zeff were to serve on the committee.   Etnyre has also agreed to serve on the group.

Kamins noted that the Shepherd School has trouble scheduling a final concert in compliance with these rules since the last day of classes has shifted.   Last year this concert was excluded from the rule, and the concert is not a problem for the Shepherd School students, so he wondered whether an exclusion could be written into a rule.   Windsor noted that factually it appears there is a problem in how the policy is being administered; Mark Wiesner reached a different conclusion from the work conducted last year.  Wiesner thought there were relatively few cases involved and the organizations went through the proper procedures.   Corcoranhad a different impression; although there were few cases, some of the cases were egregious.   Additionally, a policy was put into place, without faculty discussion or mandate, to interview the affected students to decide who could or could not participate.  Wiesner was still under the impression that the number of students affected was not large, and that the system was working.  Windsor is new to the issue, and noted there is no standard in the language to guide EX&S.   There is reason to believe certain exceptions have become established repetitive practice, and that will be part of the investigation.

Stevenson inquired if the Faculty Council had produced a report to the Faculty on this matter.   Harter noted that this was part of the University Athletics review.   Stevenson suggested that, if a report exists with a conclusion, the Senate should see that report before deciding to reinvestigate.   Harter stated that the referenced report simply provided for the fact that there is a problem that needs to be reviewed; it does not solve the problem.   Batsell summarized that there is enough of an issue to warrant a working group and suggested the Senate proceed to discuss issue number one.

Schneider presented issue one:   University Standing Committee structure.   This issue arose as the Bylaws Committee addressed the integration of existing standing committee structure into the new bylaws, and the method of recommending members to committees needs to be resolved before spring.   Prior to the establishment of the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Council recommended appointments to the President's Office.   The Senate needs to create a mechanism for making those recommendations.   Effective committee structure is key to effective governance, so it is important to set-up a system in which committees report efficaciously to the Senate.   The Task Force on Governance Reform documented complaints about the existing committee structure:   inefficient, ineffective, not representative, rubber stamps for administration proposals.   A variety of types of Standing Committees currently exist; some have reporting responsibility, others issue recommendations, some are advisory, some complete necessary tasks, and some include staff and students. There is a need to clarify relationships between the Senate, the administration, and the committees for language to be incorporated in the bylaws; reporting responsibilities must also be defined.   There are other types of committees in existence as well, and we may or may not want to incorporate some into and eliminate others from the structure.   Schneider stressed the importance of working with the President's Office, since in many cases there is joint responsibility and interest in issues.

Quillen inquired whether the University Standing Committee structure is under the purview of the Senate, or if this working group would provide a report from the full Senate to the President.   Schneider clarified that the working group would submit a proposal to the Senate for debate, which then would forward a suggested structure to the President.   Quillen also asked whether a working group should include representatives other than faculty, since they are a part of the University Standing Committees.   Schneider did not have an opinion on the general principle, but thought that most of the working group discussion would center around committees comprised exclusively or primarily of faculty.   He did note a strong preference for having a representative from the President's Office on the working group to facilitate communication.   Kyriacos Athanasiou asked for clarification of the difference between a Standing Committee and a Special Committee, and Schneider summarized that often it is history; some evolve over time; special committees could be standing committees and vice versa.   This is why the Task Force suggested a working group look beyond just the University Standing Committee structure.   David Leebron added that we don't want a system that is overly formalized or constrained; some committees were created to respond to circumstance and fill a need that existed at a particular point in time.   Some committees are advisory or discussion bodies with no decision or report making authority.   Some committees have chairs and some do not.   The existing committees fill different functions, and while there are a lot of committees, because they function in different roles, there may not be too many committees.   The creation of overlapping jurisdiction may be a danger of over-formalizing the committees.   A standing committee has an on-going, defined sense of jurisdiction over decisions that need to be reached.   It will be good to gain an understanding of the various bodies that exist and how to effectively communicate between those committees and the Faculty Senate.

Gautami Shah presented issue three:   Policies with regard to non-tenure track faculty.   Shah has received requests from non-tenure track faculty for a more current university-wide policy on hiring, retention, promotion, and responsibilities of non-tenure track faculty.   The group would examine current university policies and determine if a more updated one is needed, and return recommendations to the Senate.   This work is important for competitive hiring and retention and for institutional stability for individual programs.   For employees, it is important for career planning.   Existing policies are not necessarily clear or coherent.   Minorities and women are well-represented in this group; 34% of non-tenure track faculty are women, so this working group's work would be important in strengthening minority hiring and retention.

Harter noted that she would chair the working group if it were to be formed.   This group would not redress grievances, but would gather information on who the non-tenure track faculty are, where they are among the divisions, and what policies govern them.   The group would return to the Faculty Senate, which would determine if it would like to make recommendations for change.   It would be helpful for the President's and/or Provost's Office to be involved in this working group.   Tom Killian inquired whether a uniform policy exists.   Joe Warren pointed out that there are some pieces of policy embedded in other policies, but that a working group would be beneficial to clarify policies for the non-tenure track faculty and for the administrators who may be unclear on policy and may not be following existing policies due to the administrative burden.   This working group would be beneficial as an education process for administration and faculty, and as encouragement to follow existing and/or new rules systematically.   Shah pointed out that many general faculty policies apply to non-tenure track faculty, but there is a need to address special issues, including career paths and the use of titles across the university.   Shah did not advocate standardization, but establishment of certain requirements.

Etnyre provided Corcoran with the list of issues remaining from the Faculty Council.   Corcoran read the list, which included:   lost Spring '04 student evaluations; conflict of interest/nepotism; email privacy; university sponsored events during last week of classes or dead week or finals week; self-scheduled exams and final exam period; Owl Weekend; faculty survey regarding women in the workplace; composition exam; online teaching evaluations; coalition on intercollegiate athletics; review of university standing committees; evaluation of non-tenure track nomination and voting requirements.   Etnyre pointed out one that was omitted from the list:   Calendar Committee, which probably is more urgent than the others, since the last calendar was only approved for one year.  Corcoran described the procedure:   a proposal first comes from the Registrar and is reviewed by University Council and the Senate.   Etnyre noted that many issues relating to the calendar were raised, and perhaps a working group should investigate.

Quillen inquired if these issues were before the Faculty Council last year, and Corcoran clarified that they were mentioned but not necessarily addressed.   Harter elaborated that these issues have come up over the last few years, but the Faculty Council could not handle all of them at the time.   Levy pointed out that there are some narrowly defined ad hoc issues on the list, and that the Faculty Senate should focus on systemic, structural issues for which a solution is possible that will prevent the ad hoc problems.   Better policies and procedures will solve several issues.   Leebron offered to update the Senate on the work on some of the listed items at the next meeting, as at least half of the issues listed are being addressed in some fashion.   Leebron requested fifteen minutes in the next meeting agenda for that purpose

Schneider requested that, in the future, the Provost's Office present a recommendation on the issues facing the Registrar's Office so that the Senate could act on the recommendation.   In the absence of a committee structure, there is not a reporting structure in place, and this may expedite addressing those issues.

Killian suggested taking advantage of overlap between the issues when creating the working groups for the year.   Windsorinquired about the email privacy policy, and Levy advised that a committee that advises the Vice President for Information Technology is discussing the issue to propose a policy.   Rice does not currently have an existing email privacy policy.   He will find out and report on the status.

Schneider proposed a vote on the self-initiated issues that the Faculty Senate will address this year and then react to reports that are submitted and others as they arise.   He moved to adopt items #1, #2, and #3 as the priorities for the year and the Calendar Issue.  Quillen inquired whether Etnyre was still interested in the Calendar Issue.   Etnyre noted that a new proposal will be received every year, and Corcoran suggested looking at the proposal by the Registrar which the Senate would then consider.    Windsor separated the issues:   the Senate has voted for a principle to guide the calendar, and that will be model for the Registrar to compute the calendar.   He believed that Etnyre was asking whether there is a basis for changing the principle each year, which would warrant an ongoing Calendar Committee.  

Schneider moved to adopt items #1, #2, and #3 as the priorities for the year, with the understanding that others can be added.  Batsell seconded.   The vote on the three priorities noted, with the understanding that other issues would be addressed as they were brought forward, was unanimous.

IV. Open discussion of relationship between Faculty Senate and Executive Committee:   Time did not permit consideration of this agenda item.   It will be rolled forward to a future meeting agenda.

V. New Business - Proposal for staggering Faculty Senator terms:   This is a one-time start-up issue.   The Bylaws Committee distributed the term staggering proposal and asked Senators to submit any comments. Young described how the proposal was put together:   for those individuals who submitted a preference for term length, their requests were taken into account;   the others and were selected by lot to arrive at a turnover of eight seats the first year, ten seats the second year, and ten seats the third year.   Consideration was taken to create continuity among the groups as well, so that, for example, all of the engineering faculty would not turn over in one year.   Shah emphasized that this is a proposal, and any comments should be returned to the Bylaws Committee.

VI. Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m., with the next Faculty Senate meeting scheduled for November 9, 2005.