Faculty Senate Meeting - Senate Meeting Minutes: September 6, 2006
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 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. in Founder's Room, Lovett Hall (Entrance B)
II. Elections for this year's Faculty Senate
a. Election of Speaker
b. Election of Deputy Speaker
c. Election of Executive Committee
III. Report from the Committee on the Rice Undergraduate Program - Chandler Davidson (30 minutes + discussion)
IV. Report on Athletic Admissions - Eric Heineman (30 minutes + discussion)
V. General discussion of Faculty Senate goals for 2006/2007
a. Bylaws Issues
1. Who votes in which elections, particularly P&T
2. Separation of work load for Nominations and Elections Committee
b. Ongoing Efforts
1. Non-tenure-track faculty issues
2. Committee structure and charges
3. Monitoring the new rules regarding university-sponsored events during the end-of-semester period
c. New Issues
1. Effectiveness of course evaluations - including, but not limited to, online administration of the evaluations
2. Athletic admission policies
3. Admission policies more generally, including longitudinal studies of the effectiveness of our
VI. Other New Issues
September 6, 2006
Total Attendance: Approximately 50
Senators present: Jose Aranda, Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Marj Corcoran (Speaker), Rebekah Drezek, Christian Emden, Deborah Harter (Deputy Speaker), John Hempel, Brian Huberman, Ben Kamins, Tom Killian, Phil Kortum, David Leebron (ex officio), Eugene Levy (ex officio), Peter Mieszkowski, Nancy Niedzielski, Anthony Pinn, Dale Sawyer, David Schneider, Gautami Shah, Evan Siemann, Michael Stern, Randy Stevenson, Joe Warren, James Weston, Duane Windsor, James Young
Senators absent: Michael Deem
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 12:05 pm.
Members of the 2006/2007 Faculty Senate introduced themselves. Corcoran reminded all Senators to pick-up a copy of the resource notebook containing a meeting schedule, a Senator roster, copies of the Constitution, Bylaws, and Meeting Rules, and other documents Senators may find of use during the year.
Corcoran announced that all minutes from prior Senate meetings are posted on the web. Minutes from the faculty plenary meetings have been circulated to the entire faculty and, if no comments are received, will be posted in a week. The website is under construction to accommodate expansion, including the addition of documents approved last year.
Corcoran also announced that the vacancy on the Promotion and Tenure Committee had been filled. In consultation with the Dean and with other faculty in the School of Humanities, Corcoran selected Donald Morrison, Professor of Philosophy and Classical Studies, to fill the seat.
A candidate for the vacant Senate position representing the School of Engineering will be proposed to the Senate later in the meeting. Corcoran did not yet have a candidate for the vacant position representing the School of Humanities.
Corcoran reported that the Provost had brought to her attention a clause in the faculty handbook that restricted instructors from serving more than eight years, although the same condition was not placed on lecturers. The Provost requested the Senate reconsider that distinction because, particularly in cases like the Cain Project, there are instructors who would like to remain for a longer period of time and who the university would like to retain. Corcoran was unsure if the Senate could make changes to the faculty handbook. Gautami Shah explained that as a part of university policy, the provision had been approved by general faculty and then by the Trustees. Any changes to be made now would go through the Faculty Senate. Corcoran asked for time to look into the policy and the rationale behind it.
Linda Driskill, Director of the Cain Project, explained that this policy originated with the 2001 Promotion & Tenure Committee. At the time, the practice was to temporarily appoint as instructors those individuals who were completing a PhD and who were about to be appointed assistant professors. Driskill thought that the situation rarely occurred now, but the intent was for the status to be a temporary arrangement until the individual completed his or her PhD.
While Shah did not know the rationale behind the policy, she offered to possible paths to a solution: the Working Group on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty, which is looking into these types of issues, could bring forward a proposal, or, if the Provost needs a change to be made before a proposal from the working group is put forth, the change could be brought to the floor independently. Levy reported that he had already taken the liberty of extending one appointment as an exigent act, pending a permanent solution. He was unaware of any immediate urgency and preferred that the Senate address this issue, but he also did not believe the question would be difficulty to address. Corcoran planned to speak to the working group to see if any issues related to the change had not been considered and, if not, would bring up the issue at the next meeting for a vote.
II. Elections for this year’s Faculty Senate: In accordance with the Bylaws, Corcoran nominated Yildiz Bayazitoglu, Harry S. Cameron Chair in Mechanical Engineering, to fill the vacant seat for a representative from the School of Engineering. This would be a one year appointment, and the seat will come up for election again in the spring. The proposal was moved and seconded, and Bayazitoglu’s appointment was approved unanimously.
Corcoran yielded the floor to Mike Stern, member of the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC).
Last spring, Marj Corcoran was nominated to serve as Speaker of the Faculty Senate in 2006/2007 and she had agreed to serve. Stern entertained additional nominations from the floor. No other nominations were made; Marj Corcoran is Speaker for the 2006/2007 Senate session.
Last spring, Deborah Harter was nominated to serve as Deputy Speaker of the Faculty Senate in 2006/2007 and she had agreed to serve. Stern entertained additional nominations from the floor. No other nominations were made; Deborah Harter is Deputy Speaker for the 2006/2007 Senate session.
Last spring, the NEC put forth a slate of candidates (in addition to the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker) to serve on the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate in 2006/2007 and all candidates had agreed to serve. The slate included Jose Aranda, Rebekah Drezek, Ben Kamins, Dale Sawyer, Dave Schneider, Gautami Shah, Joe Warren, and Duane Windsor. Stern entertained additional slates from the floor. No other slates were proposed; the slate put forward by NEC will serve on the Executive Committee during the 2006/2007 Senate session.
To thank Marj Corcoran and Deborah Harter for their service to the Faculty Senate during the 2005/2006 session, the Faculty Senate presented each of them with a plaque honoring their work.
III. Report from the Committee on the Rice Undergraduate Program: Robin Forman, Dean of Undergraduates, reminded the Senate that last year he presented to both the Faculty Senate and the full faculty to explain a series of steps that were put in place as part of a broad-scale multi-year curriculum review. The first stage was completed in December 2005 with the completion of the Call to Conversation and the adoption of a new mission statement for the university. The second step of this process is the Committee on the Rice Undergraduate Program (CRUP), which is a committee to articulate the goals for the undergraduate program in as clear, precise and explicit a form as possible while fostering conversation with all constituents. The committee membership was arrived at in consultation with the leadership of the Senate, the President and the Provost. The chair of the committee is Chandler Davidson, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Political Science.
Chandler Davidson noted that the committee is a response, in part, to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation committee finding that Rice was not in compliance with comprehensive standard 3.5.1, which states, “The institution identifies college level competencies within the general education core and provides evidence that graduates have attained those competencies.” In light of that finding and the comments of the SACS offsite committee, Forman provided a charge for the committee:
In his vision for the second century, President Leebron declared, ‘We must provide a holistic undergraduate experience that equips our students with the knowledge, the skills, and the values to make a distinctive impact in the world.’ This committee is charged with creating and articulating a vision for the Rice undergraduate program, one that meets this challenge. What kinds of knowledge, skills, and experiences should we be offering our students? What do we want our students to be when they graduate? This vision should begin with a mission statement and a declaration of our values and include a set of goals for our students which recognizes the full range of student development that takes place both inside and outside of the classroom. This committee should be as precise as possible and should develop a corresponding list of measurable learning objectives. It is explicitly not the task of this committee to assess how well we are currently meeting the goals it sets or to recommend precise curricular or co-curricular reforms. In approaching this project, the committee should seek the input of all stakeholders including faculty, students, staff, and alumni, as well as others, such as relevant members of the Houston community or those who employ our students at their discretion. The conclusions of this committee will be forwarded to the Faculty Senate for approval.
Once this committee has completed its work, another will be formed to examine the extent to which the enunciated goals are actually realized by the current curriculum. To the extent to which there is not a perfect fit between the goals and the current curriculum, a third committee will be formed and tasked with recommending to the faculty curriculum changes that will bring the university into compliance with the established goals.
The committee is composed of two members from each of the major schools; one member from the School of Music and one member from the School of Architecture; two undergraduates, and an alumnus who has not yet been named. Davidson asked those present to stand and introduce themselves. The entire committee membership consists of: Deborah Barrett (Cain Project), Julie Browning (Admission), Keith Cooper (Computer Science), Lindley Doran (Counseling Center), Robin Forman (Dean of Undergraduates), Chuck Henry (Fondren Library), Matthias Henze (Religious Studies), Christopher Hight (Architecture), Daniel Hodges-Copple (undergraduate), Laura Kelley (undergraduate), Neal Lane (University Professor), Richard Lavenda (Music), Caroline Levander (English), Susan Keech McIntosh (Anthropology), Rebecca Richards-Kortum (Bioengineering), Matthew Taylor (Advisor to the Dean of Undergraduates).
The committee met once before the summer break and twice during the summer. Davidson has met with almost every committee member on a one-to-one basis to get a sense of the range of views on the committee. The entire committee will begin meeting every other week and hopes to be finished with its work by the end of the semester.
To date the committee has visited the websites of major universities, primarily those listed mong the top 50 by U.S. News and World Report, and made notes on their mission statements, their core curriculums, and any interesting programs featured on their websites. Davidson also purchased a book on the idea of a liberal undergraduate education for all committee members and put a number of books about universities on special reserve at Fondren Library. He urged the committee to read some of those publications. At next week’s meeting the committee will try to define its overall job in rather precise fashion and to visualize, fairly concretely, the final work product. The committee agreed that the vision statement should go beyond glittering generalities, which would be of little help to the second committee, but not be so specific as to unduly constrain the third committee, which will be tasked with making specific recommendations for curriculum changes to the faculty.
The group will likely divide into four subcommittees, one of which will be charged with providing forums for all of the stakeholders. Davidson then opened the floor to questions.
Harter emphasized the importance of this task. She recalled that, in past reviews, faculty did not first take the time to articulate for themselves what they wished the curriculum to provide for the students. Without that discussion, a consensus on curriculum change was hard to reach. Harter urged the Senate not to consider this review as something prompted by the reaccreditation process and asked CRUP to go beyond what would be required to satisfy SACS. She thought the curriculum was more flawed, in this regard, than reported by SACS. The university has lot to gain with a well-done curriculum reform. Harter then asked for direction on how to handle curriculum questions that would arise in the next year: should changes be made immediately or should they await the larger curriculum reform? Harter provided the example of the problematic distribution course system in Humanities. When she mentioned this issue to the Dean, he recognized that fact but recommended waiting to make changes until the broader curriculum review was complete. Forman didn’t have a single catch-all answer, but said that most of the questions that he has heard should be addressed now rather than waiting an expected three years for the results of the curriculum review. Just because additional curriculum changes were made as a result of the process does not mean that the process was wasted. Doing our best for our students is a constant process.
Davidson said that CRUP echoed Harter’s sentiment about viewing the reform as something more than a task to be done to satisfy SACS. Levy emphasized that this work transcends the accreditation process; the accreditation process does not focus on the substance of the general education program. The reaccreditation report focused on the definition of criteria and the assessment of those measurements.
Joe Warren perceived that science and engineering faculty were instrumental in rejecting much of the content of the last curriculum reform proposal. Different divisions may have a different vision of what the university might be, and he believed differences should be hashed out early in the process to prevent another deadlock. Davidson said that the committee was very sensitive to that deadlock and will work very hard to make sure that all points of view are fully heard.
Corcoran asked about the plans for gathering faculty input. Davidson responded that a forum subcommittee would be formed. He hoped to host general forums around campus in the evenings. The committee also has discussed various other ideas, including soliciting input on the web. Davidson was open to any other suggestions for getting full faculty input.
Jim Young noted that the new Dean of Engineering takes great interest in the area of engineering education. Young is currently running a working group charged with looking at new curricular programs and directions in the School of Engineering. This group has been working since February 2006. Young thought that early coordination between the groups would be beneficial, especially because his group is in the process of planning new programs and options that meet with the National Academy of Engineering’s reports on what education for engineering should be by 2020. His group is trying to determine what that report might mean at Rice, and it will need to be incorporated into the larger structure of the university. Davidson thanked Young for the information and said that a meeting with each of the Deans was high on his list of priorities.
IV. Report on Athletics Admission: Prior to the presentation, Corcoran reminded the Senate of the confidentiality of some of the information to be presented and asked the representatives from the Thresher to leave for the duration of the presentation.
Eric Heineman, Director of Recruitment, began by stating that Rice’s review process for the applications of student-athletes differs from that at most Division I-A universities. Rice does not have a matrix for coaches to use to guarantee admission at the point of recruitment. Instead, student-athletes must complete a Personal Information Form (PIF) and submit both a transcript and standardized test scores to our athletic academic services office. These documents help coaches identify the strongest academic matches and provide the basis for a preliminary workup. Each workup is reviewed by the faculty subcommittee of the Committee on Admission and Student Financial Aid. The subcommittee plays an advisory role in the review of each application; the ability to admit or deny a given applicant belongs to the individual responsible for athletics admission. Appeals of the decisions go directly to the President or his designee. Heineman thought it was important to note that this process mirrors the process for non-athletes more closely than the process at any other school that has been researched.
Heineman highlighted a few process improvements. To best utilize Heineman’s past experiences in admission, he provides commentary on each workup before the subcommittee reviews the file. In general, the comments provide information on test score interpretation, school situations, international transcripts, or other important contextual information that will help faculty members best understand how the application will be reviewed. The commentary is not an indication of how Heineman will make a decision. Heineman also began, on an experimental basis, to review the transcripts and applications of students who were in their sixth semester of high school. This change came at the behest of coaches. The trend is for students to look at colleges earlier and earlier in their high school careers and many coaches expressed concern that they were losing the best student-athletes because other schools responded to this shift in timing. Based on the applications he saw this year, Heineman confirmed that the students being pursued on this earlier timetable were very strong students.
Heineman also highlighted the change in personnel that occurred over the past year. Chris Munoz was named the new Vice President for Enrollment; Chris DelConte assumed leadership of the Department of Athletics; and Todd Graham, the new football coach, began his job in January and by February had signed his first freshman football class. As a result of the turnover, this was a year of managing expectations and educating new members of the community.
Heineman presented the total number of student-athlete applications for 2005 and 2006, as well as the number who did and did not enroll. He noted that, in addition to these numbers, generally 10-12 students will also walk-on to teams in any given year. Heinemanexplained that while the rate at which student athletes were denied admission may seem low, many student-athletes were eliminated during the recruitment process. The institutional goal is to vet recruited students early in the process because of the resources required to recruit student athletes. He also distributed a copy of the working document from 1996 that provides the guidelines under which he must work.
Demographically speaking, this class looks very similar to past classes. Of the 76 student-athletes entering Rice this year: approximately two-thirds of the students were recruited in Texas; 25% of the freshman student-athletes were African-American; and half of the students are of a non-Caucasian background.
Heineman advised taking the populations into account when reviewing the academic measures and traditional metrics; for example, it is well-documented that students of color have lower standardized test scores.
Heineman presented confidential mean SAT scores for the seventy one freshman student athletes. For these statistics, ACT scores were converted to equivalent SAT scores. Year-to-year the 25th percentile and 75th percentile fluctuate, but Heinemanacknowledged the disparity between the student athlete averages and the averages of the entire class.
On a side note, Tom Haskell, Samuel G. McCann Professor of History, asked whether faculty would receive a copy of the information being presented. Corcoran was happy to provide him with a copy of the information. Harter thought the Senate ought to talk about, for a moment, preferences for receiving information to be discussed. Peter Mieskowski and Warren expressed a preference for paper copies; Young suggested electronic distribution whereby faculty could print the information at their discretion.
Randy Batsell pointed out that the purpose of asking the Thresher reporters to leave was to keep this information confidential. The Senate should consider whether paper copies might increase the likelihood of a leak. Harter thought that many ideas and discussion on a topic occur after leaving the Senate meetings, and the ability to review certain materials in depth facilitated an on-going conversation. She suggested that some things might be displayed onscreen, but copies of the slides would be available upon signing an acknowledgement of confidentiality. Multiple issues will arise where, as a Senate, holding written information will be the only way to assure that little details are not overlooked.
Corcoran expressed concern about the confidentiality of this data in particular and asked how the information was made available at past faculty meetings. Haskell replied that the data was displayed at the meetings and copies were available for anyone interested. David Leebron said that while security concerns were serious, potentially moving in a more secretive direction concerned him. He suggested a minimalist policy going forward: anyone desiring a hard copy of the document could request one, but he would prefer not to distribute it electronically. This would avoid production of a lot of unnecessary copies, and while there may be a few instances in which signature might be required, he did not think this was one of those situations. Corcoran directed any faculty member seeking a copy of the presentation to contact Cinda Lack, Assistant to the Faculty Senate. In the future, a few paper copies will be made available at the meeting.
Returning to the substance of the presentation, Leebron said that faculty members need to be cognizant of a lot of subtleties to student-athlete admissions. In some measures, this population is more diverse than the larger population, and that diversity will affect the metrics. The need to appropriately interpret these figures is one of the reasons this data should be treated confidentially.
Peter Mieskowski asked how coaches identify the international student-athlete applicants. Heineman replied that certain sports do more international recruitment. In those sports, often the international community blends with the American community and coaches can recruit at tournaments held in the United States where international athletes compete. For the past three years, at least five recruited student-athletes have been international students. Tennis and track are the two sports that most frequently recruit international students.
Harter asked Heineman’s opinion on Rice’s gender division in sports. Heineman reported that the number of opportunities for men and women is equal if you disregard football. Harter asked if Heineman received many complaints from men about the fact that football claims so many spaces. Leebron noted that Heineman probably wouldn’t hear the complaints, but he recognized the effect that the lack of certain men’s sports placed on Rice’s ability to recruit some very good students.
Heineman next presented confidential class rank distributions. He noted that values were not available for all 71 freshman student-athletes because some students attend schools that do not provide a class rank. He explained several factors that might affect a class rank, including attendance at an all college preparatory school and the real issue of grade inflation. Students with a 3.0 GPA may rank in the bottom half of their class because of course weighting or distribution of grades. When Heineman reviews student transcripts with exceptional metrics, he does a lot of research by calling the high schools and learning about the educational environment and measures used.
Heineman was glad to report that, since he last addressed the Senate in November 2005, the faculty subcommittee on athletic admission had been reformed and all files for the 2006 cohort of entering students had been reviewed by three members of that committee. Some had to be reviewed post-facto due to the fact that the cycles for student-athletes are very different, but upon reconstitution of the committee all of the files approved before that time were reviewed by the committee. The faculty subcommittee also met as a group a few times to discuss both the issues relevant to procedure and the larger issues of concern that faculty wanted to share. As required by the 1996 guidelines, Heineman provides the faculty subcommittee some justification for his action anytime he overrides their recommendation. At the request of the subcommittee, Heineman now provides that information in a written format and in a single presentation rather than individually as each instance occurs. He thanked the members of the faculty subcommittee, George Bennett, John Boles, Bob Brito, and Dale Sawyer, for helping streamline the process.
Heineman moved on to provide an overview of the faculty review results from 2006. In the cases where students received an unfavorable review from the faculty subcommittee, Heineman overrode that recommendation and approved the students for enrollment in 8 of the 22 cases. Of the students who received faculty disapprovals, seven of the eight started their Rice careers with some summer school opportunity. Heineman presented confidential information about the performance of those students.
Corcoran asked for an example of the type of justification that might be given for admitting a student who was disapproved by the faculty. Common explanations included: cases of international students, whose transcripts are difficult to understand and require a fair amount of research; grade trends, where a student’s grades in ninth grade were very poor but are following an upward trend (which is also considered in the case of non-athletes); students who have moved from one school to another and the numbers appear low, but where honors credit may not have transfer or students find themselves in a different competitive situation. Heinemanpersonally met with one-quarter to one-third of the recruited athletes, so personal meetings may have provided information. He also followed-up on impressions of faculty who met with prospective student-athletes. Less frequently, he requested writing samples and/or letters of recommendation to aid his decision. The majority of cases the faculty disapproved were denied and in the case of all admitted student-athletes, Heineman felt confident that the students could do the work at Rice.
Warren referred to the 1996 guidelines in which all three procedures specify that students must be in the top half of their class, but pointed out that some students were ranked in the bottom half of their class. He asked how the guidelines were used. Heinemanexplained that when he was trained for his position, he was instructed to conduct a holistic review and to not let class rank, as a single factor, drive all decisions.
Mieszkowski asked if the Office of Admission could put together information on the performance of these students after they enroll. While the faculty is aware that the overall graduation rate is quite high, he would like information on the majors and GPAs of student-athletes. Heineman replied that the information is collected and tracked, and the 1996 guidelines include a charge for the Office of the Registrar to provide that information. Schneider added that it is important not only to track the students while they are at Rice, but also to assess that performance against entrance requirements such as SAT scores and class rank. Such data analysis is important in the case of all students, student-athletes and non-athletes alike. To his knowledge, Rice does not track students to determine whether the admission criteria predict anything whatsoever. Schneider was adamant that the data needed to be provided in order for the university to make intelligent decisions about whether academic criteria are being met.
Noting that the guidelines were written in 1996, Shah asked whether the Office of Admission or Heineman planned to undertake a review of the procedures and standards for admission. He concurred that the document needed to be updated and could potentially be realigned with the admission procedures for non-athletes, but Heineman thought that such a charge would best come from a source other than the person whose job it is to act on the policy. If such a review were to take place, however, he certainly hoped to be included in the discussion. Corcoran thought that athletic admissions would be one of the issues the Senate might want to look into; any changes to the policy would probably have to come through the Senate.
V. General discussion of Faculty Senate goals for 2006/2007: Corcoran began with a list of items ongoing from last year that she believed the Senate definitely needed to finish.
Bylaws Issues to be Clarified: The definition of voting faculty for Promotion & Tenure Committee elections needs to be specified. The procedure for counting ballots in both Senate and Promotion & Tenure elections also needs to be defined. While the NEC chose to use the process previously utilized by the Faculty Council, the NEC found that last year one election came to the point of being determined by a coin toss. While the Senate may opt to retain that process, Corcoran thought that the Senate should consciously make that decision and include the procedures in the Bylaws. Finally, consideration needed to be given to lessening the work load of the NEC, potentially by separating the nominations function and the elections function into two different committees.
Bylaws for Promotion & Tenure Committee: Corcoran pointed out that since the Promotion & Tenure Committee is completely separate from the Faculty Senate (in contrast to the case with the Faculty Council), there are no Bylaws and no website for the committee. The Senate should determine what documentation is needed and what actions might be necessary to provide written guidance.
Corcoran did not think either of these tasks would be exceptionally difficult. She will be seeking a couple detail-oriented volunteers to clean-up these issues.
Working Group on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty: While the group was not active last year, Corcoran reported that they will move ahead this year.
Working Group on University Standing Committees: Some outstanding issues remain for this working group. Corcoran reported its plans to review existing committee charges, document them, archive them, and post them on the web.
Corcoran proceeded to potential new issues for consideration by the 2006/2007 Faculty Senate.
Course Evaluations, including but not limited to online administration and response rate: Corcoran received several emails from faculty in different divisions expressing concern about the response rate to online course evaluations. The response rate appeared to be down in general, but there also seemed to be zero response for some small classes. With expressed interest from faculty in many different areas, Corcoran thought the Senate should look into the issue. She also thought that any working group should not limit itself to the single question of online evaluation response rate. Broader questions exist: how are the evaluations used; is the use of the evaluations appropriate; how can response rates be improved; how could the evaluation be redesigned to learn more information; are the evaluations useful to students. Corcoran pointed out that the evaluations are done every year, but consideration has not been given to what information is desired and whether the evaluations actually provide that information.
Evan Siemann asked whether any of the faculty asked students why so few responded. His response rate was much lower than it had ever been. Corcoran reported that one student told her that he simply ran out of time. At the end of the semester and just before finals, completing evaluations fell low on the list of priorities. Corcoran suggested addressing the issue by simply extending the deadline. Mieszkowski asked whether the university could mandate that students complete the evaluations.
Leebron listed three primary areas to consider: (1) the appropriate window of time for students to complete the evaluations; (2) the idea of incentives, of which Rice offered few and which could probably be ratcheted up; and (3) the idea of sanctions. While some things warranted review and repair, Leebron pointed out that it was important not to lose sight of the fact that there is now a system that is not only much less expensive but also returns information much, much more quickly. The goal will be to continue the upsides of the new system while addressing the areas that need improvement. And while Leebron did not know whether it factored into the evaluation response rates, he noted that the students were unhappy about lack of access to written comments on the evaluations. He was not sure if the students had ever had that type of access, but Corcoran confirmed that, at one time, students could view them in the library.
Leebron understood that faculty did not want the comments to be online and knew that there were certain legal issues to be addressed. He did not recall the university considering an option to make hard copies available in the library and thought that might be a good compromise. He believed all of these were useful questions for a working group to consider in an effort to improve the system.
Corcoran reported that Carol Quillen suggested that the Teaching Committee, which reviews the evaluations and summarizes them for promotion purposes, should be involved in this discussion. The new Teaching Committee chair thought the issue would be too much for his committee to take on by itself, but Corcoran and Harter are talking to him about a joint effort. Harter thought this begged the larger issue of the formation of working groups – whether it is appropriate to use a university committee or to form a brand new working group. Corcoran noted that some faculty members are very interested in this issue and she hoped to utilize that enthusiasm. She thought that a group should involve both members of the Teaching Committee and individuals who have shown an interest in and a willingness to work on the issue. Randy Stevenson recommended including on the committee someone who could address the technical issues in order to keep the discussion in the realm of reality.
Since students will no longer write the evaluations in class but must do so one their own time, Harter thought that faculty may need to make some concessions in sharing responses. Students might respond more positively if the information becomes a tool for them to use when selecting classes. Leebron agreed that a range of ideas could be considered to tweak the system in ways that would make it work better.
Stern was sure that other universities had addressed similar issues and recommended researching what had worked elsewhere. Corcoran reminded the Senate that Schneider previously had referred to an entire body of research on this topic that should be reviewed by any working group.
Warren believed that if written comments were to be widely publicized, faculty would need a way in which to minimally respond. Comments which might seem unfair when taken out of context may seem reasonable when given context. Stevenson thought that the university should demonstrate that written comments are more helpful than numerical assessments when students evaluate their course options. He foresaw significant issues in posting identifiable evaluative information on the web where it could be accessed by anyone. If this step were to be taken, Leebron envisioned limited access to the information. The level of security would be one of the issues to be considered.
Corcoran thought that there was sufficient discussion and interest for the Senate to form a working group and planned to work with Harter, the Teaching Committee, and other interested faculty to put together the membership.
Athletics Admission Policy: Given the ten-year-old guidelines and the recent turnover in personnel, Corcoran thought now would be a good time to review and update this policy. She reported that both the President and the Provost appeared interested when she mentioned the possibility.
Warren emphasized that active participation from the athletics department would be incredibly important in this review. Heinemanwanted the Senate to know that Chris DelConte had been present at the Faculty Senate meeting but had to depart for another commitment. Heineman asked the Senate to recognize the staggering effects of admission procedures on recruitment; any changes will directly affect coaches’ ability to recruit.
James Castaneda, Professor of Spanish and Faculty Athletics Representative, pointed out that nothing had been said about academic support services in the earlier discussion. It was widely accepted that many student-athletes come from a culture which does not maximize their academic performance. When considering the academic performance of student-athletes, an important factor is the support services available after a student enrolls. Faculty are aware of anecdotal stories about students “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps” after a poor beginning in high school or at home. Consequently, any discussion should also include individuals from Rice’s academic support services.
Heineman reminded the Senate that the Board of Trustees response to the McKinsey report two years ago clearly charged the university with learning from the best admission practices of other institutions. Rice is the only school that operates with this convoluted process. Last year Heineman spoke with representatives from Stanford, Northwestern, Wake Forest, and Duke. Rice is the only school that involves faculty review in either the admission of student-athletes or non-athletes. He found that, in two cases, the schools worked with a metric similar to the NCAA eligibility guidelines, although the requirements were a little more stringent than those required for NCAA eligibility. Stanford’s process is more thorough; all applications are handled through the same procedure, but on a different calendar and with a different understanding. Stanford does have a loosely-based waivers system, but it is not a detailed as Rice’s system.
Siemann wondered if there was a way to learn whether student-athletes who were denied admission to Rice were successful at other strong institutions. If they have done well elsewhere, he would question whether the current process was working. Castaneda noted that statistics from a cohort several years ago show a 100% graduation rate for a group admitted after faculty disapproval. As a former coach and a faculty member, he recognized that many things, while seen by a coach who visits a home, may not be seen by the faculty committee. The coach may have a better perspective on whether an individual will “pull himself up by the bootstraps” in an academic setting.
Ben Kamins found a review of this document to be a timely issue. The Call to Conversation and the Vision for the Second Century strive to create a more vibrant atmosphere on campus with a greater diversity of energy. A high SAT score does not necessarily mean an individual will be an interesting person to have at Rice, whether as a student-athlete or non-athlete. Broadening the scope of how Rice views admissions is an excellent topic for the Senate to review in order to make Rice a more interesting place to be.
Admission Policies More Generally: Kamins noted that, historically, the Shepherd School of Music has been accused of holding lower academic standards for admission. He has noticed that lower SAT scores do not mean that a student will not perform well and contribute to the university, and he did not think that fact applied just to the music school.
Corcoran referred to the earlier idea of a longitudinal study. Questions to be answered include: how do students who appear marginal at admission perform in the long term, and, on the flip side, do students identified as superstars live up to that billing. Kaminsthought that, very often, students who have tried to do the right thing have not developed their creative side. Corcoran expressed concern about resume padding.
Leebron said that the new Vice President for Enrollment brings a substantially more analytic approach to admissions. He didn’t want this to be misunderstood as merely a goal to maximize SAT scores and GPAs. While that is a piece of the process, analysis also includes understanding who the Rice population is. With an expansion of the undergraduate population underway, a conversation, more qualitative than quantitative, must be had about the types of students Rice seeks. The population of student-athletes and the population of music students are unlikely to expand, but many other populations will. The faculty role will be most important in providing qualitative guidance to the people making the admission decisions. What kind of students would you most like to see, and what kind of students might be lacking? Does the university focus too much on students who do well overall instead of those who excel in one particular area? This conversation will need to occur among faculty as well as other groups.
As the university looks to a roughly 30% expansion in its undergraduate class, the starting point will be the pieces of the population that are unlikely to expand in that context. From that point, the administration is open to conversation about the ways in which the population might look a little different than the present. Some changes, such as geographic distribution and international population, have already been articulated. The university must recognize that there will be consequences to any changes, and those consequences may require a shift in resources. All of this is part of a broader conversation that needs to take place.
Schneider, who was a member of the admission committee for approximately eight years, was enthusiastic about the potential for qualitative discussion. He knew that the Senate could not set admission standards, which is a very technical process, but he welcomed the opportunity for conversation between the admission staff, the administration, and the faculty. Schneider saw the opportunity to both educate faculty more about the process of admission and educate admission staff more about what the faculty want. While the working group might not put forth specific proposals, it would provide a venue for important conversations.
Corcoran suggested extending an invitation to Chris Munoz to speak at the next Senate meeting. Leebron preferred that Munoz be given some time to understand the Rice student body before addressing the Senate; he thought the faculty ultimately would be surprised by some of the facts. To some extent, all institutions create their own mythologies, and some of those mythologies persist in spite of the facts. Leebron recommended that Munoz speak to the Senate at the beginning of the next semester.
Corcoran noted a general consensus for the Senate to address the issues of both athletic admissions and general admissions. Corcoran asked Senators for any other issues they would like to consider.
Rebekah Drezek raised the issue of scheduling for technology-enhanced classrooms. The classrooms are currently filled, and a lot of faculty would like to insert a lunch period in the Tuesday/Thursday schedule in order to get more use of them. Drezek understood the issue with scheduling undergraduates during that time and acknowledged that decision would require a lot of thought; however, she believed that offering graduate classes during that time would create almost no issues. Leebron said that the Provost is very aware of the issue, and he asked the Senate to allow the President and Provost to address the issue and report back to the Senate. Drezek’s suggestion was very modest and thought that a quick resolution might be reached.
Harter raised two additional issues she expected to come before the Senate. First, Ken Kennedy approached Corcoran and Harter to talk about the issue of email privacy, and he or a colleague will address the Senate this year. Second, Terry Doody, Professor of English, would like to talk to the Senate about a writing program, separate from the large university freshman writing program, that he is trying to launch.
While unsure of whether it would be a Senate issue, Dale Sawyer had encountered a number of people with concerns about the rules for double majoring with two degrees (a BA and a BS) as opposed to double majoring with one degree. He thought a number of students were affected by an apparent ambiguity. He believed that combining BA and BS programs in the Natural Sciences has begun to create unanticipated problems. John Hempel also noticed the same issues.
Since degree approval and decisions fall within the realm of the Senate, Corcoran believed the issue should be addressed by the Senate. She thought the issue needed to be reviewed in more detail, and Harter suggested the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, with help from a few Senators, could address it.
Kamins asked Senators to consider times and places where Shepherd School students could perform. The Shepherd School is hard pressed for performance space, and he would love for students who spend a lot of time preparing very high-level performances to have the opportunity to engage Rice University. One of his reasons for sitting on the Senate is to work to integrate what the Shepherd School does into what Rice University does.
Corcoran asked Senators to email either herself or Harter if any other issues for Senate consideration came to mind.
Warren stated that he would like the Senate to adopt the Founder’s Room as its regular meeting place and the Senate agreed.
VI. Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 1:50 pm, with the next Faculty Senate meeting scheduled for September 27, 2006.