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Minutes of the Rice University Plenary Faculty Meeting

Tuesday, September 26, 2006, 4 pm

McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall

AGENDA
       I.     Presentation and Approval of Candidate for Advanced Degree (Exceptional Case)
       II.    State of the University Address – President David Leebron
 

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

Attendance: approximately 200

Faculty Senate Speaker Marjorie Corcoran called to order the Plenary Faculty Meeting at 4:02 pm.

I.  Presentation and Approval of Candidate for Advanced Degree (Exceptional Case)
Corcoran
 brought to the attention of faculty a case in which, due to an error in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies, a Rice graduate student pursuing a PhD in Chemistry was not awarded her Masters degree en route to her PhD.  The Registrar confirmed that the student has satisfied all requirements for the Masters degree.

When the Faculty Senate was established, the faculty retained the power to confer degrees.  Corcoran requested a motion from the faculty to approve the degree and to backdate it to the correct date of May 2006.  The motion was approved unanimously.

II.  State of the University Address
Corcoran introduced President David Leebron to present the State of the University address, encouraging faculty to embrace, influence, and mold the Vision for the Second Century and to help move Rice to the next level of excellence in all areas.

David Leebron began by taking a moment to remember the recent deaths of two freshman students and the impact of their loss on the university community.

In his second State of the University address, Leebron aimed to combine both qualitative and quantitative information in a framework that can be used to present a snapshot of the university year after year.  One year ago, the university was in the midst of the Call to Conversation process.  In December 2005, the Vision for the Second Century and a new mission statement for the university were adopted by the Board of Trustees.

Since that time, the university has begun implementation of that vision.  Leebron provided examples of that progress, including:  plans to break ground on the Collaborative Research Center before the end of the calendar year;  enhancement of graduate student stipends, particularly in the Humanities and Social Sciences; increased support for graduate student health insurance; new interdisciplinary endeavors in Asian Studies and Global Health and plans for ventures in Energy and Latin American Studies; commencement of a fundamental reassessment of the university’s goals for the undergraduate experience; the launch of two new funds to support travel and innovation by faculty members; collaborative ventures between the School of Humanities and the art museums; the creation of the Center for Civic Engagement; and reaching the $4 billion endowment threshold.

In support of the university’s expansion plans, the Board of Trustees has expressed support of an ambitious capital campaign.  Each of the Schools is engaged in a process to define its strategic plans and to align those plans with the broader goals of the university. Leebron proceeded to elaborate on six areas with statistics and qualitative illustrations.

FACULTY: Leebron showed examples of recent faculty achievements and provided a snapshot of the size of the faculty reflecting slow but steady growth.  He recognized the extraordinary quality of the faculty, including descriptions of some of the research grants, honors, and recognitions received and faculty contributions to the academic community.  Leebron also presented data on growth in research funding and the recruitment and retention of faculty.  He noted gender and ethnic diversity of faculty to be an area for continued attention in the coming years.  Faculty departures were relatively consistent with years past.

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS: Leebron shared recent student achievements in the areas of scholarships and fellowships.  He presented statistics on the student population and described the plan for increasing the number of undergraduate students.  In addition to enrolling an increasing number of students over the next five years, planning must occur for the recruitment of quality applicants, the processing of and increased number of applications, student housing, and the provision of quality classroom and laboratory experiences for an expanded group of students.

GRADUATE STUDENTS: Leebron presented admission statistics, noting that the number of admitted students and the number of graduate students have remained fairly constant over time, even as the number of international applicants has varied widely.  He pointed out that departments across the university attract graduate students from some of the very best programs in the country.

DIVERSITY OF COMMUNITY: Leebron provided data on the diversity of the faculty and student populations.  Faculty data included information on gender and ethnic diversity; undergraduate student data included information on geographic and ethnic diversity.  He expected to launch some additional committees to take a closer look at diversity issues in the near future.

CAPITAL PLANS AND FACILITIES: Leebron described building plans for the next five to seven years totaling approximately $900 million.  He explained the plan to finance this growth with both debt and gifts to the university, with priorities in the areas of academic buildings, infrastructure, student housing, and dynamic campus reflected in the allocation of debt to each individual project.  Leebronexpected many projects to begin within the next year.

FINANCIAL RESOURCES: As a small school, Rice has a large endowment, but Leebron emphasized that the university competes against schools with significantly larger endowments. He presented a table comparing Rice’s approximately $4 billion endowment to the endowment market values of other top private universities and noted that Rice’s endowment level falls well below the endowment levels of its peer institutions.  Leebron noted that the endowment supports 44% of operating revenues, a higher percentage than most peer institutions, and displayed a pie chart illustrating the allocation of operating expenses.  The university’s goal is to double the annual fund over a total of seven years and Rice has already made significant progress towards this goal.  Leebron also highlighted the receipt last year of four gifts that are among the largest in the history of the university.

Leebron concluded by recognizing the concerns surrounding faculty needs and compensation, and he reassured faculty that those issues will be looked at closely over the next year.  He also lauded the Faculty Senate as a positive step forward in faculty governance and expressed his appreciation for the working relationship that has been established between the Senate and the administration.  He had originally hoped that more faculty would attend Senate meetings, but, since that is not the case, Leebron saw a need to continue to explore ways in which to communicate much more effectively with the faculty.  If there is an interest, he would like to organize seminars for faculty based on topics addressed today and conducted by senior administration.

In the coming years, Leebron expected to continue to formulate and elaborate on the university’s strategic plans, to make firm progress on the issue of faculty diversity, to increase research dollars and the support for sponsored research, to develop and sustain international collaborations, and to improve internal communication and transparency.

Leebron then fielded questions on Rice’s early decision admission policy, the prioritization of China and India over Latin America among the regions to which Rice is reaching out for collaboration, and the lack of a PhD in Hispanic Studies.

III. Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 5:10 pm.