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Minutes of the Faculty Senate of Rice University
Wednesday, March 28, 2007, 12:00 p.m.
Founder's Room, Lovett Hall
 


I.     Announcements
II.    Report from the Nominations and Elections Committee - Deborah Harter
III.   Report on 2006 Writing Exam - Deborah Barrett
IV .  Introduction of Athletic Director Chris Del Conte and Football Coach David Bailiff
[V.   Report from the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum - Bart Sinclair  (canceled
        because Sinclair was called for jury duty)]
V.   Report from Linda Thrane, V.P. for Public Affairs - Rice's strategies for communication    
VI.   Discussion with Chairman of the Board of Trustees James Crownover

Proceedings  

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


Senators present: Jose Aranda, Randy Batsell, Yildiz Bayazitoglu, John Casbarian, Marj Corcoran (Speaker), Michael Deem, Christian Emden, Deborah Harter (Deputy Speaker), John Hempel, Matthias Henze, Brian Huberman, Ben Kamins, Thomas Killian, Philip Kortum, David Leebron (ex officio),   Eugene Levy (ex officio), Peter Mieszkowski, Nancy Niedzielski, Tony Pinn, Dale Sawyer, Dave Schneider, Gautami Shah, Evan Siemann, Michael Stern, Randy Stevenson, Joe Warren, James Weston, Duane Windsor.
Senators absent: Rebekah Drezek, Jim Young
Total attendance: Approximately 50
 

Faculty Senate Speaker Marj Corcoran called the meeting to order at 12:00 p.m. and read the agenda aloud.  She then noted one change from the published agenda: Bart Sinclair had been selected for jury duty and would thus be unable to make a report from the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum.  Linda Thrane, new Vice President of Public Affairs, would speak instead.


I. Announcements  
The minutes from the January meeting have just been circulated; send comments to Cinda Lack.

On Monday, Corcoran and Deborah Harter gave the visiting Chinese delegation a presentation on the Faculty Senate.

Online course evaluations by students: goal was to make forms easier for the students to use. The two forms now fit on one screen. The system will be tested soon. Written parts of the evaluation will not be ready until at least the Fall. The present plan for students who have not filled out the evaluations is that they will be prompted to do so before viewing their grades. David Tenney advised that April 16 - May 30 is the window of time for students to complete the evaluations. As an incentive for participation, prizes can be won by the students such as a Nintendo Wii, and Target or Starbucks gift cards.

The last Faculty Senate meeting for the current school year will be held May 2, 2007, with the plenary meeting May 11. Corcoran asked if a special meeting should be scheduled to discuss the undergraduate business minor on April 27, from noon to 2:00 p.m. No conflicts were expressed; meeting was thus set for this date.


II. Report from the Nominations and Elections Committee: Deborah Harter thanked the individuals involved in making the elections run so smoothly this year. Issues have arisen, however, including the discovery that four of the five Humanists on the Senate were all up for renewal this year.  (Their renewals should ideally be far more spread out.)  Perhaps some of the Humanists who join the Senate next year could have their terms altered so that this situation does not repeat itself.  

Harter also asked that the Bylaws Committee consider examining the dilemma that arises when a senator comes up for re-election who is simultaneously serving as Deputy Speaker (and thus in charge of elections).  She recommends that in the future all Deputy Speakers up for reelection be renewed automatically for one year so that they not be running the very election in which they are also running for renewal.

Harter said she was pleased that all 11 seats had been filled but expressed as well a concern that so few nominations were received for each one.  In the future it would be ideal if all seats could be contested.


III. Report on the 2006 Composition Exam: Deborah Barrett stated that points to be covered include purpose and use of exam, administration of exam including differences from last year, the grading process, results, correlation analysis, and recommendations for next year.

Purpose and use: this writing test has been used for many years; it tests the students' ability to write clearly. It does not affect admission status, but it becomes part of the student's permanent record, and it is required for graduation. It serves to inform advisors on which courses students need to take, particularly in terms of writing courses.

Administration: students had three online opportunities to take the exam using the iMOAT technology (MIT/Microsoft partnership). Many students took the test in July 2006, some in August, some even during O-Week. If taken during O-Week there was a slight modification:  the readings were sent in advance, the test was taken here, and then it was sent to Barrett via email. Last year's results are currently online, but in a week, those will be replaced with this year's results. 

One big difference this year is that students were required to write two essays, one of which was a summary exam of several articles. This tests their ability to read critically and synthesize information. The online exam gives the students five to seven days to write their essays from the date they register. They have time to read the articles, reflect, and write their essays. Another difference this year is that the students not only received their scores but also feedback on what they needed to improve. In some cases, they received their essays back as well.

Grading process: Rice graduate students were hired as graders. The selection process was this: an email was sent to the various departments asking them to advertise the position to their graduate students. Thirty-two graduate students applied, 21 were selected, but one was let go. Thus, 20 graders were used throughout the summer.

All of the graders attended five hours of training, were supervised by three experienced graders (Group Grading Managers), and were required to sign an agreement detailing their responsibilities. Responsibilities of the Group Grading Managers (GGM) included some grading of essays and immediate availability for other graders to come to the GGM with questions. If the questions could not be resolved, they would be sent to Barrett. In addition to supervisory responsibility, the GGM evaluated the essays that were appealed. This year, there were only seven students who appealed their grades. In the past, 25 to 30 students appealed. Robin Forman noted that in the past, the students only received their grade. This year the detailed feedback they received probably cut down on the number of appeals.

Process of evaluating essays: essays were identified with identification number only (no names) and divided into three groups. They were then sent to the GGM, who distributed them to the graders electronically. Graders could grade the essays on-line or print and grade them with hand-written comments in the margins. Graders completed a grade rubric for each essay and sent the rubrics to the GGM for review. Two graders were used for each essay; then the GGM would determine the final grade. If unsure, the essay was send to Barrett who made the final decision.

Consistency of grading has been a question, but by training the graders, supervising them, and providing grading rubrics, overall, the grading was consistent. The escalation process was in place, and the final escalation process (student appeal) also showed the grading process worked well.

Test results:  the results for the two types of essays are shown. The first pie chart shows the summary essay, the second pie is the argumentative essay, and the third one is the total of both tests. There were a few more students who received Not Satisfactory on the summary essay versus the argumentative essay, but not a huge difference (27% to 23%).

Corcoran asked why the pie charts' totals for the number of essays taken are different. Barrett replied that some students only wrote one essay even though reminded to write two essays. In most cases, the one essay submitted was a strong passing essay. Twice as many students received Not Satisfactory than last year, as was reported in the Thresher.

The date the test was completed had little impact on results: consistent grades across the four grading periods were seen, including students who came in at mid-year.

Correlation to SAT Writing scores: the higher the SAT Writing scores, the fewer failures on the Rice Composition Exam.

Correlation to AP scores: there are two AP exams that emphasize writing: the Language and Composition test, and the Literature and Composition test. Both are included in this analysis. Only the high scores (4's and 5's) are kept by the registrar and sent to Barrett. It was noted that 14% of the students who failed the Rice Composition Exam scored a 5 on the AP Language and Composition test. Barrett explained that approximately 40% of the AP Language and Composition test was multiple choice, testing grammar usage, sentence structure, and punctuation. The AP Literature and Composition test asks the student to respond to questions about literature. In both AP tests, approximately 60% is responding to short essays, while the Rice Composition Exam requires more complex writing.

Regarding the writing portion of the new SAT, Barrett took this sample test on-line and reports that the essay topics are pretty simple. Students prepare, practice, and write without too much thinking applied to this test. The Rice Composition Exam requires more reading and synthesis of information. This was required for both the summary and the argumentative essays.

Harter noted that according to Barrett's pie charts 22% of the students failed the Rice Composition exam, yet they scored in the 700-800 range on the writing portion of the SAT. Forman explained that the inadequacy of the writing portion of the SAT is known, as well as the inadequacy of how it is graded.

Barrett continued, saying that concern has been expressed in the past that Rice has many students who do not list English as their first language, and that this might be the reason for their failure.  It turns out, however, that students who listed English as their first language and those who did not had very similar scores.

In addition, some concern has been expressed that the exam discriminates against certain majors. This next slide shows, instead, that the scores are pretty equal throughout the schools. There are a few anomalies because in some cases so few students took the test. It was noted that the fewest failures were among the Shepherd School students.

Recommendations for next year: continue the partnership with MIT for Spring 2007, but perhaps not after that. Originally the partnership with MIT was supposed to include more than their technology; for example, they were going to put the Rice essays in their system, but that requires permission from the students. Barrett did not want anything to prevent the students from writing the essays. Also, the topics that were suggested from MIT were not always appropriate: some were dated; some did not consider the international student's interest base.

Barrett recommends using the graduate student graders again next year, but hiring and training them earlier with an additional training session. A secondary benefit to using the graduate students is the fact that through this training they become better graders and better teachers. Doing everything on-line next year is recommended as it will streamline the process. Finally, administering the Composition Exams earlier is recommended with none administered in August except for make-up exams during O-Week.

Michael Deem expressed concern about using only an on-line grading system. He expressed interest in sending the graded essays as PDFs or scanning the handwritten comments and sending those to the students. Corcoran agreed that the comments can be valuable. Barrett replied that she will discuss this issue with the graders soon.

Carol Quillen asked about the short time frame the students have to complete their essays. Are five to seven days enough time?  Also, are two essays necessary? Barrett replied that the time allowed did not seem to be a problem as they had not received any complaints about it. Also, consideration was given to administering only one essay, but two types of essays are beneficial. The summary essay was difficult for many students, so it is not recommended it be the only essay the students write. Students are more accustomed to an argumentative essay, so both are recommended.

Joe Warren asked about plagiarism and the honor code. What steps have been taken to inform these new students about the honor code? Barrett replied that the honor code information is on the website and students are directed to it. Consideration was given to using "Turn It In.com" which can identify plagiaries. If this service is used, it is somewhat in conflict with the honor code.  Using "Turn It In.com" suggests to the students that we don't trust them.  Warren further stated that these are brand-new students who may not be totally aware of the Rice honor code and the severity of breaking the rules. Barrett replied that she'd like his advice on how to make sure that message gets across to the students.


IV.  Rice Athletics Director Chris Del Conte was introduced and stated he looks forward to the Fall 2007 Faculty Senate meeting when athletics would be discussed. Del Conte stated that intercollegiate athletics is part of the Rice mission and referenced the McKinsey report. He stated he was glad that Rice went to a bowl game for the first time in 45 years, but he also wanted to give credit to the president and Board of Trustees for putting Rice in Conference USA.

Del Conte stated that coaches are hired who understand that the Rice athletes are Rice students first. The honor code will be enforced. The facilities are open to all students, not just student athletes. In fact, the dean of the Shepherd School works out with the football team in the weight room. Autry gym is being remodeled now, not just for the basketball teams, but for everybody.  Del Conte wants the faculty and the athletic department to act as one. He stated the graduation rate of the student athletes is 88% while the rate for the entire student body is 91%.

Del Conte then introduced David Bailiff, the new head football coach for Rice.

Bailiff stated he expects the Rice football players to compete in the classroom and to compete on the football field. He stated his expectation for the Rice football players is to graduate and win championships. Every young man on Rice's football team is expected to do their job academically. Bailiff expects the athletes to contribute even after they graduate. Bailiff invited the group to come see the end zone complex.

Corcoran requested of Del Conte that banners for the Marshall Scholars be put up since banners are up for the Rhodes Scholars.  Corcoran will ask the British Consulate for the names of Rice students who are recipients of the Marshall Scholarship.


V.  Linda Thrane, Vice President of Public Affairs , thanked the group for allowing her to address the meeting. Thrane stated that Public Affairs is here to tell Rice's story, and she prefers integrated communication strategies: look at the goals first, and then bring ideas for achieving them. Public Affairs is working with President Leebron and the Vision for the Second Century and is also working with the provost on the Collaborative Research Center. The Public Affairs office is just now developing a strategic capacity to engage at the state government level.  They would like stronger external and internal understanding and support for Rice.

Public Affairs has a passionate staff and has valuable tools such as the existing Rice publications and the website. The Public Affairs office runs lean, but this strength can also be a weakness, as one can be captive to a weekly or monthly communications piece and miss a more immediate news opportunity.

Rice News is being moved to an online medium only. It is costly and slow to produce in the old way. The Public Affairs office plans to increasingly provide Rice experts to the media for news items such as tsunamis or hurricanes. Thrane encouraged the group to sign up for Dateline News Rice.  This is updated daily, ideally before 11 a.m., showing Rice's presentations in the news during the last 24 hours. It lets people at Rice see what is being said about Rice and who is supplying the information to the media.

Thrane stated that Communications Services is the new name for the Web and Print Department, and they manage a lot of the Rice communications tools including Sallyport, various brochures, and design services.  Thrane asked the Faculty Senate to be her backpack reporters; to let her know of anything newsworthy.
 
Government and Community Relations is led by Greg Marshall, while David Medina manages the Minority Affairs Outreach. Rice at Large, which reports on what Rice people are doing in the community, is currently published twice a year; the goal is for this to be published four times per year.

Thrane stated that the plan for next year is to help achieve the Vision for the Second Century and other programs important to Rice, to be much more proactive with media relations, and to have more contact with the broadcast media, especially the national media.  Thrane also plans to provide support for the internal activities here at Rice. The missing piece is a marketing capacity. Thrane stated Rice needs more access to the Texas Legislature, needs to do more with resources such as the Board of Trustees and Leadership Rice, and needs to connect more fully with those people out there who love Rice and want to help Rice.

Readers are currently being surveyed regarding the existing Rice publications, as well as a market research study to determine how the community feels about Rice. The Rice Positioning Project was brought to President Leebron in January, which he approved. The Olson advertising agency of Minnesota has been hired to come up with the creative strategy for Rice. Thrane thanked the members of the Faculty Senate who have completed their surveys, and she asked those who have not yet completed the survey to do so. Thrane plans to come back in a month or so with results from the survey, perhaps even with the new slogan (in order to see if the Faculty Senate likes it), and then to present it to President Leebron. After that, Public Affairs would work toward redefining the Rice website, signage, and publications; everything that says Rice. Corcoran said she would send an email asking for members to complete the survey.

Returns so far from the study show that Rice tends to be understated, yet there is a passion and pride among students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Words used to describe Rice include: smart, hard-working, technical, but also that Rice needs to take more risks, assert its leadership, and be more exciting. The Vision for the Second Century has a nice base of positive recall. Thrane expressed a desire to stay true to Rice in her efforts.

Deem asked if the printing of Rice News will be discontinued. Thrane replied yes, but one can print it as a PDF.  Deem stated he likes to hand it out to visitors. Thrane replied that could be a drawback to the online only system, but the timeliness is important. The annual reader survey will continue to be done, with adjustments made as necessary.


VI.  Jim Crownover, Chairman of the Board of Trustees answered a list of questions he had received from Corcoran and Harter prior to the meeting. Crownover stated he became a trustee in 1998 and is fortunate to have inherited a terrific Board of 25 accomplished people, comprised of 2/3 alumni and 1/3 non-alumni, which gives an objective view to the Board. In addition, 2/3 of the Board is from Houston, 1/3 is not. Half of the 25 have spent a significant amount of their time outside of the United States. Half of the Board members are major executives from leading public and private companies. The Board also includes some entrepreneurs, professionals from law, accounting, medicine, and government. The Board has made efforts to be diverse. Currently, there are two African Americans, three persons of Mexican heritage, and one Asian person on the Board.

Crownover stated that the entire leadership of the university is invited to the Board meetings, although occasionally the Board meets in executive session. The Board cares passionately about Rice and has a sense of urgency about what Rice needs to do. The role of the Board is to be involved with making a few major decisions, but always with a recommendation from the president and the leadership group. The Board can act as a sounding board in this system, but many decisions belong to the president and his leadership team.

Leebron stated that the Board is good at making a distinction between a governance role and an advisory role. Usually one or more of the trustees is involved with every top-level hiring decision. Often the trustees want to be involved with major decisions in an advisory role. It is a multi-faceted relationship; we try to take advantage of the Board's interest, but the Board of Trustees is not making decisions they shouldn't make.

Crownover was asked what the trustees thought about the Vision for the Second Century. A committee from the Board met to discuss the issues; sometimes they agreed with the president, sometimes they had questions, overall, they contributed to the process. The Board is excited about the Vision for the Second Century, has endorsed it, perhaps resonating most regarding the advancement of Rice as a research community. Rice has two parts, including first the undergraduate program, of which the Board is proud. The Board is similarly excited about the research mission: graduate studies, the CRC, and the commitment to biomedical research. CRC is the biggest thing Rice has ever done, but the Board is confident it is the right thing to do.  Some people on the Board may have concerns about advancing research in graduate studies-they wonder whether it could risk taking away from the undergraduate program.  Crownover stated that Rice can excel at both. The Board feels the greatest gap is in the marketing of Rice. Its accomplishments go far ahead of the recognition.

Crownover was also asked what the Faculty Senate could do to be helpful to the trustees. Three things that could help are first, asking what we need to preserve and what we need to change. Second, Rice is self-governing, and in any institution that is self-governing there is an obligation to dissent if one is concerned about what one sees. Once a problem has been solved, however, it is important that those who expressed their dissent buy in to the decision. Last, while there is a certain balance currently between an external focus and an internal focus at Rice, going forward the external focus should become more of a priority.

Regarding the athletics program at Rice, Crownover said that he was distressed with it three years ago. Across the university expenses were growing 2 to 3% but expenses in the athletics program were growing 6-7%.  Alumni who cared about athletics were not contributing much money while trustees were perhaps overly involved.  Crownover is happy now with the changes that have taken place. People who care about athletics are involved and contributing money, Del Conte has taken real responsibility for the department, and Del Conte works well with President Leebron. The board of trustees has generally stepped back from their earlier high involvement with this issue.

Corcoran asked the group if there were any questions. Warren thanked Crownover for coming to discuss the Board of Trustees with the Faculty Senate, saying that the Board's activities have been quite unfamiliar to most.  Referring to the self-governance issue and the assent/dissent notion, Warren asked for ways the faculty, especially an individual faculty member, could influence the outcome of decisions made by higher level administration. Crownover replied that a group that is broadly represented could definitely influence the board; it would have credibility.

Leebron said he could speak directly to the question of governance of Rice.  Rice, he said, has a fairly porous structure which depends on people knowing their roles. Deans have direct access to the trustees; they are invited to the trustee dinners and meetings; the process is transparent. One piece of governance that is inconsistent across the university is that each school has its own advisory structure. Some of these structures include the trustees, some do not.   There is a question how we can integrate those school-based structures with the trustee structure.  We continue to look for opportunities to bring faculty and trustees together. 

Leebron continued by saying that two things happen at every Board meeting: a dean makes a presentation to the Board of Trustees and a faculty speaker talks to the Academic Affairs Committee. Trustees are involved with financial matters such as investment and importantly, borrowing money. The trustees have approved borrowing an additional $600 million which is a clear message as to the importance of the research mission of Rice. The bulk of expenses that are not supported by revenues are for the research mission at Rice. Leebron stated finally that he is open to communication at all times-and certainly to any individual faculty member who might write saying he wants to speak to him. He will speak to the faculty member, but he will keep in mind the dean structure. Trustees, however, are not paid by the university; we don't want to overly use their time.

Harter said that the former method by which the faculty communicated with the Board was the yearly meeting between the Chairman of the Board and Faculty Council.  That meeting was closed, moreover, to the outside world. The Faculty Senate, by contrast, is open to the entire Rice community, and she invited Crownover to feel welcome to attend any of its meetings during the year, and of course to communicate this invitation to all of the trustees.

Harter noted as well that in the case of issues that were outside the purview of the Faculty Senate, she hoped the lines of communication between faculty and the Board would remain open.  Recently one member of the Senate's Executive Committee brought up a topic that all felt was more appropriately discussed by the Board.  They hoped, nevertheless, that faculty views on the subject would be heard.

Tom Killian stated that the Board's interaction with the faculty is seen as important, but he wondered how the Board interacts with the students.  Crownover replied that some trustees are involved in student activities, but not very many. The Board is much more conscious of interacting with faculty, but it could interact more with students.

Leebron stated that at least one trustee is very active with students. At one point, two trustees had children who were attending college here. This is an issue we want to look at--perhaps trying to incorporate students more in the future. Perhaps more students could be brought in for an occasional meal with the trustees, or could ask trustees to attend a dinner at their college.

Crownover stated that this year has been a period of transition. His first two years were spent developing a plan and getting support for it, and then, secondly, organizing it. Now a new plan has been made and the Board is moving forward with implementation.

Randy Batsell and Corcoran stated that quite a few faculty members, both within and outside the Senate, have expressed a real appreciation for having been included in the decision-making process.

Corcoran then asked how trustees are chosen.  She also stated that there has been some concern over Rice being both a research university and an undergraduate university, although she feels they complement each other. Crownover replied that although research is what excites people, the undergraduates will not be forgotten. Regarding trustee selection, Crownover stated that every year there is a turnover of about 10% of the trustees. There is a trustee committee of six or seven that puts together a list of approximately ten people to recommend to the board. From this, most individuals who are asked say yes, but the Board wants to be sure they ask the right people.

Harter then stated that many faculty feel there remains a division on campus between science/engineering and the humanities. Rice began of course as a technical school.  She wondered whether the board has a commitment to grow and help flourish all parts of the university-even those that bring in less outside money.

Crownover stated that the Board does not support such factions. It cares about both halves of the school. Its philosophy is that we are students of real life. The Board's thought is probably less about the subjects that are taught than about the capabilities of the students. The students will have 70-year careers. A research university teaches kids from the start how to do research, the skills to deal with global issues, problem-solving, and teamwork.

Leebron added that, in a way, this is a question about the diversity of the Board. There are those who are passionate about the humanities, art, music, engineering, and information technology. Rice has not consciously looked for this, but we have it all there on the board.

Leebron brought up one last issue related to athletics.  Autry Court must be redone. Most bowl games are financially losing propositions, but the bowl game turned into a positive financial event. Rice did not lose money going to a bowl game. The coaches also take care of excluding students from playing in games if they are having academic difficulties.  Del Conte takes fiscal responsibility and responsibility for the integrity of the program.

Corcoran adjourned the meeting at 2:00. Those who wanted to stay and watch the University of Minnesota commercials were invited to do so.