Minutes of the Faculty Senate of Rice University
Wednesday, March 28, 2007, 12:00 p.m.
Founder's Room, Lovett Hall
Report from the Nominations and Elections Committee -
Report on 2006 Writing Exam - Deborah Barrett
. 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)]
Report from Linda Thrane, V.P. for Public Affairs - Rice's
strategies for communication
Discussion with Chairman of the Board of Trustees James
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
V. Linda Thrane, Vice President of Public
, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Corcoran adjourned the meeting at 2:00. Those who wanted to stay
and watch the University of Minnesota commercials were invited to