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 Minutes of the Faculty Senate Meeting

January 14, 2009

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall

 

Agenda

I.          Announcements

II.       The Senate’s tentative Spring 2009 schedule

III.       Discussion of new amendment regarding secret ballots

IV.      Completion of discussion and recommendation on add/drop deadlines

V.       Executive Session

Senators present: Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Steven Cox, Michael Deem, Michael Emerson, Deborah Harter (Speaker), John Hempel, Matthias Henze, Tom Killian, Philip Kortum, David Leebron, Eugene Levy, Peter Mieszkowski, Matteo Pasquali, Rob Raphael, Dale Sawyer, Gautami Shah, Evan Siemann, Meredith Skura, Michael Stern, Devika Subramanian, James Weston, Duane Windsor (Deputy Speaker), Jim Young.

Senators absent: Ed Cox, Sarah Ellenzweig, Christian Emden, Ben Kamins, Caroline Quenemoen, Randy Stevenson.

PROCEEDINGS

I. Announcements (Deborah Harter, Speaker)

A. Harter indicated that Provost Levy has now finalized a new sabbatical policy that will be presented to the faculty soon. This new policy allows faculty members more flexibility when scheduling their sabbaticals than did Rice’s previous policy.

B. She also indicated that President Leebron had wondered whether the video copies we make of all Senate meetings shouldn’t in fact be destroyed as a matter of course, leaving only the Senate’s approved minutes as the official record of each meeting. The Executive Committee has discussed the issue and agrees with the suggestion, but feels the video tapes should be destroyed only after one year. 

C. Harter noted finally that a new working group has been recommended by the Executive Committee which will produce guidelines for any changes to be made in the General Announcements (GA). Randy Stevenson has offered to head this working group, and he has suggested three categories of changes to the GA: those that require Faculty Senate approval; those for which the Faculty Senate should be informed but that do not require the Senate’s approval; and those items with which the Faculty Senate need not be concerned but may evaluate if it wishes. Volunteers are needed.

 

D. Duane Windsor, Deputy Speaker and Chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC), announced that the NEC is going to begin the Promotion and Tenure Committee (P&T) election on or about January 21, 2009, with two seats available: one in Social Sciences and one in Engineering.

The Faculty Senate elections will begin after the P&T election has been completed, and there are 10 seats on the Senate up for election. Windsor encouraged those current Senators whose terms are expiring, and who are eligible to run again, to do so.

 

E. The Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC) has approved unanimously a new minor in Jewish studies that we will consider next time. They will also soon forward to us for initial thoughts both proposals for two new interdisciplinary minors and a set of guidelines for creating new departmental and interdisciplinary majors

F. The recent death of a Rice graduate student, Han Li, was announced. A letter of condolence will be sent to his family on behalf of the Rice Faculty.

II.   The Senate’s tentative Spring 2009 schedule

February: Working group report on General Admissions (Meredith Skura)

           Working group report on Teaching (Jim Young)

           Approval of a proposed new minor in Jewish Studies

March:      Working group report on Amorous Relations (Rebekah Drezek)

            Panel discussion with Jim Crownover and his colleagues on the Board

            Approval of guidelines for creating new majors at Rice

April:        Working group report on NTT Faculty (Gautami Shah)

           Working group report on Athletic Admissions (Dale Sawyer)

III.  Discussion of new amendment regarding secret ballots

Harter stated that in the past there have been votes taken in the Senate where individual Senators have wondered about the possibility of voting by secret ballot. The Executive Committee has discussed this issue and proposes an amendment to the Faculty Senate’s Meeting Rules. She asked Jim Young if he would present the proposed amendment for approval by the Senate, on behalf of the Executive Committee:

6.7 Motions for a Secret Ballot

After debate on any motion has ended and before a vote on that motion has begun, any Senator may call (without recognition from the chair) for the vote to be taken by secret ballot. Such a motion for a secret ballot will be in order if one other Senator seconds it. The motion for a secret ballot may be debated until a motion to end debate has been passed under the rules of Section 6.3. At that time the chair will call for an open vote on the motion for a secret ballot. If a majority of the Senators present vote in the affirmative, the vote on the main motion will be taken by secret ballot. The parliamentarian and the deputy speaker will act as tellers and will announce whether the main motion gained a majority of votes or not and will reveal the vote count. If the motion fails, or no such motion is made before voting begins, the vote will be by show of hands.

Gautami Shah, James Weston, and Matteo Pasquali indicated they preferred open voting since constituents have a right to know how each Senator has voted on a given issue. Weston stated that it is precisely when we vote on critical issues that open voting should occur, but that if a secret ballot is used, perhaps a 2/3’s majority (not a simple majority) should be required for the secret ballot motion to pass.

Tom Killian stated that he would vote to approve this amendment (which allows secret ballots) as theexception; open voting, he felt, should be the regular voting procedure.

A friendly amendment was offered by Pasquali: in order for secret ballots to be used, a 2/3’s super-majority of the voters present is required. After some discussion and clarification, it was decided that a vote would be held on Pasquali’s friendly amendment prior to the vote on the original amendment. There were 9 Senators in favor of the 2/3’s super-majority requirement, and 8 who were against it. (The Speaker did not vote.) The amendment passed.

A vote was then held on the amended main motion, which passed with 13 Senators voting in the affirmative and 5 voting in the negative. The new wording is shown below:

6.7 Motions for a Secret Ballot

After debate on any motion has ended and before a vote on that motion has begun, any Senator may call (without recognition from the chair) for the vote to be taken by secret ballot. Such a motion for a secret ballot will be in order if one other Senator seconds it. The motion for a secret ballot may be debated until a motion to end debate has been passed under the rules of Section 6.3. At that time the chair will call for an open vote on the motion for a secret ballot. If a 2/3’s majority of the Senators present vote in the affirmative, the vote on the main motion will be taken by secret ballot. The parliamentarian and the deputy speaker will act as tellers and will announce whether the main motion gained a majority of votes or not and will reveal the vote count. If the motion fails, or no such motion is made before voting begins, the vote will be by show of hands.

 

 

IV.   Completion of discussion and recommendation on add/drop deadlines

Harter explained that when the Faculty Senate was about to vote on the academic calendar last Spring, one senator asked to clarify whether that vote included approval of the suggested new add/drop deadlines. Harter answered, at the time, that since there had not been time to discuss these, and since it was not clear this was a Senate decision to make, these would be set aside and handed instead to the CUC or some other appropriate entity. The topic had now, however, been discussed, both by a special ad hoc committee and by the Senate itself in December, so that the Senate could now vote on the matter. Both the Senate and the ad hoc committee generally agree with a recommendation of 2 weeks to add classes and 7 weeks to drop

Harter said that before going further, she wanted to bring up two related items.

First, in the course of discussions on this issue, a couple of Senators had raised the question whether students should be allowed to present their views at Faculty Senate meetings. She has now raised the issue with the Executive Committee, and they feel that allowing representatives from the Student Association to present select items has worked very well; they do not see a reason to curtail this. Still, this is a legitimate question for discussion in the Senate.

Second, she indicated that Randy Stevenson had asked the question whether, when faced with issues where multiple contingencies are affected, the Senate shouldn’t simply vote from the perspective of the faculty. The Senate’s recommendation could then be considered by the administration alongside recommendations submitted by other contingencies, and a decision could be made that would blend these.

Harter repeated that the Senate may wish to discuss these important items at first opportunity. Harter then read the proposal from the Executive Committee:

Add/Drop Deadlines: Because student add/drop deadlines have an impact on pedagogy, the Faculty Senate recommends that the following deadlines be adopted beginning in the Fall of 2009: “Students may add courses each semester during weeks 1 and 2 and my drop them through the 7thweek of classes.”

Evan Siemann expressed concern over the omission of the words “without petitioning the Committee on Examinations and Standing (Ex&S)” from the text above.

David Tenney, Registrar, read excerpts from the current General Announcements regarding adds and drops, and he stated that this information covers 1.5 pages in the General Announcements due in part to the various fees students must currently pay to add or drop a course after certain deadlines. He suggested that the words “without petioning the Committee on Examinations and Standing” be added where appropriate in the new language.

John Hempel asked what a “no” vote would mean on this issue. The reply from Harter was that Rice would in that case keep its current deadlines of 4 weeks to add classes and 10 weeks to drop classes.

Siemann stated that, in his opinion, Harter’s reply was incorrect; the Senate passed the Academic Calendar Proposal last year which changed those deadlines to 2 weeks for adding and 5 weeks for dropping classes. A discussion ensued as to whether the add/drop deadlines were included when the Academic Calendar Proposal was approved by the Senate.

Shah stated that although the Academic Calendar Proposal was approved, this add/drop portion was not included; it was deferred to a later time.

Windsor said that although sample calendars were included in the proposal, any rules regarding add/drops were not in the language of the original proposal. Furthermore, he stated that the minutes had been checked, and the Speaker had made a specific reservation in the November 2007 Senate meeting stating that she thought the add/drop deadlines should not be part of the Senate vote until this issue had been examined by the CUC. The Speaker had subsequently convened an ad hoc task force including faculty and administrators. Windsor explained that this process had resulted in administrative willingness to eliminate fees from the add/drop process to the students’ advantage. Windsor also stated that he felt the substantive issue is what the deadlines ought to be; not what had occurred previously. Students have expressed serious concerns; and the faculty has a special relationship with students. He said that if specific language is not adopted now regarding add/drop deadlines, the old (longer) deadlines would arguably resume. The present situation concerning add/drop deadlines is “murky” at best. Windsor also stated that the Ex&S language Siemann had referred to earlier could be added as a friendly amendment. 

Windsor said he definitely preferred 2 weeks to add classes and initially 5 to drop, as presented in the original Academic Calendar Proposal. However, he said that in the ad hoc discussions, there was some information suggesting that there are faculty members who do not provide substantial grade information to their students within five weeks. If so, he could understand the need to allow students seven weeks (the middle of the semester) to decide to drop a class.

Siemann then asked for the status of the other deadlines that were included in the Academic Calendar Proposal. Young stated that he did not feel that any of these deadlines were the business of the Senate to decide, and in fact, the current proposal regarding add/drop deadlines is phrased as a recommendation from the faculty point of view.

Randy Batsell said that if the suggested language regarding Ex&S is to be added to the proposal from the Executive Committee, then the wording of the proposal needs to be changed. He offered the following wording as a friendly amendment:

 

Except for first semester students, no student may add courses after the second week of the semester and no student may drop courses after the seventh week of the semester without a successful petition to the Committee on Examinations and Standing.

Siemann expressed confusion as to why any item from the original approved Academic Calendar Proposal was being changed now. Windsor elaborated on his previous explanation by saying that the entire proposal was indeed approved with the exception of this one item about which the Speaker had voiced a reservation (add/drop deadlines).

Siemann stressed that it be understood that the rest of the deadlines in the Academic Calendar Proposal were approved, and Harter agreed.

Harter thanked Evan Siemann and his group for their work on the academic calendar.

Flexible add/drop deadlines for different classes were discussed by Hempel, with Pasquali noting that individual students can petition Ex&S if they need to add or drop a class after the standard deadline. Hempel prefers a late drop date for pedagogical reasons. He also explained the burdens on Ex&S (on which he serves) when there are many petitions. He wondered therefore whether there could be variable drop deadlines. 

Tenney stated that official enrollment needs to be set by a definite date, and that optional drop dates by course are far too administratively burdensome. He also said that due to the 10-week drop system, some schools currently view many Rice transcripts as questionable because students appear to finish every class they begin. Tenney explained that prior to 10 weeks, if a Rice student drops a class, there is no record of having taken this class on his/her transcript. However, if a Rice student successfully petitions Ex&S and is allowed to drop a class after 10 weeks, a “W” for “Withdrawn” is placed on his/her transcript. He noted that if the drop deadline is changed to an earlier date, this “W” would be used at that time.

Weston proposed that a straw vote be held on the add/drop deadlines.

A representative from the Student Association then voiced the opinion of his group, stating that the Rice undergraduate students prefer the later 7-week drop deadline.

Harter conducted a straw vote, asking, “How many Senators prefer a five-week drop deadline?” Five (5) Senators raised their hands. She then asked, “How many Senators prefer a seven-week drop deadline?” Fourteen (14) Senators raised their hands.

Mike Stern proposed that the straw vote become the final vote, but the Speaker and Deputy Speaker stated that an official vote should occur. Killian had a question about the wording of the new proposal, andTenney clarified that the exception for first-semester students applies only to the dropping of classes, not to the adding of classes. Harter then asked that the vote proceed with the understanding that revised, accurate wording will be sent to the Senators later. That proposed wording is provided below for the minutes:

No student may add courses after the second week of the semester (with the exception of first semester students), and no student may drop courses after the seventh week of the semester, unless through a successful petition to the Committee on Examinations and Standing.

The official Senate vote on the proposal to allow students to add classes through the second week and drop classes through the seventh week without petitioning Ex&S resulted in almost unanimous approval, with one “no” vote and one abstention. The proposal passed.

David Leebron said that some of this add/drop language was from a specific case that came before him. He said he had rejected some language from the General Announcements that did not have Faculty Senate approval and had returned to previous language that the faculty had approved. However, he said that the Registrar and the administration reserve the right to choose the proper wording that will convey to the students accurate, effective information.

Leebron also stated that he very firmly approves the way the Senate has chosen to hear, when relevant, the views of students. Indeed, he said, he expects this, and that except when notified to the contrary he will assume that the Faculty Senate has attempted to take into account the full range of concerns that are present among the various constituencies at Rice. This seems consistent, he said, with the spirit of the Rice community. In this case, for example, he felt a compromise had been reached between faculty and students, and that this is reflected in the recommendation being sent to the university administration.

Harter thanked everyone for their attendance and announced that the Senate would adjourn to an Executive Session. The Senators and Carol Quillen were asked to remain for the Executive Session. The regular session adjourned at 1:30 p.m.