Special Plenary Meeting of the Rice University Faculty
Called by Petition
McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall
December 10, 2009
Duane Windsor, Speaker of the Faculty Senate, welcomed the faculty to the plenary session. Copies of “Official Faculty Survey Conducted by the Faculty Senate on Attitudes Toward the Potential Rice-Baylor Merger” were distributed. Randy Stevenson and Susan McIntosh served as parliamentarians to assist the Speaker.
Windsor introduced Randy Batsell, a member of the Faculty Senate working group which designed the survey. Batsell announced the other members of the survey design group: Don Morrison (FMRC Chair), Stephen Klineberg, Bob Stein, and Randy Stevenson. The Rice University Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE) conducted the survey and collected the results. Thanks were expressed for OIE assistance.
Batsell said that replies to the survey would be accepted until 5 p.m. Saturday, December 12. There are 687 individuals classified as voting faculty members. 607 had responded so far (88.4%), including 53 who chose to opt out of the survey. Batsell discussed the response rate of the survey and summarized the replies to the questions. He also discussed a question on the survey which was asked in a similar form three times (Questions 1, 3, and 7), and its resulting answers. He said that overall, the replies to the survey reflected a thoughtful set of responses. Batsell said that any questions the faculty might have after reading these early results of the survey should be sent to Duane Windsor.
Windsor announced that a combined meeting of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the Faculty Merger Review Committee (FMRC) was held at noon today to preview these early survey results. He said that Randy Stevenson had made some summary comments at the noon meeting that Windsor asked him to repeat at this plenary session.
Stevenson said that there were three points he wished to make regarding the survey results. First, the notion that faculty opinion has hardened one way or the other towards the merger is not true. He said that the survey showed that when information was provided, some faculty updated their responses. Thus, there is a continued usefulness to the debate on the merger issue. Second, the survey showed that there is substantial skepticism among faculty as to whether a merger will be implemented correctly. Third, the responses regarding the impact a merger might have on Rice University were varied and interesting; with the exception of the merger’s impact on undergraduate education, where there was very little disagreement among the respondents.
Windsor said that as Speaker, he had a limited role in today’s meeting, but he did wish to offer a few comments. Regarding the survey, he said that although it closes on Saturday, any additional participants will not affect the results substantially. The intention of the Faculty Senate is to send the results to the Rice administration, the Board of Trustees, and the voting faculty. He also said that the minutes taken at today’s meeting would include any motions presented, and the meeting itself was subject to Robert’s Rules of Order. Windsor reviewed the voting eligibility language from the Faculty Senate Constitution, especially as it applies to emeritus faculty not having a vote. Voting at today’s meeting would be on the honor principle. He stated that the voting eligibility list was available in case of any questions or challenges. Windsor displayed the petition language. (See Appendix I: Petition).
Windsor said that five speakers for today’s meeting had pre-registered with him (to speak in order registered), Don Morrison was scheduled to speak as FMRC Chair, and he had received one motion for presentation by Randy Hulet. Matteo Pasquali handed Windsor a copy of a second motion for presentation.
Moshe Vardi addressed the group next. Vardi stated that since January 2009, he had pushed for individuals holding conflicting opinions on the merger to be heard by the Rice faculty. He apologized for offending anyone. He said that it was important for a large amount of information to be available on the merger issue, including the final results of the faculty survey.
Deborah Harter read from a prepared statement saying she wished to express both her gratitude and her disappointment in the FMRC, the Faculty Senate, Moshe Vardi, the Rice administration, and the Rice faculty.
Tom Killian complimented the work of the survey design group. He said there is now a clear picture of the Rice faculty’s opinion regarding a merger with BCM, and although he would listen to any resolutions presented today, he doubted that they would express the faculty’s opinion better than the survey results.
Mike Wolf addressed the faculty, saying that he serves on the FMRC and finds himself to be in the middle ground regarding a merger, but that he thinks Rice is threatened. Wolf said he felt that the administration should have been willing to discuss the discrepancy between the FMRC’s stated $250 million required for synergistic academic benefits and the administration’s lower number. He said he hoped that if the worst case scenario should occur with a Rice-BCM merger, Rice would cut its ties with BCM as the administration has stated. In summary, Wolf said he thought it was possible for this merger to succeed.
Rob Raphael addressed the faculty next, saying he had been inspired by a book he recently read entitledWorst Case Scenarios. Raphael said that humans have an innate tendency to fear the worst case, and he felt that the general bad economic situation has contributed to the fear felt at Rice regarding the merger.
Don Morrison, FMRC Chair, stated that much new information had been released in recent weeks; the merger negotiations are now very active and in the later stages. He said that if this process continues throughout January 2010, he will call for another plenary session of the faculty to occur in mid-January. He stated that the merger process has been going on for over a year now, and it has taken a toll on everyone. People’s spirits are frayed, and there have been ample opportunities for mistakes. He acknowledged mistakes on the part of the Rice administration, the Faculty Senate, and his own mistake in not scheduling frequent plenary sessions throughout the fall semester. Morrison said that it was common for people to have strong emotions at such a time, and he urged that after the merger decision is made, Rice faculty life return to normal.
Matteo Pasquali replied to the general statements made earlier that those opposed to the merger are simply risk-averse. Rather, they simply have a different vision for Rice University. He quoted George Orwell, and he said that advocates of the merger have an obligation that their passion does not override reason.
At this point of the meeting, comments were accepted from the assembly. One person stated a condition presented in the survey under Question 3 (i): “The BCM deficit must be brought under control by the end of FY 2010 in a manner that is self-sustaining and does not depend on one-time adjustments.” He asked if this statement means that no decision regarding a merger can be made until the end of FY 2010. Leebron said that the Memorandum of Understanding expires at the end of January 2010. The Rice Board of Trustees expects to make a decision around that time, but the basic answer regarding the condition stated in Question 3 is no; full financial results will not be available by January 31. Morrison added that the FMRC had stated this condition in another way, which he preferred over the wording in the survey. He added that a general point to keep in mind about these conditions is that many must be understood as “confident predictions.”
Resolutions were taken in order of receipt by the Speaker. Randy Hulet introduced a resolution, seconded. (See Appendix II: Resolution—Professor Randy Hulet.) He wished to acknowledge that the merger has been a contentious issue, and that reasonable people can, and do, disagree with each other. He said that he respects the Rice administration and he feels that they have acted in good faith. However, he said that merging with BCM is wrong for Rice, and he stated several points to support this statement. Hulet said that he was encouraged by the faculty opinion survey, and he noted that its results show that a large bloc of the faculty is opposed to the merger. He said it is important that the faculty be heard, and that although the assembled body had been cautioned that the survey results are enough, he felt that a stronger statement is needed, a definitive statement. Hulet urged the faculty to say to make a decision, to say yes or no to the merger, and to join him in voting for the resolution.
Responding to a question, Stevenson explained that a vote would be held among the assembled faculty whether to adopt the resolution or not. Any resolution adopted during the meeting must then be sent for endorsement to the entire Rice voting faculty.
Neal Lane said that he felt that this resolution was not as strong a statement as the survey commissioned by the Faculty Senate. He said the resolution will be seen by some individuals as a vote of “no confidence” in the Faculty Senate and in the Rice administration. Lane said that he had not decided if he was for or against the merger, but he felt that the resolution was not necessary.
Jane Chance spoke in favor of the resolution, saying that if Rice were to take on BCM, it would narrow the focus of Rice to bio-medical research at the expense of other areas. In addition, it is not a good time for Rice to take on more debt and perhaps Rice is moving too quickly. She suggested that the motion's text did not completely reject the merger.
After other faculty members expressed their opinions, a “call the question” motion to end discussion did not obtain enough support. Additional faculty members spoke, including Moshe Vardi who said that the resolution is not a vote of “no confidence” in the Faculty Senate or the administration; the resolution is a vote regarding the merger. Vardi said the resolution expresses the direction that the faculty wishes for Rice to go.
Raphael and Stevenson each spoke again, as well as Pasquali. Pasquali quoted a statement from RiceUniversity’s Vision for the Second Century (V2C): “…We must also seize opportunities for bold new endeavors when they arise, but we should not fund new schools out of the general resources of the university.” Pasquali also stated that those faculty members who are against the merger are not just nay-sayers without a vision; they have a vision.
Several other faculty members expressed their opinions at this time. Ed Akin said that he had signed the petition which resulted in this special plenary session as a means to make sure that the Faculty Senate would survey the entire faculty for its opinion regarding the merger, and that has indeed happened; the resolution is not now necessary. Another person asked if the percentages from a ballot measure (not a summary) would be presented to the Board of Trustees, and the reply from Windsor was yes.
A vote was then held on the resolution, and voting faculty members were asked to stand and count aloud in order to obtain an accurate count. The total was 59 in favor of the resolution, and 61 opposed; the resolution was not adopted. The Speaker announced the vote.
Windsor then presented the resolution he had received from Pasquali. (See Appendix III: Resolution—Professor Matteo Pasquali.) Windsor stated he did not think the resolution to establish a committee was germane to the specific topics presented in the petition. Vardi appealed, seconded. Stevenson pointed out that the resolution did not mention the merger and covered broader purposes. A vote was held among the assembly (by show of hands); the group decided the resolution was not germane. There were no additional resolutions presented.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:05 p.m.
Petition for a Special Plenary Meeting
Of the Rice University Faculty
Rice is contemplating a merger with Baylor College of Medicine, in what may be the most important decision in our institution's history.
When the Faculty Senate was formed, a provision was made for the full faculty to meet whenever events warrant it, upon the collection of 50 faculty signatures. Following that provision, the undersigned call on the Senate to convene the Rice faculty for a special meeting in plenary session to discuss the merger proposal, to hear a report from the Faculty-Merger Review Committee, to air both our aspirations and our concerns, and possibly to pass resolutions.
Resolution—Professor Randy Hulet
Preamble (from the VSC)
“As a leading research university with a distinctive commitment to undergraduate education, RiceUniversity aspires to path breaking research, unsurpassed teaching, and contributions to the betterment of our world. It seeks to fulfill this mission by cultivating a diverse community of learning and discovery that produces leaders across the spectrum of human endeavor.”
For several decades, the Rice Faculty, Administration, and Board of Trustees have shared a common vision for the University. This shared vision has empowered us to steadily advance the quality and impact of our research enterprises while maintaining our core commitment to unequaled undergraduate education. We, the Faculty of Rice University, believe that merging with Baylor College of Medicine poses unnecessary and unacceptable risks to the University, and is incompatible with the vision that has served us so well. We reaffirm our commitment to this longstanding vision, and to the aspiration to stand among the world’s greatest universities.
Resolution—Professor Matteo Pasquali
Preamble (from the 2003 Rice University Presidential Search White Paper)
At this stage in its history, Rice can secure and enhance its position as a leading university by advancing the quality, distinctiveness, and impact of its research and graduate programs while maintaining and improving its admired undergraduate studies. There are three primary ways to make these gains.
1. By strengthening Rice’s scholarship and research;
2. By leveraging the impact of this capacity through collaborative partnerships with others;
3. By expanding the impact of teaching and scholarship both nationally and internationally.
Approaching its second century, Rice University aspires to secure and enhance its position as a leading research university by advancing the quality and impact of its research and graduate programs, while maintaining and improving its admired program of undergraduate education. The recent debate over the proposed acquisition by Rice of the Baylor College of Medicine has revealed a lack of consensus on the concrete path forward. We, the Faculty of Rice University, believe that all academic constituents of the university should unite behind a shared vision of Rice’s future, and that such a vision should be the deliberate outcome of a faculty-led study. Therefore, we resolve to form a committee of elected faculty members and other university constituencies. This committee should be charged with analyzing potential ways forward and synthesizing a shared vision and implementation plan for the future of the University. We charge the Faculty Senate to develop a concrete plan for the establishment of such a committee, and bring this plan for ratification by the full faculty in the spring of 2010.