Faculty Senate Meeting
April 17, 2019
Kyle Morrow Room, Fondren Library
Senators present: Graham Bader, Lisa Balabanlilar, Martin Blumenthal-Barby, Dennis Cox, Erik Dane, Daniel Domingues, Mahmoud El-Gamal, Julie Fette, Jeffrey Fleisher, Charles Geyer, Pat Hartigan, Christopher Johns-Krull, Marek Kimmel, David Leebron, Angel Marti-Arbona, David Messmer, Marie Lynn Miranda, Ed Nikonowicz, Rob Raphael, Doug Schuler, Ray Simar, Scott Solomon, Kurt Stallman, Jesús Vassallo, Michael Wolf, Pablo Yepes, Colin Zelt
Senators absent: Gwen Bradford, Sergio Chavez, Nate Citino, Michael Diehl, Christopher Fagundes, Rob Raphael
(To listen to an audio tape of this meeting, email email@example.com.)
Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):
Ed Nikonowicz called the meeting to order at 12:08 p.m.
Nikonowicz said the plenary meeting to approve May degrees, summarize Senate actions, and recognize retiring faculty would be on Thursday, May 9 at 2:00 p.m.
Nikonowicz announced that the Faculty Senate would have an end of year gathering after the plenary meeting at the Duncan magister house.
Nikonowicz said that the Pass/Fail Working Group had been formed and he reviewed the charge and membership of the group. The charge is as follows: The working group will examine the purpose(s) of allowing students the option to take courses pass/fail and consider whether the specific policies regarding the implementation of the pass/fail option sufficiently meet the purpose(s). The working group will also examine how these policies affect the learning environment when students utilize the pass/fail option. The working group will recommend modifications to relevant policies or procedures needed to better implement the pass/fail option.
The membership is as follows:
Nikonowicz said the 60-Hour Credit Working Group had also been formed and reviewed its charge and membership. The charge is as follows: To investigate the current purpose(s) and function(s) of the rule to complete 60 credit hours outside the requirements of the major in the schools of humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences and to recommend modifications or actions as needed to better accomplish those purpose(s) and function(s).
The membership of the group is as follows:
Susan Prochazka, Director of Benefits, was present to discuss open enrollment. She said the open enrollment period would end on Friday, April 26 at 4:00 p.m. She said the employee price for Rice’s medical plans will remain the same and the dental PPO will rise slightly. She said the DHMO plan rate will remain the same but now includes implants and removes the copay for preventative care. She said there will be a decrease in the rate for life insurance and long-term disability.
Prochazka said that at the request of the University Committee on Benefits, a new legal plan has been added. She reviewed the kinds of cases covered by the plan and said that the cost will be $22.25 a month. She also explained that the new enrollment booklet is smaller and just includes the highlights; a separate plan document with all the details will be available online before July 1.
She said another new benefit that will be included in the plan is “Expert Medical Opinion” through a provider known as Best Doctors. She said everyone would be automatically enrolled in the benefit. Provost Miranda asked if Best Doctors provided data on end health outcomes for patients since a change in diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean a better outcome. Prochazka answered that Best Doctors does not have access to that information but the committee spoke to eight different references who spoke highly of the services provided. She explained that the service only gives information and physicians can have a “peer-to-peer” discussion afterward. She reviewed the steps necessary to take advantage of the benefit. She added that employees will be receiving further information about the benefit throughout the next year. Senator Julie Fette clarified that with the Expert Medical Opinion option, an employee does not actually see a doctor in person. Prochazka confirmed that. Fette followed by asking if employees already have a second opinion option with their current HMO. Prochazka said yes, but that this benefit offers the option to consult with “THE” expert in the field.
Senator Jeff Fleisher noted that the rate the university pays for medical insurance decreased. He asked how it was decided that employees would not share in the savings. Prochazka answered that the University Committee on Benefits decided to “hang onto” the money so that the benefit of the decrease could be spread over several years and hopefully employees would not have a premium increase for two to four years.
Nikonowicz asked how long the Expert Medical Opinion process takes and Prochazka answered that it is usually ten days to two weeks. The slides from Prochazka’s presentation can be viewed HERE.
Jeff Fleming, Deputy Dean of Academic Affairs for the Jones School, explained that currently their school awards a Master degree when a student achieves PhD candidacy. This typically takes three or four years. He said that students who exit the program earlier do not get anything. The Jones School, he said, would like to award the Master degree after two years, when students have completed their coursework. Fleming said this is consistent with what other departments do across campus. He clarified that the program is entirely different from the MBA, which is a professional degree.
Senator Scott Solomon asked how the proposal compares to peer programs. Fleming answered that he hadn’t done detailed benchmarking but he thought it was consistent with others. Chris Johns-Krull clarified that the school does not admit students directly into this program. Senator Emilia Morosan asked if this was automatically awarded once a student had met the requirements and Fleming answered yes.
Nikonowicz reminded senators that the university awards ceremony would be on April 18 at 3:00 and said it would be nice if senators attended.
President Leebron reminded senators that there are developing plans for a December commencement. He said faculty participation in that ceremony is encouraged but not required. Leebron also said that the admissions and enrollment season is going well.
President Leebron then took a few minutes to address the recent campus visit by Vice President Mike Pence. He said an anonymous petition calling for a disinvitation had been circulated but did not get a lot of traction. He said that there was a “fair amount” of discussion and consternation among students, but not much from staff, alumni, or faculty. The letter President Leebron wrote in response was only circulated to students. He said part of the purpose of the letter was to show that students can be trusted and that as a general matter, he is not going to comment on guest speakers. Leebron said he got a lot of questions from the Student Association that suggest there is a lack of understanding of the freedom of speech.
Frank Geurts, chair of the Committee on Teaching, gave an update on the committee’s work. He began by reviewing the charge and membership of the committee. He noted that women and non-tenure track faculty were underrepresented on the committee. Geurts said that the committee’s work on the Brown Teaching Grants has included hosting a workshop to provide application guidance. He said the committee sometimes recommends a partial budget as an award and he showed examples of what previous grant recipients have done with their awards.
Geurts also spoke about the Brown Teaching Awards. He said there are two prestigious awards, based on alumni votes. He explained that there were concerns in the early 2000’s regarding lack of alumni response so work was done to improve the lists sent out. The result was that response rates significantly improved. He discussed the selection criteria involved in the awards as well and said there had been practical changes since 2011. Surveys are sent to alumni at the two, three, and five year mark. The ratio between NTT and TT awards in recent years has more closely reflected campus balance. Finally, he said the committee currently uses an unweighted method of determining winners.
Geurts then discussed the committee’s working on teaching evaluations. He said in 2013 the committee began work to review the current system. It then ran a trial of the IDEA evaluation system, which ultimately was not recommended for future use. He said a subcommittee has recommended a substantial redesign of the teaching evaluation process with broad committee involvement.
Geurts discussed other functions of the committee, including consultation on the digital education initiatives and efforts to improve teaching. He said he appreciates the support of the Center for Teaching Excellence. He said the committee has requested changes to their charge so that graduate teaching is included as well.
Senator Emilia Morosan asked if the Brown Awards should reflect teaching loads and courses instead of the number of faculty, since some faculty have a heavier load. Geurts said the issue had been part of the conversation and the committee has discretionary power to look at class size, gender, etc. He said there isn’t a direct accounting for number of courses taught, but it is indirect. Provost Miranda noted that among the total number of NTT instructors, some are part-time. Fette asked where the funding for teaching grants came from and who the committee should ask if they need more. Miranda answered that it’s a distribution from the Brown endowment and thus far there has not been a request for more money. Senator Mike Wolf asked how good of a job the university does teaching graduate students. Geurts said the simple answer is that it has not been part of the charge of the committee. The slides from Geurts’s presentation can be viewed HERE.
Chris Johns-Krull, chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee said there were two unfilled positions on the Senate and the appointees would need Senate confirmation. The Senate voted unanimously by hand to confirm Gregory Chambers for a Natural Sciences seat and Eden King for a Social Sciences seat. Johns-Krull then thanked Nikonowicz for his leadership as speaker and presented him with a plaque. He reviewed the list of outgoing senators and thanked them for their service. He also congratulated the newly elected senators. Nikonowicz then thanked Johns-Krull for his service as deputy speaker and presented him with a plaque.
Johns-Krull explained that it was the desire of he and Nikonowicz to switch roles so that he would serve as speaker in 2019-2020 and Nikonowicz would serve as deputy speaker. Fette nominated Johns-Krull for 2019-2020 speaker and Nikonowicz seconded. Johns-Krull was elected by a unanimous hand vote. Wolf then nominated Nikonowicz as deputy speaker. Senator Lisa Balabanlilar seconded and Nikonowicz was elected unanimously by a hand vote.
Johns-Krull then reviewed the constitutional requirements for the Executive Committee and presented the proposed EC slate. The slate will be voted on at the August meeting. The proposed slate is as follows:
Leslie Schwindt-Bayer, chair of the Working Group on Advising, said she was giving an unofficial, preliminary report. A final report, she said, would follow in the fall. She said the group was created in January 2018 and was immediately aware that there would be lots to cover. She said they needed to collect a lot of data, gather reports from the Office of Academic Advising, student focus groups, the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, collaborative offices, and peer institutions. She said the working group represents all entities and there is a lot of variation. She said it has become evident that advising at Rice has strengths and weaknesses.
Schwindt-Bayer then reviewed the general recommendations that would be coming from the working group. She said there is a continued need for strong faculty support. She said there needs to be a wholistic approach to advising and that the working group has revised the “wheel” graphic used to show advising resources. She said the group will recommend the creation of a mechanism to coordinate communication. She said there needs to be a recognition of the importance and commitment by the university in the form of a formal policy. She said her group has already been working to draft such a policy. She said the group will recommend recognition and resources for advising and revisions to current advising programs.
Wolf asked where Student Success Initiatives fell in the discussions. Schwindt-Bayer answered that they are a collaborative office. Wolf said SSI does not bring a narrow focus and when discussing holistic advising, SSI should be included. Senator Pat Hartigan commented that there could be a spectrum of advising with students choosing advising on one end and required advising on the opposite end, and he asked where the committee stood on that continuum. Schwindt-Bayer answered that there is a bare minimum that is enough for some students. She said that divisional advising is an entry point for students and the working group feels it is not doing enough.
Jeff Fleisher, chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum, said that currently there is a single certificate for all languages. He explained the proposal would create eleven distinct certificates that would specify what language the student had studied. It would include on the transcript the tested CEFR proficiency in the specific language. Senator Martin Blumenthal-Barby asked what is “intercultural” about the communication. Provost Miranda answered that it was assumed it would be English and whatever other language the student studied for the certificate. Senator Kurt Stallman asked how proficiency is determined. Registrar David Tenney answered that it is a standardized European scale. Fette moved to approve the modifications involving the Certificate of Languages and Intercultural Communication and Fleisher seconded. The motion passed with 92 percent approval and eight percent abstentions. Tenney added that the new credential would be in the General Announcements for the following academic year. The voting record can be accessed HERE with NetID.
Nikonowicz explained that the earlier proposed change in the Master’s in Business was deemed a “significant change” and thus needed to be approved by the full Senate. Johns-Krull moved to approve removing the requirement of successful attainment of doctoral candidacy to award the degree of Non-Thesis Master of Arts in Business. Graham Bader seconded. The motion passed with 96 percent approval and 4 percent abstentions. The voting record can be accessed HERE with NetID.
Nikonowicz adjourned the meeting at 1:48 p.m.