Faculty Senate Meeting
February 20, 2019
Kyle Morrow Room, Fondren Library
Senators present: Graham Bader, Lisa Balabanlilar, Gwen Bradford, Nate Citino, Dennis Cox, Erik Dane, Michael Diehl, Daniel Domingues, Jeffrey Fleisher, Pat Hartigan, Christopher Johns-Krull, Marek Kimmel, David Leebron, Angel Marti-Arbona, David Messmer, Marie Lynn Miranda, Ed Nikonowicz, Rob Raphael, Laura Segatori, Scott Solomon, Kurt Stallman, Jesús Vassallo, Michael Wolf, Pablo Yepes, Colin Zelt
Senators absent: Martin Blumenthal-Barby, Sergio Chavez, Mahmoud El-Gamal, Christopher Fagundes, Julie Fette, Charles Geyer, Emilia Morosan, Doug Schuler, Ray Simar
(To listen to an audio tape of this meeting, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):
Ed Nikonowicz called the meeting to order at 12:05 p.m.
Nikonowicz said that the professional Masters in Nanoscale Science program was being eliminated. He said it is an announcement without a requirement for a vote because all parties are in agreement that the program should end. Registrar David Tenney added that there are not any students currently enrolled in the program.
Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness John Cornwell said Rice was reaccredited by SACSCOC in 2016. He said like many private universities, Rice does not have a clear statement of expected undergraduate competencies. Public universities often have a list required by the state. In 2016, to meet requirements, Rice identified its competencies as critical thinking, written communication, and leadership. In December 2017, a loophole was closed, and now Rice must identify specific competencies with delivery systems, methods of assessments, and areas for improvement.
After discussion with Senate leadership and the Committee for Undergraduate Curriculum, Cornwell identified three potential competencies: critical thinking, communication, and research/design. These are built into the PLO’s for departments already. Research and design is also built into the QEP process. He said it’s important to realize academic departments are already assessing these things. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness will work to develop a rubric for evaluating the competencies and standardizing the process. A question was asked about whether there needs to be an explicit PLO for each competency. Cornwell answered that the specific word from a competency might not be referenced in a PLO but the faculty could identify it as the PLO that addresses it.
Nikonowicz announced the creation of an academic calendar working group. The charge for the group is as follows: The working group will examine the difference in the number of days of instruction between the Fall and Spring semesters in the currently utilized academic calendar formulation and consider whether this difference poses a problem. If the difference in the number of days of instruction is deemed to be a significant problem, the working group will recommend modifications to the academic calendar formulation. The working group is free to consider all aspects of the academic calendar including the start and end dates of each semester, the number of reading and exam days, and the number of academic holidays within each semester.
The membership of the working group is as follows:
Johns-Krull explained that this was the same committee membership that convened to discuss the 2020-2021 calendar and they would now be looking more extensively at the issue of imbalance between the number of days in the Fall and Spring semesters.
Johns-Krull said the NEC had recently been selected and their first activity was to run the elections for the Promotion and Tenure Committee. There was one seat open in Engineering and one in Humanities. Illya Hicks ran unopposed and is now elected to the Engineering seat. Scott McGill ran unopposed and is now elected to the Humanities seat.
He said a number of people will be cycling off or ending their terms on the Senate next year and that nomination forms for those seats will go out in early March. The NEC will also populate the University Committees in the coming months.
Johns-Krull also reminded senators that nominations for the Faculty Service and Leadership Awards are due March 1.
After a break for lunch, Jeff Fleisher, chair of the Committee for Undergraduate Curriculum, made a 2-part motion to approve the CUC recommended competencies and a plan for implementation. Chris Johns-Krull seconded the motion. Fleisher said that the competencies and plan are straightforward and come from the CUC with unanimous support. He said the CUC felt these were obvious candidates for competencies and that they could be easily assessed. This would not add to the burden of the departments but instead focus on important work that is happening. Senator Scott Solomon asked if there were programs that would have to make changes in order to be compliant. Cornwell answered that a handful or less of departments do not have research explicitly stated in their PLO’s and that would require minor updating. It should not be a burden, he said. Chris Johns-Krull moved to end discussion on the topic and Fleisher seconded. Mike Wolf clarified that the motion grants the OIE authority to incorporate the competencies in the SACSCOC plan and the CUC to act on the assessment reports it gets. The motion passed with 22 votes to approve and one abstention. The voting record can be found HERE.
Fleisher introduced the motion by saying the proposal had been approved by the CUC after a long process of review and response that began in August. Fleisher moved to approve the proposal and Johns-Krull seconded. Devika Subramanian, from the proposal committee, began by thanking the many people that worked on developing the program. She said there are two key principles in the program. One is access so that any student at Rice can minor in Data Sciences if they want to. She said it is truly an interdisciplinary model. Second, she said, the committee wanted students to be able to “do” data science, not just understand it.
Subramanian reviewed the structure of the minor. She said it is built on math prerequisites, a core 3-part quantitative sequence, a visualization course, and an ethics course. It is finished with a one-semester capstone course which is rare among Rice minors. Provost Miranda said that hiring for the DSCI 305 instructor is currently underway. Subramanian said there are three options for the capstone project. One way is to work on client-based projects through the D2K. The second is to work as a team on curated data sets. The final option for a student to complete the capstone project is to work with a faculty member in their major department on a specific data set. Subramanian explained that the capstone experience was especially influenced by useful input from the CUC. She added her special thanks to Provost Miranda, Dean DesRoches, and Fred Higgs for their support in the development and Registrar David Tenney in crafting the GA announcements.
Senator Pat Hartigan said that Data Science is becoming more popular and is “creeping” into many other departments. He said his department has created its own Data Science course and he asked if there would be flexibility to substitute proposed DSCI minor courses with those from other departments. Subramanian answered that it should be possible. She said a minor cannot have more than 18 hours but with the current rubric it is possible. She said a governing body will be put into place that can adjudicate requests for course substitutions. The committee did a survey of DSCI courses already offered by other departments and determined there are several. Proposal committee member Fred Oswald said they are hoping for the program to allow substitutions and complementarian classes. Hartigan suggested listing a set of classes that would count as substitutions in each area. Subramanian said the committee will need to evaluate detailed syllabi so they can determine the most appropriate substitution.
Provost Miranda added that the long term vision is to have a major. The intention for the major will be to have a DS plus X. So Data Science will be tied with particular fields. The minor will get the content for DSCI solidly in place. The X could be a variety of departments.
Senator Dennis Cox commented on the fact that there are 6 required courses which is more than most minors. He wondered if this would give students pause when determining whether to pursue the minor. Subramanian answered that there are very few DSCI minors in the country and that a lot goes into the discipline. She said this is the bare minimum before students can “do” data science. Cox followed up by asking how many students the committee expects to enroll in the minor. Proposal committee member Rudy Guerra answered that of the 150 students in his DSCI 301 course last semester, 100 said they would be interested in the minor after hearing a description of the program. This semester, about 70-75 out of 90 of them said the same thing. He said the courses are integrated in a very special way. Proposal committee member Renata Ramos said the committee was concerned about whether students would be able to complete the program and that’s why they included Engineering degree plans in their proposal.
Senator Scott Solomon asked if students can combine the capstone with other projects. Ramos answered that a student cannot get double course credit for the same project, but they can overlap so that they are collecting data as one part of the project while analyzing it as part of the DSCI capstone.
Wolf asked if Fleisher could expand on concerns in the CUC about competing principles in the proposal. Fleisher said the original proposal might have been too heavy on the “plus X” part of the program and as a result that part was removed. He said the CUC asked a lot of questions initially about the accessibility to students in different majors. Wolf asked who they expect to enroll in the minor. Guerra answered that the natural people now would be students from Engineering, Statistics, and Computer Science. He said the tight requirements might be challenging for Engineering students. He said they are also hoping students from the Social Sciences and Humanities will be interested. Many students come in with Calculus credit and are interested in learning a programming language. He said the program is technical but accessible. Oswald said that Chris Jermaine, who was on the committee, and has been named director of the program, agrees with him that the minor enhances employability for Humanities and Social Sciences graduates and is insurance against nervous parents.
Wolf asked how a student in Engineering could manage the minor and still take other courses, like Art History, so that they received education that is beyond just the technical. Ramos said the committee had those concerns as well and looked at where they could fit the requirements in every Engineering major. She said some classes work as electives or substitutions and they are hoping some of the required courses, like DSCI 305 will receive distribution designation.
Hartigan asked the committee to comment on their philosophy on the programming language. Subramanian said they spent many hours on the topic. She said they ultimately kept COMP 140 because it uses Python and DSCI 302 is Python based. She said R is taught alongside DSCI 301. So students leave the minor with R and Python.
Senator Rob Raphael asked if this minor is linked with Moshe Vardi’s initiative on technology and culture. Subramanian said that initiative was just starting up as the development of the minor was nearing completion, but she hopes that the link is kept alive. She added that there will be more resources for DSCI 305 now.
Chris Johns-Krull moved to end the discussion. Lisa Balabanlilar seconded. The Senate approved the minor in Data Science with 22 voting to approve and 1 abstention. The vote was met with a round of applause from the Senate. The vote record can be found HERE. The proposal for the program can be found HERE.
Nikonowicz reminded everyone that Senator Doug Schuler presented the report from the Athletics Working Group at the January meeting. He said as a result, the Executive Committee had added two agenda items to approve recommendations from that group. Both items had been posted as motions on the faculty wiki site. The first proposal was to make changes to paragraph two of the General Announcements section on excused absences. Hartigan moved to approve the changes and Fleisher seconded. Hartigan said that he received a lot of pushback from faculty in his department because sometimes, depending on the nature of the class, it is difficult to give a student a “comparable” opportunity. For example, he said, a group presentation cannot be made up. He suggested a “reasonable” accommodation would be better. Johns-Krull said that the original intent of the committee was to give faculty more latitude in make-up assignments but it was perceived by many faculty as giving less latitude. Senator Angel Marti-Arbona added that in Chemistry classes a lab or a field trip does not have a comparable assignment but everything can work out for the student if a “reasonable” accommodation is made. Fleisher said it seemed like the intent of the changes was to prevent faculty from refusing to provide an opportunity for a student to make up work. Hartigan motioned to amend the proposal so that the word “comparable opportunity” was replaced with “reasonable accommodation.” Pablo Yepes seconded. Marti-Arbona said he thought that was better and was what his constituents had suggested as well. After further discussion, Hartigan accepted a friendly amendment to his amendment and the word “for” was added to the paragraph as well. The amendment was approved by hand vote.
Discussion then moved to the advance notice provided by students when they are going to miss a class. Senator Gwen Bradford pointed out that students are already required to inform their professors if they are going to miss class for a university-sponsored event. Provost Miranda said that the Athletics Department wants to know if athletes are not following through on the notifications to professor. Balabanlilar moved to add “in a timely manner and in advance” to the paragraph. Hartigan responded that the phrase is not quantitative and Balabanlilar answered that there was not a way to define it. Wolf moved to end debate. Lisa Balabanlilar seconded. The motion failed. Discussion followed regarding potential absences and when students know they might miss a class. Nikonowicz answered that students are required to notify their professors when they know and that’s why “in a timely manner” is included in the proposal. Wolf moved to end debate. Graham Bader seconded. The amendment was approved by a hand vote.
Balabanlilar moved to end discussion on the item. Fleisher seconded. The paragraph was approved with 21 affirmative votes and one abstention. The voting record can be found HERE. The paragraph, as amended and approved is as follows:
The university understands that students participating in university-sponsored events, including athletics competitions, will miss some class sessions during the semester. Students will inform their instructors in a timely manner and in advance of absences resulting from participation in such events. In these cases, faculty will give students a reasonable accommodation to make up for the work missed.
Nikonowicz explained that paragraph 3 was broken into two paragraphs. Johns-Krull moved to approve the motion and it was seconded. Johns-Krull said the real change suggested was increasing the number of allowed events from two to three, with one in the last week of classes, one during the reading period, and one during finals. He said the reality for athletes it that the last week of classes is busy and the finals period is not. He said it might be more reasonable to allow only two competitions, but more flexibility should be given to Athletics to schedule the events when they want. Wolf asked about the burden on students during the last week for classes and how it was reflected in the proposal. Fleisher answered that the last week of classes is the heaviest for many students. Wolf said he would like to protect the last week of classes. Fleisher said he favors the current version. Nikonowicz said another point is that even if athletes aren’t competing they are practicing. Marti-Arbona said according to the former Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson, the students have been asking for this. Johns-Krull said that one could imagine that now some teams will increase the number of competitions they have as a result of this change.
Fleisher said part of the problem is that what was meant to be an exception has become commonplace. As a result, one reason he created the working group last year was to address whether the rule should be enforced or revised. He added that the working group was created in response to some very vocal faculty who don’t think there should be any competitions during the time period but the proposal should respond to the students as well. Provost Miranda commented that she thinks the act of having to get approval from EX&S is not a bad thing. Fleisher responded that it’s supposed to be a system for exceptions but it has been happening every semester.
Johns-Krull proposed an amendment to change the total number of competitions to two. Hartigan seconded. The amendment passed by a hand vote. The Senate then passed the motion to approve the working group recommendations with 18 voting to approve and one abstention. The voting record can be found HERE. The paragraph, as amended and approved is as follows:
Two university-sponsored events, including athletics competitions such as games, matches, or tournaments, may be scheduled for the period beginning with the Monday of the last week of classes and ending with the last day of final exams (a 17-day period). Scheduling additional events requires approval from the Committee on Examinations and Standing. For the two allowable events, one may be scheduled during the last week of classes, one may be scheduled during the reading period (defined as the day following the last day of classes through the day before finals begin), or one may be scheduled during the Finals Period. This policy permits flexibility in scheduling; however, the maximum number of allowable events over the three periods is two. For these events, only one night outside of Houston is allowed per period. Events where scheduling is not under the control of the university do not count toward this two-event limit. This rule also applies to cases in which participation is on an individual basis, such as by track student-athletes. All university-sponsored organizations with events during this period must notify the Office of Academic Advising at least one month prior to the event.
Before adjournment, Nikonowicz asked President Leebron if he had any remarks for the Senate. Leebron responded that when watching the discussion about the Data Science minor, he felt that this was as good as the faculty get; that it was as good as the Senate gets. He said he hoped the faculty were proud of how they were doing things. He added that if folks ever have concerns, they should feel like they can come talk to him.
Nikonowicz adjourned the meeting at 1:52.