Faculty Senate Meeting
January 30, 2019
Kyle Morrow Room, Fondren Library
Senators present: Graham Bader, Lisa Balabanlilar, Martin Blumenthal-Barby, Gwen Bradford, Sergio Chavez, Nate Citino, Dennis Cox, Erik Dane, Michael Diehl, Daniel Domingues, Mahmoud El-Gamel, Christopher Fagundes, Julie Fette, Jeffrey Fleisher, Charles Geyer, Pat Hartigan, Christopher Johns-Krull, Marek Kimmel, David Leebron, Angel Marti-Arbona, David Messmer, Emilia Morosan, Ed Nikonowicz, Rob Raphael, Doug Schuler, Laura Segatori, Scott Solomon, Kurt Stallman, Jesús Vassallo, Michael Wolf, Pablo Yepes, Colin Zelt
Senators absent: Marie Lynn Miranda, Ray Simar
(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 12:01 p.m.
University Registrar David Tenney reminded senators that the Fall 2018 degrees were conditionally approved at the December 13th plenary meeting. He said after that meeting, one student came off the undergraduate list and two students came off the post-graduate list. He commented that this was fewer students than have dropped off in the past. The slides he presented can be viewed HERE.
Julie Fette and Kevin Kirby, co-chairs of the Working Group on Sexual Harassment, began by reviewing their group’s charge, given in early 2018. Fette reviewed the process the group had used so far and said they were moving in to the “review” portion of the process and gathering comments on two policy drafts: a policy on harassment and a policy on consensual relations. Fette said the working group hopes to finish their work by April or May.
Fette then highlighted the changes in the new Policy 830, which embeds sexual harassment in the overall policy on harassment. It has also been updated to include cyber-bullying. It includes university-affiliated events on and off campus, including field work. The updated policy also reorganizes the process for reporting harassment so that cases do not get “bogged down.” Fette noted that the group is not just looking at policy change, but also the broader organizational climate that includes messaging, transparency, training, and support structure for the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity. For instance, the university is looking at spreading mentorship between several people so that a person’s work is not dependent on a single relationship. Fette said that the Faculty Senate passed a statement on consensual relations in 2014 and the second proposed policy codifies that statement. She clarified that there are two separate proposed policies.
Senator Jeff Fleisher thanked Fette and Kirby for leading the committee. He asked if anyone had studied the effectiveness of harassment training. Kirby answered that there was anecdotal evidence that it works because after a training, there is an increase in the number of people making reports.
Senator Scott Solomon asked about the inclusion of undergraduate student TA’s in the consensual relationships document. Fette said they had received a lot of feedback on that topic and were working to make the expectations explicit. She said they welcomed further suggestions. Solomon also asked about a parenthetical statement in the harassment document that gave examples of campus employees required to report harassment. Fette answered that they could work to make reporting requirements for residential teams clearer in the policy.
Senator Mike Wolf asked about students who want to “explore” making a report while talking with a responsible employee. He said it was important not to chill the relationship of trust between an employee and a student seeking advice about hypothetical actions. Fette agreed that it was important to balance that sensitivity while making sure true reports get forwarded. She said they would continue to make sure that is clear in the policy. She said that the issue could also be addressed in the FAQ’s. You can view the slides that accompanied the presentation HERE. The document drafts are available with net id HERE.
Chief Compliance Officer Ken Liddle said that the university is redoing its core compliance training. He said some trainings are foundational to who Rice is. In the past, he explained, Rice has had training for sexual harassment and information technology with varied results. When looking at how to improve the trainings, his office noted that the past trainings were decentralized and the delivery systems were “clunky.”
Liddle explained that core trainings will now be part of one system, on Canvas. It will streamline communication and have a simpler interface. The three core trainings are the R.I.C.E. Way, information security and privacy, and sexual harassment. After a kick off starting February 19th, everyone will receive three or four notifications to complete their core trainings in Canvas. If a faculty member does not complete their training, they will not be eligible for a pay raise. He clarified that in this round adjunct professors and emeritus professors will not be included. Liddle said that he is available to speak with anyone or departments that have further questions. He also said that there are FAQ’s available online at https://rucompliance.rice.edu/training.
Senator Daniel Domingues asked how one verifies they have completed the training. Liddle answered that once the “courses” have been added to Canvas, there will be three boxes that make it very clear if you’ve completed each training or not. He added that there is research on the efficacy of sexual harassment training. He said that the training is delivered by a national vendor and that it successfully educates on the basics and provides common vocabulary. He said it doesn’t necessarily change behavior because that is a product of culture.
Solomon asked why adjuncts weren’t included in the compliance requirement. Liddle said that eventually they will be, but currently the system classifies adjuncts in a way that makes it difficult to see who is active and who is not. Senator Gwen Bradford commented that not getting a pay raise was “a big stick” but wondered if any “carrots” had been offered. Liddle answered that they did try positive reinforcement like publishing completion data for schools. It was also asked if Liddle had a mechanism for receiving feedback on the training program. Liddle said that they had a pilot program of about 50 people to provide feedback and that he was also open to taking feedback throughout the process. The slides from Liddle’s presentation can be viewed HERE.
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Fred Higgs explained that Rice is already completing criminal background checks for staff, magisters, and precollege programs, and now that program will be expanded to include new faculty hires. The university will be using the HireRight system for this. Higgs explained that the system is not retroactive and that the only exception to new faculty will be unpaid adjuncts. He said that Rice is implementing this system for three reasons: safety, reputation, and legal liability. The system will check county, state, and federal records. Arrests will show up in the check, but will only be considered by the university if charges were filed.
Higgs said negative information that is uncovered during the check will not impact employment if it does not pose a risk to students, doesn’t affect a candidates ability to perform their university duties, and poses no reputational or legal risk to Rice. The background checks will be automated through RiceWorks and will not extend the hiring process. He said a FAQ page will be added to the VPAA website.
Associate Dean of Humanities Lora Wildenthal asked if the self-reporting question on applications would remain. Higgs answered that it would because it gives the university a basis to know whether a person is being honest or not. An audience member asked about the risk of errors in a background check and whether or not a candidate would have a chance to explain or defend themselves. Higgs answered that the law required the university notify a candidate of information revealed and give them three days to respond. He said the aim of the university is not to hold information against a person.
Senator Michael Wolf asked what the standard for “no risk” was. Higgs answered that the provost’s office would have to make that decision. President Leebron explained that it is a “job relevant” question. He said “reputational risk” is trickier to define because the university has to balance fairness to the person. He said they do not want to not hire someone simply because they have a criminal history. But, he said, there has to be a process in place for making complex decisions in consultation with each other.
Wildenthal asked about the possibility of rolling out the background checks to graduate student applications. Higgs said that would be up to admissions and the undergraduate/graduate deans. Senator Marek Kimmel asked how many criminals the university had hired in the past. Higgs answered that there was no way to know. Kimmel then suggested that recommendation letters already played a role in evaluating the background of applicants. Higgs responded that given what has been learned from situations at Penn State and Michigan State, the university needs a way to uncover information through a formal system, not just informally. Senator Mahmoud El-Gamal asked how international faculty would be evaluated. Higgs answered that the background check will not uncover any information from overseas, but there would still be information on any domestic criminal activity. The slides for this presentation can be viewed HERE.
President Leebron said he had been asked about plans for the old Sid Rich building. He said the university is in the process of designing a new building for Sid Richardson college. Construction is expected to begin later this year and then the old tower could be repurposed as graduate college housing. Part of the strategic plan of the university suggested exploring graduate colleges. He emphasized that at this time the university is just exploring. Kevin Kirby added that it would be expected to go into service in about two-and-a-half years.
Wolf commented that there are many potential uses for the old Sid Rich building. He described structural problems with the undergraduate colleges and the system of moving students off campus. He said it divides students into small groups. He wondered if the building could be used to address some of the issues. President Leebron responded that the lifespan of the old tower is limited. He said the university is trying to raise the percentage of students who live on campus, but that if it goes above around 80% the university runs the risk of having unoccupied housing.
Senator Pat Hartigan asked where the new building would be constructed. Leebron answered that it will be adjacent to the old building, near Main, and that the location necessitated it be a tower.
Senator Chris Fagundes added that some students get very upset when they cannot live on campus due to the limited space. Leebron reiterated that he was in agreement with that and that they are working toward increasing the percentage of students who live on campus. He said not all colleges have healthy policies for determining who can live on campus.
Deputy Speaker Chris Johns-Krull, chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee, reviewed the role and responsibilities of the NEC. He presented 8 proposed members of the committee: Lisa Balabanlilar, Dennis Cox, Julie Fette, Jeff Fleisher, Rob Raphael, Doug Schuler, Scott Solomon, and Jesús Vasallo. Mike Wolf moved to approve the slate. Bradford seconded. The Senate approved the slate unanimously by a show of hands.
Johns-Krull reminded those present that nominations for 2019 Faculty Service and Leadership Awards are due by March 1. He said an email would go out the next week reminding faculty of the awards and nomination process.
Doug Schuler, chair of the Athletics Working Group, began his report by thanking members of the committee. He reviewed the charge and activities of the working group. He said the group spent time looking at the final exam policies for athletes at peer institutions. He then summarized the recommendations of the working group. He said they suggested “cleaning up” some of the language in the General Announcements and also changing the number of allowable competitions during finals. The proposed change would allow one competition during finals without special approval. Schuler said the current policy “protects” finals week, but data collected by the committee show that many courses aren’t using final exams. Additionally, most sports, especially in the spring, are covered by exemptions because those competitions are required by the conference. Schuler said that the Examinations and Standings Committee (EX&S) would still be involved in allowing exceptions. The Office of Academic Advising (OAA) would still review cases on a student-by-student basis to determine whether a student could participate in a competition. He said what is proposed eliminates a lot of unnecessary burden on EX&S, OAA, and Athletics.
Nikonowicz said that he was hoping to gather feedback on the report and proposal to pass on to the Executive Committee for a possible motion. Senator Emilia Morosan asked when the decision is made to allow a student to compete. Schuler and Aliya Bhimani, OAA Director, said that the decision is made very close to the competition date and takes into consideration a student’s current grades and what is due in that course. Wildenthal commented that just because a student doesn’t have an exam doesn’t mean the student doesn’t have a final paper or project. She asked if that was taken into consideration when evaluating work during the final exam period. Bhimani answered that when evaluating a student’s pending workload in a class, they do take all assignment due dates into consideration. She said when they looked at athletes’ workloads during the final week of classes, they did appear to be “paper heavy.”
Schuler said that when they examined peer institutions, most schools have footnotes for exemptions. At every school, he said, there ARE competitions in the last week of classes and during finals. Senator Julie Fette asked about the role of EX&S in approving competitions. Schuler said EX&S is consulted to approve a competition for an entire team. The OAA approves individual students. Schuler added that the previous language was vague, and the working group proposed that students “will” inform their professors about competitions and faculty “will” accommodate the students. The working group report can be viewed HERE with net id.
Nikonowicz said the document had been undergoing developments for over a year, and the Senate had discussed the document in November. Johns-Krull moved to approve the document and there was a second. Nikonowicz said that changes made in the last 24 hours were highlighted on the document posted on the wiki and on the screen. Senator Jesús Vassallo asked about P&T Committee representation of smaller schools, like Architecture, in which a member would have to recuse themselves due to their representation at the “departmental” level. Nikonowicz said that the composition of the P&T committee allows for one member from either Architecture or Shephard School of Music. He said in the case that the school already has someone on the committee, someone other than the person sitting on the committee should be the one to write the school letter.
Wolf said that his department was deeply concerned with the “one and done” stipulation in the document which does not allow an early candidate to try for tenure again if they are denied the first time. He said that it negatively impacts the university’s ability to recruit new faculty. He explained that it is expensive to live in the city now, and one recruiting tool he has used in the past was Rice’s tenure process. Higgs answered that he understood his concerns about competition in recruiting. But, he said, that the literature shows that tenure reviewers “anchor down” in their assessment of a candidate and do not change their mind. He said there is a reputational risk to the university and he noted that the P&T process is rigorous and time consuming for the parties involved.
Senator Chris Fagundes said that the psychology department echoed Wolf’s concerns. Senator Mahmoud El-Gamal said that markets are not bad things. He said it will raise the bar for chairs and deans if they want to put someone up early for tenure. He said it might mean the university loses someone when they go on the market. Wolf answered that it’s really important to keep the “stars.” Wildenthal said she was uncomfortable with separating “good” and “tenure.” She said tenure is an evaluation of whether someone is “good.” El-Gamal said that many institutions have one-time rules and those universities are not losing more people. Wolf responded that when Rice competes with those schools, its tenure process is something that might be attractive.
Senator Graham Bader asked if Wolf had experienced people going up for tenure early and going on the tenure market at the same time. Wolf answered that he had not experienced that at Rice but he knew of it happening at other schools with poor reputations for tenure approval. Senator Jeff Fleisher said he assumes most people who come up for tenure are already on the market, whether they are going up early or not. Senator Rob Raphael commented that he believes retention is important but he felt like it was being overvalued. Nikonowicz said that he agreed with Fleisher that the problem of retaining people who go on the job market during tenure review is a problem that already exists.
El-Gamal asked about the change from “comparable” to “a balance between” of letters solicited by the candidate and the department. Nikonowicz explained that they did not want the document to indicate that the number had to be exactly same. After discussion, it was decided to return to the original “balance.”
Wolf then offered an amendment to add “any pair of consecutive cycles” after “once” on page 7, line 8 and replace “single chance” with “chance on that cycle or the next” on page 7, line 14. Doug Schuler seconded the motion to amend. In the discussion on the amendment, Wolf reiterated that having an attractive tenure policy is helpful in recruiting candidates to his department, in light of other challenges the university faces such as housing costs. Johns-Krull said that his understanding is that the university is already operating on the “one and done” policy. He said he does not see this as a great impediment. Bradford said that her understanding was that this had been the policy all along, and that she was confused about the current policy and whether it was necessary to recruiting. Fleisher motioned to end debate on the amendment. Johns-Krull seconded. The vote on the amendment failed with a vote of 8 to approve, 15 not to approve, and 6 abstaining. The voting record is available with net id HERE. Fleisher followed the vote with a comment that right now the policy does not state either way whether someone can go up for tenure more than once, but in practice it has not been happening.
Fleisher then moved to end debate on the motion to approve the document. Fette seconded. The Senate voted to approve the Procedures for Faculty Promotions, Reappointments, and Tenure with 24 voting to approve, 0 voting against, and 4 abstaining. The voting record is available with net id HERE.
Nikonowicz thanked everyone for attending and adjourned the meeting at 2:02.