Faculty Senate Meeting - Senate Meeting Minutes: March 22, 2006
Meetings of the Faculty Senate are open to all members of the University community, but may be closed at the discretion of the Senate.
Meeting time 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. in Shell Auditorium, McNair Hall
a. Nominations and Elections Committee - Deborah Harter
b. Upcoming agenda items for the April meeting - Marj Corcoran
II. Proposal from the Working Group on Final Examinations - Marj Corcoran
III. Proposal from the Working Group on University-Sponsored Events during the Last Week
of Classes Through Final Exam Week - Duane Windsor
IV. Faculty Senate Meeting Rules Proposal - Randy Stevenson
March 22, 2006
Attendance: Approximately 30
Senators present: Jose Aranda, Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Marj Corcoran (Speaker), Rebekah Drezek, Bruce Etnyre, Deborah Harter (Deputy Speaker), John Hempel, Ben Kamins, Tom Killian, Phil Kortum, David Leebron (ex officio), Eugene Levy (ex officio), Peter Mieszkowski, Nancy Niedzielski, Anthony Pinn, Carol Quillen, Dale Sawyer, David Schneider, Gautami Shah, Michael Stern, Randy Stevenson, Joe Warren, James Weston, Duane Windsor, James Young
Senators absent: Kyriacos Athanasiou, Vicki Colvin, Brian Huberman, Mark Wiesner
A verbatim recording of the proceedings is available by contacting the Faculty Senate at 713-348-5630.
Faculty Senate Speaker Marjorie Corcoran called to order the Faculty Senate meeting at 12 noon.
The minutes from the January 25, 2006 Faculty Senate meeting were circulated by email. No changes were submitted; therefore, the minutes were approved.
Corcoran announced upcoming agenda items for the April meeting, including a report from James Kinsey and Robin Forman on the reaccreditation process and a report from Peter Mieszkowski on behalf of the Working Group on Interdisciplinary Minors. A report from the Subcommittee on Athletics Admission would be scheduled for either April or May.
Dave Schneider provided a brief update from the Working Group on University Standing Committees. The Working Group is writing rules and guidelines for the designation of standing committees. He hoped that the final proposal would vest in the Senate the power to create and abolish Standing Committees; however, because of the timing of events this spring, Schneider wanted to alert the Senate that some immediate actions may need to be taken without Senate approval. The Working Group plans to abolish five or six existing Standing Committees and, prior to taking action, is talking to the committee chairmen and the individuals to whom the committees report. Schneider did not believe these would be controversial changes since the committees in question have not functioned for several years. Because the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC), in place of the former Committee on Committees, needs to survey faculty and administration regarding Standing Committee membership preferences in the next few weeks, and because it would be awkward to ask for nominations for committees which are subsequently abolished, Schneiderexpected there would not be time to run the proposed list of abolished committees past the Senate. He offered to answer questions on the Working Group’s activities after the Senate meeting.
Deborah Harter announced that the Senate’s note of condolence to the parents of Mikael Rozwarski was personally presented to them by President Leebron and his wife Ping during the Rozwarskis’ visit to the President’s home.
Harter provided a report from the NEC. Elections for Promotion and Tenure Committee (P&T) membership have been completed, and the nomination process for Senate seats has concluded. Nominations were received for every available seat except one. Senate election ballots will be mailed on Thursday, March 23. Harter highlighted several election issues that had arisen and that the Senate would need to address before the next round of elections. The NEC found that in Faculty Council documents there are major ambiguities with regard to which faculty are eligible to vote in individual elections (especially the question of whether research faculty and non-tenure track faculty are eligible to vote in P&T elections). She indicated that for the time-being the NEC would interpret ambiguous documentation as broadly as possible. The NEC also found that there are significant problems with communicating with faculty because the membership of the PRES-FAC listserv is incomplete and needs to be verified, updated, and corrected.
II. Proposal from the Working Group on Final Examinations: Nancy Niedzielski reported that the Working Group spoke to a variety of constituencies to gather insight, including a College Master, colleagues, Teaching Assistants, Diane Havlinek (Director of Enrollment Administration), Alicia Bradley (Room Reservations Assistant), James Lloyd (Student Association President), and the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate.
The proposal offers new language for the General Announcements section titled Information for Undergraduate Students, subsection on Final Examinations (p. 28). The section titled General Information for All Students, subsection on Faculty Grading Guidelines (pp. 9-10), would also be updated according to the final language adopted in the proposal.
Niedzielski explained that the language of the first two paragraphs reflected only minor language changes based on the decisions of the Senate at the December 7, 2005 meeting. The third and fourth paragraphs of the proposal introduce new language stating that the time the Registrar assigns for a scheduled exam may be the due date for a take-home exam or assignment. In the past, these could not be due any earlier than the last day of final exams. With this proposal, they may be due at any point between the date for the scheduled exam and the last day of final examinations.
The fifth paragraph addresses the issue of overload when students have multiple scheduled and take-home exams due in a given time frame. Niedzielski put forth two alternatives. In the first version, students who have three or more scheduled final examinations in two consecutive calendar days, or more than two take-home and/or scheduled exams due on the same calendar day (unless it is the last day of the examination period), may arrange with one of the instructors to reschedule an exam or due date. In the second version, the language specifies that if the student is unable to work out alternative arrangements with the instructor(s) involved, the instructor of the third exam will be required to allow the student to reschedule.
The Working Group addressed concerns of faculty regarding the short time between current take-home examination due dates and the due date for grades. Niedzielski pointed out that since exams or projects could now be due prior to the last day of final exams, some of this stress would be alleviated. Earlier determination of grades should help the Registrar record the grades earlier, which could help resolve the graduation and academic probation problems caused by slow reporting of grades to students.
Students expressed concern that numerous large projects are often due during the last week of classes. Niedzielski thought that the ability to schedule a project due date earlier during the final exam period might encourage faculty to set due dates during the final exam period rather than during the last week of classes.
There will be additional benefits to this new due date policy. Teaching Assistants will more often be able to help with grading and the publication of final exam schedules prior to course registration will enable students and instructors to better plan travel home.
Students expressed concern that the elimination of self-scheduled exams would prompt more scheduled exams. In actuality, the Working Group found that the number of scheduled exams has been decreasing over time, even after the elimination of self-scheduled examinations. One suggestion for making the final exam period easier on students was to shorten the initial reading period and to place a reading day in the middle of the final exam period, but that suggestion was met with mixed reviews from students.
Faculty concerns included the potential for an inequitable distribution of earlier exam dates, as well as inequitable pressure to reschedule exams for students with multiple exams in a given period. Some thought junior faculty would be more pressured to reschedule exams than non-junior faculty. Additional concern was expressed that many faculty feel the rules apply only to undergraduate courses, and the Working Group tried to think of ways to publicize that the rules applied to all classes.
Carol Quillen inquired whether the current rules applied to graduate courses. Corcoran said that the General Announcementsdoesn’t specify graduate or undergraduate, but simply refers to final exams, which in her opinion means that the policy applies to all final exams.
Quillen followed up by asking whether some graduate courses in science have oral final exams. Corcoran said that would be the case for a Masters or PhD thesis defense, but not for a regular class. Tom Killian had heard of that situation in rare cases. Niedzielski thought graduate courses would be subject to the same rules as undergraduate courses. In her discussions, she found that for most people the gray area related to the treatment of papers, and so the Working Group wanted to make it very clear that both papers and projects will fall under these new guidelines.
Duane Windsor asked where final exam policy text is currently placed in the General Announcements. Historically, the interpretation has been that these regulations apply to undergraduates, while each individual department regulates graduate students. Corcoranresponded that General Information for All Students (p. 9) currently states that students who have three scheduled exams on two consecutive days may reschedule and that take-home exams are due on the last day of final exams. Randy Batsell pointed out that if the information relating to the scheduling of examinations and projects is included in the “General Information for All Students” section, an exclusion for the Jones Graduate School should be included in the new proposal, which has three different programs with completely different modular schedules.
Windsor suggested taking a closer look at how this policy would apply to graduate students, where expectations are different and where many do not operate on the class and finals system. Batsell thought the simplest solution would be to apply the policy at the undergraduate level only. Corcoran noted that then special wording would not be required for the Jones School. Windsor thought the better option was to leave departments to regulate doctoral and masters students. Mike Stern agreed.
Niedzielski pointed out that many student complaints referenced graduate courses with early due dates for papers. Instructors leaving town required papers be submitted prior to their departure. Windsor suggested applying the proposed wording to undergraduates and reexamining later the wording in light of graduate student requirements.
Randy Stevenson said he believed a set of rules does exist for graduate students (students had invoked the rules with him) and that eliminating guidelines completely would be a change for them. He agreed that rules for graduate students should be considered explicitly and separately.
John Hempel suggested that the policy refer to undergraduate courses rather than to undergraduate students, since graduate students may take undergraduate courses. Corcoran pointed out that the General Announcements section under discussion governs undergraduate students rather than courses.
During earlier discussions, Rebekah Drezek understood that projects were not counted as finals. She asked whether the policy under debate meant that final projects could not be due and presented during the last week of classes. Niedzielski clarified that projects could be due during the last week of classes but not during the reading period. According to the proposal, projects would count when assessing the policy regarding multiple exams in a given period of time.
Stipulating that the Jones School is different, Eugene Levy stated that he was uncomfortable with the policy differentiation between graduate students and undergraduate students. With the number of cross-enrollments in common classes, the lack of a clearly delineated policy would force many problems to be dealt with on an ad-hoc basis. Batsell asked if a designation at the course level would address Levy’s concerns, but Levy did not think so. Undergraduate students often enroll in graduate courses, and graduate exams could be scheduled in a way that created a conflict with undergraduate exams. He thought this policy needed to consider all courses at the university.
Stern suggested that any course with an undergraduate student enrolled be subject to these guidelines. Levy did not think a decision to apply guidelines could be made based on enrollment. From the time the schedule is constructed, a consistent policy for resolving conflicts needs to be in place.
Windsor suggested stating that if exams were to be scheduled through this system, then they would be covered under this policy. Prior to adopting such a policy, however, the Senate would want to ensure it didn’t have any unusual effects for graduate students.
Corcoran asked whether graduate courses were scheduled for exams in the same manner as undergraduate courses. Levythought they ought to be, but he did not know the answer.
Quillen said that Humanities graduate students, especially in her department, do not generally take exams but instead write papers for every course. If one of those papers were to be due immediately after the exam period begins, students would have very little time to write. Niedzielski pointed out that the instructor was still in control of the due date, and personally she would probably not make papers in her classes due until the last day of the final exam period. Levy reiterated that the Registrar’s scheduled exam date is the earliest date it could be due.
Schneider pointed out a problem with scheduling final exams for graduate courses in the same manner as undergraduate courses. Most graduate class times, at least in Psychology, cross many class blocks. The active assumption for most faculty has been that graduate courses are handled quite differently from undergraduate courses; the educational goals are different and graduate students are treated as fellow professionals. While Schneider agreed that cross-enrollments create problems, he wasn’t certain how to deal with the situation.
Joe Warren expressed the need for simple guidance. He has many graduate courses in which undergraduates are enrolled, and while autonomy over graduate courses is nice to have, he is currently unclear on the policy he would need to follow if an issue arises for an undergraduate in a graduate course.
Corcoran asked how Warren currently handles those situations. Warren replied that projects are always due at the end of the final exam period and that he typically gives take-home exams which currently must be due at the end of the final exam period. Because graduate and undergraduate students are treated the same way, Computer Science does not run into problems.
Stevenson suggested stipulating that for graduate courses, exams and papers could only be due on the last day of the exam period. This would codify current practice and provide a written rule so that undergraduates know how the system works. It would also avoid the issue of scheduling exams for graduate classes that cross multiple time blocks.
Schneider suggested writing rules to apply to all, but providing individual departments or schools with the option to appeal to the Provost for exceptions.
Niedzielski stressed that decisions were still in the hands of the faculty; papers and projects were not required to be due on the scheduled exam date. Faculty can use their own best judgment to set due dates.
Given that any changes for the 2006-2007 academic year must be approved at this meeting, Jim Young thought that the Senate should insert the proposed language into the Information for Undergraduate Students section. In the Information for Graduate Students section, a sentence could be added to urge faculty to follow the same rules where appropriate, noting, however, that ultimately the School or department could exercise discretion.
Bruce Etnyre supported this idea, noting that the suggestion was aligned with what several Senators had already stated: in the case of graduate students, we don’t comply with the existing policy. Young stressed that the Senate could be clear that the stated rules should be followed in graduate courses where a number of undergraduate students may be enrolled.
Niedzielski pointed out that the Senate also needed to decide whether to adopt the primary or alternate language in the proposal. She thought the original language was fine, but the alternate language addressed the concern that certain instructors would receive a disproportionate number of rescheduling requests.
Young thought the alternative language was more definitive – at least one instructor is obligated to fix a problem if one should arise. Corcoran noted the alternative language was pulled from the original white paper. While the student has the option of negotiating, if the negotiations fall apart someone will ultimately resolve the issue. Stevenson emphasized the importance of writing the rules to resolve the situation.
Young moved that the Senate adopt the proposal with alternate language to be inserted in the Information for Undergraduate Studentssection. Additionally, he moved that a statement be inserted in the Information for Graduate Students section stating the following: “Graduate courses, especially those with significant undergraduate student enrollment, should follow the guidelines for undergraduate courses regarding scheduling of projects, papers, and final examinations during the last week of classes, the reading period and the final exam period. However, instructors have the discretion to modify those guidelines as appropriate for specific courses, but such modifications and the final schedule must be made clear at the beginning of the semester.” Batsell seconded the motion.
Killian wished to reconfirm that take-home exams may still be due on the last day of the final exam period. Corcoran corroborated this fact, noting that the policy is designed to assist those grading the papers, projects, or exams. Niedzielski suggested that a follow-up study could be conducted once the change in policy is in place to determine how many instructors designate earlier due dates.
Young thought the Working Group could consider the option of scheduling the “final exams” for all graduate-numbered courses on the last day of the final exam period. Harter thought graduate-numbered courses should follow the graduate default mode and courses with undergraduate numbers should follow the undergraduate guidelines. Undergraduates who take graduate courses understand they must embrace graduate education. Likewise, graduates taking an undergraduate course must understand that a scheduled final exam may be required.
Dale Sawyer confirmed that the rescheduling of an exam would take place on a student-by-student (not a class-by-class) basis. He pointed out that when an exam is rescheduled, the Honor Code ensures that the testing is still an equal process. When a project due date is delayed by two or three days, however, Sawyer expressed concern that the extension would run contrary to the principle of not allowing students time or opportunities to improve a grade that are not available to all.
Niedzielski clarified that the proposal’s intent was to address the inequity of one student having three items due on the same day. Corcoran added that the instructor determined the length of the extension. Niedzielski acknowledged that an earlier due date could be used as long as it fell within the given guidelines.
Stevenson pointed out that the intent of the proposal is to provide both sufficient time for exams and appropriate study time. Students are not given extra time to complete a project, but the same amount of time that others have. As long as the instructor makes a reasonable arrangement, the proposal satisfactorily addresses that issue.
The motion passed unanimously. The Working Group will appropriately edit the General Announcements.
III. Proposal from the Working Group on University-Sponsored Events during the Last Week of Classes through Final Exam Week: Duane Windsor distributed a handout with proposed new language for the second paragraph under Excused Absences in the General Announcements (p. 27). He presented the Working Group’s recommendations and proposed the revision below as a motion for the Senate to consider.
No university-sponsored event at which student attendance is required may be scheduled or rescheduled for any date after the day following the last day of classes. Exceptions may be granted by the full Committee on Examinations and Standing only for events where scheduling is not under the control of the university. On class days falling during the last calendar week of classes, an individual student may participate in only one university-sponsored event, which may be scheduled or rescheduled, so long as no more than one night would be spent outside of Houston for travel. For events during the last week of classes, the reading period, and the final examination period, the full Committee on Examinations and Standing must be satisfied that each student is in satisfactory academic standing to participate in an event. If the full Committee on Examinations and Standing cannot meet in a timely fashion, then the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate will handle exception requests.
In 1988 the faculty adopted a policy to regulate the scheduling of university-sponsored events. The language covered all kinds of events from a wide variety of sponsors, such as the Shepherd School of Music, the Athletics Department, the Jones School and other campus groups.
Windsor explained that the Working Group selected language that would be self-explanatory when using reasonable logic and proceeded to walk through the language to ensure that all Senators had a common understanding.
Windsor began with changes to the first sentence. The proposed language corrects the inflexibility of the 1988 language , which was written with respect to particular days of the week. (In the 2006-2007 academic year, the fall and spring semesters do not end on the same day of the week.) The new language also specifies that the policy applies to university-sponsored events at which student attendance is required. (Activities for which students are volunteers, even with university sponsorship, are not subject to this policy.) The language clarifies that the policy covers events that are both scheduled and rescheduled, and also makes it clear that no event may be scheduled or rescheduled for any date after the day following the last day of classes.
Windsor posted a chart illustrating what would happen if the last day of classes fell on various days of the week. For example, Fall 2006 classes end on a Friday; Spring 2007 classes end on a Wednesday. The reading period begins the next day. As soon as the reading period concludes, the final exam period starts. An event may be scheduled on the first day of the reading period. If the group traveled out of town, it could travel back to Houston on the day following the first day of the reading period, but it could not schedule or reschedule an event on that day.
Ben Kamins stated that the statement was worded clearly, but the policy would put the Shepherd School in an impossible situation. Windsor asked the Senate to first review the entire proposal for clarity and to ensure common understanding, and then return to debate the merits of the proposal and whether or not it should be adopted.
Windsor elaborated that the Working Group described the structure of the academic calendar in terms of three periods: classes, reading period, and final exam period. The new language converts the specific day language from 1988 into a more generally described calendar system. An out-of-town event may be scheduled on the first day of the reading period and students may travel on the day before and the day following the event. The first sentence maintained the substance of the existing policy.
Etnyre emphasized the importance of using these period descriptions because future academic calendars (and thus semester-ending days) have not yet been set. Killian expressed his concern that an event could be described as an “exhibition game” or “voluntary activity” to circumvent this policy. Windsor acknowledged that definitional questions would arise, but that the legislative history of the policy’s adoption would be recorded in the minutes. For example, designation of a voluntary exhibition basketball game would raise suspicion.
Windsor also pointed out that later in the policy statement the Working Group recommends that the Committee on Examinations and Standing (EX&S) retain formal authority to remove any student from participation in a particular event. The basic principle behind retaining the possibility of restricting both events and individual participation is protection of students.
Windsor moved on to the second sentence in the proposal. The current policy prohibits certain events from taking place during the period after the last day of classes, but permits EX&S to grant exceptions during this black-out period. With the proposed policy, exceptions may be granted only for events not under the scheduling control of the university (e.g., a conference tournament). The proposal would specifically not allow EX&S to grant exceptions for events under the university’s control.
Windsor noted that the accompanying Working Group report makes clear that, due to timing exigencies, a couple of recent decisions on exception requests were not made by EX&S but by the Chair of EX&S. The spirit of the original 1988 policy was for the full committee to make these decisions. The committee’s inability to meet was an unanticipated circumstance. The Working Group’s charge was to determine the intent of the 1988 policy, how the implementation of that policy has changed over time, and to draft an appropriate proposal for the Senate. The Working Group determined that the 1988 policy was not intended to enable the Chair of EX&S to make these decisions unilaterally under timing stress. In the view of the Working Group, many of the exceptions ultimately granted were made in the spirit of protecting the welfare of the students involved. They often involved rescheduling issues and a choice between playing on a weekend involving travel or at home during the reading period.
Windsor described the collapse of the intended policy as no-fault. While the 1988 policy’s intent might have been for EX&S to enforce certain limits, these were never very clear, and EX&S was given complete discretion in the area of decision-making. Over time it had become the practice for the Chair of EX&S to make these decisions alone, without input from the committee.
Schneider expressed concern that the phrase “full Committee on Examinations and Standing” could be construed to require the entire committee to convene. In his experience, very rarely can every member of a committee attend every meeting.
Windsor stipulated, for the record, that the meaning of “full” does not mean the entire committee membership, but merely a quorum for purposes of an action. Stevenson suggested removing the word “full” from the statement. Windsor replied that, technically speaking, the Chair might then be the only member of the committee present. “Full” is meant to imply something more than a Chair making a decision. Batsell suggested replacing the words “the full” with “a quorum of the” when referring to the Committee on Examinations and Standing. Windsor said that the Working Group was open to modification of the proposal with the best possible language.
The Working Group accepted as a friendly amendment the change from requiring the full Committee on Examinations and Standing to meet to requiring a quorum of that committee. The language was amended to note “a quorum of the” Committee on Examinations and Standing in all cases.
Stevenson asked whether the Working Group anticipated a case in which a student might be involved in three different conference activities and EX&S might allow all students except this individual to participate. Windsor explained the Working Group’s rationale in constructing the language, first identifying some events with mandatory attendance and prohibiting them to protect the students. That prohibition can be relaxed for certain circumstances and then evaluation can take place on a student-by-student basis.
Windsor summarized that the 1988 policy is partly working in the sense that not a large number of exceptions are requested, but partly failing in the sense that events are leaking into the reading period. Windsor felt one cause of the leakage was the result of the Chair of EX&S being pressured to act alone on certain exception requests.
Stevenson expressed his concern with the word “may” in the phrases “events . . . may be scheduled” and “exceptions may be granted.” Even if several events for which exceptions are requested affect several students, EX&S wouldn’t prevent scheduling the event but would instead prevent certain students from participating. Windsor confirmed that EX&S would normally be expected to remove certain specific students rather than not allow the event to be scheduled. “May” is the operative word in the 1988 language and is maintained here. With the word “may,” EX&S can intervene if it judges there is a need. Need is determined on an individual basis.
Stern hypothesized that a scheduling exception could be approved in June and student participation not approved until December, and consequently an event could be scheduled in which no students would be allowed to participate. Windsor confirmed that possibility, but noted it would be the case only if in the judgment of the Office of Academic Advising, the Athletic Advising Office (in the case of athletic events), and EX&S no students were in sufficient academic standing to play. The objective of the policy is not to control the events but to protect the students.
For the legislative history, David Leebron noted that some events, notably in basketball and in baseball, take place between semesters or after the spring semester. As literally written, this proposal seems to apply to those events as well. Windsor clarified that the intent of the policy is to govern events only through the end of the final exam period.
Leebron thought legislative history was sufficient to make that distinction and no change in wording was necessary. He also asked how individual student participation will be determined for events scheduled during the last week of classes since the scheduling of those events did not require EX&S approval. Windsor noted that past practices existed and could be utilized.
Windsor pointed out that the third sentence marks a change from the 1988 policy. The language limits the number of events, controllable or uncontrollable, in which a student may participate during the last week of classes. In other words, a student may participate in one university-sponsored event during the last week of classes and an additional university-sponsored event on the day after the last day of classes. Only non-controllable university-sponsored events may occur during the final exam period. Killianassumed that the phrase “university-sponsored events” referred to those with mandatory attendance, and Windsor confirmed that understanding. A voluntary debate tournament would not fall under these guidelines.
Harter asked the Senate whether it shouldn’t, at some point, consider greater limits on the scheduling of activities during the last week of classes. Certainly in Humanities courses, the last week of classes is incredibly important. Windsor noted that the Report of the Athletics Subcommittee 2004-2005 highlighted a scheduling stress problem: Science and Engineering primarily focus on finals during the final exam period and Humanities primarily focuses on written reports during the last week of classes. Unlike the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), Conference USA (C-USA) has a written norm against scheduling events during the final exam period of member institutions. Additionally, all C-USA schools operate on the semester system, which should facilitate scheduling. Windsor thought an impossible condition for the athletic programs would be created if the Senate attempted to ban events during the final exam period, the reading period, and the last week of classes. The 1988 policy was not that extensive. The Working Group recommends the proposal outlined here and determining whether university groups can work within these limits. Windsor unequivocally stated that the Working Group would not support a ban on events during the last week of classes.
Harter countered that Rice is now in a conference where it is the star and consequently holds a position of strength that it did not have in 1988. While the current proposal addresses the degeneration of the 1988 policy, Harter wanted to raise the possibility of a more extensive policy to make a statement about the importance of academics to the university. While the Senate might choose to pass the Working Group’s proposal and wait a year or longer to readdress the issue, she thought this was a key moment to make a statement about what the university stands for. Harter wanted to place on record her belief that the Working Group has done a great job, but that it did not push as hard as it could.
Windsor responded that the Working Group is sending a signal by regulating individual participation during the last week of classes. The Working Group is prepared to unanimously send such a signal, but it is not prepared to attempt to regulate the last week of classes in detail. The university is only one of twelve votes in the conference. Contractually speaking, the conference is an overriding obligation of the university. While Rice might be able to influence C-USA, the Working Group’s aim was to continue the policy by which EX&S would normally be expected to approve exceptions but at the same time to equip EX&S with the ability to refuse exception requests for certain events and to protect individual students.
Windsor noted that he had had conversations with Bobby May, Athletic Director, and had provided him with a copy of the report for his response.
Quillen asked who would be responsible for overseeing the system and how a student who fell under the requirements of this policy would come to the university’s attention. Windsor responded that the policy does not contain an operating mechanism. This policy provides EX&S with a set of principles rather than a set of procedures. A student or another individual would have to report the situation. Since these situations have been reported in the past, the Working Group expected that such reporting would continue. Stevenson pointed out that a professor with a student who will miss the last week of classes because of multiple events would invoke this policy and be likely to report such a situation.
Corcoran noted that the fact that EX&S can grant an exception only where scheduling is not under the control of the university differed from the existing policy. Exhibition games for which exceptions were previously granted would now be strictly forbidden.
Corcoran asked whether a four- or five-day tournament during the last week of classes would count as just one university-sponsored event. Windsor responded that while “an event” is not specifically defined in this policy, the controlling factor in this case would be the condition that students may only be away for one night of travel. A three-, four-, or five-day extended tournament would require an exception be requested. Windsor had not heard from any parties about potential problems caused by this part of the policy. If a problem arises, the Senate would need to decide whether the policy should be recrafted or a special rule written to address that situation. At this time, the issue is not on the table.
Stern pointed out that with no limit on the number of events in which a student can participate during the final exam period, the rules governing the last week of classes seem to be more stringent than the rules governing the final exam period. Windsor acknowledged that the Working Group was aware of the inconsistency; the final exam period and the last week of classes posed different types of problems.
Stern asked whether the Working Group had considered the possibility of allowing only uncontrollable events during the last week of classes. Windsor responded that the “one event per student” clause provided the strongest possible position for the protection of individual students. The Senate could decide that the statement is too strong or inconsistent with policy during the final exam period. A change would entail a policy choice. Stern thought the policy governing the last week of classes could be made even stronger by not allowing any controllable events to be scheduled.
Harter preferred any language that would stress the scheduling of an event rather than the participation of an individual student because the pressure on individual students to participate is enormous. Windsor noted that some individuals will think the policy is too strict and some will think it is too lenient. The question remains: Where does the Senate think it should land on the question?
Kamins raised a serious objection on behalf of the Shepherd School of Music. The Shepherd School has grown to its current level of excellence, in large part, due its orchestral program. If he understood the wording of this policy correctly, it creates an impossible situation with regard to the concert offered on the Friday of the last week of classes. This concert is a very important psychological goal for the students and had not been in conflict with the policy prior to the academic calendar changes that caused the last day of classes to fall on a variety of days of the week. Kamins asked the Senate to insert wording in the policy that would enable the Shepherd School to continue to give its orchestral concert on the Friday of the last week of classes.
Gene Levy thought the appropriate solution would be to recognize that the agenda of Rice University holds the music program as an academic activity, recognizing that both practices and the performance follow the trajectory of the semester at the Shepherd School and that the concert is an academic event. The policy ought to refer to non-academic activities.
Corcoran asked whether students take orchestra as a class. Kamins replied that they do, but classifying the concert as part of a class would mean that, in some cases, the Shepherd School might hold a class event on a reading day. Windsor inquired if the students performed as part of a class or as an academic requirement for their degree, and Kamins replied yes to both questions. Windsor reaffirmed that the policy’s intent was not to govern academic matters. “Event” might be too general of a term to use. Levythought the Senate ought to explicitly adopt the language “non-academic” to ensure that the proposal not interfere with this critical academic endeavor.
The Working Group accepted as a friendly amendment the specification of the meaning of “university-sponsored event” to be “non-academic university-sponsored event,” a distinction that was not made in the 1988 language. The language was amended to note “non-academic” university-sponsored event in all cases.
Levy requested that the minutes of the meeting show that both the preparation and the performance of these concerts are considered academic activities.
Stevenson noted that the Senate’s intent was to include course-related activity and not academic activities such as debate. The concert’s affiliation with a course would be useful in the Senate’s distinction between activities. Kamins pointed out that only performance majors at the Shepherd School may participate in the Shepherd School symphony orchestra. It is not a university-wide activity; it is a class. Many other extracurricular musical organizations exist at Rice University, but these activities are not course-related.
Levy asked if every student who performs in a given semester is registered for the class. Kamins replied yes, except where an individual has been hired to play an unusual instrument for a given piece. Levy thought that the minutes of this conversation should make it clear that the Shepherd School concert is not affected by this policy.
Windsor asked the Senate if the language “non-academic” was satisfactory, or if “non-course-related” also would be required. By general Senate agreement, Windsor concluded that “non-academic” would be sufficient, keeping the language succinct and expounding upon the meaning in the minutes.
Windsor moved on to address Leebron’s earlier question regarding a mechanism for managing exception requests. Windsor pointed out that the policy is a statement of responsibility. In 1997, President Gillis initiated a new procedure for addressing the academic standing of students who wanted to participate in events during the regulated periods. That procedure was adopted by the athletic advising process and has been routinely used in EX&S decision-making. Since the procedure is well-established and seems to work well, the Working Group expected it to continue to be used for athletic events. The current proposal simply recommends that, for the safety of the students, this principle be extended to the last week of classes. The proposal equips EX&S with the authority to make decisions and creates an avenue to bring problems to the attention of EX&S. EX&S may choose either to create a procedure or to wait for exceptions to be brought to the attention of the committee.
Corcoran commented that the procedure in place had never been discussed or approved by the faculty. Zen Camacho, at the time Vice President for Student Affairs, was primarily responsible for putting the procedure in place. Michele Daley, Director of Academic Advising, interviews each student who plans to participate in an event during this period and looks at their records and their grades. Her office does routinely refuse permission for individual students to participate.
Based on past EX&S meeting minutes and interoffice correspondence, the Working Group is reasonably satisfied that the procedure is working. Windsor emphasized that general language provides EX&S with the discretion to decide, given this legislative history, what criteria will satisfy the committee. The language also leaves open the possibility that a student or professor can approach EX&S with a problem. In effect, the Working Group recommends that EX&S continue to use the procedures already in place to address the updated policy.
Harter pointed out that the Senate is debating this issue today because the prior policy, which didn’t have teeth, degenerated. EX&S approved every event for which an exception was requested. She understood that the Senate did not want heavy policy language where it could be avoided, but she was concerned about yet again adopting a policy without the power of enforcement. Additionally,Harter felt that without a monitoring mechanism the policy placed the burden on the student.
Schneider feared that a tracking or reporting arrangement would become unworkable. He shared Harter’s concern about things slipping between the cracks, but he believed the Senate could depend on professors to alert EX&S to problems. If problems do arise and the spirit or the letter of the law is violated, then the Senate would have ammunition to make necessary changes.
Windsor said that the challenge for the Working Group was to find language that would be a balance between being too general and being too specific. The main problem identified by the Working Group was that EX&S has been asked to grant exceptions for unusual events, typically not conference events, during the reading period or final exam period, and some decisions had devolved onto the Chair of EX&S alone because of timing issues. That issue has been addressed by requiring a quorum of the Committee on Examinations and Standing to grant an exception, and if a quorum cannot meet then the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate will make the decision. The previous policy provided intent without standards. This proposal makes certain specifications and then entrusts EX&S with a responsibility.
Stevenson asked if the restriction on individual student participation applied to all events, including some for which no exception had been granted. Windsor answered that was the case, but noted the policy did not require EX&S to evaluate every student. Stevenson asked whether EX&S should only evaluate students planning to participate in events for which the committee granted an exception. Because EX&S has taken responsibility for allowing an excepted event to occur, the committee should have responsibility for ensuring students are academically fit to participate. Stevenson did not understand why the individual participation clause would be applied to regularly constituted events that in no way are an exception to the policy.
Windsor replied that each statement in the proposal is a policy choice. Restriction of this clause to those events for which EX&S grants an exception is a possible alternative. Stevenson pointed out that there would not be many such events and EX&S would be aware of those events. Windsor did not hold a strong opinion on whether to narrow the application of the statement or keep it broad.
Etnyre pointed out that part of the reason for the creation of this Working Group was the escalating number of exceptions being granted. In 1988, Rice was in the WAC, and the WAC did not restrict the scheduling of events during members’ final exam periods. C-USA intentionally avoids scheduling events during a member’s final exam period, and consequently there should now be fewer exceptions.
Windsor said that the policy simply empowers EX&S to act. He was inclined to leave the language broad because it would not direct EX&S to investigate every one of these cases.
Killian found the restriction to one university-sponsored event during the last week of classes to be overly restrictive. Highly motivated students may decide to participate in more events. Gautami Shah pointed out that the key distinction in the policy is whether an event is mandatory. Stevenson thought that adding the phrase “at which student attendance is required” or the word “mandatory” to the third sentence might clarify the proposal.
Killian then asked if any other type of event, outside of athletic events for which a student holds a scholarship, was affected by this policy. Windsor conceded it was difficult to think of other events to which this policy applied, but that the Working Group was not writing language that applied only to athletics. Academic events are not affected and voluntary events are not affected.
Etnyre provided club sports as an example of a voluntary activity. While games are not required, a decision to not participate might affect future play. Definitional issues come into play. Is a national championship for a club sport mandatory? Not strictly speaking, but the amount of pressure on a student to participate would be great.
Warren pointed out that a lot of these wording issues seemed to reflect a reluctance to address the policy primarily to athletics. Debate has brought to light all kinds of semantic rules to describe what the policy does and does not mean, and to what it applies, butWarren would not be clear on the meaning or application if he had not heard all of the debate.
Windsor reiterated that the policy applies to anything which is non-academic but mandatory. Killian argued that once a student commits to a theatrical production he/she must follow-through, but Windsor countered that a theatrical production is a voluntary activity. A situation in which a student must play in a game or risk losing his/her scholarship or being cut from the team would be a mandatory event.
Harter seconded Warren’s comment. Students on an athletic scholarship experience immense pressure and athletes are already at a disadvantage when competing with other students. The goal is to protect the students.
Stern did not consider club sports to be university-sponsored. Windsor highlighted the elements of university sponsorship, including use of university fields and university approval of schedules, but ultimately they are voluntary activities. Although as a practical matter the policy tends to pertain to athletics, the 1988 policy is not written in terms of athletics and there could be other possibilities. Stevenson asked if this policy could be rewritten as part of the policy on excused absences, which would eliminate evening activities. Corcoran pointed out that there are no classes during the final exam period. Stevenson replied that separate policies would then be applied to the last week of classes and the final exam period.
Windsor pointed out that this proposal addresses issues and problems identified in the 1988 language. To meet the April 7 deadline for changes to the General Announcements, the Working Group recommends replacing the existing language with this language as modified by the friendly amendments. The Senate may choose to create another working group to rewrite the policy again next year. Given the legislative history, Windsor thought a radical alteration would be ill-advised without studying the issue very carefully.
Young asked whether a restriction existed on defining a policy specifically for athletics. Windsor reminded the Senate that there may be events of which the Senate is unaware which would fall under this policy. He advised keeping the policy as diplomatic as possible, restating that the Working Group fixed the 1988 policy language to address the problems that had been identified. If significant policy changes are to be made, the policy might need to be written again next year.
The question was called.
Harter wished to voice one last comment. She disagreed with Windsor. While the Working Group had met its objective, she feared that if the Senate adopted this language, it would not in fact return to the issue. As a rule it did not seem likely the Senate would want to return to the same issues year after year. Harter served on the two-year Athletics Subcommittee that presented its findings to the Board of Trustees and was rebuffed. She did not want to adopt a halfway proposal, preferring instead to maintain the existing language for another year, for fear that the Senate would not return to complete the work.
Windsor responded that the Working Group had discharged its responsibility and recommended replacing the existing language in theGeneral Announcements with the proposed language, which provides EX&S with a stronger position. The faculty would still have the option to amend the proposal to apply directly to athletics. Windsor did not think such a change should be made hastily, however, or without garnering input from the President and the Provost, assessing the Board’s views, and examining the implications of that particular modification.
The question was called again.
The Senate voted on the motion to adopt the proposal from the Working Group with the friendly amendments replacing all instances of “university-sponsored event” with “non-academic university-sponsored event” and replacing all instances of “the full Committee” with “a quorum of the Committee.”
A number of Senators had departed. The motion passed with a vote of 13 in favor and 3 against.
IV. Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 pm, with the next Faculty Senate meeting scheduled for April 12, 2006.
V. Additional Note: After the meeting was adjourned, a spoken clarification to the recording secretary was made to the clause “no more than one night would be spent outside of Houston for travel.” The intent is that a student may spend one night away from campus. It does not mean that students may only physically travel (by airplane, by bus) one night.