Faculty Senate Meeting
October 25, 2017
Kyle Morrow Room, Fondren Library

Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):


I. Call to Order

II. Announcements

  • Mass Notifications
  • Honor System
  • Committee on Investor Responsibility
  • Update on IDEA Teaching Evaluations Pilot
  • President Leebron: V2C2
  • Announcements from the floor

III. Unfinished Business: Motion to Approve Edits to University Policy 214 (postponed to November 2017 meeting)

IV. New Business: Motion to approve Bachelor of Arts Degree Program with a Major in Neuroscience (tabled and recommitted to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee)

V. Adjourn


Senators present: Graham Bader, Lisa Balabanlilar, Martin Blumenthal-Barby, Gwen Bradford, Nathan Citino, Scott Cutler, Erik Dane, Julie Fette, Jeffrey Fleisher, Charles Geyer, Patrick Hartigan, Christopher Hight, Michael Schweinberger (for Marek Kimmel), Stephen Klineberg, Balaji Koka, David Leebron, Angel Marti-Arbona, Susan McIntosh, David Messmer, Marie Lynn Miranda, Emilia Morosan, Nancy Niedzielski, Ed Nikonowicz, Rob Raphael, Doug Schuler, Laura Segatori, Scott Solomon, Kerry Ward, Michael Wolf, Pablo Yepes, and Colin Zelt.


Senators absent: Keith Cooper, Michael Diehl, and Christopher Johns-Krull.


(To listen to an audio tape of this meeting, email senate@rice.edu.)


I. Call to Order


Speaker Jeffrey Fleisher called the meeting to order at 12:00 p.m. He welcomed the assembled senators and guests to the meeting.


II. Announcements

  • Mass Notifications
    Jerusha Kasch, Director of Institutional Crisis Management for Rice University, announced that a new vendor has been hired to send emergency notifications to the Rice community. Kasch said that the new system allows recipients to choose the method of notification and it includes an opt-out choice for those who do not wish to receive emergency notifications.
  • Honor System
    Reece Rosenthal, Chair of the Honor Council, said that the student-run Honor System was founded in the same year that Rice University was founded, and that it is responsible for educating students about the Honor System, investigating reported violations, and adjudicating cases. He said that faculty participation is crucial to the success of the system. He reviewed recent statistics regarding the number of cases that the Honor Council hears and the makeup of the 30-person Honor Council. Regarding penalties for Honor System violations, Rosenthal said that penalties are based on the value of the assignment, as determined at the annual consensus penalty structure meeting. Rosenthal encouraged faculty members to attend the meeting to be held Saturday, November 4, 2017.
  • Committee on Investor Responsibility
    Taylor Morin, a Student Association Senator, was asked to present information to the Senate regarding a proposed Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility. Morin explained that the Rice endowment includes $730 million invested in equities, which allows voting privileges for proxy shareholder resolutions. However, Morin said that Rice typically does not vote, which is equivalent to voting with management. He advocated that Rice University vote in accordance with its stated values.

    Morin presented the charge for the proposed committee: “Provide voting recommendations for proxy resolutions that occur within the endowment’s direct domestic equity holdings.” He said that the membership of the committee would be two faculty members, three undergraduate students, one graduate student, one administrator, one alumni, and two ex officio members; Morin and a representative from Rice Management Company. In further discussion, it was suggested that the representation be altered, and Morin was agreeable to this suggestion.

    Morin said that a similar Rice committee existed previously, but it disbanded primarily due to the high workload. He proposed that the workload of the committee be reduced to four meetings per year and focus on 15 resolutions per year.

    Morin was asked to whom the committee would report. He replied that while the members of the Board of Trustees have fiduciary duty for Rice, they currently delegate this duty to President Leebron and to the Rice Management Company. Several senators asked questions, including a concern that the committee’s actions could reflect the opinion of a small group of activists, instead of acting in the best interests of the university. However, Morin said that the committee does not expect to make final decisions; the role of the committee is to be an advisory body to President Leebron.


  • Update on IDEA Teaching Evaluations Pilot
    Provost Miranda announced that the IDEA course evaluation pilot, recommended by the University Committee for Teaching and approved by the Faculty Senate in April 2015, was run in the 2016-2017 year. She said that a committee evaluated the results of the pilot, and although the committee recommended that IDEA be instituted, that recommendation was not unanimous and problems with the program were identified. Miranda said that after reading the report from the committee, she has decided not to institute IDEA because Rice’s existing software can be improved to provide the desired results. She thanked the University Committee on Teaching for their work.

    Miranda also announced that the newly installed Faculty Information System (FIS) would be discontinued in favor of the system previously used, with some improvements.

  • Vision for the Second Century II
    President Leebron provided an update to the Faculty Senate regarding the feedback received from the Rice community regarding the Vision for the Second Century II (V2C2). He encouraged faculty members to submit any additional input via email within the next couple of weeks, as a draft document will be presented to the Board of Trustees at its December 2017 meeting.

    Leebron reviewed the seven broad goals of the V2C2:


Provide Transformative Undergraduate Education


Build Internationally Preeminent Graduate Programs


Expand Access, Diversity and Inclusiveness


Build Faculty to Achieve Strategic Preeminence


Enhance Research Achievement and Reputation


Enable Houston as a Model 21st Century City


Extend Rice’s Reach and Impact

He also discussed the emerging big ideas from the V2C2: engineering and medicine; materials; systems, synthetic and physical biology; data science; disparities and inequities; Earth, environment and energy; social policy analysis; Central Quad (Library, student center, academic building);Houston: new engagements;cities of the future; building a bigger footprint: digital and global; and global health.

  • Announcements from the floor: none

III. Unfinished Business: Motion to Approve Edits to University Policy 214 (postponed to November 2017 meeting)

IV. New Business: “Motion to approve the proposed Bachelor of Arts Degree Program with a Major in Neuroscience”

Fleisher stated that the University Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum recently approved the proposed major in neuroscience. He said that the Senate’s Executive Committee then reviewed the proposal and approved it for presentation to the full Senate.


Behnaam Aazhang and Janet Braam were present to discuss the proposal, which was provided to senators via the wiki site. Aazhang said that the proposed major in neuroscience was created in response to student requests and would provide increased research opportunities with several Texas Medical Center institutions. He said that the major would be housed in Rice’s BioSciences Department, and he outlined the basic requirements for the program:


  • BA in Neuroscience
  • Requirements: 122-134 hours
    • 12 fundamentals courses (34-35 hours)
    • 4 core courses (12 hours)
    • 3 project based laboratory courses (4-6 hours)
    • 4 courses from a pool of electives (12-21 hours)
  • Advisors: Aazhang, Caprette, Dickman, Fischer-Baum, Flynn, Kemere, Lwigale


A senator seconded the motion for approval, followed by discussion, summarized below.


Scott Cutler: This is a major in neuroscience, why do is the proposal for a Bachelor of Arts instead of a Bachelor of Science degree?


Aazhang: We propose to begin with a Bachelor of Arts degree, which will be more manageable; perhaps we will come back to the Senate in a year to request a Bachelor of Science. Several Rice programs offer both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree.


Rob Raphael: Has the University Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC) approved the proposal with no reservations?


Susan McIntosh, chair of the CUC: The proposal was originally submitted to the CUC in January 2017. It has undergone two major and two minor revisions, and the resulting proposal includes answers to all of the questions from the CUC. The program will add value to our curriculum and has the support of the university administration. It is a challenging major because it is not only interdisciplinary, but also inter-institutional. All of these issues have been discussed and worked out. The CUC has no reservations.


Graham Bader: The number of courses for the major is high at 23. Does that concern the University Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC)?


McIntosh: The large number may in part be due CUC request; many of the required courses have prerequisites, so we asked that these prerequisites be listed in the proposal. Many of the students who will pursue this major will come in with Advance Placement (AP) credits for those courses.


Mike Wolf: My concern is the honors research sequence. In the course plan for this credential, it assumes AP credits of 26 hours. I believe this is the first credential I have seen that is a priori not open to all Rice students.


Aazhang: We were thinking that a typical student would complete the program with 122 hours. The student who is interested in pursuing the honors research sequence will take additional hours. The 134 hours can be done in four years.


Braam: I think that there are other programs at Rice that assume a student will need AP credits in order to complete the requirements in four years. We modeled this program on the Biochemistry major, which has regular and honors tracks. If it is true that a student without AP credits cannot complete the neuroscience honors research in four years, it may not be the only one at Rice.


President Leebron: I encourage approval of the proposal, but Wolf’s concern is a valid one. We want all of our students to have the same opportunities. To say that the solution for a student without AP credits is to simply take more hours is a recipe for failure, especially for the less-prepared students. We have to think more about how we support our students.


Fleisher: Let’s talk about the overlap with cognitive science.


Cognitive science faculty members: We estimate that, at most, one-third of our students will move to neuroscience. Neuroscience includes natural science and engineering, while cognitive science goes across all schools; it is more behavioral-based, focusing on the mind. Neuroscience is focused on cellular, molecular aspects of the brain and ultimately behavior. The overlap is not huge, and the current version of the proposal avoids double majors.


Provost Miranda: We are trying hard to ensure that students with zero Advanced Placement credits can major in their preferred program.


Wolf: I move to table the motion to approve the proposed Bachelor of Arts Degree Program with a Major in Neuroscience and recommit the proposal to the University Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum with the instruction that they come up with a means whereby the honors neuroscience sequence (401, 402, and 412) are accessible to students who matriculate without Advanced Placement credit.


The motion was seconded, followed by a vote for approval, with 92% of the senators approving the motion to table the proposal, and 8% voting to abstain. To view the votes of the individual senators, please see the record on the wiki site HERE (net ID required).


The meeting was adjourned at 1:50 p.m.