April 12, 2006
Faculty Senate Meeting
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 McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall
II. Academic Calendars
III. Report on the University's Reaccreditation Process - James Kinsey and Robin Forman
IV. Faculty Senate Meeting Rules Proposal - Randy Stevenson
V. Proposal from the Working Group on Interdisciplinary Minors - Peter Mieszkowski
April 12, 2006
Attendance: Approximately 35
Senators present: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, James Weston, Duane Windsor, James Young
Senators absent: Jose Aranda, Kyriacos Athanasiou, Vicki Colvin, Brian Huberman, Joe Warren, 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.
Corcoran announced that the General Announcements changes approved by the Faculty Senate were submitted to Colleen Morimoto in the Provost’s Office before the update deadline.
Corcoran announced the results of the 2006–2007 Senate elections. Christian Emden was elected to the Humanities – Any Rank seat. Corcoran asked for nominations from current Senators for the vacant Engineering – Any Rank seat. According to the Constitution, any vacant Senate seats are to be filled by Speaker appointment with approval of the Senate. Additionally, Corcoran planned to work with the Deans and Senators from the Jones Graduate School of Management and the School of Humanities to fill the two vacant positions on the 2006–2007 Promotion & Tenure Committee.
II. Academic Calendars: The Academic Calendar 2006/2007 was approved last fall, but two revisions to that calendar were proposed. Corcoran circulated the slightly revised version of the Academic Calendar 2006/2007 via email and received no comments from Senators. The two changes include: (1) pushing back the due dates for grades by two days in both the fall and the spring semesters (except for graduating seniors); and (2) moving the pass/fail conversion deadline from the end of the fifth week of the next semester to the end of the second week.
The changes must be approved by the Senate. Corcoran saw no issues with the proposal. The changes were moved and seconded, and the revised Academic Calendar 2006/2007 was approved.
Corcoran continued with discussion of the Academic Calendar 2007/2008 and the Academic Calendar 2008/2009. Since distributing the draft calendars to Senators via email, Corcoran had requested the Registrar push back the due dates for grades in both the fall and spring semesters (except for graduating seniors) and the Registrar had agreed to do so. Corcoran displayed an overhead slide with the revised due dates.
These academic calendars have been proposed by the Registrar’s Office and approved by the President’s Office. Corcoran pointed out that these calendars are very similar to the approved Academic Calendar 2006/2007. All incorporate an earlier start to the spring semester than in past years. Corcoran recalled that, in an earlier debate, the Senate was split on the early start to the spring semester and suggested that the Senate revisit the issue after experiencing the new calendar for a few years.
John Casbarian said that scheduling the last day of classes on a Wednesday is problematic for the School of Architecture. Final juries, which are always held during the last week of classes, now will fall on Thursday and Friday during the Reading Period. Corcoran did not think this would be a problem because the projects themselves are due well before the last day of classes. Casbarian pointed out that although the schedule may not violate any rules governing the last week of classes and final examinations, the arrangement would lessen the time that architecture students would have to prepare for their other final exams and thus was a less than optimal situation. Casbarian asked that any future calendars the Senate considers have the semester end on a Friday.
Corcoran recognized the challenge of balancing the number of days of instruction and the effect that it has on calendar design. Deborah Harter announced that the Executive Committee planned for a discussion regarding the current calendar to be held at the end of next year. She asked Casbarian, and any other faculty with specific calendar issues, to submit a brief note describing the problem to the Executive Committee.
Bruce Etnyre, who worked on the calendar with Stephen Zeff, echoed Corcoran’s comment on balancing the days of instruction. Days were unbalanced in past years; for example, there were more Fridays than Wednesdays in a semester, creating a situation that especially impacted lab classes. Either adding a few days to a semester or subtracting a few days from a semester to arrange for the last day of classes to fall on Friday would have a domino effect on the rest of the calendar. Casbarian pointed out that the schedule worked in the fall semester but not in the spring semester, and Corcoran identified the recently added two-day April break as the culprit. Senators suggested adding more reading days, designating a Wednesday as a Friday, or starting the semester two days later. Recognizing the large number of factors to consider, Corcoran suggested that these ideas and issues could be reviewed in the discussion scheduled for the end of next year. She asked the Senate to take action on the proposed calendars.
The Academic Calendar 2007/2008 and the Academic Calendar 2008/2009 were moved and seconded. The proposed calendars were approved.
III. Report on the University’s Reaccreditation Process : James Kinsey, D.R. Bullard-Welch Foundation Professor of Science, provided an overview of the reaccreditation process. RiceUniversity is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and must go through the reaccreditation process every ten years. The university started work on the current round of accreditation approximately two years ago. There are two parts to the process: compliance and the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). On the compliance side, the university must comply with seventy-six articles. On the quality enhancement side, SACS has instituted a new requirement whereby each university must design a plan to enhance the quality of education at the university.
Kinsey explained that the work of several teams on the compliance portion of reaccreditation culminated in a report submitted to SACS in August 2005. After reviewing the report, SACS issued a preliminary evaluation in November 2005. At that time, problems had been found with eight of the seventy-six requirements. A couple of those issues were cleared-up very quickly and at the beginning of 2006 a smaller committee was convened to address the more complex compliance issues.
Rice submitted to SACS a focus report on the eight compliance issues and next week an on-site team will visit campus to investigate the remaining compliance issues and to speak at length with Rice’s QEP team, chaired by Robin Forman, Dean of Undergraduates, and Maryana Iskander, Advisor to the President. After its visit to Rice, the on-site team will make its recommendations to SACS, and SACS will decide whether Rice will receive reaccreditation and if any remedial actions are required.
Kinsey identified four items in the interim report on compliance which he believed must be taken very seriously. The most important item involves institutional effectiveness and long range planning, and the other three items involve assessment. SACS expects every degree program and every service organization that affects the learning process to articulate its goals and have in place a process whereby the effectiveness of each of these is assessed. The university must demonstrate that the results of those assessments are folded back into improvement for the programs. Rice did not have these processes in place, and while the university has not yet completed this project, the committee is hopeful that the on-site team will see the progress that has been made.
Robin Forman, Dean of Undergraduates, described Rice’s QEP, which was designed to reflect the university’s mission statement and goals: increasing student engagement with the community; involving more students in active learning and undergraduate research; and helping students think about their communication skills and the role communication skills play in making an impact. Rice’s QEP will be grounded in the new Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), which will include the CommunityInvolvementCenter, Leadership Rice, and a new office to oversee the process by which community issues are integrated into the curriculum. Currently, faculty have taken the initiative for research based on community issues, and the goal is to see community-based projects initiated by students and community partners as well. The CCE will connect students with the appropriate courses on campus, with faculty mentors, and with community partners.
Forman reported that the SACS representatives have expressed great enthusiasm for the plan and the proposal. They have asked some specific questions regarding the funding sources and precise assessment tools that will be used. Funding will involve some reallocation of funds and some additional funds, and the assessment tools are being finalized. Forman then opened the floor to questions.
Corcoran asked for the timeline of events scheduled to follow the on-site visit. Gene Levy explained that there will be a relatively brief verbal exit report, and then SACS will prepare a written draft report to which Rice will have a chance to respond. From the draft report and response, SACS will prepare a final report for the commission. Rice will be given an opportunity to respond only to factual information contained in the final report. As for timing, Mary Zimmer, Project Director for SACS Reaccreditation, estimated Rice should have the draft written report within a month of the visit. Rice must submit its response by October 1.
Corcoran requested descriptions of the best and worst case scenarios for Rice. Forman made clear that, in reality, outcomes generally fall between the two extremes. The best outcome would be one in which SACS finds RiceUniversity to be a model for universities worldwide; the worst outcome would be one in which SACS finds Rice to be in non-compliance. Zimmer provided a more nuanced example, explaining that if SACS were to find a university in non-compliance with one of the core requirements (such as institutional effectiveness), or in substantial non-compliance with assessment issues, SACS would publicly put that university on probation or warning. A two-year monitoring period would follow that public sanction, a time during which the university could align itself with SACS requirements. SACS also has the option to monitor a university for two years without public sanction.
Forman pointed out that as SACS requirements evolve, universities are always a step behind in meeting new standards. Many of Rice’s peers experience the same challenges, but Kinsey did want to make clear that there are serious consequences for failing accreditation. A university that is not accredited cannot accept federal funds of any type. While such extreme action would be unlikely, SACS can wield that power to enforce compliance with its requirements. Kinsey emphasized that the process will not go away and will not be something that the university can address only once every ten years.
Jim Young called attention to the fact that the School of Engineering has worked to address assessment requirements of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) for the past two assessment cycles. The most difficult challenge has been to determine the meaning of “precise assessments of degree or program outcomes.” He has found that it doesn’t mean student surveys or alumni surveys, but instead means nationally normed exams. Young asked whether there will be expertise and processes at the university level to assist programs with assessment requirements. Levy pointed out that for the past four years, the School of Engineering has had a resident expert in accreditation, and it is a virtual certainty that others in the university will provide a similar kind of consulting.
Kinsey said that assessment is not just a matter of standardized exams, but Young found that when the School of Engineering put forward various other ideas, ABET responded with statements such as “but that’s an opinion” or “but that’s student surveys” or “but an ‘A’ in the course doesn’t show that a student learned these particular things.” Kinsey explained that SACS explicitly states that assessment must involve more than exams. For example, the type of process that SACS would like to see might be the following: a program offers a capstone course; each year a committee of faculty reviews the final exam questions and evaluates the performance of students on a particular body of material; the committee makes recommendations to the program; the curriculum in the course changes to reflect the recommendations.
Forman elaborated that, for a capstone project, SACS seeks more than a single grade at the end of the course. By definition, a capstone project has many components, and while grades need not be assigned to individual students for each component, the program needs to understand how well it supports each of the steps.
Randy Batsell thought an interesting course could be developed in which students adopt a community client, conduct original research for that client involving both research methodology and substantive data analysis, and incorporate presentations and written papers to involve a communication component. Forman responded that the job of the CCE will be to provide this type of opportunity by integrating community issues into the classroom and providing resources and support to the faculty.
Levy emphasized that ultimately accreditation requirements revolve around the assessment of programs, not the assessment of students. Clearly, the effectiveness of programs involves its impact on students, but the actual form of assessment must be a programmatic effectiveness assessment. Rice matriculates well-prepared students, and consequently will certainly graduate well-prepared students. Rice is being asked to demonstrate its programmatic effectiveness in a way that is somewhat separable from the specific successes and performance of the students. For this reason, high grades, admission to medical school, and strong career placement do not demonstrate what SACS is seeking. Zimmer added that the stated purpose of the assessment requirements is program improvement. Without analysis of programs and their weak spots, programs will not improve. Assessment is not in and of itself the goal; program improvement is the end for which assessment is the means.
Corcoran asked whether each department was responsible for putting forth an assessment process, and Forman said that an assessment process must be put forth for every program and degree (i.e., a department offering a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science must have an assessment process for each). Levy noted that a lot of work on assessment programs has been done this year, but a lot remains to be done.
Gautami Shah thought that the university might want to consider implementing regular external reviews of its programs in order to be prepared for the next round of accreditation. That information also could be helpful this round if the university were to be put on probation. She believed that quite a few universities have such a process in place. Levy said that the practice at Rice has been to do episodic program reviews under schedules established by the individual schools. Some of the schools have been doing very regular program reviews on a well-established cycle; some have been doing them on an “as-needed” basis. Part of the university’s response to the reaccreditation process will be to put external program reviews on a set cycle.
David Leebron stated that Rice already does many things that have not been articulated or documented, but the university clearly should be doing a number of things that it has not done. Regular external program reviews rather than ad hoc program reviews is one of those things. Another is the establishment of an infrastructure for review of administrative services. The positive part of the reaccreditation process is that it pushes the university and helps overcome resistance to certain projects. An institution may also be pushed into doing some things that it would probably prefer not to do. Disagreements with the accrediting organization will arise over the optimal allocation of resources.
Leebron emphasized that those institutions against which SACS has taken drastic action generally have been institutions in pretty serious trouble. The accreditation process is a conversation, but the university must always keep in mind the power SACS holds. In some cases, the university has been able to complete things more quickly by being fully engaged in the reaccreditation process. Initial feedback indicates that SACS is pretty impressed with what has been put together. The university has reached the point in the process where all the potential problems need to be addressed. The site visit serves only two purposes: to deal with compliance issues and to deal with the QEP. The larger picture shows that the university is in compliance with most articles and that some issues already have been corrected. Leebron is reasonably optimistic about the accreditation process and hoped that an on-going institutional improvement and assessment practice will be the end result.
Harter asked whether there was a plan in place to keep students, faculty, and parents informed of the accreditation process and what role Senators should play in that plan. Levy anticipated that the university would be subject to follow-on scrutiny in the four substantive areas that Kinsey described, but added that such observation is not uncommon. Leebron adamantly stated that it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome of the accreditation process. Senators should know that there were issues the last time that Rice went through the accreditation process; Zimmer reminded the Senate that ten years ago Rice was publicly sanctioned. Both Leebron and Zimmer emphasized that the world does not end with sanctions; such action is a regular part of the process employed by SACS.
Leebron explained that SACS accredits a wide variety of institutions and must formulate standards to apply to all of them. The only real options for such a disparate group include self-assessment and improvement. While SACS may require the university to invest some resources differently than Rice might choose to do, these actions do not change the substance of the university. SACS asks the university to designate what it believes is most valuable and then tell SACS how the university is assessing the achievement of those things.
Paula Sanders, Associate Professor of History, thought it was important to have one uncontested source of information on the accreditation process and asked where students, faculty members, parents, or visitors should be directed with specific questions. Levy asked that they be directed to the Office of the Provost.
Levy expected there to be continuing accreditation conversation in the Faculty Senate. The on-going conversation in higher education revolves around the struggle at accreditation agencies and universities to determine the best assessment tools and processes. ABET has been years ahead of the regional accreditation organizations; the School of Engineering has been engaged in this conversation for twelve years.
Batsell asked what faculty might do to make a difference, and Forman asked Senators to tell their colleagues about the QEP. Batsell said that the notion of continuous improvement in business made a significant difference in performance. Companies found that once you measure something, it improves because the only reason for measurement is continuous improvement. The challenge at Rice remains the measurement of an amorphous product. Leebron found that fact to be a source of potential tension. Once a decision is made to measure certain items, resources are focused on those items and that initial decision distorts other decision-making. This phenomenon is most evident in the world of admissions; admission practices have been distorted over the past decade because U.S. News and World Report defines what is measured, and consequently valued. On the positive side, Rice is not being told precisely what to measure. Batsell believed that the university could improve on its own terms because it could decide what to measure. Leebron pointed out that Rice does not even measure satisfaction in some areas. Anecdotes are told and retold, but the university ought to have a regular process by which each office, whether it serves students or faculty, is assessed each year.
Kinsey added that faculty could help by being upbeat should they encounter the on-site team. Harter expressed her opinion that one of the great things about the American university is the freedom it has to find its own path. Forman explained that the reason the accreditation process is so opaque is because SACS wants to grant the freedom for universities to continue to choose their own path. SACS simply asks universities to tell what path has been chosen and how progress along that path is measured.
Bruce Etnyre pointed to the SACS website (http://www.sacs.org/) as another source of information. The website lists which universities are out of compliance and why. Shah suggested that faculty might be more involved from the beginning of the accreditation process since they all have a vested interest in the outcome. Kinsey emphasized that, going forward, the university will not be able to treat the process as an occasional process. A constant state of conversation will be necessary. Forman assured that, over the years, everyone will be hearing about assessment processes and that not involving all faculty members at the outset was intended to protect them from the constant background noise rather than keep the process a secret. Broad participation is welcomed.
IV. Faculty Senate Meeting Rules Proposal: This agenda item was postponed from the March meeting. Randy Stevenson explained that the main purpose of the Meeting Rules was to provide for the efficient conduct of meetings, yet to preserve free and open debate as well as the ability to discuss issues as much as desired. The Bylaws Committee aimed to minimize the bureaucracy of the actual meetings but to ensure that a faculty member could always ask the Senate to consider an issue. Ultimately the agenda-setting power rests with the Senate and the faculty itself. He proceeded with a section-by-section discussion of the rules.
Meeting Rules Section I: Section I explains the role of the meeting rules.
There was no discussion on this section.
Meeting Rules Section II: Section II provides the order of business for meetings. Stevenson pointed out that two types of new business are defined: items on the agenda and proposals from the floor. As a general rule, items on the agenda will be discussed at a meeting; however, under a given set of circumstances, the rules guarantee that items not placed on the Senate Agenda through the regular process can be proposed from the floor. This provision guarantees that an individual can raise an issue for consideration even if the Executive Committee does not place it on the meeting agenda.
Batsell asked why the Bylaws Committee chose to specify the number of Senators rather than the percentage of Senators required for a quorum. He expected that the Senate would grow as the number of tenure-track faculty grows. Stevenson pointed out that the number of Senators is explicitly stated in the Constitution, and consequently the number of Senators required for a quorum is set. All of the governance documents are linked, so a change to the Constitution may require changes to the Bylaws and Meeting Rules and vice versa. While Stevenson did not hold a strong opinion on the issue, before changing that provision he would want to revisit all three documents concurrently to determine how such a change would impact each.
Harter proposed a friendly amendment to correct a grammatical error in the first sentence of Subsection 3. There was no objection to this change.
Meeting Rules Sections III and IV: Stevenson referred to the flow chart he crafted to illustrate these sections. Any Senator or faculty member who demonstrates sufficient support (as defined in the Bylaws) can submit an item of business. An item of business generally consists of either a motion for the Senate to do something or a request for the Senate to discuss something. The item of business is submitted to the Executive Committee, which decides whether to place the item on the Senate Agenda, table the item, or do nothing with the item. In the latter two cases, after forty days have passed the faculty member will have other options for bringing the item forward.
If the Executive Committee places the item on the Senate Agenda, the item will be considered at a Senate meeting. If the Executive Committee denies the item a place on the Senate Agenda, the Senator or faculty member who submitted it may raise the item as a motion from the floor. A motion is only eligible from the floor if it has previously been denied space on the agenda through direct denial or delay by the Executive Committee. Stevenson explained the rationale for requiring all items to be brought before the Executive Committee: it ensures that an item on the agenda or proposed from the floor has been thought through, the language for the item has been worked out, and Senators have been given sufficient time to consider the item.
Levy asked if only two options existed for an item proposed from the floor: to adopt it or to kill it. Stevenson replied that the Senate may either accept or reject a proposal to consider an item, but if the Senate agrees to consider it, the item is treated as a regular Senate Agenda item. At that time, the item can be considered immediately, tabled, or sent to a Working Group. To be clear, Stevenson explained that when an item of business is proposed from the floor, the first vote is a vote on whether to consider the item. Already the Senate has been asked to consider a number of proposals for which the fundamental question was whether the Senate should even discuss the issue. The Executive Committee first asks that question when deciding whether to place an item on the Senate Agenda; if an item comes from the floor, there will always be a debate and vote on whether to discuss an item. What the Senate discusses becomes substantively important in and of itself.
Harter asked whether there was a limit on the number of times a Senator may bring a particular proposal from the floor. Stevenson replied that the rules make it clear that if a proposal is made from the floor, and the Senate votes not to consider it, the proposal is dead. Ostensibly, that proposal could be submitted to the Executive Committee again to restart the cycle. The Senate must decide whether an amendment is needed to explicitly prevent that action. Stevenson also pointed out that as the Meeting Rules currently read, no time limit exists for a Senator or faculty member to raise a proposed item of business from the floor once it has been denied a place on the Senate Agenda. The Senate may elect to add a time limit for raising items of business that have been denied by the Executive Committee.
Phil Kortum asked the significance of requiring the support of 24 faculty members to submit an item of business to the Executive Committee. Stevenson provided the background, explaining that the Constitution required that the Bylaws guarantee a means by which a faculty member who was not in the Senate, but with sufficient support, could bring an item of business before the Senate. The Bylaws state that 24 faculty members must demonstrate their support for an item.
Mike Stern asked whether the Executive Committee must schedule a proposal from the floor for a specific meeting if the Senate approves its consideration. Stevenson explained that the only proposal from the floor that is in order would be one that had been denied a place on the Senate Agenda or delayed for more than 40 days and consequently was considered denied. The Speaker must call for proposals from the floor before any new business is considered. This arrangement prevents jamming a meeting agenda to avoid proposals from the floor. If the Senate votes to consider a proposal from the floor, that proposal does not return to the Executive Committee but is considered as any other item of new business.
Dave Schneider asked for clarification of the term Senate Agenda as defined in Section III. Stevenson explained that when an item is placed on the Senate Agenda, it becomes part of the Senate’s business for the year, not for a specific meeting.
Corcoran asked whether the Meeting Rules specify the process for making changes to the rules. Stevenson said that both the Bylaws and the Meeting Rules can be changed by a simple majority vote; the Constitution requires an extraordinary majority to make a change.
Meeting Rules Section V: There are two ways in which the Senate can conduct business: by making a motion or by hosting a general discussion. Stevenson explained that the rules on general discussion speak to the idea of efficiency. Section V states that when the Senate holds free form discussion, the Speaker will state the topic and the length of time allotted for discussion. The Parliamentarian tracks the time and when the specified time has elapsed, announces that time has expired. While the Speaker may extend the time limit, this provision forces a conscious decision on whether to continue discussion or to move on with other business. General discussion also allows faculty to submit items for which discussion is warranted but action is not required.
There was no discussion on this section.
Meeting Rules Sections VI and VII: This section specifies the motions that can be made and is a much more limited list than that found in Robert’s Rules. The section was designed to limit bureaucratic overhead.
Stevenson pointed out that the Bylaws Committee intentionally omitted a motion to end debate but drafted an amendment to insert that provision if the Senate should choose to do so. If the Speaker is dependable, the more efficient procedure would be to allow the Speaker to decide if sufficient discussion has been heard. The alternative would be inclusion of a procedure by which someone on the floor calls the question and a vote is taken on whether to end debate. Stevenson observed that while this motion had been made at past Senate meetings, the motion was generally ignored and ultimately the Speaker decided whether there had been enough discussion.
Section VI currently contains procedures for Main Motions; Motion to Table; Motion of Ratification; Motion for Adjournment; and Motions Made at the Request of the Chair.
The Motion of Ratification requires that the Senate, at the first meeting of the year, consider the substantive actions taken by the Executive Committee during the summer and decide whether to ratify those actions. If the Senate ratifies an action, it becomes a Resolution of the Senate. If the Senate does not ratify an action, it remains a decision of the Executive Committee rather than a Resolution of the Senate (although the decision likely remains set).
Subsection 6.1 creates Resolutions of the Faculty Senate. These resolutions are the means by which the Senate tracks what has been done and whether those actions are ultimately implemented in university policy.
Subsection 6.5 and Section VII are designed for situations in which the rules may seem too confining. According to Subsection 6.5, the Speaker can request a motion from the floor, and that motion will be in order if it meets the criteria specified by the Speaker. According to Section VII, a Senator can request the Speaker take action, and those requests must immediately be granted, denied, or declared out of order.
There was no discussion on these sections.
Meeting Rules Section VIII: Stevenson underscored that Senators may not call for adjournment until the published meeting time has expired. Once that time has passed, any Senator may make a motion for adjournment and, if passed, any unfinished business becomes Old Business at the following meeting. The Speaker may adjourn the meeting prior to the published ending time if the Senate has completed its published agenda.
There was no discussion on this section.
Meeting Rules Section IX: This section provides for the use of Robert’s Rules of Order for specific circumstances not covered by the Meeting Rules.
There was no discussion on this section.
The Meeting Rules with the friendly amendment were moved and seconded. Batsell moved to adopt the amendment with the addition to Section VI of a motion to end debate. He reasoned that, in terms of efficiency, the Senate ought to be able to call the question. Such a provision would allow a group rather than an individual to end debate. Corcoran also expressed her support for the amendment. The motion for the amendment was seconded.
While he understood that circumstances may arise in which an individual might prematurely close-off debate, Duane Windsor took issue with the fact that the motion would be non-debatable, which would limit the ability to judge whether it was the appropriate time to end debate. There is a large difference between one or two persons plainly holding up the business of the meeting and a large minority view wishing to continue discussion.
Harter supported Windsor’s position against the amendment, but her concern stemmed from the fact that a minority group with hope for a certain outcome might call the question. Everybody in the room has a stake on one side or the other of an issue; however, the Speaker faces some pressure to remain fair and impartial. Harter was more concerned with an individual calling the question with the purpose of preventing the opposition from voicing a strong argument, especially now that items previously considered by the entire faculty are now decided by the Faculty Senate.
Batsell believed that Senators would recognize the severity of calling the question, and consequently even those holding the majority view on an issue might not vote to end debate. A sufficient number of Senators will exercise judgment such that the motion will not be often abused. Schneider would rather put the decision to end debate in the hands of the majority of the Senate rather than in those of an individual. If Senators do not want to end debate they can vote down the motion to call the question.
James Weston supported the amendment but shared Windsor’s concern that a large minority with a reasonable position might be silenced. He asked whether a supermajority might be required to pass a motion to end debate. Stevenson was concerned that then a small minority could prolong debate, and not even the Speaker could end discussion. Batsell suggested requiring the affirmative vote of 2/3 of the total number of Senators, regardless of the number present, to pass the motion.
Stevenson expressed a completely different objection to the amendment. He almost always considered the call to question to be an irritant, and the Meeting Rules aimed to eliminate bureaucratic irritants. As the Meeting Rules currently stand, a Senator can raise his or her hand and ask the Speaker to end debate, and the Speaker may take a quick straw poll and then make a decision.
Windsor highlighted a difference between the motion as drafted in the amendment and as written in Robert’s Rules of Order. The Senate version would permit an objection to be raised before the vote on a motion to end debate. Windsor thought this feature would serve as a protective device by designating a point at which debate could be undertaken. Stevenson explained that this divergence from Robert’s Rules was intentional in order to avoid, as much as possible, frivolous calls to question. If a motion is made to end debate, the Speaker will ask if there is any objection to voting; if none is made, the motion to end debate passes. If a group would like to continue debate, an individual can voice his or her objection and other Senators can decide whether to vote for the motion to end debate. Stevenson thought that tinkering with the type of majority required to end debate would not have much effect beyond requiring a more careful count of the vote.
The amendment to Section VI to add a motion to end debate and a mechanism for voting on whether to vote was moved and seconded.
Windsor wanted to make certain that the understanding of the word “objection” in the amendment meant more than stating that an objection existed, but also the reason behind the objection. Stevenson thought that allowing an objection to a motion to end debate implied a certain amount of discussion on whether or not to proceed. Stevenson believed that either the original version or the amended version of the Meeting Rules would work just fine in practice.
The amendment to the meeting rules passed.
The Meeting Rules, as amended, were moved and seconded. The Meeting Rules, as amended, passed.
V. Proposal from the Working Group on Interdisciplinary Minors: Peter Mieszkowski presented a revised proposal from the Working Group on Minors that builds on the work of Bill Wilson and the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC) and that takes into account the Senate discussion at its January meeting.
The proposal consists of three parts that can be adopted independently of each other: (1) Interdisciplinary Minors; (2) Minors in Schools and Departments not offering Undergraduate Majors in that Program of Study; and (3) Departmental Minors. Proposals II and III were not a part of the original proposal from the CUC, but the Working Group unanimously favored the addition of these options.
Mieszkowski explained that much of the proposal content relates to process and reflects the Senate’s concerns about creating a home for a minor and continuity in the group responsible for organizing the minor. In Proposals I and II, the Working Group has taken into account the suggestion to involve the Office of the Dean of Undergraduates. In these proposals, the Dean’s Office is responsible for monitoring and maintaining a record of the membership and chairpersons of the minor committees as well as filling any committee vacancies and initiating the process to terminate a minor with insufficient enrollment. The Working Group also included a provision by which the Senate gives final approval to minors after they have been considered by the CUC.
Proposal III, which addresses departmental minors, outlines a pro forma approval process that does not involve the Senate. Additionally, the administration of a departmental minor is housed within the department.
Young understood the motivation for Proposals I and II but was not clear on the need for minors in departments that offer undergraduate majors. Unless the Senate believed that a notation on a transcript made a difference to graduates or employers, Young thought a similar goal could be accomplished with a “virtual minor” whereby a set of courses might be suggested to a student or listed on the website as being equivalent to a minor. He asked whether any Senators had evidence that employers or graduate schools place any weight on the statement of minors on a transcript. Corcoran reported that she had spoken to the outgoing President of the Student Association and that he thought many students would like to have a departmental minor stated on their transcripts. She did not see a reason not to offer it if the students think such a program will benefit them.
Schneider thought Proposal I seemed less controversial than the other proposals. He did not support Proposal III. Nancy Niedzielski expressed the opposite view, supporting Proposal III but voicing concern about who would teach new courses required for Proposals I and II. While she would like to offer a lot of different interdisciplinary courses, she wondered how new courses could be covered when smaller departments are challenged to cover the existing courses for a major. While the opportunities are evident, the resource issue concerns her.
Tony Pinn agreed with Niedzielski’s position. A departmental minor maintains the integrity of method and theory that is already in place. Pinn could not discern what students would gain in terms of integrity of learning in an interdisciplinary minor or what interdisciplinary minors would add beyond a notation on a transcript. Windsor thought that the process outlined in the proposal, by which no minor will be adopted without going through the Dean of Undergraduates and appropriate school and coming before the Senate, would ensure that integrity. The proposals merely create a process through which minors can be proposed and assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Mieszkowski reinforced the idea that these three proposals outline a process by which minors can be created and considered but do not actually create minors in and of themselves. Because the process will be faculty driven, not simply a matter of students choosing classes and declaring an interdisciplinary minor, Carol Quillen thought the system would give groups of faculty who happen to be housed in different departments the opportunity to create interesting programs for undergraduates. Corcoran highlighted the statement in Proposal I, Section A2, which requires that a proposed minor must differ from current offerings in objective or general educational experience.
Levy agreed with Young’s point and said he might even go a step further to say that course selection matters more than choice of major. While this statement may be true for the way that academics read and understand a transcript, the Senate must be sensitive to the fact that a wide range of people review transcripts for a variety of purposes. While generally he has not found great value in minors, Levy could think of many isolated examples in which a minor could play a valuable role in the Rice education. For example, under Proposal II a unit that currently does not offer an undergraduate major would be given the opportunity to add value to the university in the form of a minor. Within each proposal, sufficient opportunities exist to add value to the way students view the institution, the benefit students derive from the institution, and the way in which students enter the world with a sense of certification and experience. While much of this value will be lost if minors proliferate indiscriminately, the Senate has the ability to exercise self-control in the approval process for individual minors.
Shah proposed an amendment to Proposal II, changing the phrase “schools and departments not offering undergraduate majors” to include the word “programs.” She thought that some programs may want to offer a minor. For example, Asian Studies may want to offer a minor in the Chinese language. That particular program is not part of a department but is part of a center; however, a center does not have departmental status. Asian Studies offers a major, but would not qualify under Proposal III because it is not a department. Shah wanted to include the possibility for programs to create minors so that foreign languages might be offered as minors.
Corcoran thought the change might be made to Proposal III; Quillen thought the circumstance might be covered in Proposal I. Quillen pointed out that Asian Studies is structurally defined as interdisciplinary, but Shah thought that, in the case of a straightforward foreign language offering, the minor would not fall into the interdisciplinary category. Levy thought that a change of this nature would be substantive enough to be taken up as a separate issue.
Schneider spoke to Proposals I and II from the perspective of a chair of one interdisciplinary major (Cognitive Sciences) and a committee member for another interdisciplinary major (Managerial Studies). He found that the primary problem for these groups was that the chair possesses no power of control over who offers which courses during what semester. If a professor or department decides not to offer a course, the chair of an interdisciplinary major only has the power of persuasion to compel a course offering. Many practical problems exist when you mix a small faculty, small departments, and no power. Interdisciplinary majors can be large, and the chair still cannot compel the necessary course offerings. While the situation often works out, that fact cannot be ensured.
Mieszkowski pointed out that if a minor were to encounter those problems, it likely would not pass through the re-approval process and consequently would be phased out. Schneider asked how students who could not schedule the appropriate courses would be handled in the interim. Windsor pointed out that the process under consideration would require that faculty put together a proposal and that the Dean of the relevant School(s) and the Dean of Undergraduates consider whether the minor is “doable.” Once a minor is approved, the Deans bear responsibility for seeing to the administration. An unsustainable minor will either not be approved or will disappear.
Levy expected that effective minors programs would, to a large extent, be constructed of a selection of currently-offered courses to avoid creating of an edifice that would be difficult to support. Schneider pointed out that some upper division courses are offered every two or three years. While that time frame may seem short from the faculty point of view, three years is a long time from the student point of view. If a course is required during junior or senior year and that course is not offered at that time, students encounter problems. Levy believed sensitive construction of the minor requirements could take these exigencies into account.
Windsor thought the central issues had been voiced and suggested taking a vote. Corcoran thought that since a number of Senators had already left, the issue should be tabled until the next Senate meeting.
The motion was tabled.
VII. Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 pm, with the next Faculty Senate meeting scheduled for May 10, 2006.