April 15, 2009

Minutes of the Faculty Senate Meeting - April 15, 2009

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall

12:00 p.m.


I. Announcements

A. Newly Elected and Appointed Senators

B. Election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker 2009-2010

C. Presentation of Executive Committee Slate 2009-2010

D. Special Plenary Meeting

II. Civil and Environmental Engineering Graduate Program Change

III. Proposed Minor in Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities

IV. Policy on Consensual Amorous Relations: Discussion and Vote

Senators present: Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Steven Cox, Michael Deem, Deborah Harter (Speaker), John Hempel, Matthias Henze, Tom Killian, President David Leebron, Don Morrison, Matteo Pasquali, Caroline Quenemoen, Rob Raphael, Dale Sawyer, Gautami Shah, Evan Siemann, Meredith Skura, Randy Stevenson, Devika Subramanian, James Weston, Duane Windsor, Jim Young.

Senators absent: Ed Cox, Sarah Ellenzweig, Michael Emerson, Ben Kamins, Philip Kortum, Eugene Levy, Peter Mieszkowski, Michael Stern.


Invited by Speaker Deborah Harter, the Rice Philharmonics provided a lively and much-appreciated musical performance as Faculty entered the Hall for the Senate meeting.

I. Announcements

A. Speaker Deborah Harter welcomed Senators and guests to the meeting and announced the newly elected and appointed Senators for 2009-2010.

Elected Senators 2009-2012

Yizhi Jane Tao (Biochemistry and Cell Biology)

Jane Grande-Allen (Bioengineering)

Scott McGill (Classical Studies)

Randy Stevenson (Political Science)

Susan McIntosh (Anthropology)

Robin Sickles (Economics)

John Casbarian (Architecture)

Gregory Barnett (Music)

Brian Rountree (Management)

Senators Appointed by the Speaker for 2009-2010, to be approved by the Senate

Evan Siemann (Natural Sciences)

John Sparagana (Humanities)

(One additional Humanist to be appointed.)

Duane Windsor, Deputy Speaker, moved that two appointed Senators be approved by the Senate, and the motion was seconded. The resulting vote was unanimously for approval.

B. Senate Elections

Harter thanked Windsor for his outstanding work this year and presented him both with a commemorating plaque and a personal gift—a fossilized shell symbolic, she said, of the beauty of the Senate and how hard it is to be Speaker! Harter then noted Windsor’s nomination for Speaker for 2009-2010 and asked if there were any other nominees; there were none. A vote was taken for Speaker and the result was unanimous in favor of Windsor.

Harter stated that Jim Young had been an outstanding member of the Senate and Executive Committee and that she was very pleased he was now a nominee for Deputy Speaker of the Senate for 2009-2010. She asked if there were any other nominees; there were none. A vote was taken and the result was unanimous in favor of Young.

Harter recognized Sharon Mathews, the Senate assistant, for her truly outstanding work the previous two years not just on behalf of the Senate but on behalf of the Speaker herself. She presented her with a gift.

Windsor presented Harter with a plaque commemorating her two years of extraordinary service as Speaker of the Faculty Senate, as well as a gift. Harter was given a standing ovation by all assembled.

C. Executive Committee Slate

Windsor, Chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee, presented the Executive Committee Slate for 2009-2010, noting that the election of this Committee would not occur until the first Senate meeting in the fall of 2009.

Executive Committee Slate

New Speaker (Duane Windsor, Jones School)

New Deputy Speaker (Jim Young, Engineering)

John Casbarian (Architecture)

Deborah Harter (Humanities)

Tom Killian (Natural Sciences)

Phil Kortum (NTT Research)

Rob Raphael (Engineering)

Gautami Shah (NTT Teaching)

Meredith Skura (Humanities)

Randy Stevenson (Social Sciences)

D. Special Plenary

Harter stated that although this Senate meeting was the last of the academic year, there were still two remaining plenary meetings. The first would be a special plenary requested by Moshe Vardi for discussion with regard to the structure of the President’s faculty advisory committee on a possible merger with BCM. Vardi obtained the necessary 50 signatures or more to call for such a meeting, and it would be held Thursday, April 23, 2009. The second plenary meeting would be held May 8, 2009, where the faculty would approve the degrees being conferred the following day at Commencement.

II. Civil and Environmental Engineering Graduate Program Change

Harter stated that the Senate recently approved a change in the undergraduate Civil and Environmental Engineering program (combining Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering). The graduate program had been seeking approval for the same change. Pedro Alvarez, Department Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering, stated that the proposed change is simply to consolidate degrees for efficiency. Martin Wiener, representing the Graduate Council, stated that the Graduate Council had unanimously approved the proposed change. There was a motion and a second to approve the proposal; the resulting vote was unanimously in favor. Please use this link to view the approved proposal: Civil and Environmental Engineering.

III. Proposed Minor in Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities

Harter stated that the interdisciplinary minor, “Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities” (PJHC), had been proposed by Diana Strassman from the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.Susan McIntosh, Chair of the Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum, said that all of the Faculty Senate guidelines were followed in the review of this proposal, all concerns had been addressed, and the revised proposal clarified the focus of the minor. McIntosh read aloud a letter from Rosemary Hennessey, Director of the Center, who expressed her full support. McIntosh then stated the two significant issues that had been raised by the Senate: permanency of the program due to the prominent role of non-tenure-track faculty and the feasibility of the minor with the course list proposed. For the first item, McIntosh stated that two of the non-tenure-track faculty members teaching these courses each have a long-term presence on the Rice campus. For the second, McIntosh said the subcommittee went over the course list carefully with David Tenney, Registrar, who said that it is indeed a feasible list of courses that a student can complete in a timely manner.

Harter asked if there were any comments or questions regarding this minor. Rob Raphael asked if this minor would supersede the major “Women, Gender, and Sexuality.” Harter clarified the question, asking if the “Poverty, Justice, and Human Capabilities” minor is appropriately housed in the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Strassman replied that women comprise a large number of the poor around the world. She also stated that the courses for this minor come from a variety of departments; there is one required course from Women, Gender, and Sexuality, but she said that there is also a required course on race. She stated that this minor was a project she had developed with encouragement from Gary Wihl, the Dean of Humanities. Raphael stated that he was satisfied with that answer.

Gautami Shah stated that she wished to reiterate what had been decided before: namely that one must consider the intellectual merit of a program when approving any major or minor, not whether it is taught by tenure- or non-tenure-track faculty. Faculty of all ranks, she said, come and go. Hartercorrected Shah, stating that this issue had indeed been raised but had not been resolved or decided, and asked Susan McIntosh, as Chair of the CUC, whether she could provide the current position on this. McIntosh replied that when a new program is staffed with faculty who are on a short-term contract, the program may be more vulnerable. Harter stated that this issue was important and recommended it be on the agenda for discussion during the upcoming year.

There was a motion to vote on the proposed PJHC minor, and a second. The resulting vote was unanimously in favor of the new minor. Dean Gary Wihl (Humanities) congratulated Strassman and highlighted her efforts to engage faculty from across two schools, as well as several non-profit organizations, in order to make this proposal successful. Please use these links to view the approved proposal and related documents: PJHC, subcommittee report, report to CUC.

IV. Policy on Consensual Amorous Relations: Discussion and Vote

Harter acknowledged the work of Rebekah Drezek, Chair of the Senate’s Working Group on Amorous Relations, who had raised the subject of updating Rice’s amorous relations policy a year ago. Harter said that Drezek, Matteo Pasquali, and Rob Raphael worked a full year on this topic, and had come up with a working draft to which the Senate added some new elements at their meeting of March 11. Harter said that she then formed an EC subcommittee made up of Duane Windsor, Randy Stevenson, and Jim Young in order to work further on this draft. Richard Zansitis, Rice’s General Counsel, also provided input. The final draft of the document was then sent to all faculty members via email, Harter received numerous comments, and these were considered in the final document. Harter thanked all those who had worked so hard to bring this effort to fruition.

Harter explained that she wished to proceed in the following way: Rebekah Drezek, Task Force Chair, would first address the genesis of this issue in the Senate. Following this Harter would ask that the motion be moved. She would then clarify a few points in the policy that had raised questions from the faculty and would ask whether there were other questions of clarification. Finally the Senate would proceed to open discussion of the Main Motion.


Harter introduced Rebekah Drezek, who said that Rice’s current statement on amorous relations has not been modified for over a decade and does not reflect the values to which the Rice faculty aspire. Drezek stated that the proposed policy is a strong one, perhaps one of the strongest in the country regarding relationships between faculty and students, and it reflects the discussion that was held at the last Senate meeting by Senators who represent their faculty constituents. She also said that although the proposed policy might not be perfect, Senators should consider whether they could be comfortable with this policy, and if not should make suggestions.

Drezek said that she considers the proposed policy to be a conflict-of-interest policy, and that faculty members need to prevent and manage these sexual/amorous conflicts just as they do with other conflicts of interest. She then outlined the proposed policy’s three main points:

  • it is a conflict of interest for a faculty member to have a sexual or romantic relationship with an undergraduate,

  • it is a conflict of interest for a faculty member to have a sexual or romantic relationship with a graduate student over whom one has direct or indirect responsibility.

  • if a faculty member has engaged in a sexual relationship with a student and is then asked to exercise professional responsibility for that student, this exercise is a conflict that needs to be declared and managed.


The Main Motion was moved and seconded.


Harter summarized the input from faculty:

· Some viewed a prohibition of relations with all undergraduates as too stringent. In the case that many present should feel this way, Harter indicated that an amendment had been prepared, offering a weaker version of the prohibition with regard to undergraduate students.

· Other faculty had expressed concern that the policy does not define what is meant by a “romantic” or “sexual” relationship. She explained that the absence of details on what behaviors will be subject to what level of sanction is a good thing. These cases come in infinite variation, and it is often best to leave it to the administrators and faculty committees to use good judgment, just as we do in cases of sexual harassment and scientific misconduct, and as we have done until now under the existing statement on amorous relations.

· Some are concerned that severe sanctions will be applied to all conduct in the domain of consensual relations with students. Harter explained that the current proposal permits the whole range of responses, from a warning to a mild reprimand all the way to dismissal.

· Some faculty, Harter said, had privacy concerns. She had consulted with Zansitis who advised her that these items are confidential and all paperwork is kept in locked files. Of course, these documents may be subpoenaed if litigation were to occur.

· Another question that had been asked was whether this rule would apply to teaching assistants (TA’s). Harter said that the “graduate student as teaching assistant” situation is complex, so for now this category has been struck from the proposed policy, and would be taken up again in the coming year after further study.

· The question of RA’s (resident associates) had also raised some unexpected concerns. Windsornoted that there are people working for the university who hold staff positions but who also teach courses, and that an overlap of interests results. He said that it may be necessary to seek the approval of the Athletic Director and the Dean of Undergraduates before including these individuals in this policy. Harter asked that it be noted that this overlap is a complicated issue to which the Senate should return as soon as possible.


Harter opened the floor to Questions and Debate:

Evan Siemann asked if the entire faculty becomes indirectly responsible for all students when the faculty as a whole approves degrees at plenary meetings, but Harter and Windsor replied that this mass approval of degrees does not apply to the terms “direct or indirect responsibility.”

President David Leebron also stated that there was a clear sense in this document as to what is meant by direct or indirect supervision, and it does not apply to the plenary session in question.

Dean Sallie Keller-McNulty (Engineering) encouraged the Senate to pass the document as written. She stated that she had seen the problems that can occur if a clear policy does not exist, and she said that it is the young people who are hurt. She also said that there are options for those who cannot comply with the policy: faculty can resign; students can transfer to another university, etc.

Randy Batsell called the question (asking for a vote on the proposal). Hempel asked, however, if the amendment mentioned by Harter would be part of the proposal. Harter and Windsor suggested that the discussion was not finished and that it was important that everyone have a chance to speak, soBatsell suspended his request.


The amended proposal was introduced, stipulating simply that a faculty member would be prohibited from having relations with any student, undergraduate or graduate, over whom that faculty member had direct or indirect responsibility.


Discussion on the amended motion was opened, and included the following comments:

Matteo Pasquali stated that while others have called the proposal a “strong” policy; he would call it a “strict” policy. Pasquali also read aloud the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) statement on this topic.

Hempel expressed concern with the original proposal and said that he would not want a colleague to be subject to dismissal due to this policy.

McIntosh stated that she especially liked the language in the Senate’s proposed document which addressed the damage done to third parties.

Leebron stated that he preferred a blanket prohibition of relations between faculty and undergraduates—that there is a very clear difference between graduates and undergraduates. He noted that the undergraduate environment for study at Rice is often characterized by its particular “intimacy”—the ease with which students may meet and work with faculty—and that this very important aspect of Rice culture is jeopardized when we do not draw clear lines around behavior that can damage this environment.


Don Morrison moved to vote on the amended proposal (the one with a weaker version of prohibition for undergraduates), and James Weston seconded the motion. The amended proposal was rejected: there were 2 in favor of adopting the amended proposal, and 17 opposed.


Jim Young made a motion to vote on the original proposal, and Randy Batsell seconded. There was a vote by show of hands. The policy moved at the opening of the day’s session was approved in a vote of 17 in favor and 2 opposed.

The “Rice Faculty Statement on Consensual, Amorous Relations with Students” will go into effect on September 1, 2009. All were reminded however that two items have yet to be resolved: the category of TA’s are still to be added when appropriate language can be worked out. And in the case of individuals with dual appointments—who are both faculty and staff—consultation will be necessary with appropriate officials and then a working out of appropriate language for this category as well.

Please use this link to view the policy: Rice Faculty Statement on Consensual, Amorous Relations with Students (no longer available). Harter thanked all those who had attended the day’s meeting, remarked on the extraordinary honor it had been to serve as the Senate’s Speaker, and adjourned the meeting at 2:00 p.m.