April 20, 2016

Faculty Senate Meeting
April 20, 2016
Founder’s Room of Lovett Hall

Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):

I. Call to Order
II. Announcements
III. Report from Officers and Standing Committees
A. Honor System Task Force (Endorsed)
B. University Committee on Teaching: IDEA Implementation
C. Nominations and Elections Committee
IV. New Business
A. Proposed B.A. and B.S. in Environmental Science (Approved)
B. Proposed minor in Physics (Approved)
C. Proposed minor in Medical Humanities (Approved)
D. Proposed Credit Hour Limits (Approved)
V. Adjourn

Senators present: David Alexander, Robert Atherholt, Graham Bader, Kate Beckingham, Gwen Bradford, David Caprette, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Jerry Dickens, Claire Fanger, Julie Fette, Jeffrey Fleisher, Charles Geyer, Christopher Hight, Illya Hicks, Rachel Kimbro, Marek Kimmel, Michael Kohn, Anatoly Kolomeisky, David Leebron, Jonathan Ludwig, Susan McIntosh, Marie Lynn Miranda, Stephan Motowidlo, Luay Nakhleh, Stan Sazykin, Laura Segatori, Kerry Ward, James Weston, and Michael Wolf.

Senators absent: Daniel Cohen, Michael Diehl, Michael Kohn, Timothy Morton, and Brian Rountree.

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

I. Call to Order

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

II. Announcements

  • Weston thanked the senators whose terms are ending: Robert Atherholt, Jerry Dickens, Claire Fanger, Stephan Motowidlo, Luay Nakhleh, Brian Rountree, and Michael Wolf.
  • Weston welcomed the newly elected and appointed senators: Martin Blumenthal-Barby, Andrew Colopy, Christopher Johns-Krull, Kevin Kelly, Edward Nikonowicz, and those returning from sabbatical: Erik Dane and Fred Oswald.
  • The plenary meeting of the faculty to approve the May degrees and honors recipients will be held on May 12 at 10 a.m. in McMurtry Auditorium of Duncan Hall.
  • The Working Group on Digital Education and the Rice Experience has been formed.
    Charge: Assess current policies toward distance education and suggest changes if needed.
    Chair: David Alexander, with members Carl Caldwell, Rachel Kimbro, Kirsten Ostherr, Caroline Levander (ex officio), and Griffin Thomas (SA representative).
  • Board of Trustees chair Bobby Tudor and trustees Amy Sutton and Jay Collins were present for their annual conversation with senators. Comments included Tudor saying that Rice’s small size is both its greatest advantage and disadvantage. Sutton expressed regret that many children of alumni who are qualified applicants are not accepted into Rice. Collins said that, like all businesses, universities need to constantly reinvent themselves in order to be successful.
  • Weston asked for announcements from the floor; there were none.

III. Reports from Officers and Standing Committees

A. Honor System Task Force
Alex Byrd, co-chair of the Honor System Task Force, stated that there were no changes to the task force report presented to the Senate at its February 2016 meeting. (See the Honor System Report on the Faculty Senate wiki space. Byrd said that of the eight recommendations in the report, numbers 1 and 3 pertain to the Faculty Senate. Recommendation 1: appoint a faculty advisor to the Honor Council, and appoint three Honor System ombuds for the benefit of the faculty. Recommendation 3: Initiate and maintain faculty involvement in the creation of the consensus penalty structure by which the honor council determines the consequences of academic dishonesty. Byrd described the annual meeting where faculty members receive information about the Honor System. He recommended that the Senate nominate a group of faculty to attend the meeting.

Weston thanked co-chairs John Hutchinson and Alex Byrd. The Senate voted to endorse the report from the Task Force on the Honor System.

B. University Committee on Teaching: IDEA Pilot Implementation
Mike Gustin, chair of the committee, said that implementation of the IDEA pilot instrument for course assessment, approved by the Faculty Senate in 2015, would begin in fall 2016. Gustin explained that all fall courses would use the existing Rice assessment instrument, with a fraction of the courses using both the Rice and IDEA instruments. He noted that faculty members using the IDEA instrument would include the learning objectives for their courses, which IDEA will use when evaluating student replies. Gustin said that following implementation of the pilot, the committee would seek feedback and make a recommendation either to switch to IDEA, keep the Rice instrument, or create a new instrument. Scott Cutler asked that a member of the committee meet with him regarding Schedule Planner, the course planning system that Rice students currently use. Please see the full presentation from the committee here: IDEA Pilot.

C. Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC)

  • Election of Speaker 2016-2017

NEC Chair Rachel Kimbro asked for nominations from the floor for Speaker. Current Speaker Weston nominated Jeffrey Fleisher for Speaker, noting that Fleisher was currently serving as Convener of Appeals and Grievances. Weston said that he has been impressed with Fleisher’s decision-making in that role. The nomination was seconded, and there were no other nominations. The Senate voted to elect Fleisher.

  • Election of Deputy Speaker 2016-2017

Kimbro asked for nominations from the floor; there were none. Kimbro nominated Julie Fette for Deputy Speaker, saying that she was wise, capable, and had taken on a number of important tasks for the Senate. The nomination was seconded, and the Senate voted to elect Fette.

  • Executive Committee

Kimbro presented the Executive Committee slate for 2016-2017:

Dave Caprette, Non-Tenure-Track Faculty
Christopher Hight, Architecture
Anatoly Kolomeisky, Natural Sciences
Fred Oswald, Social Sciences
Laura Segatori, Engineering
Kerry Ward, Humanities
Deputy Speaker

Kimbro stated that alternate slates may be presented at the next Faculty Senate meeting, to be held September 7, 2016, and election of the Executive Committee would occur at that meeting.

  • University Committees

Kimbro said that the NEC was currently staffing University Committees with faculty volunteers for the 2016-2017 year, a task that will be completed by June 1. She thanked outgoing University Committee chairs Keith Cooper (Marshals), Mike Gustin (Teaching), and Don Morrison (Faculty Advisory Committee for the Office of Faculty Development). Kimbro said that she especially wished to thank Keith Cooper, who has served as Chief Marshal for many years. The Senate gave Cooper a hearty round of applause.

Kimbro announced the continuing and new University Committee chairs:

Ric Stoll (Admissions)
Jill Foote (Athletics)
Elias Bongmba (EX&S)
Richard Grandy (Faculty & Staff Benefits)
Matthew Baring (Fellowships & Awards)
Kathy Ensor (Graduate Council)
Duane Windsor (Graduate Honor Council)
David Tobin (Library)
Will Cannady (Parking & Transportation)
Kathy Matthews (Faculty Advisory to OFD)
Helena Michie (Co-chair, Faculty Advisory for PWC)
Kate Beckingham (Co-Chair, Faculty Advisory for PWC)
Christy Landes (Research)
Lisa Balabanlilar (Teaching)
Susan McIntosh (Undergraduate Curriculum)

Weston then thanked Kimbro for her service as NEC Chair and as Deputy Speaker for two years, and he presented her with a plaque. Kimbro thanked Weston for his service as Speaker, also for two years, and she presented him with a plaque. The outgoing leaders agreed that they had enjoyed working together. President Leebron praised the Faculty Senate and its leadership, and he said it had been an extraordinary year.

IV. New Business

A. Proposed B.A. and B.S. in Environmental Science
Weston asked Susan McIntosh, chair of the University Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC), to discuss the proposal. McIntosh explained that the CUC vetted the proposal using its normal procedure. She said that a subcommittee chaired by Stan Dodds reviewed the proposal and requested revisions as needed. The CUC then voted to approve the proposal. McIntosh said that the proposal would replace the current Environmental Science major that is offered only as a second major. The Senate voted unanimously to approve the proposal. Please see: Environmental Science.

B. Proposed Minor in Physics
CUC Chair McIntosh described the proposed minor from the Department of Physics. She said that departmental minors follow the same review process, and that the CUC had voted to approve it. The Senate voted to approve the minor. Please see: Physics Minor.

C. Proposed Minor in Medical Humanities

CUC Chair McIntosh said that a CUC subcommittee chaired by Matthias Henze reviewed the proposal. She noted that Registrar David Tenney and Vice President John Cornwell, members of the CUC, offer key advice and support to the subcommittees. McIntosh said that following review, the CUC voted unanimously to approve the proposal.

One senator said that a lack of science courses in the proposal concerned him. Kirsten Ostherr explained that many of the students seeking the minor would be pre-med students. She said that the purpose of the minor was to enhance or complement their science courses with Humanities courses. She also noted that the proposal is for a minor and not a major.

Another senator said that many of the courses for the proposed minor were being taught by graduate students or by faculty members who were retiring soon. Ostherr said that there were many tenured faculty members involved with the minor.

A faculty member in attendance stated that Rice has many pre-med students who will take many science courses. She said that the minor could address the implications of the decisions they will make in their work. Kimbro agreed that the program was needed, and she stated that the Social Science students are eager for this class. McIntosh added that medical schools are impressed with students who have a broad background.

Senator David Alexander (Physics and Astronomy) said that he served on the CUC when the Guidelines for Creating New Majors and Minors was written. He said that this minor has a focus on Humanities, and he supported it. He added that the Humanities has a lot to offer to the Science and Engineering side.

The Senate voted to approve the program, with five senators abstaining. Please see: Minor in Medical Humanities.

D. Proposed Credit Hour Limits

Weston stated that in its March 2016 meeting, the Faculty Senate discussed a proposal to reduce the number of credit hours that a student may take per semester. He said that prior to today’s meeting, a revised proposal was posted to the Faculty Senate’s wiki space, available to all faculty. Please see: Proposed Credit Hour Limits. Weston reviewed each of the major points in the proposal for the senators and guests.

Student Association (SA) President Griffin Thomas addressed the Senate. He thanked the Faculty Senate for caring about student health and well-being. He said that he would have preferred for the SA to have been involved in the credit hour limits discussions from the beginning. He gave some examples of situations that he thought were not considered, such as the Engineering student who might register for only 12 hours one semester and thus need more than the proposed maximum of 18 hours per semester (21 with permission) in order to complete his/her studies timely. He said that the proposal was presented to the SA at a time when a change of leadership occurred and just prior to Spring Break. Griffin said that he humbly asked that the proposal be sent back to the CUC for reconsideration and to seek more student input.

A lengthy discussion followed; a summary of the comments made is shown below:

  • The changes made to the proposal make a positive difference. However, this issue feels rushed. When rushed, mistakes are made.
  • I have not seen students this galvanized in fifteen years, and I thus cannot approve the proposal. More consideration and discussion is needed.
  • Two of the arguments presented from students are important to consider. First, unless the student limits himself/herself to a narrow course of study, he/she has no chance of finishing in four years. Second, because fellowships are for four years only, the poorer students are disadvantaged; they cannot pay for another semester. I suggest that we do not make a uniform cap, but take into account different programs and courses of study.
  • What about taking other actions, such as changing the drop deadline or adding a financial penalty? Were those type of options discussed?
  • Two years ago, the CUC considered the issue of changing the drop deadline, and it provoked immediate student backlash, as we are seeing now. I am so glad that the students are here because we have a problem, with multiple dimensions, not all of which affect only the students. We have over-subscribed courses with students on a wait list for them. Students with seniority are holding onto those seats for seven weeks, then dropping them, meaning that other students cannot take those courses. Meanwhile, faculty members are grading their papers and exams all that time, with no benefit to anyone. Our peer institutions have looked at the costs to the university from such practices. Faculty teaching time is a valuable resource. Faculty have research and service missions, too. The costs of teaching students who are holding seats and who are overloading are real. Virtually none of our peers have such liberal drop deadlines and many have caps on the number of credits allowed, with a petition process. We are trying to address these very real issues, but so far, the mechanisms proposed have not worked. Students cannot continue to say no; we have to acknowledge that there is a problem and broker a solution.
  • The main rationale presented for the proposal is student stress due to overloading, but the data shows that only 20% of the students take too many hours.
  • I am sympathetic to relieving stress. Our students do take too many hours, but this proposal seems rushed. Other things to consider: every year, the Faculty Senate approves more credentials, but we never talk about the trade-offs; there is no discussion as to how much is too much. In addition, we celebrate those students who graduate with multiple degrees. Finally, about five years ago, we cut the number of faculty academic advisors in half, and we now rely on peer (student) advising. Some students are saying that they do not value peer advising.
  • The key point is that more discussion is needed. The real problem is not stress, but the number of students dropping classes, the push to add minors and to add undergraduate research, and the problems with academic advising.
  • The faculty members in my department had these comments/questions:
    1) why make it a blanket rule—it should be flexible; 2) students who register for 21 hours and then drop courses should not be allowed to register for 21 again; 3) the students are paying a lot for tuition—let them take as many hours as they want.
  • The proposal came from the Dean of Undergraduates who has a wide perspective, a broad-based understanding of students. The proposal might not make all students’ lives better, but this revision includes many of the SA suggestions and is a result of negotiation. At this time, we are unable to put forth a comprehensive solution; we are left with fragmented solutions. If every time we try to take a small step forward, we are pushed back, we will not have a solution.
  • How much do the students really learn if they are trying to take too many classes? What is their motivation for taking extra courses—do they want to learn more or just earn more credentials?
  • Due to the limiting of class sizes, students register for many courses in order to reserve a place in the class. The revised proposal includes faculty advisors, review of the policy in three years, and please note that it would not affect current students.
  • There has to be a larger discussion to include advising and the extraordinarily late drop deadline.
  • I would like to see the Senate address the add and drop deadlines next year, but it does not mean that we should table today’s proposal.
  • The Executive Committee discussed several recommendations that cannot all be addressed now. The proposal started as rigid, but it is now more flexible.
  • A majority of students surveyed said no to something that affects a small percentage of them. In addition, I am receiving emails from students who do not take an overload of courses but who are against the proposal. What we really want to do is close the gap between the 20% that sign up for an overload and the 15% that drop those extra courses. The cost of students dropping is not just to the professor, but to the other students, as well. In addition, there were student representatives on the CUC; I am not sure where the communication broke down.
  • I am very proud of the Faculty Senate, we have been presented with perhaps a great proposal, but I am worried about collateral damage.
  • We will teach more effectively with small classes of students who really want to take the course.
  • This proposal does not apply to students who are returning for next year. It will start with this fall’s freshmen class.

Following this discussion, Weston asked the senators to vote. The Faculty Senate voted to approve the proposal, with 14 in favor, 9 against, and 2 abstaining.

President Leebron then discussed the proposal, saying that it was painful for the Faculty Senate to go against the wishes of the students. He praised the students and the SA leadership for attending the meeting and for being respectful. Leebron said that the proposal had changed a lot due to student input, and he hoped that the students had heard some of the problems with the current system. He said that there was now time to address the topics that had been raised.

Weston also thanked the students for their polite, respectful attendance.

V. Adjourn
The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.