December 7, 2005

Faculty Senate Meeting - December 7, 2005

Meetings of the Faculty Senate are open to all members of the University community, but may be closed at the discretion of the Senate.

Meeting time 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. in Shell Auditorium, McNair Hall


I. Announcements

  • Faculty Subcommittee on Athletics Admission
  • Spring 2006 Faculty Senate Meeting Dates
  • Proposal from Undergraduate Curriculum Committee
  • Writing Competency Examination

II. Approval of November 9, 2005 Minutes

III. Graduate Council Memo Regarding Further Specification of Status of Dissertation Committee Members

IV. Transition in Our Football Program - David Leebron

V. Proposal on Final Examination Scheduling Issues

VI. Faculty Senate Bylaws Proposal (continued from November 9 meeting)


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December 7, 2005

Attendance: Approximately 40

Senators present: Jose Aranda, Kyriacos Athanasiou, Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Marj Corcoran (Speaker), Rebekah Drezek, Bruce Etnyre, Deborah Harter (Deputy Speaker), John Hempel, Brian Huberman, Tom Killian, Phil Kortum, David Leebron (ex officio), Eugene Levy (ex officio), Peter Mieszkowski, Nancy Niedzielski, Anthony Pinn, Carol Quillen, Dale Sawyer, David Schneider, Gautami Shah, Michael Stern, Randy Stevenson, Joe Warren, James Weston, Duane Windsor, James Young


Senators absent: Vicki Colvin, Ben Kamins, 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.


I. Announcements


Corcoran announced that the Athletics Admission Subcommittee has been reconstituted. George Bennett, who has been on the subcommittee for several years, agreed to chair it; Dale Sawyer, Bob Brito and Nancy Niedzielski agreed to serve as well. Sawyer and Brito will serve this year; Niedzielski will stay in reserve for next year.


Faculty Senate meeting dates for next semester are: January 25, February 15, March 22, April 12, and May 10. Meetings will be held from noon to 2 p.m.


Corcoran received a proposal for academic minors from the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee. She will forward it to all Senators and it will be considered as an agenda item in January.


After speaking with Robin Forman, Corcoran determined that no action was required of the Faculty Senate regarding the writing competency exam. The exam will remain a part of policy and will be administered online again next year unless the Senate decides to take action otherwise.


Randy Batsell observed that the serious discussion and endorsement of the Call to Conversation could be one of the more important activities of the Faculty Senate. He recommended that Senators carefully review the Call to Conversation and, with the input of their constituencies, identify good ideas in this long-term plan. Batsell recommended adding this discussion to the agenda for the January meeting, suggesting that the Senate could repay the inclusive process by giving individual points considered thought and lending support where it felt support was warranted. Corcoran expressed her agreement. She took the opportunity to thank Carol Quillen for her help writing the initial draft of the Senate’s endorsement.


David Leebron expressed his appreciation for the remarks and his belief that the Faculty Senate statement will mean a lot as the process moves to the Trustees. He noted that there may be instances in which the Faculty Senate wishes to meet for discussion without the President or Provost, and he has no objection to this as long as actions are not taken.


II. Minutes: The minutes from the November 9, 2005 Faculty Senate meeting were approved. Corcoran noted that once the Bylaws are approved, there will be a mechanism for approving minutes that does not require they be on the agenda.


III. Graduate Council Memo Regarding Further Specification of Status of Dissertation Committee Members: The Graduate Council requested a slight change in the wording in the General Announcements regarding the makeup of dissertation committees. Currently the policy reads, “In doctoral thesis committees, one member must be from another department in the university.” The committee recommends that it read instead, “In doctoral thesis committees, one member must have his or her primary appointment in another department in the university.” This would prevent students from using as an “outside” reader a faculty member of their own department who qualifies for inclusion on the basis of holding a joint appointment in another department. No comments were made and the proposal for a change in wording was approved.


IV. Transition in Our Football Program – David Leebron: Leebron announced that, as reported, Ken Hatfield had stepped down as football coach. He welcomed suggestions for faculty members to serve on the search committee for a new coach. He also reaffirmed that the university will continue to be guided by the May 2004 decision by the Board of Trustees regarding Rice’s participation in Division I-A intercollegiate athletics. The Athletics Admission Subcommittee will continue to provide serious faculty input into the admission of athletes.


Leebron then took questions from both Senators and visitors. Discussion centered on academic standards, the current athletics deficit and fundraising, collection of data on the post-Rice careers of student athletes, and the need for improved facilities, including the student recreation center and Rice stadium.


V. Proposal on Final Examination Scheduling Issues: Corcoran referred to the white paper that had been distributed to Senators. Rather than accept the document as a whole, the Faculty Senate proceeded to talk about the main changes one-by-one and to decide whether to endorse each change.


Item 1: Elimination of Self-Scheduled Exams and Item 2: Addition of an Exam Period from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Etnyre asked whether Corcoran knew why students were against elimination of self-scheduled exams. Corcoran was not sure they were against getting rid of self-scheduled exams, but she did think that students were concerned with having many more scheduled final exams and less flexibility.


Etnyre said that the students he spoke to preferred taking self-scheduled exams because they could be scheduled earlier than the first Wednesday of scheduled examinations. He asked whether the proposal had flexibility for students to take one of the scheduled exams earlier than the first day of final exams. Corcoran replied that this was not an option if the professor chose to give a scheduled final exam.


Tom Killian had heard complaints about the 7 pm exam time, which might make it difficult to schedule review sessions. Corcoran pointed out that the evening exam times were specified as overflow times. Most exams will be offered during the day, but an example of a course that would fall into overflow is a course with multiple sections and a common final, such as Chemistry 121. Corcoran thought there would still be adequate time to schedule study sessions.


Jim Young requested clarification of the Faculty Senate’s role in the process. Eugene Levy stated that on matters like this, the Senate is advisory to the President; however, there is a reluctance to make substantial changes on academic issues without significant consultation with the faculty. The current self-scheduled exam system has become unworkable. The purpose of adding the third exam time is to ensure there is enough flexibility to handle the administration of all exams in the most extreme cases. The physical requirement of the current Honor Code, which requires that exams be administered with spacing between each student, necessitated the addition of evening sessions to ensure the capacity to administer all exams if many faculty elected to give scheduled exams.


Stevenson clarified that the role of the Senate is to endorse the broad idea of eliminating self-scheduled exams without endorsing a particular solution. He moved to endorse the idea.


Batsell thought the idea made sense, but pointed out that the EMBA and MBA programs in the Jones Graduate School (JGS) have three modules, and so final exams are administered throughout the semester. Technically, the programs are probably in violation of many rules. The proposal under discussion was primarily written around undergraduate exams, but JGS has many courses that do not fit the semester schedule. Batsell inquired whether there was an exception for these programs. Levy responded that everybody understands that the Jones School is on an entirely different calendar.


Quillen asked if anyone knew of faculty who object to the elimination of self-scheduled exams. Levy had not heard any concern from faculty, but he had heard some expressions of concern from students, mostly an anxiety over the possibility of many more scheduled exams.


Brian Huberman inquired why self-scheduled exams should be changed if they were such a small percentage of final exams. Levy explained that while self-scheduled exams were a relatively small percentage of administered exams, the system comprises a huge percentage of the workload for the Registrar because of the high degree of non-compliance with the process. There is a tendency to load that office down with very time-consuming tasks that contribute little. Leebron agreed, linking the issue to the question of academic standards. The Registrar looks over transcripts and administers the rules, making sure that academic standards are maintained and enforced. Addressing this issue is important to the Registrar’s Office and is an indication that faculty care about burdens imposed on that office.


Peter Mieszkowski expressed his willingness to endorse the elimination of self-scheduled exams, but only if coupled with the right to have a scheduled exam. He did not want to divorce this idea from the reform stating that courses with fewer than 50 students may offer scheduled exams if the instructor so chooses. Discussion turned to the third item.


Item 3: All instructors may select between a scheduled exam, a take-home exam or no examCorcoran pointed out that this proposal allowed all instructors to choose between a scheduled exam in a classroom assigned by the Registrar; a take-home exam; or no exam. The “Rule of 50” referenced in the white paper, whereby the instructor can arrange an exam through the Office of the Registrar if the class size exceeds 50 students, had been around for some time, but Corcoran had not been able to find this rule written down anywhere except in the white paper – not in the General Announcements or on the web. It was her feeling that it was not an official rule but only a practice, and that if it were a rule it would not be enforceable.


Quillen asked if the Faculty Senate could endorse the elimination of self-scheduled exams, as long as all faculty members, regardless of class size, have the option for a scheduled exam. Batsell moved to endorse the following concepts proposed in the white paper: 1. Elimination of self-scheduled exams 2. Addition of a 7PM to 10PM exam period 3. Allowing all instructors to choose between a scheduled exam, take-home exam, or no exam. Exam times would be announced before the beginning of the semester. Schneider seconded the motion.


Dale Sawyer pointed out that students are most concerned about the third issue – that with scheduled exams available for all classes the number of scheduled exams will go up precipitously. Corcoran didn’t think that would happen.


Schneider was unaware of the “Rule of 50” and never had a problem scheduling final exams for small classes. Corcoran speculated that the Registrar might have said “If your class is smaller than 50, I won’t automatically schedule a room, you have to ask for one,” and that this had morphed into the “Rule of 50.”


Schneider understood from the white paper that exam times would be scheduled according to class times, and at some point during the semester faculty would have to decide whether to schedule an exam. Diane Havlinek, Director of Enrollment Administration, clarified that faculty who have always had a scheduled exam will automatically be assigned a room; faculty who have always offered a self-scheduled exam will automatically be assigned a room; and that for all others a query would be sent out at some point during the semester. This process would enable the Registrar to most optimally utilize space.


A vote on the motion was taken: 24 votes in favor and 1 vote against. The motion passed.


Item 4: Limit on Exams Required of Students in a Given Time Period. The General Announcements currently states, “Students who have three scheduled final examinations in two consecutive calendar days may take one of the examinations at another time.” The white paper proposal reads, “Students cannot be required to take more than two exams in a 24 hour period.” Corcoran wondered whether making a change to the General Announcements in the middle of the year was possible, especially since she was unaware of any problems associated with the current rule.


Havlinek elaborated that all of the proposed changes were an attempt to create an exam system more in line with peer institutions. With regard to this particular item, while conflicts of exam times had not been seen to date, the assignment of an exam time for every course would undoubtedly change the situation and an increase in the number of conflicts would be expected.


Michael Stern stated it was not clear whether this rule would apply both to scheduled exams and to take-home exams, which will now have a definite due date. If three take-home exams are due in one day, can students postpone one of them? Corcoran understood that a take-home exam due on a given day would count in the same way as a scheduled exam.


Stevenson pointed out the problem with applying the rule to take-home exams: if faculty may choose to have take-homes due on the last day of finals, and students are likely to have a number of take-home exams due on the same day. As currently written, the rule does not make precise the details regarding take-homes. He reiterated that the Senate may want to endorse the broad idea that there should be limits to the number of exams a student must take on a given day, but that the details are to be revisited and figured out at a later time.


Quillen wanted to hear how integrated all of the components of the proposal were. Was the rationale for changing the take-home exam rules to encourage faculty to give take-home exams rather than scheduled exams? Havlinek responded that many of the complaints about existing exam rules stemmed from the rule that take-home exams cannot be due until the last day of final exams, raising the complaint that faculty do not always have sufficient time for grading. With the proposed arrangement, a course’s scheduled exam time would become a possible (and the earliest) due date for a take-home exam, with faculty still retaining the option to allow students to turn in the exam up until the last day of exams. Quillen asked whether the Registrar can tell when students have several take-home exams as well as scheduled exams. Havlinek said that hard data was only available on scheduled exams and self-scheduled exams – approximately 15% of the classes.


Batsell expressed concern that the recess between Christmas and New Year’s Day has changed the dynamics of grading. The due date for grades has been moved prior to the holidays, and he is greatly concerned that he must create an exam that enables him to grade 90 exams in about six hours because of the required turn around from the exam deadline to the deadline to turn in grades. Some administrative changes were made regarding submission of grades, but the way in which classes are scheduled was not changed. Batsell would like the Senate to consider moving back to a January 2 deadline for submitting grades, which would allow plenty of time for serious exams and their grading.


Levy pointed out that this is a technological problem, a workload problem in the Registrar’s Office, and a scheduling problem for the students. He hopes to soon solve the problem by moving to online grade entry so that faculty can enter their grades into the Registrar’s system from off campus during the holiday season. Levy offered to have a conversation about what to do in the interim, and he would be happy to have that conversation with the Registrar’s Office.


Stevenson moved that the Senate endorse the general idea of limits on the number of exams a student must take in a given amount of time. He added that the system must be clear about: (1) which faculty member is ultimately obligated to move an exam when there is a conflict; (2) how take-home exams relate to whatever limits are imposed; and (3) allowing sufficient time for grading.


Levy expressed his view that take-home exams already have a flexibility built into them in terms of when the student chooses to take them; that this flexibility reduces the potential impact of similar due dates for take-home exams and scheduled exams (and an expectation of good time management from students is perfectly reasonable); and that based on current experience, he anticipates take-home exams will continue to dominate the final exam period.


John Hempel pointed out that the proposal did not indicate when take-home exams would be made available to the students. He thought they should be available before the beginning of the exam period. Corcoran thought many faculty make them available the weekend before the exam period. Hempel provides his take-home exams the last day of class, but believed that the date an exam is available should be a part of the rules, especially if time is an issue. Levy agreed. Quillen also agreed, especially because a take-home exam could now be due very early in the exam period.


Levy commented that it would be appropriate for the Senate to specify a minimum time frame during which a take-home exam must be available to a student (i.e. they must be handed out some number of days or hours before they are due).


Item 5: Due Dates for Take-Home Exams. Currently the General Announcements states, “The due date for all take home finals is the end of the examination period.” The proposal states, “The assigned exam time will represent…the earliest time at which the instructor can require the student to turn in a take-home exam.” While the change is important to those who assign large papers and projects or who have lengthy exams to grade, Corcoran expressed concern once again about changing the General Announcements in the middle of the academic year.


Levy pointed out that changes can be made to the General Announcements, but that this provision could be delayed a semester. Harter supported delaying the change in take-home exam due dates. Niedzielski observed that the assignment of exam times by the Registrar’s Office does not allow faculty members any control over that due date. Stevenson agreed that this was a reasonable provision to delay, but that the Senate must return to it because the changing deadline for grades necessitates this adjustment. If take-home exams cannot be due before the last day of classes, the time period for grade submission is significantly compressed, and faculty may find it more difficult to offer the types of exams that they want. One simple solution would be to give the faculty two options: a take-home exam may be due either in the middle of the exam period or at the end of the exam period.


Duane Windsor sensed from the Senators that the implementation of these principles should not change the General Announcements. He also agreed with Stevenson’s earlier statement that a lot of detailed implementation issues need to be studied before they are resolved. Quillen suggested deferring any endorsement of a change in the take-home rules until next semester, both to avoid changing the General Announcements and also to allay any possible anxiety from students. Students would not have to confront take-home rule changes as well as the elimination of self-scheduled exams in the same semester.


Stevenson pointed out that if no more motions were made, then the Senate has endorsed those items upon which Senators can agree. Schneider countered that eventually the Senate must either endorse the proposal or not endorse it, and he noted that next semester the Senate would not have any more relevant information to help with the decision. Stern commented that the unresolved issues would make it difficult to endorse something today. Stevenson suggested forming a working group to talk to those who compiled the white paper and make sure that the Senate’s concerns are addressed.


Corcoran asked if the Senate wanted to endorse any general ideas, or to stop and consider it further sometime in the spring. Windsor advocated a working group to examine the details and see how the proposal would work. Jose Aranda suggested asking the Registrar to return with responses to the Senate’s concerns. The Senate could revisit the issue at that time.


Corcoran highlighted a few more points in the white paper for adjustment or clarification: (1) how papers and projects count in any limits; (2) handling of courses with multiple sections but common finals; (3) scheduling of exams for graduating seniors; and (4) mapping of class time to exam times should not be static, but should change from semester-to-semester and from year-to-year.


Levy saw merit in all of the points, but noted that in terms of workload impact, a stable mapping of class time to exam time is more convenient. Most institutions that publish exam times early operate this way. He thought it would be very helpful to come out of this Senate meeting with a recognition that a working group needs to be assembled to work out the details with the Registrar’s Office and the Provost’s Office.


Aranda was concerned that these changes would affect the nature of advising, requiring advisors to ask their students about their exam schedules in order to make students aware of their choices. The sooner full implementation is agreed upon, the better advising can be done.


Corcoran asked whether the expectation was that the schedule for exams would be out before the start of the semester in January, and Havlinek replied she expected it to be available during the first week of classes. Levy identified the ideal circumstance as one in which the exam schedule is published with the schedule of classes. He is skeptical that the exam schedule will play much of a role in the selection of classes. Aranda thought Levy may be right, but thought the system may help advisors who are concerned about students taking too many hours if the students begin to see that their exam period is less flexible.


In response to Mieszkowski’s inquiry about graduating senior schedules, Havlinek said that the Registrar’s Office would attempt to schedule courses with predominantly senior enrollment near the beginning of the exam period. The white paper’s mapping of class times to exam times was an example of how scheduling could be accomplished, but during the first few semesters mapping will be adjusted for optimal conflict reduction.


Corcoran concluded discussion noting that the Senate would (1) defer the issues of limits on exams required of students in a given time period and due dates for take-home exams; (2) appoint a few faculty to work with the Registrar’s Office to clarify these issues; and (3) consider the proposal again early in the spring.


VI. Faculty Senate Bylaws Proposal (continued from November 9 meeting): Stevenson recapped that at the end of the last meeting, discussion of the Bylaws had been completed through Section 4. Based on that discussion, Stevenson offered one amendment to Section 4 to address the question of whether regular meetings of the Senate were only those meetings that had been previously scheduled. The amendment changed Sections 4.1 and 4.3 to define regular meetings as any meeting that is designated as such by the Executive Committee and announced at least 21 days in advance of the meeting. Any meeting scheduled within 21 days would be a special meeting and would fall under special meeting rules, which considerably limit the agenda. There was no discussion and the amendment passed.


Bylaws Section V: Batsell believed that the Deputy Speaker should not automatically become the Speaker as stipulated in the draft Bylaws. While the Deputy Speaker may be the front-running candidate, an election for Speaker should be held at the beginning of each year. James Weston queried whether the Speaker would be eligible for reelection, and if so, whether a check should be instituted on the number of years a Speaker could serve.


Both Corcoran and Harter agreed with BatsellCorcoran elaborated that in Faculty Council the Speaker was always elected; while the Deputy Speaker from the previous year did often become the Speaker, this was not automatic.


Stevenson described the rationale behind the language as written. The Task Force on Governance document valued continuity in leadership, which is not accomplished through yearly elections. Previously continuity was achieved through a two-year term for the Speaker and a one-year term for the Deputy Speaker. Two possibilities existed for building continuity into the Constitution and Bylaws: a longer term for the Speaker (two years or more) or an arrangement such as outlined in the current draft. The Bylaws Committee discussed both options at length. A two-year term for the Speaker has ramifications on elections and the synchronization of the Speaker term and staggered Senator terms. In addition, most members of the Committee felt this was a practice that works well in low- to medium-information organizations, such as professional societies, in which there is a desire to build-in continuity.


Stevenson said this arrangement created a nice incentive structure as well. The Deputy Speaker (who knows he/she will become the Speaker) chairs the Nominations and Elections Committee and would be responsible for doing all of the things required to ensure that the Senate will run well the following year.


Quillen agreed with Batsell, commenting that the Senate was a small group that meets regularly and where Senators know each other. The Deputy Speaker would be a fine candidate for Speaker, but she did not see a reason to build that automatic ascension into the system.


Stevenson added that one additional reason for the proposed design was continuity over the summer. Officer elections are in the fall, so the outgoing Speaker would have to address summer issues without knowing who would be in charge the following year. Remaining active over the summer and staying in contact with the administration can be built in as part of the outgoing Speaker’s responsibility, but those summer responsibilities would occur at the end of a term as opposed to the beginning of a term, where the individual knows he/she will continue in that role.


Weston could understand the argument for continuity, and viewed the current language as essentially selection of a Speaker each year, with a one-year forward contract. Batsell pointed out that if a Deputy Speaker were not performing up to par, there is currently no way to prevent him/her from becoming Speaker. In the case of performance problems, there needs to be a mechanism by which the Deputy Speaker would not become Speaker. Stevenson suggested that goal could also be accomplished by having the Deputy Speaker take over as Speaker with approval of the Senate. Lacking that approval there would be an election.


Quillen pointed out that with the annual turnover in the Senate, new Senators do not have a say in selection of the Speaker. Stevenson accepted Quillen’s point, but argued that selecting a Speaker should not be their first action as Senators.


Windsor asked whether an endorsement vote would be sufficient, or whether the position should be entirely open for election. Batsell thought that what a vote of no confidence seemed a bit harsher than a regularly scheduled election, but Stevenson argued that if the Deputy Speaker is not performing, the Senate would want to be very clear about why the Deputy Speaker is being removed. The Bylaws Committee wanted to avoid a situation in which both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker were new to the leadership roles; a multi-year term for at least one of the positions could solve that problem.


Weston noted there would be a natural trade-off between some sort of accountability and some sense of continuity. Given the potential turnover in the Senate from year to year, he supported the language as it was written. Hempel saw efficiency tied to continuity and was concerned that elections at the beginning of the year would slow the development of Senate work.


Young suggested shifting elections to the spring. Stevenson noted that spring elections caused scheduling difficulties. He proposed addition of a section to the Bylaws that would outline procedures for removing an officer.


Gautami Shah expressed support for Batsell’s concern and Stevenson’s proposal for language, that the Deputy Speaker would become the Speaker, subject to endorsement by the Senate. Stevenson pointed out that if the Deputy Speaker is not approved, language must also be included for processes that follow. To make an endorsement process workable, Stevenson thought an approval vote should take place in the spring. If the vote were negative, then there would be open nominations for Speaker at the first meeting, leaving the summer for Senators to come up with nominations.


Stevenson moved the discussion forward. In Section 5.4, Convenor of Appeal, Grievance, and Hearing Panels, he highlighted a compromise between pre-selected panels and the incorporation of expertise. A majority of the members of a Panel must be members of the Senate; members of a Panel who are not Senators may be appointed for specific expertise in a relevant area. Stevenson offered an amendment to insert the word “only” into the sentence allowing appointment for specific expertise (may only be appointed), and that clarification was approved.


With no further issues to be raised, Stevenson took an informal poll of the number of people who felt the language on the selection of the Speaker needed to be changed in some way. About half of those present indicated they felt that way; the other half felt no change was necessary. Since the Bylaws can be changed with a majority vote of the Senate, Stevenson proposed that the Senate accept the Bylaws, and then ask the Bylaws Committee to propose drafts of alternative language to address the selection of the Speaker.


The Bylaws were passed with a unanimous vote (15), with the understanding that alternatives on the language addressing designation of the Speaker would be brought forward at the next meeting.


VII. Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 pm, with the next Faculty Senate meeting scheduled for January 25, 2006.