December 8, 2010

Faculty Senate Meeting - December 8, 2010

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall *


I. Call to order; Announcements

II. Speaker’s Report

A. Rice Initiatives Phase II process

B. Data Management Plan Guidelines for Federal grants beginning 1/11/11

C. Reports from liaisons to ADVANCE and Deans’ Task Force on Enrollment

III. Deputy Speaker: NEC Elections

IV. Working Group Reports

A. Teaching/Brown Teaching Awards Subcommittee

B. Communication in the Curriculum

V. Old business: Motion to move spring semester drop deadline

VI. New business

A. Call for proposals from the floor

B. Motion to accept revised “Creating, Eliminating…Majors and Minors”

C. Motion to change the way graduation honors are determined

D. Motion to amend Senate Constitution to allow up to two Senators per department

Senators present: Gregory Barnett, Randy Batsell, Ed Billups, David Caprette, Sarah Ellenzweig, Ramon Gonzalez, Jane Grande-Allen, Deborah Harter, Matthias Henze, Illya Hicks, Deputy Speaker Tom Killian, Mark Kulstad, President David Leebron, Scott McGill, Speaker Susan McIntosh, Provost George McLendon, Brian Rountree, Dale Sawyer, Stan Sazykin, Robin Sickles, Meredith Skura, Randy Stevenson, Devika Subramanian, Jane Tao, Moshe Vardi, Parliamentarian Duane Windsor, and Jim Young.

Senators absent: John CasbarianDanijela Damjanovic, Matteo Pasquali


(To listen to an audio recording of the meeting, please contact the Senate office by emailing

I. Call to order; Announcements

Speaker Susan McIntosh called the meeting to order at 12:10 p.m. She welcomed all Senators and guests to the meeting, and she introduced the new Senator by Presidential Appointment, Dr. Illya Hicks (CAAM). There were no other announcements from the Speaker or from the floor.

II. Speaker’s Report

A. Rice Initiatives Phase II Process

McIntosh stated that the posting of the reports from the three task forces, to both the Senate wiki site and the Rice Initiatives site, signaled the end of the first phase of the Rice Initiatives. She thanked the Senate representatives to the three task forces: Matthias Henze, Dale Sawyer, and Moshe Vardi. McIntosh said she looks forward to Phase II of the process, which she called the “Stakeholders Scrutiny and Input” phase. McIntosh proposed that a Senate committee be formed, with Tom Killian as its chair, to work with Provost McLendon for establishing a procedure for the second phase of the process. She said that she expects the Senate Executive Committee (EC) to approve the formation of this committee at its January 2011 meeting.

Moshe Vardi suggested that another “faculty forum” be held so that faculty may gain information on the Phase II process. He suggested that the forum be lead by the task force chairs, and that plenty of time be allowed for discussion. McIntosh agreed with this suggestion, and she also requested that Vardi join Killian’s committee. She said the Senate’s job is to advocate plans and procedures which will allow for additional faculty members to participate in the process.

B. Data Management Plan Guidelines

A written copy of the boilerplate guidelines draft prepared by the University Committee for Research, with Doug Natelson as its Chair, was distributed by Tom Killian. He stated that the committee would like to receive feedback from the Senate as soon as possible, and he encouraged Senators to place their comments on the Senate wiki space. Jane Grande-Allen requested that an older version of the document which contained examples for Social Sciences and Biosciences be posted to the wiki as well.

Provost George McLendon recommended that the committee not include regulations which exceed the requirements of the National Science Foundation (NSF). For example, he said that offsite data files, one example cited in the report, are expensive to maintain. Vice President-Research Jim Coleman said that this document is meant solely to give examples; a draft policy is still to be written.

McIntosh noted that this topic was the second one discussed during the meeting in which the wiki space could be utilized. She said that since the Senate is taking on more tasks, if comments could be shared via the wiki prior to Senate meetings, it would result in more effective meetings. In addition, it is not only wise, but also courteous, to let the authors of proposals know about any problems as soon as possible. McIntosh cited an example of a Senator who posted a comment identifying a problem with a proposal, which lead to a revision by its author prior to the Senate meeting, thus speeding up the approval process by at least one month.

McIntosh asked whether there were suggestions that might facilitate greater use of the faculty wiki. Gregory Barnett, Senator representing the Shepherd School of Music, stated that he had met with his constituents recently and had success in promoting the use of the wiki, and suggests that it just will take some time for it to catch on. Dale Sawyer suggested setting up a straw poll on the wiki to generate interest in its use. It was also suggested that a committee be formed to investigate other blog-type tools which might be available to the Senate. The current interface is not as attractive as the internet comment forums we often see, and it was proposed that we may be able to find a more suitable format.

C. Reports from liaisons to ADVANCE and the Deans’ Task Force on Enrollment Growth

McIntosh distributed a written copy of the reports from the Senate’s liaisons to the ADVANCE committee and the Deans’ Task Force on Enrollment Growth. (View the document)

III. Deputy Speaker: NEC Elections

Deputy Speaker Tom Killian announced the appointment by the Speaker of three Senators to the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC): Ed Billups, Scott McGill, and Matteo Pasquali. Killian stated that five additional NEC members must be elected, and they cannot be members of the EC. Four Senators volunteered to serve on the NEC: Duane Windsor, Gregory Barnett, Ramon Gonzalez, and Sarah Ellenzweig. Killian thanked these volunteers and asked the Senate if there were any objections to accepting them to the NEC; there were no objections.

IV. Working Group Reports

A. Teaching/Brown Teaching Awards Subcommittee

Ann Saterbak, Chair of the Subcommittee on the George R. Brown Teaching Awards, proposed changes in the way these prestigious teaching awards are determined. (Please view the proposal.) Saterbak began her presentation by explaining that the subcommittee had received its charge from Jim Young, Chair of the Working Group on Teaching.

Saterbak described the requirements for winning the Brown Teaching Awards: award winners are selected by individuals holding Rice University bachelor’s degrees (alumni); the alumni list three faculty members who are currently teaching at Rice; and the faculty members listed most frequently by the alumni win. Seven awards are given out each year: one prize, and six superior awards. Although some components of the selection process have not changed over the years, others have been more dynamic: the “balancing” of winners by considering academic area, the inclusion or exclusion of non-tenure-track faculty, and the age of alumni solicited (currently two years and five years post-graduation). Saterbak cited in detail the concerns from the subcommittee, which included the low response rate from alumni (10 – 36%) and tension among faculty over the perception that many of the award winners teach large classes.

Recommendations from the subcommittee:

· Increase the number of classes which vote for the Brown Teaching Awards to three classes: 2, 5, and 8 years post-graduation

· Solicit five faculty members’ names on the ballot in two categories: those who teach 100/200 level classes and those who teach 300/400 level classes

· Provide alumni with a list of eligible faculty

· Increase awareness among alumni

· Increase visibility of the award among current students

· Increase number of faculty winners to ten

· The five faculty members with the highest tallies win, with discretion used for the next five winners

· Allow eligibility of all faculty who meet Senate voting requirement

· Restrict sequential award winners

· Notify faculty members who are in the top pool

· The University Committee on Teaching selects the winners, with participation from the Dean of Undergraduates

· Dean of Undergraduates should utilize email to solicit faculty names from alumni, with frequent follow-ups

A discussion session followed Saterbak’s presentation. One Senator noted that due to the large number of faculty members nominated by alumni, sometimes the individuals who win the awards do so by a very small margin and with very few votes. Another Senator wondered if it were possible to use a different method for selecting winners other than alumni voting, such as using the teaching evaluations completed by students. Saterbak responded that polling alumni is the method prescribed by the Brown Foundation gift funding the awards. It was also suggested that alumni be allowed to make comments to help determine winners. One Senator asked how many votes are collected; President Leebron estimated that approximately 140 responses are received per year. He also stated that he liked the idea of being flexible in choosing the additional five winners of the awards. Leebron said he thought it would not be difficult to approach the Brown Foundation with these modifications to the original gift. A final reminder from a Senator was that the winners are to be selected by alumni, thus it is not the current teaching evaluations which can be considered; it would be the teacher evaluations submitted by students from two and five years ago.

After McIntosh thanked Saterbak for her thorough presentation, the Senate voted to endorse the proposal and to send it to President Leebron for action.

B. Communication in the Curriculum

McIntosh explained that the Working Group for Communication in the Curriculum was formed due to a request from Humanities Senators, in view of the small percentage over the past five years of Rice freshmen who pass the writing test (12-25%), as well as those who receive “low pass” (40-50%). With up to half of our incoming freshman with marginal writing skills, what are we doing to support them and to improve their skills? The students who fail the test and those who elect not to take the test must take the Communication 103 course, which is now is over-subscribed. Graduate students also need writing support.

Rice is the only university among its peer institutions which is without a Writing Center. Recent changes that have affected writing and communication resources on campus include the shift of the expository writing course out of the English Department and into a new Communication Program, the end of the Cain Project (1998-2008) for communication instruction in Natural Sciences and Engineering, and the end of the Writing Center as a resource providing peer-to-peer writing assistance to all undergraduates. The recommendation from the working group is to create a campus-wide, integrated writing and communication program that is tailored to Rice's needs, uses what has worked well here, and moves Rice beyond peer institutions. Programs and course requirements in these areas should be established by a faculty-led process. (View the proposal.)

The process advocated in the report of the Working Group would begin with an external consulting team of recognized experts in writing and communication carrying out a campus review, in consultation with a faculty advisory group, in order to assess our needs, gather faculty opinion, and recommend options appropriate for Rice. Using this report, Senate will work with the Provost, the Dean of Undergraduates, the Dean of Graduates, and the Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum to finalize a plan and decide on any curricular implications.

Meredith Skura, chair of the working group, discussed some of the ways a Writing Center could improve students’ writing skills, such as the use of peer tutors and faculty tutors. In addition, faculty could seek guidance at the center for the best writing assignments and appropriate feedback to give to students. Skura said that although the specifics of the writing center’s programs do not need to be determined now, there is a need and an opportunity at Rice to improve the current situation.

Randy Stevenson advocated that courses which require writing receive distribution course designation, and he suggested that incentives be used to get a broad selection of faculty members involved. Provost McLendon stated that there are a couple of models which could be adopted; if Rice professors in existing programs are used to improve students’ writing skills, the cost is marginal. If personnel from outside Rice are used, the costs are higher. He said that study will be required to see which model works best for Rice.

Killian asked Skura about the time frame for the working group’s proposal; did they recommend that a program be started by the fall 2011 semester? Skura replied that although a vital part of the university, a Writing Center should not be attempted hastily, and she predicted it will take time to raise the necessary money.

A vote on the report was held, with unanimous approval from the Senate for endorsement. The proposal will be sent to Provost McLendon for action.

V. Old business: Motion to move spring semester drop deadline

McIntosh presented to the Senate the current paragraph from the General Announcements (GA) regarding the spring semester drop deadline, with the proposed changes shown in bold:

Newly matriculated undergraduate students, both new first-time and transfer students in their first full-term semester at Rice (Fall or Spring), are permitted to drop courses up to the last day of classes ( a $75 fee per course will be assessed for courses dropped between week seven and the last day of classes). These same students, in their second semester at Rice, if that semester is a full-term Spring semester, are permitted to drop courses through the tenth week of classes.

McIntosh explained that the motion to change the drop deadline comes from the EC, and it was seconded by Tom Killian. Jim Young stated that he wished to object to the motion because of the $75 fee students must pay. McIntosh explained that the fee exists in the current GA wording; the Senate is addressing the timing of the drop deadline only. She asked Young to present any discussion of fees to the EC in its January 2011 meeting. A vote was held on the proposed motion, and it received approval from the Senate. David Tenney, Registrar, said that he will make sure that the change appears in the GA.

VI. New business

A. Call for proposals from the floor: none presented.

B. Motion to accept revised “Creating, Administering, and Eliminating Majors and Minors”

McIntosh explained that the document had been modified slightly in order to clarify one or two points, it was then posted to the wiki space for review by the Senate and by the faculty at large, and no further revisions had been requested. (Please view the document.) A short discussion was held, including clarification by Randy Stevenson regarding the terms “tracks” or “concentrations.” He stated that although “track” could not be defined in all cases, if a substantial change is made within a department, Senate approval must be sought. For example, if a program of study (track or otherwise) is to be created or eliminated from the GA, the Faculty Senate must be alerted.

Stevenson was also asked which takes precedence, the information presented in the GA or the information shown on the departments’ websites. Stevenson replied, and other Senators agreed, that the GA is the contract between the faculty and the students.

Paula Sanders, Dean of Graduate Students, added that the GA conversion committee has representatives on it from the Senate, as well as graduate and undergraduate students, who are making sure that items do not get changed without the proper approval.

Following this discussion, a vote among the Senators was held in which the proposal received unanimous approval. McIntosh thanked Stevenson and others for thoroughly examining the important issues which come to them.

C. Motion to change the way graduation honors are determined

Randy Batsell, chair of the Working Group on Grade Inflation and Academic Honors, repeated the main points of a presentation he had previously given to the Senate, which included: grade inflation exists at all universities; the grade point average (GPA) differs among the various schools at Rice; and the percentage of students graduating with honors differs among the schools at Rice. Batsell stated that this last point, the difference in the proportion of honors recipients from each school, is what triggered the working group’s proposal (below) to change the way that honors are determined.

Resolved: Because the level of average grades given across schools at Rice is not identical, and because the level of average grades is also changing over time, the Faculty Senate recommends that each school be allowed to set a policy for determining what constitutes honors designation. Further, that each school be allowed to award honors distinction to the top 30% of students who are graduating that year as follows: the top 5% Summa Cum Laude; the next 10% Magna Cum Laude; and the final 15% as Cum Laude These are the percents currently in use and the reason for the proposal is simply to even out the proportions across schools and let schools decide on the criteria.

The registrar will take note of the number of qualifying double majors across schools, midyear degree conferrals, and interdisciplinary majors shared across schools in calculating that maximum number each year.

Killian stated that one concern expressed to him about this proposal was that if the individual schools were to determine their own honors criteria, it could undermine University Honors. Second, Killian said that some of his constituents from the School of Natural Science wondered if a blanket percentage of honors awarded per school is fair.

Batsell informed the Senate that the Student Association (SA) president has asked him to present the working group’s report and proposal to the SA in its January 2011 meeting. In addition, Batsell said that Provost McLendon is considering awarding “research honors” which may need to be incorporated into any change regarding how graduation honors are awarded.

Gregory Barnett stated that he presented this proposal to his constituents in the Shepherd School of Music and that they liked it very much. He said it addresses grade inflation as well as the differing standards among the schools. Barnett said the only questions from his constituents centered on implementation, such as when the new rules would take effect and how quickly the necessary information can be obtained from the registrar.

Provost McLendon said that while Latin Honors are determined by the student’s GPA, another way to recognize student achievement is by awarding “graduation with distinction.” He said that the Dean of Undergraduates is preparing a proposal for such an award, separate from the current proposal.

President Leebron discussed the allocation of honors by the university as a whole versus allocation by schools. He said that one school, in theory, could decide that a student’s performance outside his school had no relevance toward the awarding of honors; he wondered how the determination of honors by schools would affect student behavior.

Deborah Harter said that although 30% of the students per school being awarded honors distinction was generally appropriate, she disliked the current system for awarding honors.

McIntosh asked the Senators for a show of hands as to how many wished for a change in the way that University Honors are awarded, and all indicated that change is needed. It was decided that the matter would be turned over to the University Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC) for further review and an integrated recommendation on how Latin honors should be determined and whether another kind of honors designation (e.g., "Distinction in research") should be implemented.

D. Motion to amend Constitution to allow up to two Senators per department

Tom Killian, Chair of the Working Group on Senate Governance, explained that an amendment to the Senate Constitution requires a 2/3 majority of the full Senate. If one considers the “full Senate” to be the 28 voting members, 19 votes are thus required for approval.

Killian said the proposal is to relax the number of regular, tenure and tenure-track Senators allowed per department to a maximum of two, and he presented the exact wording as to how the paragraph would read in Section 2 of the Senate Constitution (change shown in bold):

“Seventeen members are to be, and elected by, faculty holding tenured or tenure-track appointments in the Schools of Humanities, the Social Sciences, the Natural Sciences, or Engineering, voting in their respective schools. No more than two Senators elected under the provisions of this paragraph shall have primary appointments in the same department. The number of representatives elected by each School shall be based on the proportionate number of tenure-track faculty appointments in each School as determined by the Senate every three years.”

Killian explained the rationale for the proposal:

· Greatest concern is filling the Senate seats with interested faculty, not that large departments will dominate.

· School-wide elections force candidates in contested elections to get support from many departments, not just their own.

· Balanced representation at the School level is sufficient for effective faculty governance.

Killian said that the proposal comes moved and seconded from the EC, and Harter encouraged the Senators to vote for the amendment. The resulting vote in the Senate was 23 in favor, none opposed, and none abstaining. The motion passed.

Killian informed the Senate as to upcoming proposals from the working group:

Proposal 6.2: Reassign our current Senate seats reserved for Assistant Professors to be normal seats open to tenure and tenure-track faculty of any rank. (affects one seat each in Eng/NatSci, Soc/Hum, and professional schools)

Proposal 6.3.1: Convert the shared seats in Eng/NatSci and Soc/Hum into one seat each in Eng, NatSci, Soc, and Hum.

Proposal 6.3.2: Change the election procedure for the shared seat in the professional schools from a seat open every election to anyone from Jones, Shepherd, and Architecture to a seat that rotates between the schools on a two year per school cycle.

McIntosh again encouraged the Senators to use the wiki space, and then she adjourned the meeting at 2:00 p.m. The next Senate meeting is scheduled for January 19, 2011.