January 23, 2008

Minutes of the Faculty Senate of Rice University

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall


I. Announcements

II. SACS Update: John Cornwell, Assoc. VP for Institutional Effectiveness

III. Academic Calendar: Evan Siemann

IV. Administrator Review Policy: Eugene Levy

V. Athletic Admissions: taped presentation from Dale Sawyer

Senators present: Deborah Harter (Speaker), Mike Stern (Deputy Speaker), Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Ed Cox, Michael Deem, John Hempel, Matthias Henze, Brian Huberman, Ben Kamins, Tom Killian, Philip Kortum, David Leebron (ex officio), Eugene Levy (ex officio), Peter Mieszkowski, Matteo Pasquali, Robert Raphael, Gautami Shah, Evan Siemann, Meredith Skura, Randy Stevenson, Duane Windsor, Jim Young.

Senators absent: Steven Cox, Rebekah Drezek, Christian Emden, Michael Emerson, Nancy Niedzielski, Dale Sawyer, James Weston.

Total attendance: Approximately 50

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Deborah Harter (Speaker) made three announcements: first, a proposal for a new interdisciplinary minor in Global Health Technologies will be brought to the Senate for its approval soon.

Second, Robin Forman recently asked the Executive Committee if he could release to SACS the report from the Committee on the Rice Undergraduate Program (CRUP report) and the Executive Committee agreed.

Third, Harter announced the formation of a Working Group on Admissions with the following mandate:

· Discuss current process and consider whether there are ways in which faculty input could be provided to the administration and the admissions office, either now (on a one-time basis) or in regular fashion.

· Consider whether and how the University Committee on Admissions could figure in this process in future, and how it might need to be restructured in order best to serve this purpose.

· Provide a brief statement of goals for the Senate to approve that could function as a set of guiding faculty recommendations to the Administration and the Office of Admissions as Rice goes forward with the growing of its undergraduate body.

Harter stated the members of the Working Group will be Meredith Skura, Ben Kamins, Tom Killian, Dale Saywer, and a person to be named from the Admissions Office.


John Cornwell, Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, reported that the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS) has replied to the Monitoring Report submitted by Rice, see below:

CS 3.3.1 (Institutional Effectiveness), Recommendation 1

Most of the units have not implemented changes based on assessment results. Demonstrate that these changes have been implemented. Several support areas opted out of developing assessment plans. Demonstrate that these units have developed assessment plans and show use of results of assessment for improvement.

CS 3.5.1 (College-Level Competencies), Recommendation 3

While the institution has identified college-level competencies within the general education core, it has not provided evidence that graduates have attained those competencies. The assessment plan, relatively new, is not yet mature enough to demonstrate assessment outcomes and the use of those outcomes. The Monitoring Report indicated that several assessment efforts are underway and more are proposed. The requested report should show assessment results from these efforts, the degree to which competencies have been achieved, and the degree to which the results have driven decision making for improvements.

Cornwell stated that the next report is due to SACS on September 5, 2008.


Harter briefly recapped the calendar proposal presented at the last Faculty Senate meeting and stated that the Senate must now select between Plan A and Plan B. She also stated that if the Senate should choose Plan A, some language needs to be added to the Course Catalog stipulating that in the case of certain courses, attendance may be required of students during the 2-day Spring recess, and that this will always be announced in advance in the catalog. She noted, finally, that an amendment is needed for the already-published 2008-09 calendar to resolve a problem with final exam week scheduling.

Harter reported a question that came via email from Stephen Zeff regarding the possibility of making vacation time for students in the Fall semester equal to that in the Spring semester by adding vacation days in the Fall. Harter reported that Marj Corcoran also asked that the two semesters have an equal number of days, but Corcoran preferred that each semester be longer; wasn’t there a way to add two class days in the Spring? Harter said that even though most Senators seemed comfortable with the two semesters having an unequal number of instructional days, it was an issue that could be addressed.

Peter Mieszkowski asked if the new calendar system could begin with the 2008-09 year. Harter answered that it cannot because the 2008-09 academic calendar has already been published and is considered official.

Randy Stevenson asked if the difference in the number of days per semester is eliminated in Plan B, andEvan Siemann (Chair of the Calendar Committee) replied that it is not, but the difference is reduced. Plan B has 70 instructional days in the Fall and 69 in the Spring.

Harter then asked if there were any comments (instead of questions) about the calendar, and Gautami Shah requested copies of the calendar proposal be distributed. Harter announced the results of a poll taken by the Student Association which shows that 96% of the 700 students who responded prefer Plan A, keeping the two-day Spring Recess. Harter then asked Matt Youn (Rice student) to read the resolution from the Student Association to the Senate, see below:

Whereas, Spring Recess falls near the end of the semester, which is the busiest
time of the semester for most students;
Whereas, Students have Thanksgiving break in the Fall semester to allow them to
recuperate before the busiest time of the semester;
Whereas, Students use Spring Recess to relax, collect themselves, and catch up

on work in preparation for the last few weeks of the semester; and
Whereas, Ninety-six percent of students choose Plan A over Plan B, according to
a Student Association poll of over seven hundred students; therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Student Association firmly believes that Spring Recess should
be retained in the new academic calendar; and
Resolved, That the Student Association requests the Faculty Senate pass Plan A

of the two proposed academic calendars.

Harter discussed the need for specific language in the Course Catalog if Plan A should be adopted to let students know that some classes will meet during the Spring recess and perhaps at other times when classes are not officially in session. Michael Deem questioned the need for classes to be held during any breaks, but it was noted that not only does this practice happen with a few classes now, but the Student Association is comfortable with this compromise—keep the Spring recess for the general student body, but allow those classes which truly need to meet to have that option.

Phil Kortum asked if the Senate was to extend the Spring semester by two days, would that eliminate the need for class meetings during the recess? The reply was that the reason some classes, especially labs, meet during the recess is to have continuous days of instruction/research, not just more days.

Robin Forman stated that it is not just labs which sometimes need to meet when other students have a break, and he gave an example of an opera that was held in the Fall at Rice. The orchestra students and the singers and others were asked to meet during a break as it was one of the few times they could all rehearse together.

Randy Batsell announced that he would like to call the question about the two proposals without any amendments. This motion was seconded.

Duane Windsor had a question clarifying the motion; then the majority of the Senators indicated they were ready to vote on the calendar proposal. The majority of the Senators were in favor of Plan A, one vote was for Plan B, and there were two abstentions. Plan A will be adopted by Rice University starting with the 2009-2010 academic year.

Harter then addressed the special wording that should be added to the general catalog and showed the draft written by Jim Young. After some discussion, it was decided that Jim Young will work on a second draft, and whatever language is finally approved will appear in the course description on Esther so that students are informed about the possibility of working during breaks before they register for classes.

Siemann then presented a proposal regarding the academic calendar, as shown below:

Proposal to amend the published 2008-2009 academic calendar

Created by the committee on January 15, 2008

We propose to change the spring 2009 calendar in the following three ways:

1) The last day of instruction will be Friday April 17th.

2) All students will have four study days from Saturday April 18th to Tuesday April 21st.

3) All students will have final exams from Wednesday April 22nd to Wednesday April 29th.

Why should this be done?

After a recent analysis of final exam scheduling, it was determined that a final exam schedule for spring semester cannot be established prior to the start of spring semester unless degree candidates and non-degree candidates have a common final exam period. We believe that this modification to the calendar is the simplest way to accomplish this goal.

What are the larger effects on the academic calendar?

It reduces the number of instructional days by three. Degree candidates gain a study period (4 days) and have more days to take their exams (7 vs. 6). Non-degree candidates have the same length of study period and number of exam days. Instructors have the same amount of time to grade degree candidates.

Harter asked if there were any questions, and then she asked for a vote on the proposal. It passed unanimously.


Harter reminded the group that the president and provost were asked to prepare a draft regarding a new policy for the review of academic administrators. This draft was sent to the Senators prior to this meeting, and Harter said she had received many positive comments from faculty. Harter reported a comment she received from Kathy Matthews who stated that she did not want this new policy to harm the collegial atmosphere that is enjoyed at Rice. Matthews likes the current system where the provost collects letters from faculty regarding their deans and other administrators.

Eugene Levy stated that he regards this request for an administrator review policy to be a positive move. He said it will provide for more transparency to the process and engage the faculty more closely with the governance of the school.

There was some discussion as to whether the provost would chair the review committee, and who would write the report of the committee’s findings. Levy stated that the tactical aspects of how this procedure will be implemented are still to be worked out.

Moshe Vardi said if this committee is to be one element of a larger review process, it should not be chaired by the provost. He said the goal is for the faculty to give advice to the provost, not for the provost to give advice to himself.

David Leebron said he had two comments regarding this new policy: first, it would be hard to have an all-encompassing policy. He said there are a lot of different schools at Rice, with different sizes, and he could imagine the review committees for the various deans being constituted in different ways.

Second, Leebron said it would be very unusual for the provost to chair the committee, but the provost should be a part of it. He said that although he considers the current review process to be a thorough canvassing of the faculty, this new review committee will be more of a representative system. Leebron said he feels this is a positive step towards engaging various groups and that each constituency will be more informed. He also said everyone on the committee should be in the same room so that everyone has the same information.

Skura stated that she was hoping for a document that would apply in all situations, not one that changes from school to school or year to year. Also, she asked that the group reach an agreement about some primary goals before looking for the methods to achieve them. She stated she detected a difference between her understanding of the purpose for this review committee and what Leebron had stated. She said the purpose for setting up the committee was for the provost to get all the information he could regarding a deanfrom the faculty in that school. She stated it is not a time to become educated about the dean, and it is not similar to a search committee for a new dean in which various constituents would be involved. This review committee would serve as a place for faculty to be heard regarding their dean.

Moshe Vardi was asked what Rice’s peer institutions do regarding this issue, and he informed the group that the AAUP had done some research. With one exception, he said, none allow the provost to chair such a review committee. Harter said the review committee issue did not have to be decided today, and Levyagreed, saying there were no deans who were due to be reviewed soon. Harter said the conversation will be continued at a later date.


A taped presentation prepared by Dale Sawyer was shown to give the Senate its annual update on athletic admissions to Rice. Since this presentation contained confidential information, the students were asked to leave the room. Keith Todd, Director of Admissions, was available to answer questions. There were only a few questions, and Harter asked if any Senators wanted to ask Mr. Todd to return to the next Faculty Senate meeting. No one indicated this was necessary.

Harter thanked Chris Del Conte, Athletic Director, for his presence at the meeting, and she thanked the president and the provost for their work on the Administrator Review issue.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:05 p.m.