January 28, 2015

Combined Plenary Meeting of the Faculty and Faculty Senate Meeting - January 28, 2015

Plenary Meeting Agenda:

I. Presentation of Undergraduate Degrees (Approved)

II. Presentation of Graduate Degrees (Approved)

III. Adjourn to Senate Meeting

Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):

I. Announcements

A. Update on Faculty Teaching Workload

B. Update on Provost Search

C. Quality Enhancement Program

D. Announcements from the floor

II. Reports from Officers and University Committees

A. Speaker’s Report

B. Deputy Speaker’s Report

C. University Committee on Teaching

Senators present: David Alexander, Robert Atherholt, Gwen Bradford, David Caprette, Daniel Cohen, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Erik Dane, Jerry Dickens, Julie Fette, Claire Fanger, Jeffrey Fleisher, Christopher Hight, Illya Hicks, Betty Joseph, Rachel Kimbro, Marek Kimmel, Michael Kohn, Anatoly Kolomeisky, Jonathan Ludwig, Susan Lurie, Susan McIntosh, George McLendon, Luay Nakhleh, Fred Oswald, Brian Rountree, Stan Sazykin, Laura Segatori, James Weston, and Michael Wolf.

Senators absent: Kate Beckingham, Michael Diehl, David Leebron, and Timothy Morton.

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

Plenary Meeting of the Faculty

I. Presentation of Undergraduate Degrees

Registrar David Tenney announced that the December 2014 list of undergraduate degree candidates had been presented to and approved by the University Committee for Examinations and Standing. Tenney presented to the faculty the following information:



Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Bachelor of Science (BS)


BS in Chemical Engineering (BSCHE)


BS in Civil Engineering (BSCE)


BS in Computer Science (BSCS)


BS in Electrical Engineering (BSEE)


BS in Mechanical Engineering (BSME)


Grand Total (Undergraduate Degrees)


*Actual number of students: 104 (54 Men, 50 Women)

Tenney was asked how the number of December graduates compared with last year’s total. He said that there were a few more December graduates this year, but the average has been about 100 December graduates for several years. Another senator asked how many December graduates had completed his or her studies in less than four years. Tenney said that excluding the transfer students, and the four students who took over six years to graduate, 46 students were graduating in less than four years and 46 were graduating in 4.5 years.

A motion was made to approve the December 2014 list of degree candidates, it was seconded, and the assembled faculty members unanimously approved the awarding of the degrees.

II. Presentation of Graduate Degrees

Tenney stated that the list of December 2014 advanced degree candidates had been presented to and approved by the Graduate Council. He presented the following information:



Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Master of Arts (MA)


Master of Science (MS)


Master of Architecture (MARCH)


Master of Music (MMUS)


Master of Bioengineering (MBE)


Master of Science in Bioscience and Health Policy (MSBHP)


Master of Science in Environmental Analysis and Decision Making (MSEADM)


Master of Science in Nanoscale Physics (MSNP)


Master of Science in Subsurface Geoscience (MSSG)


Master of Chemical Engineering (MCHE)


Master of Civil and Environmental Engineering (MCEE)


Master of Computer Science (MCS)


Master of Electrical Engineering (MEE)


Master of Mechanical Engineering (MME)


Master of Statistics (MSTAT)


Master of Business Administration (MBA)


Master of Liberal Studies (MLS)


Grand Total (Advanced Degrees)


*Actual number of students: 269 (180 Men, 89 Women)

Tenney was asked if he knew the median number of years students had needed to earn a Ph.D. He said that level of study had not been done. A motion was made to approve the list of advanced degree candidates, it was seconded, and the assembled faculty members unanimously approved the awarding of the degrees.

III. Adjourn to Faculty Senate Meeting

Faculty Senate Meeting

I. Announcements

A. Update on Faculty Teaching Workload

Provost McLendon stated that the recent guidelines regarding the faculty teaching workload (two courses per semester) came from a discussion held at the Deans’ Retreat. He said that the deans had reported to him that in the absence of a well-defined guideline, a situation sometimes occurs that can be corrosive to morale. McLendon said that for faculty members who are research-active and who participate fully in activities such as mentoring, the teaching workload is usually reduced to two courses one semester and one course the other semester (2/1). However, some faculty members are no longer participating in any activities outside of teaching, yet they still enjoy the 2/1 teaching schedule. McLendon predicted that the 2/2 teaching workload guideline would affect very few faculty members, approximately six per school.

Speaker James Weston said that the concerns expressed to him were mainly from faculty members in the Schools of Social Sciences and Humanities. He said that they wished to know how “research-active” would be defined in these schools. McLendon replied that although he did not know yet, he was confident that the situation would be handled appropriately at the school level by the department chairs and deans.

Senator Mike Wolf referred to the incentives put in place previously regarding faculty retirement. He said he understood that the incentives were under-subscribed, and he wondered if the teaching workload guideline was possibly a “stick” to go with those “carrots.” McLendon said that the two issues were not particularly related. He said that the guideline was a matter of fairness; a faculty member who has reduced his or her activity to just teaching should not get the same breaks as one who is fully engaged with teaching, research, and service.

Senator Claire Fanger asked if representation of workload was taken into consideration; could someone whose workload was high but underrepresented on his/her annual report be taken to task? McLendon replied that this was not likely. He said that the guideline was designed to correct a situation that was known to exist, to enable deans and department chairs to resolve it. He also said that Humanities faculty are de facto exempt from the guideline because their usual teaching workload is already 2/2.

Senator David Alexander asked if the guidelines might begin the practice of “buying out” of teaching time because one is very busy with research. McLendon replied that this practice already occurs (a maximum of one course per year), but it is expensive and rarely occurs.

B. Update on Provost Search

Rachel Kimbro, Vice Chair of the Provost Search Committee, stated that the pool of provost candidates is extraordinarily strong. She then described the search process. She said that the first phase, conducted by a committee of 14 faculty members, consisted of gathering information from the Rice faculty, including candidate recommendations. During the second phase, a smaller search committee narrowed the pool of candidates to twelve, seven of whom had been recommended by Rice faculty. Kimbro said that the finalists, all of whom are external to Rice, were currently being interviewed, with the larger, first-phase group brought back into the process, along with administrators, and with the addition of Senate Speaker Weston. In all, Kimbro said that approximately 25 faculty members would interact with each finalist. She said that the committee hopes to announce the new provost in early March 2015.

C. Quality Enhancement Program

Senator Susan McIntosh, co-chair of the Quality Enhancement Program (QEP), said that she wished to clarify the QEP and Rice’s reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), a process that occurs every 10 years. McIntosh said that Rice’s last QEP (2006), entitled “The Intellectual Development of Rice Undergraduates in Urban Houston,” was very successful.

McIntosh explained that a QEP is a concrete project or initiative that:

  • creates a measureable and fundamental improvement in the nature of education,
  • targets specific student learning outcomes (SLOs),
  • is supported by data pointing to institutional needs, and
  • is identified by a process that engages the Rice community.

McIntosh also described Rice’s QEP process:

  • Solicitation of input/QEP ideas –through 2/20/15

Letters have been sent to Department Chairs and Senate liaisons

SA and GSA reps mobilized to gather ideas

Website being created by OIE – QEP suggestions can be posted

  • Committee will group ideas under general themes

Posted online for comments 3/1–3/20/15

  • Top two themes identified by QEP Committee will be sent to Senate for a vote in April 2015

McIntosh encouraged faculty to participate in the process, and she said that in order to receive SACS approval, broad participation is needed.

McIntosh was asked if the QEP idea has to be a new one. McIntosh said that it can include developments that have begun after the last QEP (2006). Fanger said that many departments have ideas unique to their discipline; and she asked if these ideas could all be put under one umbrella? McIntosh said that was possible if they were brought together to impact student learning outcomes in a coherent package.

Senator Christopher Hight suggested that the QEP team try to present their request for ideas not as part of a SACS requirement, but by asking people to think creatively about how the university can improve, for example, “What do we want to do?”

D. Announcements from the floor
There were no announcements from the floor.

II. Reports from Officers and Standing Committees
A. Speaker’s Report

1. Subcommittee of the Working Group on the Academic Calendar

Weston announced the charge and members of the subcommittee who have been appointed to consider the two-week spring break option separate from the Senate’s original request to coordinate Rice’s spring break with HISD’s spring break.

Charge: investigate the advisability and feasibility of a two-week spring break or alternative spring break structure that would enhance students’ learning experiences.

Members: Mike Wolf (chair)

Stan Dodds

Luis Duno-Gottberg

Julie Fette

Marcia O’Malley

David Tenney

Aishwarya Thalur (Undergraduate student)

Senator Illya Hicks noted that since the idea for a two-week spring break was to provide an alternative learning experience for students. He suggested that it could perhaps be incorporated into a QEP idea.

2. Digital Advisory Group

Weston announced that Senator Tim Morton has been added to the Digital Advisory Group in order to provide additional Faculty Senate representation on the committee.

3. Upcoming issues for the Executive Committee

Weston listed the following items that the Executive Committee (EC) plans to discuss in its next meeting:

· Frequency of Faculty Senate meetings

· Timing of plenary meetings to approve degrees

· Concur, providing bank information to third parties

Regarding the timing of plenary meetings, Senator Jerry Dickens said that many students finish their thesis and other requirements long before December. However, often they cannot be hired by companies until their degree has been approved by the faculty in its January plenary meeting. Registrar David Tenney said that although the conferral date of the degree is indeed the date of the plenary, the degree is backdated to December 30 of the year prior, per a Senate resolution approved a few years ago. He said that one reason for the backdating is because students requested that the year of their degree be the same as the year in which they completed the requirements to graduate.

Weston said that he would ask the EC to discuss improving the current system. Evan Siemann asked that the EC also consider conferring degrees at the end of the summer, to which Weston agreed.

Regarding Concur, Weston said that he has heard complaints from several individuals about this new payment system, and although he will discuss it with the EC, he asked that faculty and staff give the new system some time before recommending a change. Weston added that the release of banking information to a third party, a related issue, could be a serious concern, and he will discuss it with the EC and the administration.

B. Deputy Speaker’s Report

  • Nominations and Elections Committee

Deputy Speaker Rachel Kimbro, Chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC), presented the following information to the senators for their approval.

NEC Duties: seek candidates for the Promotion and Tenure Committee, Faculty Senate, Executive Committee, and University Committees.

NEC Proposed slate: David Alexander, Robert Atherholt, Kate Beckingham, Gwen Bradford, Keith Cooper, Julie Fette, and Jeff Fleisher.A motion was made to approve the slate, it was seconded, and the Senate voted unanimously for approval.

  • Promotion and Tenure Committee Elections

Kimbro announced that the call for nominations for the Promotion and Tenure Committee (term: Fall 2015- Spring 2018) was emailed to faculty members yesterday in the schools of Engineering and Social Sciences. The deadline to turn in the completed nomination form is February 16, 2015. If an election is required, it will be held the week of February 23

  • Faculty Senate Elections

Kimbro presented a list of the current senators whose terms are expiring at the end of the academic year. She said that all are eligible to run for re-election, and she encouraged them to serve again. She reminded them that a completed nomination form is required.

Michael Diehl
Keith Cooper
Betty Joseph
Susan McIntosh
Rachel Kimbro
Robert Atherholt
Christopher Hight
Brian Rountree
Jonathan Ludwig
Scott Cutler
Erik Dane (This one-year rotating seat moves to the Shepherd School.)

Senator Scott Cutler asked that the NEC consider staggering the terms of the senators who represent the Non-Tenure Track (NTT) faculty so that one NTT senator’s term ends each year.

C. University Committee on Teaching
Report from the Rice Teaching and Course Evaluation Subcommittee, Fall 2014

Betsy Barre, Subcommittee Co-Chair, explained that the Faculty Senate’s (former) Working Group on Grade Inflation asked the University Committee on Teaching to investigate the evaluation of teaching effectiveness at Rice, including the student evaluations of teaching and courses. Barre said that during the Fall 2014 semester, the subcommittee: 1) collected feedback from various constituencies across campus, 2) engaged in a literature review of the issue and wrote a summary of relevant findings, and 3) sent its report to the Senate including the following conclusions and recommendations:

1. Results are used by students in deciding which courses to take and which faculty to take where there are different faculty across multiple sections of the same course;

2. Results are used by faculty to improve their teaching over time (i.e., formative assessment); and,

3. Results are used by administrators (and the promotion and tenure committee) to make decisions about promotions, raises, and tenure (i.e., summative assessment).

Barre said that the subcommittee has concluded that the current system does not adequately meet any of these needs and recommends that the next step in the process be to search for, and/or construct, one or more instruments to replace the current one.

Alexander recommended that the written comments from students not be made public. He said that although it was important to use the correct instrument, how the information is used was also important.

Wolf said that a fourth purpose of the teaching evaluations is how they are used in external reports. He said that Rice needs to be able to quote a single number, a rating, as to a faculty member’s teaching effectiveness.

Barre was asked if the subcommittee found a correlation between grades awarded to students and student evaluations of faculty. Barre replied that there is a correlation.

Barre was also asked if research exists on how university administrators react to teaching evaluations. She said that the research shows that administrators need to be trained as to how to read the evaluations. She added that evaluations of teaching can be particularly important for NTT faculty because they are evaluated primarily on their teaching effectiveness.

Weston thanked Barre for her presentation. He then asked if there were any motions or new business items from the floor; there were none.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:15 p.m.