January 30, 2013

Combined Plenary Meeting of the Faculty
And Faculty Senate Meeting

January 30, 2013

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall

Plenary Meeting Agenda:

I. Presentation of Undergraduate Degrees
II. Presentation of Graduate Degrees
III. Adjourn to Senate Meeting

Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):

I. Call to Order and Welcome
II. Announcements
III. New Business
A. Proposals from the floor
B. Motion to approve a new undergraduate minor in Neurosciences (Approved)
C. Discussion of edX and proposed Senate Resolution (Approved)

Senators present: David Alexander, Robert Atherholt, Gregory Barnett, Randy Batsell, Carl Caldwell, David Caprette, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Danijela Damjanovic, Mahmoud El-Gamal, Christian Emden, Jane Grande-Allen, Shirine Hamadeh, Illya Hicks, Betty Joseph, Rachel Kimbro, , Anatoly Kolomeisky, David Leebron, Jonathan Ludwig, George McLendon, Fred Oswald, Rob Raphael, Stan Sazykin, David Scott, Michael Stern, Ruth Lopez Turley, Moshe Vardi, and James Weston.

Senators absent: Kate Beckingham, Rebecca Goetz, Christopher Hight, Michael Kohn Lanny Martin, and Helena Michie.

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

Plenary Meeting of the Faculty

I. Presentation of Undergraduate Degrees

Professor Stan Dodds, Chair of the University Committee for Examinations and Standing (EX&S), declared that there were no exceptions among the undergraduate students to be awarded mid-year degrees. Dodds said that a request for faculty approval had been moved and seconded by EX&S. Registrar David Tenney presented to the faculty the following information:



Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Bachelor of Science (BS)


BS in Bioengineering (BSBE)


BS in Chemical Engineering (BSCHE)


BS in Civil Engineering (BSCE)


BS in Electrical Engineering (BSEE)


BS in Mechanical Engineering (BSME)


Total (undergraduate degrees)


Bachelor of Architecture (UP)


Grand Total (undergraduate degrees)


The assembled faculty members unanimously approved the awarding of the degrees.

II. Presentation of Graduate Degrees

Professor John Olson, Chair of the Graduate Council, stated that there were no exceptions among the graduate students to be awarded mid-year degrees and a request for faculty approval had been moved and seconded by the committee. Registrar David Tenney presented to the faculty 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 Research and Health Policy (MSBRHP)


Master of Science in Subsurface Geoscience (MSSG)


Master of Civil and Environmental Engineering (MCEE)


Master of Computer Science (MCS)


Master of Computational and Applied Mathematics (MCAAM)


Master of Electrical Engineering (MEE)


Master of Mechanical Engineering (MME)


Master of Statistics (MSTAT)


Master of Business Administration (MBA)


Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)


Master of Liberal Studies (MLS)


Grand Total (Advanced Degrees)


The assembled faculty members unanimously approved the awarding of the degrees.

III. Adjourn to Faculty Senate Meeting

Faculty Senate Meeting

I. Call to order

Speaker Carl Caldwell called the meeting of the Faculty Senate to order. He announced a change in the Senate meeting schedule: instead of March 13, the Senate will meet on March 20, 2013, from 12:00 – 1:45 p.m., in the Founder’s Room of Lovett Hall.

Caldwell also announced that the Senate assistant has been working on improvements to the Senate website, especially “Approved Proposals.” He asked the senators to review the site and send any suggestions to him or to Sharon Mathews.

II. Announcements

A. Approval of membership for Working Group on Grade Inflation

Deputy Speaker Jane Grande-Allen requested approval from the Senate for the following members of the Working Group on Grade Inflation:

Jane Grande-Allen, chair
Rebecca Goetz
Peter Loewen
Evan Siemann
Ric Stoll
David Tenney, ex officioStudent Association representative, to be named
Graduate Student Association, to be named

The Senate unanimously approved the members of the working group.

B. Approval of membership for the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC)

Grande-Allen requested approval from the Senate for the following members:

Speaker appointees: Randy Batsell
Shirine Hamadeh
Illya Hicks

Nominated for approval by Senate:
Jane Grande-Allen, Chair
Bob Atherholt
Christopher Hight
Rachel Kimbro
Mike Stern

The Senate unanimously approved the members of the NEC.

C. Update and approval of membership of Working Group on Laboratory Safety

Grande-Allen announced that the first duty of the working group will be to define its charge, which is to include development of university-wide policies for the use of such item as lasers, radioactive materials, and biohazards in Rice University laboratories.

Grande-Allen requested approval from the Senate for the following members:

Mike Wong, chair
Beth Beason-Abmayr
Rajdeep Dasgupta
Kevin Kelly
Tom Killian
Qilin Li
Speaker Caldwell /Deputy Speaker Grande-Allen
Vicki Colvin, ex officio
Kevin Kirby, ex officio

D. Update on status of negotiations with 2U regarding a professional master’s degree

Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Initiatives Caroline Levander announced that the negotiations between Rice University and 2U for a professional master’s degree in engineering have been terminated by 2U. Levander added that, at this point, 2U is not looking to any other universities for a professional master’s degree in engineering.

III. New Business

A. Proposals from the floor—none

B. Motion to approve a new undergraduate minor in Neurosciences

Caldwell announced that the proposed minor in neuroscience, if approved, would be a minor without a pre-existing major. He also explained that the minor would involve an external relationship with Baylor College of Medicine (BCM).

Caldwell distributed the budget for the minor to the senators, and it was noted that the budget has been approved by Provost McLendon and by Vice President for Finance Kathy Collins. Caldwell said that support letters for the minor are available on the wiki space, including letters from the provost and from BCM. The request for Senate approval came moved and seconded from the Executive Committee.

Caldwell introduced Jeff Kripal, chair of the University Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC); Suzanne Kemmer, Associate Professor of Linguistic and Cognitive Sciences; and Steve Cox, Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics. Kripal stated that the proposed minor was first brought to the CUC in the fall of 2011. He said that Steve Cox chaired the CUC subcommittee which reviewed the proposal, and the subcommittee was entirely satisfied with the curricular model for the program. However, Kripal said that the financial complexities of the program delayed CUC approval. He said that those issues have now all been satisfied; the CUC is happy to request Senate approval.

Kemmer said that there are several good reasons for the minor, including the fact that Rice students have been calling for programs in neuroscience. She said that neuroscience is a broad field, and since Rice does not have expertise in all of these areas, they looked to the Texas Medical Center for a partner. Kemmer said that Rice may offer a major in this field in the future and possibly a graduate program.

A short discussion followed the presentation of the proposal. Provost McLendon stated that the financial aspects of the program are under Rice’s control. He also said that the program will reside under the dean of Social Sciences; the budget will flow from that office. Moshe Vardi said that if the minor develops into a major, the director should be from within Rice. The current director is from BCM, but he holds a part-time faculty position in the Psychology Department at Rice.

Following this discussion, the Senate voted unanimously for approval. View the approved proposal.

C. Discussion of edX and proposed Senate resolution

Caldwell summarized the responses he had received from faculty members following the presentation by edX representative Anant Agarwal (MIT), which were primarily positive. The questions received by Caldwell were regarding cost and what effect online education might have on the on-campus method. He said that the Executive Committee decided to issue a resolution, pending Senate approval:

The Faculty Senate recommends that Rice University consider a limited formal partnership with edX to pursue a small number of online courses with the understanding that edX certification does not constitute Rice University credit.

The Faculty Senate favors, in principle, the conferral of certificates for successful completion of courses taken via edX, so long as a)they do not indicate that a student will receive Rice University credit for taking the course and b) they conform to best practice guidelines set down by SACS and related accreditation agencies.

David Alexander, chair of the Senate’s Working Group on Online Education, said that although the resolution may seem to have been issued quickly following the edX presentation, the working group has actually been reviewing edX for months. He said that edX presents one of the better opportunities for Rice regarding online education, and Rice would join a group of high quality universities currently using edX.

It was noted that Rice is currently working with Coursera and will continue to do so. Provost McLendon stated that Rice would commit to produce four courses with edX over the next year (to begin Fall 2013). He stated that, following Senate approval of the resolution, Levander would get in touch with edX to set up the next steps in the process.

There was a question as to the meaning of the term “limited” in the resolution; it means a limited number of courses, not a limited amount of time.

President Leebron spoke about Rice already being involved with the top-rated Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) program, Coursera, and the exposure it can provide a small university such as Rice. He said that participating in MOOCs allows Rice to have a much bigger presence, nationally and internationally. He predicted that MOOCs will fundamentally change the cultural and regulatory landscape of higher education, with the big issue being credit for courses and the transfer of credits from other institutions. Leebron said that online education ranges from free courses with 100,000 students to courses that are not that different from on-campus courses.

Caldwell discussed how edX courses compare with Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which students can take for university credit. He said that assessment tools are being developed for the edX courses. Caldwell added that Rice currently allows students to test out of certain pre-requisite classes. He predicted that in some cases online courses might count for credit but not in others.

President Leebron complimented the Faculty Senate in its involvement with this issue. He said that the faculty was putting just the right kind of pressure on the administration.

Further discussion included recommendations by Vardi that perhaps not every faculty member at Rice should be allowed to participate in an online course and every Rice course presented online must first be presented on campus. Rob Raphael said that it needs to be made clear to students that the fee they might pay for an online course (resulting in a certificate) is really just for personal enrichment, not university credit.

Following this discussion, the Senate voted unanimously to approve the resolution.

Caldwell then reviewed the topics that the Senate needs to address in the remaining three meetings scheduled for 2013. He thanked the senators for reviewing documents in advance of the meetings and using the wiki space so that meetings can run efficiently.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 p.m.