March 11, 2009

Minutes of the Faculty Senate Meeting - March 11, 2009

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall

12:00 P.M.


I. Panel Discussion with members of the Rice Board of Trustees (Crownover & Clarke)

II. Announcements

III. Proposed Minor in Energy and Water Sustainability

IV. Amorous Relations Policy

V. Adjourn

Senators present: Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Steven Cox, Michael Deem, Michael Emerson, Deborah Harter, John Hempel, Matthias Henze, Ben Kamins, Tom Killian, Philip Kortum, David Leebron, Eugene Levy, Don Morrison, Peter Mieszkowski, Matteo Pasquali, Caroline Quenemoen, Rob Raphael, Dale Sawyer, Gautami Shah, Evan Siemann, Meredith Skura, Michael Stern, Randy Stevenson, Devika Subramanian, Duane Windsor, Jim Young.

Senators absent: Ed Cox, Sarah Ellenzweig, James Weston.


I. Panel Discussion with members of the Rice Board of Trustees

Deborah Harter (Speaker) welcomed Jim Crownover and Bob Clarke, two members of the Rice Board of Trustees, to the Senate meeting. Harter gave a brief introduction for each: Crownover is a graduate of Rice University, completed a 30-year career at McKinsey & Company in 1998, currently sits on the board of directors for several companies, and serves as the Chairman of the Rice Board of Trustees. Clarke is also a Rice graduate, served as Comptroller of the Currency under Presidents Reagan and G.H.W. Bush (41), and is currently a senior partner at Bracewell & Giuliani, LLP.

Jim Crownover said the Board has been discussing two big issues lately: 1) the current economic situation, during which Rice intends to stay within its policy regarding the use of endowment funds, and 2) Rice’s possible acquisition of the Baylor College of Medicine. Crownover then explained how this possible acquisition has been considered, saying that the entire Board has been involved; it has not delegated to a subcommittee. The Board has sought input from faculty members, students, alumni, donors, and consultants. In addition, Crownover said he has read the Rice website that is dedicated to this issue.

Bob Clarke praised the Rice administration personnel, saying that they have been very thorough as they have reviewed this possible acquisition. He also said that a number of the things that faculty members have mentioned as worrisome are worrisome to the Board as well, including preservation of the Rice culture. He said it has been made clear to Baylor that

Baylor would report to Rice. Clarke stated that certain financial questions would have to be resolved before the acquisition could occur.

Following these opening statements, a question and answer period followed. In addition, two documents were submitted to the Senate: one by Professor Moshe Vardi (Computer Science) and one by Senator Matteo Pasquali, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. To view the summary of the document submitted by Vardi, please use this link: merger-senate09.

John Boles, Professor of History, stated that he is on the Faculty Advisory Committee, and he said that many of the actions Vardi calls for in his document are now beginning to happen.

Harter thanked Crownover and Clarke for their participation in the panel discussion.

II. Announcements (Deborah Harter, Speaker)

  • Mary Cronin, Vice President for Human Resources, has arranged for a financial specialist to address the Rice faculty and staff Thursday, March 12.
  • The Faculty Senate elections are currently being held; completed nomination forms are due Friday, March 13, at noon.
  • A new Speaker and Deputy Speaker will also be elected; Harter invited any current Senators considering running for these leadership positions to let her know.

III. Proposed Interdisciplinary Minor in Energy and Water Sustainability

Mary Ellen Lane, Assistant Professor in Biochemistry and Cell Biology, presented a proposal for a new interdisciplinary minor in Energy and Water Sustainability. She said this minor is targeted to students in the School of Engineering, and the focus is on the sustainability of energy and water as the need for these two resources grows. Lane stated that there were very few concerns expressed for this new minor as the proposal went through the approval process, these concerns have all been resolved, and the minor has been unanimously recommended by the Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC). Please use this link to view the proposal:

Minor in Energy and Water Sustainability. After a few questions by Senators, Ben Kamins made a motion to approve the minor, seconded by Randy Stevenson. The vote was unanimously in favor of approval.

IV. Amorous Relations Policy

Harter introduced Rebekah Drezek, Chair of the Senate’s Working Group on Amorous Relations whose task it was to consider Rice’s current policy statement and to explore whether a new policy at Rice would be appropriate. Drezek said the working group’s draft, and later a revised draft, had been distributed to the Senators, and that a range of feedback had been received. She stated that there were now several options for the Senate to consider: 1) a policy that does not restrict relationships between faculty and students, 2) a policy that prohibits these relationships, or 3) a middle-of-the-road policy of the sort used by many of the universities her committee had researched and that would prohibit sexual relations when there is, or is likely to be, a conflict of interest. Drezek also stated that a policy that contains any kind of restriction would require a structure for disclosure.

Jim Young said that in his view the policy should have strong restrictions, and he said he liked the inclusion of a disclosure structure.

Randy Stevenson said that the revised document attempts to address three different issues: 1) preventing sexual harassment, 2) preventing conflicts of interest, and 3) treating undergraduates as a special population as compared to graduate students. He noted that each of these categories carried different arguments in terms of implementation.

Drezek explained that between now and the next Senate meeting, it would be very helpful if the Senate could provide her working group with specific guidance on the question of faculty relationships with undergraduates.

Don Morrison gave a particularly impassioned statement on why, in his view, one ought in fact to prohibit all relationships with all undergraduates:. “I think that the consequences are so often so very poor when there are romantic relations between faculty and undergraduates that it is appropriate to maintain prohibition across the board. I say this fully recognizing that I have friends in happy marriages with people who were undergraduate students in their classes, and that adopting such a policy would be at the cost of a certain number of instances of true love and happy marriages. But I also think it is important to acknowledge that there is enough damage done to star-struck freshmen by aging male faculty members like myself that we simply do not have a choice.”

Matteo Pasquali gave an equally impassioned statement against the idea of treating undergraduates as a special population. At age 18, he said, people are considered to be adults. Furthermore, he said he sees no difference between a 22-year old undergraduate student and a 22-year old graduate student. Pasquali said all students (undergraduates and graduates) could be covered under the conflict of issue statement in the new policy (where relations would be prohibited with students under ones direct or indirect responsibility).

After several other comments by Senators, Harter suggested it might be helpful to hold a straw vote just to see where people stood. Such a vote was taken, and the show of hands was nearly unanimous in favor of prohibition of amorous relationships between faculty and all undergraduate students.

Drezek stated that the consensus of the Senate seemed clear: the policy should prohibit amorous relations between faculty and all undergraduate students; now what remains to be resolved is a policy governing relationships between faculty and graduate students.

John Hempel stated that while any abuse of power by faculty over students is wrong, falling in love is not wrong, and thus relationships with graduate students should not be prohibited.

Steven Cox said that he favored a conflict of interest statement in the case of faculty-graduate student relationships.

Robin Forman stated that he prefers that the Senate prohibit sexual relations between faculty and undergraduates for the protection of both groups, but he said he considers the graduate students differently. He said, however, regarding conflicts of interest, making a distinction between direct or indirect faculty supervision of graduate students is going to be difficult.

Tom Killian said that a blanket statement of prohibition regarding faculty relationships with graduate students cannot be made; it would not be reasonable. He recommended language which would discourage these relationships and advocated prohibition if a conflict of interest is present.

Stevenson asked if there was a pressing need to get this issue decided this semester, and Drezek replied that there was not; she stressed instead her desire to get the policy written correctly. Duane Windsor asked Drezek if she had enough guidance to write a working draft which Rice’s legal staff could then review. Drezek indicated she was skeptical that a new draft could be written and gain legal approval in time for next month’s Senate meeting. Harter countered that in view of the sense of agreement in the Senate with regard to the substance of a new policy, every effort should be made before giving up on achieving that policy this year.

Evan Siemann asked if any new policy would be published in the General Announcements. Drezek replied that this question brings up a different issue—Rice has a sexual harassment policy which is separate from its statement on amorous relations. She said the current policy on amorous relationships is not a university policy; it is a statement by faculty to faculty. In order to make this amorous relations statement become university policy, it will have to go through additional layers of approval by such entities as the Dean’s Council and the Provost’s Office. Harter proposed that at least the faculty portion be finished by the next Faculty Senate meeting. She then thanked Drezek, the Working Group, and the Senate in general for a productive meeting.

V. Adjourn

The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 p.m.