March 12, 2008

Minutes of the Faculty Senate Meeting - March 12, 2008

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall


I. Announcements

II. Proposed new language regarding student attendance (Jim Young, Chair,

Bylaws Committee)

III. Defining Minors and Interdisciplinary Minors at Rice

IV. University Committees and their relationship to the Faculty Senate

V. Senate Elections: Updates and new suggestions from the Nominations and

Elections Committee (Mike Stern, Deputy Speaker and NEC Chair)

Senators present: Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Steven Cox, Rebekah Drezek, Christian Emden, Deborah Harter (Speaker), John Hempel, Brian Huberman, Ben Kamins, Tom Killian, Philip Kortum, David Leebron (ex-officio), Peter Mieszkowski, Matteo Pasquali, Robert Raphael, Dale Sawyer, Gautami Shah, Evan Siemann, Meredith Skura, Michael Stern (Deputy Speaker), Randy Stevenson, James Weston, Duane Windsor, Jim Young.

Senators absent: Ed Cox, Michael Deem, Michael Emerson, Matthias Henze, Eugene Levy (ex-officio), Nancy Niedzielski.

Total attendance: Approximately 45

I. Announcements (Deborah Harter, Speaker, unless otherwise indicated)

  • A revised policy regarding the privacy of electronic data belonging to faculty (Email Privacy Policy) should be ready for approval at the next Faculty Senate meeting.
  • The Upper Administrator Review Policy is also being updated and should be ready for the next Faculty Senate meeting.
  • A new policy on flexible sabbatical schedules is being prepared by Provost Levy.
  • The Teaching Committee has proposed a new way to consider non-academic events at the end of the school year; more on this topic at the next meeting.
  • Robin Forman, Dean of Undergraduates, and Brian Gibson, Director of Student Advising, briefly presented new developments in Student Advising. They stated they would like the advising process to become more rewarding for students, with less focus on class selection, and more opportunity to address bigger issues such as long-term goals. Gibson has met with the college masters and the division advisors; a total of about 65 faculty members. One change is that the RDA pin requirement will be removed as of Fall 2008, and seminars will be held regarding the new system. The two-tier advising process (divisional and major) will remain.
  • David Leebron announced that April 7, 14, and 21 are “Owl Days”-- dates when prospective students will tour RiceUniversity, and he encouraged faculty to be in their offices in order to speak with these students.

II. New language for the General Announcements regarding Student Attendance

Harter read aloud the following paragraph written by Jim Young, Chair of the Bylaws Committee:


Students are expected to attend all scheduled activities for all of the classes for which they are registered during the entire course of the academic semester for which they are enrolled. The Academic Calendar indicates normal class days, recesses, and holidays. Instructors, however, may schedule required activities on other days, including recesses, holidays, and weekends, if required by programmatic needs, such as laboratories or field trips. Such requirements must be clearly stated in the online course description available at registration and on the syllabus, and instructors should try to provide compensatory time off for students.

**** After a short discussion, the proposed language was unanimously approved for the General Announcements by a show of hands, effective immediately.

III. Defining Minors and Interdisciplinary Minors at Rice

Harter read aloud and distributed to the Senators a brief description of each of the three types of minors offered at Rice: Interdisciplinary Minors; Minors in Schools, Departments, Centers, and Programs not offering Undergraduate Majors in that Program of Study; and Departmental Minors. (To view the proposal, use this link: /sites/g/files/bxs1911/f/MinorsProposalApproved.pdf ) Harter stated that the second of the three types of minors was not well-defined by the Faculty Senate when this document was approved on May 10, 2006. The Executive Committee would now like to correct that language, and return to this topic at the next Faculty Senate meeting. Several Senators had suggestions as to how the language could be clarified, and one suggestion was simply to make the language in this proposal less specific in order to cover all types of minors.

Harter mentioned that the Center for the Study of Languages (CSL) has proposed a minor in Spanish language to the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC). Susan McIntosh, Chair of the CUC, has asked the Senate to clarify the language regarding a minor from a center such as the CSL. One concern is the overlap with the Hispanic Studies Department. Harter discussed the difference between a foreign language-only minor versus a minor involving the study of language, culture, and literature combined.

David Leebron said he would rather not discuss a specific proposal, but in general, he sees a fundamental problem with the current second category of minor in that it is too broad. He suggested that this is a complicated matter, and he discussed how academic authority is delegated within the university. He asked that any proposed minor be evaluated according to how it will affect the university.

Debbie Nelson-Campbell explained to the Senate that Spanish is by far the largest component of the CSL, with ten lecturers teaching Spanish next year. She said the CSL offers more than first and second-year Spanish; the proposed minor contains 14 courses of which 6 may be chosen to satisfy the minor’s requirements. She said the Spanish minor is not in competition with the Hispanic Studies Department, and she asked that the specific list of courses be reviewed by the Senate. In addition, it was stated that two-thirds of the fourteen Spanish courses are in the Distribution 1 category.

Harter asked Nelson-Campbell whether the Spanish Department agreed that the CSL proposed minor was not in competition with them. The question was not answered.

Susan McIntosh said that the CUC needs guidance due to the general lack of purpose and scope for Type II minors. She stated that centers have a different faculty structure than departments: often they do not include tenured faculty, and her committee wondered whether this reduced the long-term coherence of any program offered. They also wondered whether any minors a center might propose should use the same process as those from departments.

After a few more comments and some suggested wording provided by Robert Raphael, Harter suggested that the Executive Committee work on revising the language for minors and report back to the Faculty Senate at the next meeting.

IV. University Committees and their relationship to the Faculty Senate

Harter explained that the Senate leadership currently provides names to the president’s office for staffing the various University Committees. However, many of these committees have little to do with the Senate. Harter asked if a select number of the committees should be under the direction of the Senate, with the remainder given to the president’s office to manage.

Rebekah Drezek stated that steps were taken in this direction last year. She recommended that the Senate manage only the committees that are crucial to academics such as the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, the Graduate Council, and Examinations and Standings, among others. She used the Parking Committee as an example of a committee that does not need to be staffed or monitored by the Faculty Senate. She stated that the Senate could be more effective with the committees in this manner.

Randy Stevenson agreed with Drezek, stating that only the committees that are central to Rice’s academic mission should be under the direction of the Faculty Senate. He also recommended that the Faculty Senate continue to have working groups. These working groups are under the direction of the Faculty Senate, but they often reach out to other faculty who are not on the Senate for help.

Harter asked the group if they were indeed willing to give up control of many these University Committees, retaining just a select few. All agreed, so Harter said a list will be prepared and she will report back to the Senate.

V. Senate Elections Update and Suggestions

Mike Stern (Deputy Speaker) announced that Duane Windsor and Dale Sawyer ran unopposed and will thus each return to the Senate for a new three-year term. Sarah Ellenzweig also ran unopposed and will begin her term in the Fall. There were no candidates for the two Social Sciences seats, so Speaker Harter will appoint two persons to one-year terms. In addition, two seats are contested and the ballots are being received in the office of the Faculty Senate, due March 14, 2008.

Stern suggested an improvement to the current system, saying he recommends the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker be done at the last Faculty Senate meeting of the Spring semester instead of at the first meeting of the Fall semester. There was some discussion regarding the length of the terms of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, and whether the Deputy Speaker would automatically become Speaker. The general agreement was that each position would require an election; the Deputy does not automatically become the Speaker.

Stevenson stated that compensation for the Speaker needs to be addressed since it has become a very time-consuming job.

**** In conclusion, all agreed that the election for Speaker and Deputy Speaker should be held in the Spring, but the Executive Committee selection could wait until the Fall.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:50 p.m.