March 20, 2013

Faculty Senate Meeting - March 20, 2013
Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall

Agenda and Actions Taken (in bold):

I. Call to order and welcome

II. Remarks from President Leebron

III. Announcements

A. Revised charge for Working Group on Laboratory Safety

B. Report from Nominations and Elections Committee

C. Strong suggestion from Graduate Council regarding written assessment; Senate Resolution (Approved)

IV. Working Group Reports

A. Conflict of Commitment: Revised Policy (Approved)

B. Online Education: Final Report

C. Research and Scholarship: April 11 Session

V. New Business

A. Proposed amendment to Bylaws: removal of assistant professor requirement on the Executive Committee (Approved)

B. Proposed hard cap on undergraduate enrollment at 24 credit hours per semester (Approved)

C. Next Senate Meeting

Senators in attendance: David Alexander, Gregory Barnett, Kate Beckingham, Carl Caldwell, Dave Caprette, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Danijela Damjanovic, Mahmoud El-Gamal, Jane Grande-Allen, Christopher Hight, Rachel Kimbro, Jonathan Ludwig, Lanny Martin, Fred Oswald, Randy Batsell, Stan Sazykin, David Scott, Michael Stern, Ruth Lopez Turley, James Weston, ex-offico members David Leebron and George McLendon.

Senators absent: Robert Atherholt, Christian Emden, Rebecca Goetz, Shirine Hamadeh, Illya Hicks, Betty Joseph, Michael Kohn, Anatoly Kolomeisky, Helena Michie, Rob Raphael, and Moshe Vardi.

PROCEEDINGS (To listen to an audio tape of this meeting, email

I. Call to order and welcome

Faculty Senate Speaker Carl Caldwell called the meeting to order at 11:45 a.m. He asked senators to sign the proclamation honoring former Board of Trustees chairman James Crownover, followed by signatures from other faculty members in attendance.

II. Remarks from President Leebron

President Leebron said that he wished to speak generally about two topics: the financial status of the university and its strategic priorities for the next few years. He said it was important for senators to know and think about these topics.

Regarding finances, Leebron stated that the administration is currently in the middle of its annual budget planning. He discussed the endowment returns, and he said that overall, the university is in good shape financially.

President Leebron then listed seven emerging strategic priorities for the university over the next three to five years, prefacing the list with the ongoing priority of recruitment and retention of the very best faculty.

  • Digital education and [separately] teaching quality, with the engagement of the Senate and the faculty in a conversation about teaching quality at Rice
  • Research environment and graduate student quality
  • Energy and water, which emerged from the Energy & Environment Initiative
  • Texas Medical Center and deepening our relationship with it; the BRC; neuroscience minor
  • The Arts Initiative, including the new Moody Arts Center
  • The entrepreneurial aspect of the university, including students and faculty
  • International; developing the second stage of our international strategy

Leebron explained that most of these items fall under the Vision for the Second Century. He said that there are currently no new growth plans; rather, we want to digest what we have accomplished so far, and make sure we have the right processes in place for these priorities, including faculty consultation and involvement.

Following the president’s remarks, Caldwell stated that each of these priorities has involved the faculty and the Senate. A few senators had questions for President Leebron, summarized below:

Question: Does “international” refer to how we relate to international students or does it mean how we deal with the fact that some universities are about to become bigger internationally?

Answer: There are a lot of issues; how to provide students with an international experience is one aspect. Yale and NYU are both about to open new international campuses, and Columbia has used the strategy of creating outposts around the world. Rice has a much more international student body than we had seven or eight years ago, and we have a number of great relationships with top-flight universities around the world, but we have not done any of those big, bold steps, and I am not sure we should. We are still in the process of building strategic relationships with universities that are like us and especially some at which the language of instruction is English.

Deputy Speaker Jane Grande-Allen asked the senators to distribute the meeting minutes containing President Leebron’s comments to their colleagues, and also to discuss the strategic priorities in their next departmental meeting. Leebron mentioned that the annual State of the University address will occur in the fall, and he requested that it be held earlier rather than later (September instead of October). He also asked that the senators let him know of any other ideas they might have regarding communication.

Question: In the discussions regarding the new Arts Center, there are plans to make spaces for art, dance, and drama; the kinds of activities that take place in a student union at many universities, but which we have been lacking here at Rice. Has there been any discussion about addressing the student union problem?

Answer: The number one priority citied in the “Student Vision for the Second Century,” (no longer available) which I encourage you to read, was renovation of the Rice Memorial Student Center (RMC). The undergraduates want cross-campus support and facilities. A lot will depend upon donors and their desires, as well as the academic priorities of the deans. There is clearly a need for student spaces, and the Arts Center will provide additional spaces.

Caldwell thanked President Leebron for his remarks.

III. Announcements

A. Revised charge for the Working Group on Laboratory Safety

Caldwell presented the revised charge for the Working Group on Laboratory Safety:

To assess the state of research laboratory safety across campus;
To propose a new organizational structure that fosters and maintains a culture and practice of lab safety;
To issue recommendations to improve the process for safety training, oversight, and compliance.

B. Report from Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC)

NEC Chair Jane Grande-Allen stated that the committee has had great success with elections this year, starting with the election of April DeConick to the Promotion and Tenure Committee for a three year term, representing the School of Humanities.

Grande-Allen then listed the faculty members elected to serve on the Faculty Senate:

Engineering (2): Laura Segatori, Luay Nakhleh
Humanities (3): Graham Bader, Claire Fanger, Julie Fette
Natural Sciences (2): Christopher Johns-Krull, Gerald Dickens, Michael Wolf; an electronic election is required
Social Sciences (1): Royce Carroll, Jeffrey Fleisher; electronic election required
Architecture (1 one-year term): Dawn Finley

C. Strong suggestion from the Graduate Council regarding written assessment

Caldwell explained that the Graduate Council had considered recommending a change in the General Announcements (GA). However the committee instead voted unanimously to endorse the current wording of the GA requirement that departments must provide post-candidacy, doctoral students with an annual written assessment of their academic progress.

The Graduate Council also strongly recommends that the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies ensures that all programs generate annual written evaluations that are available in each student’s file. Each department or program must annually confirm to the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (OGPS) that written evaluations were obtained and are on file for each post-candidacy student.

Caldwell stated that the Executive Committee agrees with the Graduate Council and proposes the following resolution, to be followed by discussion:

Proposed Resolution from Senate

The Faculty Senate strongly endorses the existing GA requirements that departments must provide post-candidacy, doctoral students with an annual written assessment of their work. It furthermore calls upon the Office of Graduate Studies to enforce this rule vigorously.

Paula Sanders, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, stated that although everyone agrees with rules, many find it difficult to implement them. She said that this resolution would make her job of ensuring that faculty members follow the rules easier.

David Alexander said that he approved of the resolution, but he questioned the use of the word “vigorously.” A discussion ensued, with a motion to remove the word “vigorously,” which was seconded. However, the motion failed; the resolution’s wording was not changed.

Sanders then suggested that “vigorously” be changed to “consistently.” Provost McLendon stated that the exact wording does not matter; the Senate has conveyed to Sanders its feelings on the matter. The resolution was approved by unanimous vote.

IV. Working Group Reports

A. Working Group on Conflict of Commitment

James Weston, chair of the working group, explained the two revisions to the proposed policy on Conflict of Commitment. He said that the term “eight hours” had been replaced with “one day” throughout the document. In addition, a sentence was added to the third paragraph: “Any paid activity that crosses this threshold must be disclosed.”

A discussion followed. David Alexander asked if any paid activity outside Rice must be disclosed. Weston’s reply was no; for example, if a faculty member were to work one half-day per week on behalf of an outside organization with pay, he/she would not need to disclose that activity.

Weston was also asked about faculty who work outside of Rice during the summer. His reply was that if the faculty member is receiving summer support from Rice, then he/she must disclose the outside activity. If the faculty member is not paid by Rice during the summer, then there’s no need to disclose.

Another question for Weston was regarding pay during sabbaticals, which Weston said would depend upon the faculty member’s contract with the dean. Provost McLendon said that if there is an unusual sabbatical situation, it must be discussed with the dean. He added that when a faculty member makes a sabbatical request, he/she will be asked to explain what he/she plans to do while on sabbatical.

McLendon also said that, in general, if there is a conflict, the faculty member must disclose it. Also, if a conflict of commitment exists, it is okay as long as the dean is aware and approves it. He said it is not okay for the faculty member to make this decision.

Weston was asked about a hypothetical situation: what if a faculty member worked three days per week for a group such as Habitat for Humanity for free? Weston said that it must be disclosed to the dean.

Weston was also asked about the change in the document’s wording from “8 hours” to “one day” per week and if it should it be further changed to “one work day.” Weston encouraged the group to leave the revised wording as is, saying that the document is just providing guidelines; the deans will make the decisions.

The Senate voted unanimously to approve the revised document. The entire document can be viewed here: Conflict of Commitment.

B. Working Group on Online Education

David Alexander, chair of the working group, thanked the members of his working group: Margaret Beier, John Greiner, Don Johson, Kirsten Ostherr, Fred Oswald, and Matt Taylor. He then presented to the Senate the slides attached here: Final Report to the Faculty SenateAlexander pointed out that the group’s recommendations are really for the entire Rice community, not only the Senate.

Alexander stated the working group’s three main recommendations:
1. Establish a Faculty Committee for Online Education (FCOE).
1A: We recommend that the Faculty Senate work with the FCOE and the university administration to develop an organizational structure that effectively covers all issues associated with online education at Rice.
2. Provide necessary resources for the development and implementation of online courses.
3. Establish a long-term strategy committee.

Following Alexander’s presentation, Provost McLendon stated that the working group did a great job. He also said that he liked the way that the first recommendation was modified to include 1A.

Speaker Caldwell also praised the working group, and he said that all three recommendations have already been put into motion. The final report, including two apprendices, can be found on the Senate’s wiki site:

C. Working Group on Research and Scholarship

On behalf of working group chair Moshe Vardi, Caldwell announced the following:

Public Lecture: "Building Rice's Human and Organizational Capital"
April 11, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m., in McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall

V. New Business

A. Proposed amendment to Bylaws: removal of assistant professor requirement on the Executive Committee

Caldwell explained that since the Senate previously removed the requirement that an Assistant Professor serve on the Faculty Senate, there is also a need to remove the requirement from the Bylaws that an Assistant Professor serve on the Executive Committee.

Proposed amendment to Faculty Senate Bylaws, Section 6.1, Executive Committee

Eliminate the following:

“… and one Senator whose appointment is as a tenure-track assistant professor at the time of his or her election.”

Caldwell stated that the motion came moved and seconded from the EC. The Senate voted unanimously to approve the motion. View the Bylaws.


B. Proposed hard cap on undergraduate enrollment at 24 credit hours per semester

Caldwell said that it is not always clear if an issue such as the number of credit hours allowed per semester is under the jurisdiction of the Faculty Senate, but one could argue that it is a curricular issue. He said that some students are receiving permission from the Dean of Undergraduates Office to take as many as 27 credit hours, or 9 courses, per semester. Often, these students do not intend to finish all of these courses, and they are holding a place that other students might need. Caldwell said that the CUC has proposed a hard cap on undergraduate enrollment at 24 credit hours per semester, which the EC has moved and seconded for Senate approval.

Undergraduate Dean John Hutchinson stated that the maximum number of hours per semester for which a student may register is 20 hours; anything above 20 requires permission. Hutchinson said that his office gets approximately 20 requests per year from students to take more than 24 hours, which they usually turn down. Hutchinson said he has even received requests from students to take 30 hours in a single semester. He said that the requested “hard cap” of 24 hours will mean that his office will not even have to consider requests above this number.

Alexander stated that 24 hours per semester is too high; why not make it 21? Hutchinson said that his office could still turn down anything over 20, but he preferred 24 over 21, saying that some students are intense about their studies. David Scott noted that some foreign language classes require 5 or 6 hours credit due to language labs.

Hutchinson was asked if the 20-hour per semester (more with permission) rule applied to freshmen. His reply was that although the same rule applies to all undergraduates, he will not approve anything over 20 hours for freshmen. Provost McLendon said he would like a specific statement in the GA regarding freshmen if their requests are just going to be denied; otherwise, it creates an unnecessary work load for all involved.

Caldwell said that what he preferred was that the freshman issue be added to a list of issues that the Senate should address next year through a specific working group, to include course overload and pass/fail, so that consequences of each action can be weighed.

Hutchinson was asked if the 24-hour maximum was an effort to reduce “class shopping” by the students. He said yes, he hoped it would limit shopping. He also said that as of fall 2013, any “overages” (requests to take over 20 hours) will not be considered by his office until all students have registered. He added that any overages his office approves will be on a space-available basis after all other students have registered.

The final question for Hutchinson was if the hard cap of 24 hours is approved, can students who wish to take more than 24 hours then appeal to the Committee for Examinations and Standing (EX&S)? Hutchinson said that any student may appeal to EX&S, but he predicted that the committee would not approve the request.

The Senate voted unanimously to approve the 24-hours per semester hard cap.View the approved motion.

C. Next Senate Meeting

Caldwell informed the senators that next month’s meeting, the last of the academic year, will have a full agenda, primarily with reports from working groups:

• WG on Grade Inflation

• WG on Faculty Salaries

• WG on Research and Scholarship

• WG on Laboratory Safety

• WG on NTT Faculty

He said that even though there may not be issues which will require voting by the senators at the next meeting, he asked that they attend in order to hear and discuss the reports, and to determine the agenda for next year.

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