March 26, 2014

Faculty Senate Meeting - March 26, 2014

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall

Agenda (and Actions Taken):

I. Call to Order

II. Announcements

A. Update on Linguistics Graduate Program Review

B. Update on BRC Leasing and Brief Report from President Leebron

C. Items for April Faculty Senate Meeting

III. Working Group and Committee Reports

A. “Guidelines for the Awarding of Undergraduate Academic Credit for Study Away from Rice University” (Approved)

B. Proposed Amendment of Transfer Credit Policy (Approved)

C. Update from Nominations and Elections Committee Chair James Weston

IV. New Business

A. Main motion to revise Senate Bylaws Section 6.2 (Approved

B. Main motions from the Working Group on Grade Inflation (Approved)


Senators present: David Alexander, Robert Atherholt, Graham Bader, Carl Caldwell, David Caprette, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Claire Fanger, Julie Fette, Dawn Finley, Jeffrey Fleisher, Christopher Hight, Betty Joseph, Rachel Kimbro, Michael Kohn, Anatoly Kolomeisky, David Leebron, Jonathan Ludwig, Susan McIntosh, Helena Michie, Luay Nakhleh, Fred Oswald, Brian Rountree, Stan Sazykin, David Scott, Laura Segatori, Ruth Lopez Turley, James Weston, and Michael Wolf.

Senators absent: Kate Beckingham, Jerry Dickens, Michael Diehl, George McLendon.

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

I. Call to Order
Speaker Carl Caldwell called the meeting to order at 12:00 p.m. He congratulated two senators, Jeff Fleisher and Laura Segatori, on their recent promotions.

II. Announcements

A. Update on the Linguistics Graduate Program ReviewCaldwell announced that discussions are currently occurring between the administration and the Linguistics department; an update is expected by the April Senate meeting.

B. Update on BioScience Research Collaborative and Report from President Leebron

President Leebron said that the possible arrangement with Alexandria Real Estate regarding the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) is not going to occur. He said that the BRC is now 70% occupied, and he hopes it will be 100% occupied in the near future.

President Leebron congratulated the senators who were recently promoted, and he praised the faculty members serving on the Faculty Senate. He also thanked Keith Cooper for his work on the new collection of commencement ceremonies. Leebron then made the following presentation: Priorities for the New Century, which he said was partly in reply to the report from the Working Group on Research and Scholarship. The question and answer session which followed the presentation is summarized below

Question: Regarding the allocation of the resources we have at Rice, Rice’s size is our biggest challenge, in my opinion. Could you comment on that issue?

Answer: The question is not whether Rice should be large or small, but where we should be between tiny and small. My goal is an entering class of 950 undergraduates.

Question: My question is more about the size of faculty and departments. The departments are under some stress.

Answer: The stress varies across campus; instead of the (planned) 30% increase in enrollment, certain departments had a 50 or 100% increase. Rice’s 6-to-1 student to faculty ratio remains one of the lowest in the country. Our financial ability to make that 5-to-1 or 4-to-1 does not exist. We would like to grow our faculty numbers, but we are being very strategic with our choices.

Question: Is additional support being considered to bolster the experience of the international undergraduate and graduate students?

Answer: There are now about 100 international undergraduate students per entering class. Many things compete for resources—departments, parking, student support.

Question: Do you know how many students in the 2014 class are targeting Humanities?
Answer: I do not know; this may be a good topic for faculty to discuss. Faculty guidance on what the admissions office should seek in a class is valuable.

Speaker Caldwell introduced Rice University Board of Trustees member Judge Lee Rosenthal. Judge Rosenthal said that she was pleased to attend a Faculty Senate meeting, and that as a member of the Board’s Academic Affairs Committee, she has been very interested in the issues that the Faculty Senate considers important. She thanked the senators for their service to Rice University.

C. Items for the April 2014 Faculty Senate Meeting

Speaker Caldwell announced that a report from the Working Group on Decanal Reviews will be presented in the April meeting, as well as a report from the Working Group on the Honor Code and Graduate Students. In addition, Caldwell said that he intends to nominate James Weston for Speaker and Rachel Kimbro for Deputy Speaker during the April Senate meeting.

III. Working Group and Committee Reports

A. “Guidelines for the Awarding of Undergraduate Academic Credit for Study Away from Rice University”

Susan McIntosh, Chair of the University Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC), explained that the CUC has developed a set of guidelines in response to the expanding numbers of curricular issues that involve course work away from Rice.

McIntosh reviewed the three options currently used for awarding undergraduate students Rice credit directly as the institution of record: Direct Rice management of coursework or program at another locationRice contracts with a third party to operate a programRice awards “Credit by Examination.” She said that in cases where Rice is not the institution of record, such as the typical study abroad program, transfer credit can be awarded, although the course work is not generally guaranteed to transfer for departmental or Rice-equivalent credit. McIntosh explained that courses that fall outside the boundaries of departmental offerings receive the TRAN (transfer) designation; the grades do not transfer nor do they count toward the Rice student’s grade point average (GPA).

McIntosh said that in reviewing a proposal from the English Department for undergraduate study at three select universities abroad, the CUC saw that the proposal did not comply under any of the three current Rice modalities for awarding credit as the institution of record. The CUC thus developed a process in which pre-approved, specially designated courses can result in grades that can be transferred and calculated in the student’s GPA. McIntosh said that a change in Rice’s transfer policy would be required. McIntosh also suggested that a process map for each program be submitted to the CUC.

Caldwell stated that members of the Executive Committee had been discussing the proposed guidelines document over the past 48 hours and concerns have arisen regarding unintended consequences. He said that the EC is thus asking the CUC to re-examine the guidelines document in one year. Caldwell elaborated on the request, saying that one concern is that a grade is being given to a Rice student from elsewhere which will go on the student’s transcript—if there is an error, where does the student go to challenge the grade? What will be the process if the other institution uses a different grade scale? Second, Caldwell asked that Section 5 of the guidelines document be arranged more clearly and chronologically. Caldwell and James Weston, Deputy Speaker, said that the EC approved of the document; they just wished to tweak it.

Three members of the English Department offered comments about their specific proposal. Following these comments, Caldwell said that the EC had moved and seconded that the guidelines document be approved by the Senate. The Senate then voted to approve the document, with one opposed. To view the document, please see “Guidelines for the Awarding of Undergraduate Academic Credit for Study Away from Rice University.”

B. Proposed amendment of Transfer Credit Policy

McIntosh presented a proposal from the CUC to amend Rice University’s Transfer Credit Policy for specifically defined courses, as mentioned in the previous discussion.

Language for the General Announcements:

All coursework must have earned a grade of at least a C- or the equivalent. Students may not transfer courses taken pass/fail or on a similar basis at other institutions. Grades earned for transfer credit are not entered on the Rice transcript, and transferred courses have no effect on a student's Rice grade point average. Generally, grades earned for transfer credit are not entered on the Rice transcript, and transferred courses have no effect on a student’s Rice grade point average. However, where coursework taken at other institutions has been approved by the faculty as an explicitly specified component to a program’s curriculum, the courses will be entered on the transcript and counted in the student’s Rice grade point average (including grades lower than C-). Such opportunities are listed in the program curriculum description.

After a short discussion, the Senate voted to approve the amended policy, with one abstention.

C. Update from Nominations and Elections Committee

James Weston, chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC), gave an update to the Senate regarding the committee’s actions. Weston said that there were four seats open on the Promotion and Tenure Committee, with three filled by election; the School of Social Sciences representative will be appointed. Regarding the Faculty Senate elections, Weston said that all seats were filled by election, with two contested elections to begin March 31: Non-Tenure Track Teaching and Jones School, in which Weston is a candidate. He said that the final task of the NEC will be the staffing of the University Committees.

IV. New Business

A. Motion: Revise Section 6.2 of Senate Bylaws to reflect end of University Council

Caldwell presented the following change to the Senate Bylaws, Section 6.2, a motion for which had been moved and seconded by the EC:

6.2 Nominations and Elections Committee. The Nominations and Elections Committee will conduct elections, work to improve the quality of nominations and participation in elections, recommend to the Executive Committee University Standing Committee membership for submission to the President, monitor the staggering of terms and propose remedies as necessary, nominate members of the University Council, nominate slates of candidates for the Executive Committee of the subsequent Senate (as outlined in Section 6.1), and work on any other matters germane to elections and nominations delegated to it by the Speaker.

The Senate voted unanimously to approve the motion.

B. Motions from the Working Group on Grade Inflation

Working Group co-chairs Jane Grande-Allen and Evan Siemann distributed the working group’s final report to the assembled senators and guests, and it had been available to all faculty members on the Senate’s wiki space prior to the meeting. Grande-Allen explained that the working group’s motions had been reduced from five to three, as shown below. The three motions came to the Senate having been moved and seconded for approval by the Executive Committee.

Motion 1: Every academic program that offers 100 to 300 level courses will have a faculty-wide discussion about grading practices before the end of the fall 2014 semester and thereafter at least once every 5 years.

Motion 2: Effective in Fall of 2018 semester, the grade A+ will be worth 4.0, not 4.33, in calculating the GPA.

Motion 3: In promotion and tenure abstracts, student ratings of instructor effectiveness should be supplemented by additional evidence of effective, quality teaching. Options for these materials include, but are not limited to, peer and/or chair observations of teaching and the inclusion of teaching artifacts (such as syllabi, assignments, exams, etc.) in promotion and tenure dossiers. This motion recommends that the Committee on Teaching consider our proposals for changing the promotion and tenure policies to this effect.

A discussion ensued among the senators. Susan McIntosh asked how, if the motions were approved by the Senate, could the faculty be encouraged to comply with them. She said that several of the Senate’s previously approved proposals, such as the Online Access Policy and the obligatory Syllabus Policy, are often ignored by faculty members. McIntosh said that she would like the Senate to determine oversight responsibility for the motions. Grande-Allen explained that the working group considered including accountability to the Senate within the motion, but it was also the item that the faculty disagreed with most frequently. Caldwell stated that the Senate must rely on administrative structures such as department chairs, deans, and the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs (VPAA) to take the Senate-approved policies seriously. He said that if the motions were approved, the Senate would need to go to the VPAA and ask for implementation. The senators were also directed to the full report, which included implementation strategies. After a few more comments, a motion to call the question (end discussion and proceed to the vote) was moved and seconded. The senators voted to approve the motion to call the question. Next, the vote on the main motion (Motion 1) was held. Motion 1 was unanimously approved.

The Senate held a more lengthy discussion regarding Motion 2, with frequent input from Registrar David Tenney. It was noted that the implementation date of Fall 2018 must be included in the General Announcements for 2014-2015 so that the Fall 2014 incoming students are notified. After the discussion became focused on implementation issues, Caldwell reminded the senators that the motion was regarding the new value of an A+, not its implementation. Michael Wolf requested a straw vote among the senators regarding Motion 2. Caldwell thus held a straw vote; 11 senators were in favor of Motion 2, while 8 were opposed. Following the straw vote, the Senate voted on Motion 2, with 12 senators voting for approval and 9 opposed. Motion 2 was thus approved.

Caldwell also held a straw vote regarding Motion 3, for which the senators indicated approval. The Senate then officially voted on Motion 3, and it was unanimously approved. Please see: Final ReportAppendix1Appendix 2, and Appendix 3.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.