March 31, 2010

Faculty Senate Meeting - March 31, 2010

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall

Senators present: Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Steven Cox, Bridget Gorman, Jane Grande-Allen, Deborah Harter, John Hempel, Tom Killian, Phil Kortum, Mark Kulstad, David Leebron, Eugene Levy, Scott McGill, Susan McIntosh, Matteo Pasquali, Rob Raphael, Brian Rountree, Gautami Shah, Robin Sickles, Evan Siemann, John Sparagana, Randy Stevenson, Yizhi Jane Tao, Duane Windsor (Speaker), and Jim Young (Deputy Speaker).

Senators absent: Gregory Barnett, Sarah Ellenzweig, Dale Sawyer, Meredith Skura, and Devika Subramanian.


I. Call to order and introduction of new Rice Athletics Director Rick Greenspan

II. Reports (and one action item)

A. EX&S request for change in fall semester deadline for readmission after suspension from July 1 to June 1 (approved)

B. Executive Committee report concerning spring semester deadline to drop courses (recommending no change at this time)

C. Updated report from Working Group on Grade Inflation/Academic Honors

III. Announcements

A. Agenda items for April 21 Faculty Senate meeting:

1. Proposal for a Ph.D. in Sociology recommended by Graduate Council

2. Election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker for 2010-2011

3. Presentation of Executive Committee Slate for 2010-2011

4. Possible discussion of CRUP II report; currently on Owl-Space site

5. How to proceed with self-study of Faculty Senate

6. Speaker and Deputy Speaker may present some Bylaws proposals

7. Continued discussion of and possible action on documents concerning General Announcements and undergraduate programs

B. May 14 plenary meeting of the faculty will begin at 10:30 a.m. (instead of 10:00 a.m.) and close at 11:30, followed by a luncheon for reward recipients

C. Nominations and Elections Committee report from Deputy Speaker

IV. New Business

A. Motion to approve amended “Creating and Changing Graduate Programs” proposal from the Graduate Council (approved)

B. Discussion of two documents reviewed by Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum and the Senate Executive Committee

1. “Faculty Senate Oversight of the General Announcements”

2. “Creating, Administering, and Eliminating (Undergraduate) Majors and Minors at RiceUniversity”

V. Adjournment


I. Call to order: Duane Windsor, Speaker, called the meeting to order at 12:10 p.m. He explained that EX&S matters would be taken up early due to availability of the committee’s chair, followed by the revised report of the Senate Working Group on Grade Inflation / Academic Honors. He asked President Leebron to introduce the new Rice University athletics director, Rick Greenspan. Leebron stated that Greenspan is also in charge of the recreation center. Leebron described the process used in searching for a new athletic director, and he welcomed Greenspan to Rice, who was applauded by the assembled Senators. Greenspan stated that he is pleased to be at Rice, and he said that the university is a marvelous place with unique characteristics.

II. Reports

A. Proposal to change the deadline for fall readmission after suspension

The Chair of the Committee on Examinations and Standings (EX&S), Carl Caldwell, requested that the Senate change the fall semester deadline for students’ readmission to Rice after a suspension. Currently, the deadline for the fall semester is July 1; the request is to change it to June 1. Caldwell noted that this date will match a similar change recently requested by EX&S for the spring semester deadline. In that case, the Senate approved changing the deadline for readmission from December 1 to November 1. It was also noted that this new deadline will match the deadline currently used by academic advising. The proposal to change the fall deadline from July 1 to June 1 was approved by the Senate.

B. Discussion of spring semester drop deadline for freshmen

Windsor reported to the Senate a discussion that was held at the recent Executive Committee meeting regarding the deadline to drop classes in the spring semester. The question is whether freshmen are able to decide timely whether to drop a course.

Fall 2009 was the first semester in which the new add and drop deadlines were in effect, but since freshmen are allowed to drop a class in the fall until the last day of classes, the spring 2010 semester was thus the first time many freshmen were faced with the new drop deadline of seven weeks. This deadline coincides with the first grades that students receive from their professors. In addition, this year the deadline was immediately followed by the week-long spring break. However, Caldwell reported that EX&S was not overwhelmed by any large number of late requests by students to drop classes. In the spring 2010 semester, there were 21 petitions received by EX&S to drop a class. Eight petitions were approved administratively for reasons such as errors in computer input. Of the remaining 13, seven requests were from freshmen. After some discussion, it was decided that no action is to be taken by the Senate at this time. David Tenney, Registrar, noted that the deadline to change the status of a class to pass/fail is later, at week 10, three weeks after a student has received at least one grade. Windsor requested that EX&S send a written report to the Senate at the end of the academic year, and the matter will be re-examined by the Senate in fall 2010.

C. Updated report from Working Group on Grade Inflation/Academic Honors

Randy Batsell, Chair, presented an updated report from the Senate’s Working Group on Grade Inflation/Academic Honors. He thanked David Tenney for his continued support to the working group. Following presentation of the information, Batsell proposed options for Senate action. Various Senators had questions or comments. Deborah Harter that she would like to find a way for Rice to award a grade higher than an A. Tom Killian acknowledged that grade inflation exists, but he wondered whether it might be a problem only when it comes to determining academic honors. Randy Stevenson questioned whether grade inflation is an issue that the Faculty Senate should address. Harter suggested that academic honors not be based just on a student’s grade point average. A show of hands called for by Windsor indicated that a strong majority of Senators thought both grade inflation and academic honors are problems. Windsor stated that perhaps the Senate’s strategy should be to review how academic honors are awarded, and not focus on grade inflation. He said the matter will be referred back to the Executive Committee for discussion.

III. Announcements

A. Windsor announced various items that likely will be placed on the agenda for the April 21 Faculty Senate meeting (see Agenda III-A above for the list).

B. Windsor also announced that the May 14 plenary meeting of the faculty will begin at 10:30 a.m. (instead of 10:00) and close at 11:30, followed by a recognition luncheon. President Leebron stated that the teaching awards will be presented at the luncheon instead of the plenary meeting in an effort to better recognize the awards recipients.

C. Deputy Speaker Jim Young, Chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC), updated the Senate on the NEC’s recent actions. The vacating Promotion and Tenure Committee seats have been filled by Ussama Makdisi (History) and William Veech (Math).

Second, there are 12 seats due for election (or re-election) on the Faculty Senate this year; usually there are less than 10. Young stated that there will be some adjustments made in term lengths to remedy this situation in the future. He announced the following individuals who ran unopposed and are thus elected to new terms in the Senate beginning fall 2010:

1. Randy Batsell, Jones Graduate School of Business

2. Danijela Damjanovic, Natural Sciences

3. John Hutchinson, Natural Sciences

4. Tom Killian, Natural Sciences

5. Ramon Gonzales, Assistant Professor, representing Natural Sciences and Engineering

Young stated that three individuals turned in completed nomination forms for the two open seats in the School of Engineering, so an election is currently being held. In the HumanitiesSchool, Mark Kulstad has been appointed to a one-year term of service, and three additional Humanities Senators must also be appointed. The remaining Senator to be appointed will represent the Non-Tenure-Track Research faculty.

Regarding the NEC, Young explained that its duties include filling the rest of the Senate seats, preparing an Executive Committee slate, and recommending faculty for the University Committees, particularly the five whose work is crucial to the Senate. Young proposed that its members include Jane Grande-Allen, Brian Rountree, Scott McGill, Robin Sickles, Sarah Ellenzweig, Jane Tao, and Evan Siemann, for a total of seven. Composition of the NEC was approved by the Senate.

Rob Raphael asked about process for election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.Windsor explained that he had stated at the February meeting that any individuals interested in standing for Speaker or Deputy Speaker should notify him in advance of the April meeting. Young announced that he does not wish to run for Deputy Speaker next year as it will be his last year on the Senate, and both he and Harter encouraged others to run. Ideally, the Deputy Speaker later becomes the Speaker and thus benefits from his/her experience as Deputy Speaker. He explained that nomination forms are not needed and the election will occur at the April Senate meeting. Randy Stevenson encouraged all candidates, including incumbents, to write a statement of what they would like to accomplish while Speaker.

IV. New Business

A. “Creating and Changing Graduate Programs” proposal

John Olson, Interim Chair of the Graduate Council, presented the “Creating and Changing Graduate Programs” proposal. Olson explained the document point by point, and he said that this proposal will apply for all new graduate programs and for all major changes to existing graduate programs. Windsor stated that the document was sent to the Senate by the Graduate Council a year ago, but its approval was postponed until a similar document for the Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum could also be reviewed. However, the Graduate Council been operating according to its guidelines in the meantime. Randy Stevenson suggested a slight revision to paragraph 1 on page 1, replacing the language regarding the Vision for the Second Century with more general language. A motion, seconded, to approve the amended document was passed by the Senate. Please use this link to view the approved proposal: Creating and Changing Graduate Programs.

B. Discussion of two documents reviewed by the Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC) and Senate Executive Committee

1. Faculty Senate Oversight of the General Announcements

Randy Stevenson presented a one-page document entitled “Faculty Senate Oversight of the General Announcements” which contained three sections: an introduction, a section on ex-ante review, and a section on ex-post review. Stevenson explained that certain changes to the General Announcements (GA) must be pre-approved by the Senate before being included in the GA. In addition, allchanges to the GA must be submitted to the Senate each fall in a report provided by the Provost’s office. The Senate may then make further changes if necessary. Although action was not required at this time, Windsor asked that the Senators read and discuss the document.

2. Creating, Administering, and Eliminating (Undergraduate) Majors and Minors atRice University

Stevenson presented a document entitled “Creating, Administering, and Eliminating (Undergraduate) Majors and Minors at Rice University.” He stated that one point in the document that he wished to bring to the attention of the Senate is departmental responsibility for administering inter-disciplinary majors and minors must be formally indicated on any proposal. Also, all programs must align into one of four categories: departmental majors, departmental minors, interdisciplinary majors, or interdisciplinary minors.

Again, although action was not required at this time, Windsor asked that the Senators read and discuss the document. He also asked that the Senators email the Senate Assistant, Sharon Mathews, with any questions or problems they may have regarding these documents. ( or

V. Adjournment

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