November 12, 2008

Minutes of the Faculty Senate Meeting - November 12, 2008

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall


I. Announcements (Deborah Harter, Speaker of the Faculty Senate)

II. Student Counseling Center (Robin Forman, Dean of Undergraduates)

III. Proposal for a Minor in Spanish Language (Jeffrey Kripal, CUC Subcommittee Chair)

IV. Add/Drop Deadlines to begin next year (Deborah Harter)

V. The State of Athletics (Chris Del Conte, Director of Athletics)

Senators present: Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Ed Cox, Steven Cox, Michael Deem, Sarah Ellenzweig, Deborah Harter (Speaker), John Hempel, Devika Subramanian, Ben Kamins, Tom Killian, Phil Kortum, David Leebron, Eugene Levy, Matteo Pasquali, Robert Raphael, Dale Sawyer, Gautami Shah, Evan Siemann, Meredith Skura, Mike Stern, Randy Stevenson, Duane Windsor (Deputy Speaker) , Jim Young

Senators absent: Christian Emden, Michael Emerson, Matthias Henze, Peter Mieszkowski, Caroline Quenemoen, James Weston


I. Announcements

Speaker Deborah Harter explained that the email she sent to the Senators prior to the meeting was returned to her with an error message. She stated that the information from that email was now in paper form at each Senator’s seat for today’s meeting. Other announcements:

  • A proposal for a new minor in Jewish Studies has been sent to the Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC).

  • President Leebron is arranging for a speaker at the December 3, 2008, Senate meeting who will guide a discussion on retirement investment options.

  • The NSF Advance Network, which has recently begun a five-year, $3.3 million project to increase the participation of women in the schools of Natural Science and Engineering, has recently announced that they would like to expand this program to other schools.

  • A complaint has been received that the Pres-Fac listserv (email distribution system) had too many emails being sent on it. Harter asked if others had found this to be the case, but none of the Senators present expressed a problem.

  • Harter asked for a Senator to volunteer to be the liaison to the University Committee on Faculty and Staff Benefits, and Randy Batsell volunteered. He will replace Duane Windsor.

President Leebron mentioned the recent Houston Chronicle article which discussed the possible merger ofRice University and the Baylor College of Medicine. Leebron said the Chronicle report made it sound like the merger is definitely happening, while an editorial in the Chronicle more accurately stated that discussions are on-going. Harter stated that she had been contacted by reporters and alumni on this issue, and she reminded all that any information they have is to be considered confidential. She also said to refer any inquiries to Linda Thrane, the Rice University Vice President of Public Affairs.

II. Student Counseling Center

Robin Forman, Dean of Undergraduates, said that the Counseling Center at Rice is facing great challenges, and that this situation exists at every college across the country. Rice is working to maintain the center in a cost-effective, safe manner. Forman discussed three developments that have occurred:

  • There is an increase in the number of students attending college today who have psychological disorders. This increase is due to many things, including medication, which has allowed more students to attend college who might not have made it this far academically in the past.

  • The current generation of students needs or seeks help more often for situations that past generations would probably have handled on their own.

  • Some students and parents have unrealistic expectations of service, such as immediate appointments or long-term care.

Forman also announced some changes that the Counseling Center is currently adopting:

  • Students who call the center will be notified that a two-week wait for an appointment is likely. (Forman stated this wait time is common at other universities.)

  • To allow for urgent matters, the daily schedule will always include one open hour.

  • Any student who calls for an appointment will receive a 15-minute phone call from a therapist within 24 hours who will assess the urgency of the situation (versus the current self-assessment by the student).

Ben Kamins asked if there was a possibility of moving the Counseling Center to a handicap-accessible location. Forman replied that this possibility has been discussed, and there is also a need to find a space that will allow for more counselors. He said some possible locations may be opening up soon. In addition, occasionally counselors are being placed in open offices in academic buildings to encourage students to visit them.

Forman said the students are being encouraged to seek help earlier, and faculty members are encouraged to let his office know if students miss classes or exams. He also stated that some international students are reluctant to seek help which presents another challenge. In addition, he stated, graduate students may not be aware of the process involved with their academic program (unlike undergraduates) and he encouraged faculty to reach out to them.

Rob Raphael asked if evening hours were being considered for the Counseling Center, and the reply from Forman was that although this option is being considered, he is not sure that standard evening hours are appropriate. He stated that bridge services might be useful for problems that happen during the night.

Harter asked if a hotline could be established, perhaps manned by students, even undergraduate students, but Forman said the university wants to be very careful about the role students would play due to privacy and other legal issues. Forman also stated that a student may place an emergency call to the center at any time and someone will return the call within 15 minutes.

Harter invited Forman to return to a Faculty Senate meeting in the spring to update the Senators with news regarding the Counseling Center.

III. Proposal for a Minor in Spanish Language

Jeffrey Kripal, Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC) subcommittee Chair, announced that his subcommittee had made an assessment of the proposal from the Center for the Study of Languages (CSL) for a minor in Spanish language, and that the recommendation from the subcommittee was that the CUC not approve the minor at this time.

Susan McIntosh, Chair of the CUC, then gave a timeline of this proposal, and discussion with the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate concerning interpretation of Type II minors. The CUC unanimously voted to accept the subcommittee recommendation against the proposed Spanish minor.

Kripal added that Jose Aranda (Chairman, Department of Hispanic Studies) and Wendy Freeman (Director, CSL) were very cooperative and collegial during the entire process. Kripal stated that a minor must add new intellectual content and not encroach on existing departments. If the Hispanic Studies Department wanted a minor in the future, it would be structured a lot like this proposal from the CSL. Aranda and Freeman will examine how to proceed from this point on a cooperative basis.

Jim Young noted that since the CUC has turned down the proposal for a minor in Spanish language, the Senate does not have a proposal on which to vote. He also stated that the desire for this minor came from the students who wish to document their language expertise, and he asked if there was another way to do so, perhaps with a national exam.

Randy Batsell asked about the difference between language-only courses in the CSL versus courses within the Hispanic Department. The reply was that the department courses include the study of culture and literature and they have a structured degree path. Tom Killian also asked about this relationship. Gautami Shah stated that she would like the students of Spanish language to have recognition for their study.

Peggy Jo Patterson, a lecturer in the CSL, explained there are various Spanish language courses being taught for specialized purposes, such as scientific Spanish.

Rob Raphael stated he thought a new working relationship could develop and a new proposal come forth.

IV. Add/Drop deadlines to begin next year

Evan Siemann, Chair of the Academic Calendar Working Group, asked that discussion of this item be postponed. Harter agreed.

V. The State of Athletics

Chris Del Conte, Director of Athletics, told the Senate the current national ranking of several Rice teams: football—46th with a 7 win, 3 loss record, volleyball—25th, women’s cross country—20th, and the men’s cross country team recently came in 3rd in the Conference USA tournament.

In the classroom, Del Conte said all but one program (team) has a 3.0 grade point average or better, and this includes the football team, which has a 3.0 average. He also stated that 92% of the Rice student-athletes graduate, which is even better than the 91% graduation rate of the students who are not athletes. In addition, he said that Wayne Graham, the Rice baseball coach, insists that the baseball players who leave Rice to become professional players have a clause put into their contracts stating that the professional team will pay for the remaining courses at Rice the student needs in order to graduate.

Regarding recent recruits, the (men’s) high school basketball player who is ranked 29th in the country has chosen to attend Rice. In two years, Del Conte expects the men’s basketball team to be strong. He stated that the new Tudor Field House will help recruit student-athletes, and he jokingly discussed the curtain behind the basketball court in the former Autry Gymnasium.

Del Conte said the athletic department has balanced its budget for the past two years and is on track to do it again this year. In addition, Rice passed its recent NCAA Certification, which is done every 10 years. The official report will be available in February 2009.

Finally, Del Conte suggested that a member of the Senate be on the Rice University Committee for Athletics (RUAC) since he reports to that group monthly. The liaison would stay informed on behalf of the Senate, and perhaps Del Conte would not need to also make an annual presentation to the Faculty Senate. Duane Windsor volunteered to serve on RUAC for the remainder of 2008-2009.

Rob Raphael asked what was being done to foster alumni support for the athletic department. Del Contereplied that for years, Rice didn’t approach the athletic alumni for financial support, but that has changed recently, especially due to projects that appeal to these alumni such as the new recreation center. He said that $23 million of the Tudor Field House project came from athletic alumni. In addition, $2 million of the $3.5 million improvements to the baseball facilities came from athletic alumni.

A guest at the meeting asked Del Conte about the recent demolition of two of the Jake Hess tennis courts.Del Conte replied that Rice had eight tennis courts previously, and only six are needed to host an NCAA tournament. Also, it was disconcerting to the tennis teams when the baseball fans would walk through the Jake Hess facility to get to Reckling Park (the baseball field). Now both programs can benefit as the tennis matches won’t be interrupted, and the entrance to Reckling Park will be viewable from College Way. Del Conte added that the 12 tennis courts in the back are open to all, as is the football field and all of the athletic facilities, with the exception of the baseball field due to its natural grass surface.

Del Conte encouraged everyone to attend the upcoming Marshall vs. Rice football game.

Harter thanked all of the presenters at today’s meeting, and she took a moment to recognize the recent death of Professor James Castaneda.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:30 p.m. The next Faculty Senate meeting will be held December 3, 2008.