November 13, 2013

Faculty Senate Meeting - November 13, 2013

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall


I. Call to order

II. Announcements

A. Introduction of Joe Karlgaard, new Director of Athletics

B. Initiative related to the BRC (Provost McLendon)

C. EC decision on procedures regarding the creation of BA/MA or BS/MS degree programs

III. Working Group Reports: Working Group on Research and Scholarship

Senators present: David Alexander, Robert Atherholt, Graham Bader, Kate Beckingham, Carl Caldwell, David Caprette, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Jerry Dickens, Claire Fanger, Julie Fette, Jeffrey Fleisher, Jane Grande-Allen, Christopher Hight, Betty Joseph, Rachel Kimbro, Michael Kohn, Anatoly Kolomeisky, David Leebron, Jonathan Ludwig, Susan McIntosh, George McLendon, Luay Nakhleh, Brian Rountree, Stan Sazykin, Laura Segatori, Ruth Lopez Turley, James Weston, and Michael Wolf.

Senators absent: Dawn Finley, Helena Michie, Fred Oswald, and David Scott.

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.

II. Announcements

A. Introduction of Joe Karlgaard, Director of Athletics

Caldwell introduced Joe Karlgaard, Rice University’s new Director of Athletics. Karlgaard stated that he was pleased to be at Rice, and that his first month here has been extraordinary. He said that he has been received warmly by all sorts of groups, including alumni, supporters, faculty, and students. Karlgaard asked if the senators had any questions; there were none.

B. Initiative related to space in the BioScience Research Collaborative

Provost McLendon told the assembled senators that the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) was originally intended as a connector between Rice University and the Texas Medical Center (TMC), including lease of much of the BRC space by TMC tenants. He said that although there have been some successes, discussions are now being held regarding development of a better model for use of the BRC, and faculty input is desired. McLendon said that a group of faculty members, mainly from the Schools of Engineering and Natural Sciences, has been organized to provide this input, with Deputy Speaker James Weston (Jones School of Business) as chair, as well as two ex officio members, Vicky Colvin and Kevin Kirby.

McLendon was asked by a senator if a reorganization of the Rice faculty currently housed in the BRC was being considered. In his reply, McLendon said that if Rice has to subsidize use of space in the BRC, those funds cannot be used elsewhere.

Another senator asked if there are plans to finish construction of the rest of the building. President Leebron said that the BRC was designed with the possibility of a second tower, but he said it was unlikely that it would be built at Rice’s expense. He also said that due to changes in the management of the TMC, some possibilities have emerged. Leebron said that he wanted to engage the Faculty Senate in the process, as well as the Rice faculty members who are in the BRC.

C. Executive Committee decision on procedures regarding the creation of BA/MA or BS/MS programs

Caldwell announced that the Senate’s Executive Committee (EC) was approached regarding the creation of combined Bachelor of Arts/Master of Arts and Bachelor of Science/Master of Science programs, often called “3+1” or “4+1.” Caldwell informed the Senate that the EC decided to send this item to the University Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum and to the Graduate Council for their review. Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Paula Sanders said that she would forward to these groups a previously written report on this topic.

III. Working Group Reports: Working Group on Research and Scholarship

Caldwell stated that the working group spent two years reviewing and discussing Rice University, and he thanked them for their work. He welcomed Working Group Chair Moshe Vardi, who recognized the members of the working group:

Janet Braam, Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Keith Cooper, Computer Science
Michael Deem, Bioengineering
Mahmoud El-Gamal, Economics
Michael Emerson, Sociology
Richard Grandy, Philosophy
Randy Hulet, Physics
Steve Lewis, Baker Institute for Public Policy
Seiichi Matsuda, Chemistry
Vikas Mittal, Jones School of Business
Jan E. Odegard, Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology
Fred Oswald, Psychology

Vardi presented the working group’s charge: “The Senate Working Group on Research and Scholarship will assess the processes and structures currently existing on campus designed to support and improve Rice's research and scholarship efforts, including strategy, support structures, assessment, and coordination and planning from the department level to the upper administration level.”

Vardi also said that he wished to make three points (summarized below):

1. Although the working group was not 100% unanimous on every point within the report, the report reflects the consensus of the group.

2. There was speculation as to whether the group’s work had become too broad, but when setting a goal, it is required that one look at everything that will be needed in order to reach the goal.

3. There was also some speculation as to the tone of the report, but the report is an exhortation for all of us to do better.

Caldwell said that what was needed at today’s meeting was guidance from the Senate for both the Executive Committee (EC) and the administration as to the next steps. He presented each of the recommendations from the working group, with discussion allowed for each one, summarized below. (view the full set of recommendations)

Question: In Recommendation A1, what is meant by external reviews?
Vardi: A group which is external to Rice would perform department reviews. A Rice faculty group will work with the administration to develop a systematic academic review process.

Question: How many departments currently have external reviews?
Provost McLendon: Rice is now on a four-year cycle; by the end of next year, all departments will have undergone external reviews. Clear-cut benchmarks and metrics will provide a more legitimate process. Rice had no process until I arrived. We now need the process to mature a bit with a common set of questions and a follow-up to the review.

Question: What is a sufficient response to a review?
Vardi: The department will have to write a response and the dean will write a response, which will include action items. These responses will go to a standing committee, then to the provost.
Dean Ned Thomas: It is important for the same review committee to return in two years to assess the changes made. A series of continuous measurements is what is needed.

Question: What is meant by the term “public” and “private” sections of an annual report?
Vardi: A private section would flow from the department chair to the dean. “Public” is a bit more complicated. Some parts might be made available to just the administration, others to just the faculty, etcetera.
Jane Grande-Allen, co-chair, Working Group on Grade Inflation: The accountability of academic units should be the students’ progress. The Working Group on Grade Inflation has discussed a related issue-- posting the extremes in grading practices at Rice--but where would we post them? There are FERPA-related issues (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) to consider. If there were only two students in a class, would posting violate FERPA?

Question: Don’t we have processes in place now; are we just adding more reports?
Vardi: Currently, there is no process; the school dean makes decisions regarding departments.
Caldwell: There are informal processes in place. Although it is not clear that we need a process for everything, we did find that we needed a process for the elimination of graduate programs.

Question: Would sort of process does the working group have in mind for setting the university’s budget?
Vardi: Consider this question: are we investing enough in graduate education at Rice? It is hard to know; in part, because the budget process is classified.
Senator: Do budget decisions come down to Humanities versus Social Sciences, for example? If so, I think that the Faculty Senate would want to have a part in such decisions.

Question: Why does the working group recommend establishing a new standing faculty committee, the Committee on Academic Affairs, to serve as an advisory board to the Vice Provost of Academic Affairs (VPAA), replacing the role of the current Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC) to the Office of Faculty Development (OFD)?
Vardi: The current group does some advising to the VPAA; this change would prevent duplication and also enhance the role of the FAC to the OFD.

Question: What is the need for a faculty data dashboard?
Vardi: Currently, many questions regarding faculty are not easily answered, such as how competitive are we regarding faculty recruitment? To which institutions do we lose faculty? These answers should be routinely gathered and easily accessed.

Question: What is meant by “effectiveness” in mid-term faculty reviews?
Vardi: Every process should have a reason for doing it, a purpose. For example, what result do we want to come out of mid-term faculty reviews? Currently, it is not clear.
Caldwell: A mid-term review needs to state clearly the person’s standing on the road to tenure. It can also be a chance to remove very poor faculty.
Senator: All faculty at Rice should know the expectations from day one.

Question: Please define the recommendation to determine future faculty expectations.
Keith Cooper, Working Group member: Do we expect that in 10 years, the size of the faculty (at Rice) will be the same? Larger? Where will we think about investing? Regarding demographics, should we be less inclined to make senior hires? In Engineering, individual hiring decisions are often made; a long-term plan is not used.
Provost McLendon: Early in Rice’s history, there was a professor of geography, but there was no professor of computer science; students did not have computers. It is not possible to grow every department with the fixed student population at Rice, per faculty request. It is thus not likely that Rice will have double the number of faculty in the future.
President Leebron: In general, these decisions are better made with long-range planning. Not only do we need to have a strategic process, but things happen that we do not expect.
Senator: Some of this discussion is about setting up structures; maybe we need to set up budgets that allow us to react to opportunities.

Question: Please define “productivity” and “excellence”—these two terms are used often.
Vardi: In the promotion and tenure process, we ask how productive the faculty member has been. However, we have varied faculty—there are practicing architects on campus, mathematicians—production varies from department to department or even within departments. In some schools, the publishing of books indicates productivity, while in another, it is the designing of houses. Although we cannot have uniform measures, we have to have some form of measure for excellence and productivity.
Provost McLendon: Faculty who are up for promotion have reported that no one has expressed to them the standard for promotion. At the end of seven years, they sometimes find out that they are not going to be promoted. Faculty need continual feedback; at least annually. The conversation could be short, or it could be more detailed. If these conversations are entirely voluntary, those who would benefit the most might opt out.

Senator: Regarding research, although the university provides support in finding opportunities, there has not been a lot of infrastructural support for achieving success. I would like to see a big improvement in this area. Also, a lot of big proposals are being done at the last minute, which gives us no chance for winning them; the proposal should have been started a year earlier! Someone has to stay on top of the very big proposals.

Question: Why should the deans appoint associate deans for graduate education and school-wide graduate committees to provide school-level oversight of graduate programs? What problem are we trying to solve?
Vardi: Although the Dean of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies (DGPS) can perform serious oversight, the quality of graduate programs has to start in the schools.
President Leebron: Embedded in this recommendation are about a half dozen very good ideas, including having one person per school who is responsible for graduate programs. I like school-wide responsibility taken for programs. As for reporting and organizing school-wide events, regular communication is needed; a point person is needed.
Senator: I disagree; this task is better handled by departments. Although the dean can facilitate a school-wide event, the quality of the graduate program is determined at the department level.

Question: In general, who is going to make sure that there is follow through for all of these recommendations?
Caldwell: These are all suggestions; they are not marching orders. If we can prioritize them, we will see where the Senate should focus its efforts.

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson: Recommendation E2 is for overall undergraduate research responsibility to be assigned to my office. We already have a group in my office which promotes and supports undergraduate research; does the Faculty Senate want me to be the czar of undergraduate research?
Senator: I would not want to go through a lot of channels to get a senior thesis or degree-required research approved.
Vardi: If you go back to Recommendation E1, it states: “…the first level of undergraduate-research oversight should reside at the schools…”
Hutchinson: I’m not sure that is any different from what we do now.

Question: Recommendation FI states: “The Provost and the School Deans, working with the Senate, should develop school-by-school strategic plans to strengthen the academic schools at Rice.” Why is this not being done right now, or is it?
Provost McLendon: This recommendation is supporting and strengthening what we are doing now. We want to make sure that we use best practices. Strategic plans are living documents. They should be seen as five-year moving targets.
President Leebron: Strategic plans become the basis for the annual conversation regarding raises and renewals. Schools ought to have a basis on which they are reviewed.

Provost McLendon: Recommendation G1 states that a Research Infrastructure Task Force should be formed; can’t the existing University Committee on Research handle this task?
Caldwell: The Executive Committee tries to take things to the standing University Committees whenever possible; they have the most history on the topic.
Senator: This is an important point; we need people on the committee who are really devoted to research.
Provost McLendon: We may need to expand the role of the Committee on Research.

President Leebron: The way Recommendation H1 is worded, it suggests that there must be a comprehensive analysis of the entire university. I am not sure that is the best method. I agree with periodic reviews, but one review in toto?
Vardi: Agreed, the working group is not recommending that one group come in and review the entire university.

Senator: Recommendation H2 states that a comprehensive data plan be developed, covering both administrative and academic data.
Provost McLendon: I appointed a task force to look into this issue, and we have a report that I would be happy to circulate to the EC. Some items can be implemented, while others will have to wait until the final report regarding information technology is received.

Question: Please define “needs assessment task force” from Recommendation I2.
Vardi: For example, at one of the De Lange Conferences, a presenter discussed a method of needs assessment that was used at Stanford University. Before members of that institution began a fundraising campaign, they took a look beyond their needs; they made a dream list. They ended up raising more money than their goal. Even though we must define our needs and prioritize them, we can have a dream list.
Caldwell: We need to hear from senators if this action is desired; do you want some sort of notion as to what will happen in the future?
Vardi: A strategic plan for the entire university may be too big and too complicated, but at some point, we must assess what we are, and are not, going to invest.
President Leebron: Some of these recommendations are overly specific. The goal is to involve deans and faculty as to the overall goals, and not to pit one school versus another. Let’s see what comes out of this discussion. We do not want to create additional committees when we have the Faculty Senate. We do not know all the answers at this point.
Senator: The infrastructure needs are one example; we will have to make sure that overlapping committees do not come up with competing goals.
Senator: The point of the De Lange example discussed earlier was that exciting new goals and initiatives came from faculty discussions at Stanford.

Question: Why is the recommendation for faculty incentive being limited to shared governance? Service is performed by faculty at the department level, too.
Vardi: Service at the department level is recognized, and it can affect compensation.
Provost McLendon: We should perform a study of best practices at peer universities.

Caldwell asked for comments from senators following this presentation. One senator stated that he had a hard time assessing the recommendations because he was not fully informed as to what current practices are at Rice. Another senator said that behind the recommendations seem to be guiding principles, not the need for new rules or committees.

A third senator discussed Rice’s research profile. He said that some of the small departments at Rice do not grow quickly enough, and he asked if the recommendations were primarily about growing the number of faculty. In Vardi’s reply, he asked if it is a given that departments at Rice have to be small; would Rice benefit from fewer departments that are larger? He said that such a move is an example of the need for a strategic discussion.

Caldwell was asked what steps the Senate would take next. Caldwell replied that the plan is to start conversations across the university and consider which actions to take.

President Leebron said that there are three points to consider regarding Rice’s research profile: 1) the size of the university, 2) its relative comprehensiveness, and 3) the absence of a medical school. He thanked Moshe Vardi, saying that although he and Vardi had not agreed on all of the recommendations as they were being developed, the report is an achievement. He thanked everyone who worked on it and their responsiveness.

Caldwell said that the EC agrees with these comments, and he also thanked the working group. The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.