November 9, 2005

Faculty Senate Meeting - November 9, 2005

Meetings of the Faculty Senate are open to all members of the University community, but may be closed at the discretion of the Senate.

Meeting time 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. in Duncan Hall 3092 


I.   Announcements

II.  Approval of October 19, 2005 Minutes

III.  Approval of proposal for staggering Faculty Senator terms

IV.  Report on Athletics Admission (pending receipt of written report) (Eric Heineman)

V.  Report on unfinished Faculty Council business (President Leebron and Provost Levy)

VI.  Request for formation of Working Group on Evening and Weekend Parking (Ben Kamins)

VII.  Proposal from Bylaws Committee (Randy Stevenson)

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November 9, 2005

Attendance:  Approximately 40

Senators present: Jose Aranda, Kyriacos Athanasiou, Randy Batsell, John Casbarian, Marj Corcoran (Speaker), Rebekah Drezek, Bruce Etnyre, Deborah Harter (Deputy Speaker), John Hempel, Brian Huberman, Ben Kamins, Tom Killian, Phil Kortum, David Leebron (ex officio), Eugene Levy (ex officio), Peter Mieszkowski, Nancy Niedzielski, Dale Sawyer, David Schneider, Gautami Shah, Michael Stern, Randy Stevenson, Joe Warren, James Weston, Mark Wiesner, Duane Windsor, James Young

Senators absent: Vicki Colvin, Anthony Pinn, Carol Quillen

A verbatim recording of the proceedings is available by contacting the Faculty Senate at 713-348-5630.

Faculty Senate Speaker Marjorie Corcoran called to order the Faculty Senate meeting at 12 noon.

I.  Announcements

Corcoran sent a note of condolence to Rachel Tobias' parents on behalf of the faculty.

There were two vacancies on the Promotion and Tenure Committee: one in the Jones Graduate School and one in the School of Social Sciences .  In consultation with the respective Deans, those vacancies were filled.

Three working groups have been formed and work is just getting underway.

University Standing Committee Structure - Dave Schneider (chair), Carol Quillen, Tom Killian, and Maryana Iskander (President's Office liaison)

Scheduling of University-Sponsored Events During Finals Week - Duane Windsor (chair), Bruce Etnyre, and Stephen Zeff

Non-Tenure Track Faculty Concerns - Deborah Harter (chair), Jill Carroll, Ben Kamins, Gautami Shah, and Joe Warren

Earlier in the year, Linda Driskill reported on the writing competency exam, which was conducted online for the first time.  The written comments from the graders will be made available to Senators.  Driskill is seeking guidance from the Senate on whether the writing competency exam should continue online.  The administration would have to agree to bear the costs associated with online testing.  Joe Warren requested someone from the administration discuss the costs and the administration's reaction.  The writing competency examination will be on the agenda in December.

The Registrar would like to put a new final exam policy in place, perhaps as soon as next semester.  Corcoran distributed copies of the related white paper by email; the proposal eliminates self-scheduled exams and replaces them with take home exams or scheduled in-class exams.  There will some discussion today, but the proposal will be on the agenda in December.

II.  Minutes:   The minutes from the October 19, 2005 Faculty Senate meeting were approved with one amendment.

III.  Proposal for Staggering Faculty Senator terms:   No comments were received on the proposal.  The proposal was approved.

IV.  Report on Athletics Admission:  Prior to the presentation, Ann Wright , Vice President for Enrollment, reminded the Senate of the confidentiality of the mean SAT scores to be presented and asked the representatives from the Thresher to leave for the duration of the presentation. 

Eric Heineman , Director of Recruitment, began with a history of the admission process for student athletes at Rice.  Originally, the process was extremely formulaic, using a GPA and SAT score scale that enabled the recruiting coaches to know whether a student athlete would be admitted.  In 1994, an ad hoc committee reviewed the process, and a more holistic approach was employed, involving a careful review of students by the Dean of Admission and the appointment of a three-person faculty subcommittee to advise the Dean on these decisions.  The Dean of Admission retained the athletics admission function for three years after departing the Office of Admission and assuming another position at Rice.  In 2003, Heineman was assigned responsibility for athletics admission, and Fred Rudolph, the key faculty member with much of the institutional understanding of the existing process, passed away.  Last year's McKinsey Report directed the university to work toward an integrated process, and to learn how peer institutions handle their difficult cases.

Heineman continued with the process differences for student athletes and non-athletes.  Often many more years are involved in the identification and recruitment of student athletes.  With the athletic program, it is in the university's best interest to have only a small number of vetted applications come forward through the admission process, which is the opposite of the standard process where students apply in large numbers and then are either admitted or denied admission.  For a student athlete to be recruited into his/her senior year, he/she must submit the application, a high school transcript, and standardized test scores.  This differs from the standard process in three ways: recommendations from the high school counselor and teacher are not required at the time the application comes forward for review; scores from the SAT Subject Tests are not required; and student athletes are not required to pay an application fee until they enroll. Heineman explained further that very few schools require SAT Subject Tests, and inarguably it would be prohibitive for coaches to recruit students if Subject Tests were required.  In order to approve a student for recruitment, he reviews the application, transcript, and standardized test scores.  Letters of recommendation are sent later and reviewed to support the earlier documents, although he encourages that letters of recommendation be sent earlier in the process.

Coaches identify the student athletes in whom they are interested and send the workup to Heineman .  Traditionally, the faculty subcommittee would be notified to come by the Office of Admission, review the application(s), and indicate approval or disapproval.  With that advice, Heineman would review the workup and ultimately approve or disapprove the application.  The individual responsible for athletics admission was given the ultimate authority to make final decisions regardless of the faculty committee recommendation.  Coaches can appeal a decision to the Vice President for Enrollment.  Historically, when the faculty committee indicated disapproval, it was incumbent upon Heineman to provide a rationale for an approval.  Because the committee did not meet on a regular basis, he provided this via email.  Decisions operate on a rolling basis rather than a deadline basis and continue regardless of whether the committee is meeting.

Heineman presented the total number of student athlete applications for 2004 and 2005, as well as the number of those who did and did not enroll.  He explained that while the rate at which student athletes were denied admission seems low, many student athletes were eliminated during the recruitment process.  The institutional goal is to vet recruited students early in the process because of the resources required to recruit student athletes.

Of the 72 student athletes entering Rice this year:  the majority were recruited in Texas , although coaches also recruited internationally in significant percentages; and 32% of the freshman student athletes were African American, which is significantly higher than the 7% of the total enrollment identified as African American.  Heineman advised taking populations into account when reviewing standardized test score statistics; it is well-documented that students of color have lower standardized test scores.

Heineman presented the confidential mean SAT scores for the sixty freshman student athletes, noting that the 75 th percentile is higher than it has ever been and the 25 th percentile is slightly lower than the five year average.  He attributed the broadening distribution to a more culturally and ethnically varied student athlete pool and acknowledged the real disparity between the student athlete averages and the averages of the entire class.

Heineman continued with class rank distributions, noting that while this is not the best way to measure academic performance, it is a data point that can be captured easily.  He pointed out a positive trend: last year, of the students whose schools reported a class rank, more than half of the student athletes were in the top 10% of their class and zero student athletes were in the bottom half of their class. 

Heineman returned to discussion of the faculty review process.  Last year, two of the three members of the faculty subcommittee transitioned off of the subcommittee, and when the subcommittee went from three members to one member in February 2005, it was no longer a committee.  Although he brought the situation to the attention of his superiors, the faculty review process was halted in February 2005.  Subsequently, decisions were made with his knowledge and the advice of the Vice President for Enrollment, with the understanding that Heineman could solicit the faculty for opinions at any time.

Tom Haskell inquired whether the dissolution of the faculty subcommittee was brought to the attention of the President's Office, and Heineman replied that he spoke to Mark Scheid about the situation.  Haskell expressed his concern about the lack of follow-up, noting that until recently, the faculty subcommittee was the principal means by which the faculty monitored the integrity of athletic admission, which has been a constant problem.  While Haskell understood that the large number of transitions taking place contributed to the lapse of this subcommittee, he felt the dissolution destroyed decades of labor by faculty reformers of the athletic admission process and inquired how the Faculty Senate intended to resolve the situation.  Corcoran responded that now that the situation had been brought to the attention of the Faculty Senate, it would be fixed.

David Leebron pointed out that only one third of the applicants in one year did not go through the faculty subcommittee review process, and that the failed subcommittee could be attributed to a nearly "perfect storm" of transitions in personnel and institutional structures.  Leebron emphasized that there is no intent to change the process.  A mechanism must be identified to select faculty subcommittee members, perhaps as a function of the Committee on Admission and Student Financial Aid.  Leebron saw the failure of this system as a wake-up call; when committees have on-going responsibility, a mechanism is needed to put new people in place quickly to carry out those responsibilities.

Wright requested that Haskell share any historical documentation he may have about the original plan; Haskell noted that the information can be found in the 2003 athletic report by Chandler Davidson, but that he would be happy to offer his assistance.

Heineman moved on to provide an overview of the faculty review results from 2004.  Eighty six percent of the time, the faculty subcommittee voted to approve the student athletes; only 17 applications received an unfavorable recommendation from the faculty subcommittee.  Once again he reiterated the prerogative of the individual responsible for athletics admission to override an unfavorable recommendation from the faculty committee, but noted that the Athletic Department can take exception for some students they particularly wish to recruit.  These exceptions are called waivers and originated with the 1994 ad hoc committee that established the three-phase athletic admission process.  Under this procedure, top students were guaranteed admission; second phase students were guaranteed admission based on their SAT scores, GPA, and another factor; and the third group of students was called Phase III Waivers.  Five waivers are allotted for football; one is allotted for basketball; and one waiver is not allocated to a specific sport.  These students have the ability to make it at Rice and demonstrate substantial personal attributes that would make them contributors on the athletic field.

In the cases where students received an unfavorable review from the faculty subcommittee; Heineman overrode that recommendation and approved the students for enrollment in 14 of the 17 cases.  He observed that, in those cases, the faculty committee members frequently were metrically driven on the SAT scores.  Additionally, there were fair number of applications from international students, and the limited exposure of faculty to international student applications may have influenced the evaluation.

Heineman highlighted recent changes to the process, including an application redesign more closely aligned with the standard admission application.  Student athletes no longer write a different essay, and Heineman emphasizes the importance of submitting recommendations early in the review process.  Time is spent educating the coaches on the value of course selection and grade performance, not just GPA, as well as writing samples.  As a service, Heineman offers to review transcripts on an ad hoc basis in order to educate the coaches on course selection.

Warren requested that next year the Senate hear from both Heineman and a representative of the faculty subcommittee so that the Senate can hear from multiple viewpoints on whether the process is working and what difficulties might be encountered.  Bruce Etnyre informed the Senate that the Rice University Athletic Committee interviewed the faculty subcommittee last year and heard that the subcommittee was not getting the same information as Heineman .  Heineman responded that the structure of the faculty subcommittee may need to change; as it currently exists, it never meets as a committee.  Three individuals come in to read applications, but they do not debate and discuss those applications.

Corcoran restated the need to reconstitute the faculty subcommittee.  She invited George Bennett, the sole remaining member, to return at a future meeting to talk about how the subcommittee has functioned in the past.  Corcoran also recommended that the subcommittee be a part of the Committee on Admission and Student Financial Aid, rather than a separate entity.   Haskell pointed out that the subcommittee was initially supposed to be a part of the Committee on Admission and Student Financial Aid as already appointed, but that principle was subverted by the President's Office and it became a separate enterprise.

Dave Schneider recommended that Corcoran meet with Janet Braam , Chair of the Committee on Admission and Student Financial Aid, to expedite the selection of three people on the Committee to serve in this capacity.  Braam and Julie Browning , Dean of Undergraduate Enrollment, pointed out that additional members need to be added to the committee to fulfill this additional need, rather than a redistribution of existing members. 

Corcoran planned to work with Braam to reconstitute the faculty subcommittee.  The Thresher representatives were invited to return for the remainder of the Faculty Senate meeting.

V.  Report on Unfinished Faculty Council Business:  Item 1: Self-scheduled exams and final exam period proposal.   Eugene Levy noted that a proposal has already been submitted to the Faculty Senate.  The primary recommended alteration is to end the practice of self-scheduled exams; the proposal also recommends providing greater flexibility in the scheduling of take-home final exams (where they are not all due at the end of the exam period) and publishing the final exam schedule early in the semester.

Item 2: Online Teaching Evaluations & Item 3: Lost Spring '04 Student Evaluations.   Levy acknowledged   confronting a morass of problems on the course and instructor evaluations conducted at the end of every semester.   The Spring '04 student feedback forms have been recovered and money has been authorized to analyze those in arrears.   The Registrar's Office has been developing an online course and instructor evaluation system and theSchool of Engineering will beta test the system this semester.  The desire is to have the entire course and instructor evaluation system online, with both the survey and narrative question data filled out by the students.  This change is not linked to any intention to publish narrative data; such a decision would need to be addressed by the faculty.  The online system will allow rapid processing of a large amount of data in a modern way, and Levy expressed his support of this change.

Corcoran expressed her opinion in favor of online evaluations, as long as students complete them.  Levy replied that other institutions that have implemented online evaluations have not seen a decline in participation.  Wright noted that of the COHFE schools surveyed, over half have moved to online evaluations, and only two noted that their response rates had dropped. Wright believed that if it is clear how much better this system is, the students will be responsive.

Randy Batsell inquired whether there was a noted change in performance ratings when schools moved to the online system.  Wright replied that she did not ask that question in the survey, but two schools verbally stated that their averages were the same.

Randy Stevenson asked whether the questions asked will be exactly the same to allow comparison between the online and written evaluations.  Levy responded that they will remain the same, except in the case where the questions can be improved grammatically and stylistically.  He continued that the more substantive difference is that the software system only allows five categorizations, not seven, so the ratings scale will not be as fine.  The capacity for narrative responses will remain.

Deborah Harter expressed concern about moving from seven categorizations to five categorizations, questioning whether a smaller number of ratings will impede the ability to distinguish between "really great" and "very good" or "really poor" and "just mediocre" teachers.  Levy disagreed, noting that a unanimous set of excellent responses is very different than a mix of excellent and very good; that distribution really carries the information.  Schneider sensed that the number of categories in an evaluation does not make a difference, unless you go as low as three ratings. Levy would like for the Senate to have a presentation on this system before moving to the next step, probably early next semester.  Stevenson requested that actual data be available for the presentation so that the Senate can see the impact of the system on the evaluations.