October 24, 2007

Minutes of the Faculty Senate of Rice University

Wednesday, October 24, 2007, 12:00 p.m.

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall


I. Announcements

II. This Year in Athletics

Director of Athletics Chris Del Conte

Questions and Discussion

III. The Process of Admissions at Rice

President David Leebron

Dean Robin Forman

Questions and Discussion

Senators present: Deborah Harter (Speaker), Mike Stern (Deputy Speaker), Matteo Pasquali, Michael Emerson, Tom Killian, John Hempel, Evan Siemann, Jim Young, Steven Cox, Matthias Henze, Meredith Skura, Brian Huberman, Christian Emden, Randy Stevenson, Peter Mieszkowski, Ben Kamins, John Casbarian, Duane Windsor, Randy Batsell, Nancy Niedzielski, Robert Raphael, James Weston, Gautami Shah, Philip Kortum, Rebekah Drezek, David Leebron, Eugene Levy.

Senators absent: Dale Sawyer, Michael Deem, Ed Cox.

Total attendance: Approximately 45


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

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Deborah Harter (Speaker) welcomed the Senators and others to the meeting and made several announcements. She began by announcing some new faculty representatives:

· Randy Stevenson is the new Convener of Appeals and Grievances, replacing Joe Warren

· Professor Edison Liang is the new representative for the Promotion and Tenure Committee as the Provost’s appointment, replacing Mike Stern

· The representative to replace Don Morrison for the Humanities Department on the Promotion and Tenure committee is still to be appointed

· Michael Emerson is the new representative to the Senate for the Social Sciences, replacing David Schneider

Harter then made some announcements regarding committees. The Senate Task Force on the Academic Calendar will soon have options for the Senate to consider, and an information sheet prepared by Evan Siemann will be available at the end of the meeting.

The Nominations and Elections Committee will meet soon under the chairmanship of Mike Stern. Those interested in serving on this committee should contact Harter or Stern.

Robin Forman is assembling the 2007-2008 CRUP Committee with recommendations from the Senate Executive Committee. Again, those who wish to serve on this committee should contact Harter or Stern.

Lastly, Harter announced that the Rice Student Association has submitted thoughts on Rice’s distribution system and on interdisciplinary minors. Harter said she will probably ask the Curriculum Committee to address the topics received from the Student Association.


Chris Del Conte, Rice Athletics Director, was introduced by Harter. Del Conte began his presentation by stating that athletics are a part of the mission at Rice, and that every year Rice has a tremendous class of student-athletes. Del Conte presented a series of slides to show the accomplishments of Rice student-athletes in the classroom. The Federal Graduation Rate for student-athletes who exhaust their athletic ability at Rice is 98 percent. Rice ranks third among all Division 1 schools with an Athletic Progress Rate (APR) of 68.8 percent.

The women’s cross country team has the highest grade point average (GPA) among the Rice teams with a 3.467, and in fact, 13 of the 16 teams at Rice had a GPA of 3.0 or above as of Spring 2007. The football team and men’s basketball team have GPAs of 2.813 and 2.674, respectively, as of Spring 2007.

Del Conte continued: during the past five years, 73 Rice student-athletes earned Academic All-District awards and 18 Rice student-athletes were named Academic All-Americans. In both 2006 and 2007, Rice won the C-USA Institutional Academic Excellence Award for achieving the highest GPA in the conference for all student-athletes. In February 2007, 182 Rice student-athletes were named to the C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll with a 3.0 cumulative GPA. Also in 2007, five Rice student-athletes were named C-USA Scholar Athletes of the Year in their respective sports.

In addition, Del Conte stated that during the last 27 years, 100% of the Rice women’s track team members have graduated. Fifty-three of 54 Rice men’s basketball players who have completed their eligibility in the last 15 years have earned bachelor’s degrees.

Del Conte went on to list the many current Rice coaches who are Rice graduates, and some successes the Rice athletic department has enjoyed recently: the football team appeared in its first bowl game in 45 years last year, the baseball team competed in the College World Series and won the C-USA regular season and the C-USA tournament, women’s track won the C-USA championships for both Indoor and Outdoor Track, the men’s tennis team competed in the NCAA Championship, the women’s basketball team competed in the post-season NIT Tournament, and current student-athlete Jarett Dillard (football) has been named an All-American.

Del Conte then presented information on the community service and other volunteer work performed by Rice student-athletes. Last year, they performed more than 600 hours of community service in activities such as visiting hospitals, reading at local elementary schools, mentoring Russian refugees, and participating in clothing and food drives for the less fortunate. In addition, members of the Rice football team helped students move into their dorms during O-Week. Del Conte presented copies of a new publication from the Rice Public Affairs office entitled Champions which highlights the many achievements of the Rice student-athletes over the years.

Regarding finances, Del Conte stated the Athletic Department is operating within their budget. The Athletics Department revenues are up 35% while expenses are down .2%. Del Conte discussed the status of the various athletic facilities at Rice and their importance in recruiting quality student-athletes. He compared this to a science lab, saying that a promising science student would want to attend a university that had state-of-the-art laboratory equipment. He reminded the audience that the athletic facilities are open to all the Rice students, faculty, and staff.

Del Conte then asked for questions from the Senators. The first question was regarding academic advising for the student-athletes: who is helping the athletes to succeed academically? Del Conte replied that there are three persons helping the athletes who have been trained by the Rice Academic Advising Department.

The next question for Del Conte was whether a popular athletics department can help bring in alumni financial support. Del Conte replied that anything positive can bring in alumni donations, but he noted thatRice University only has 40,000 living alumni. David Leebron added that it is hard to determine if a popular athletics department makes alumni support increase. However, he stated that many of the alumni previously thought that the university would finance the updating of the athletic facilities. Once it was made clear that this updating was not going to happen without their financial support, donations came in from alumni.

Harter then expressed two concerns of the faculty. First, it seems that the athletic teams at Rice University do not always represent very well the overall student body at Rice in the way that, for example, the MOB does (Marching Owl Band). Second, there has tended in the past to be a certain tension on campus between the student-athletes and the rest of the students. She asked what steps are being taken to increase the number of athletes who do represent the typical Rice student, and, for the benefit of the athletes as well as the entire program, what is being done to integrate their lives with those of the rest of the student body?

Del Conte replied that he feels the athletes are not accepted by many of the Rice students and even by some of the faculty. He told of one former student who stated he was not accepted until he proved himself in the classroom. Some differences will always exist between the student-athletes and the regular students, according to Del Conte. He stated that the regular students might be able to stay up very late at night together, but the student-athletes cannot because of early morning practice. Also, the recent McKinsey report recommended that Rice athletes live off campus after their first year in order to reduce expenses for the Athletics Department. Del Conte feels that moving the athletes off campus was a big mistake--he wants the athletes to live on campus for three years because it will help them to stay connected to the other students.

Robin Forman added that there are approximately 75 freshmen student-athletes admitted every year, and about 55 rooms are usually reserved for them in the residential colleges. This year, however, all 75 wanted to live in the residential colleges--they want to be a part of the student community.

Del Conte was then asked about the number of student-athletes on campus and he replied that there are approximately 350 varsity athletes, of which 280 are on scholarship. There are 16 varsity sports at Rice with approximately 50 coaches.

Leebron clarified for the audience that 280 student-athletes are on scholarship. The other 70 were admitted to Rice under the regular admissions guidelines and later tried out for the teams.


Harter introduced David Leebron after reviewing the questions that were presented to him at the last Faculty Senate meeting regarding undergraduate admissions, as shown below.

• Who are our applicants?

• What criteria do we use to select those we admit?

• What process does each applicant go through?

• Are some applicants of excellence not admitted for lack of well-roundedness?

• Do we have caps or quotas in any areas of any kind?

• What is the role of financial need?

• Have we stopped to define the profile of the student we think will thrive at Rice?

• Which sorts have thrived in the past?

• How best do you see the faculty working to support the admissions process?

Harter also said that one question was missing—is Rice open to radical admissions ideas?

Leebron asked the Thresher representative to leave before he began his presentation. (In addition, the information below is in summary form.) He then presented a series of slides with statistics on the recent pool of applicants. Approximately 25% of the applicants for the class of 2011 were given offers of admission. About 39% of the applicants were from Texas, 55% were from elsewhere in the United States, and 6% of the applicants were from outside the United States. Regarding ethnicity of the applicants, the largest group was Caucasian with 40%, followed by Asian-American with 23%. Gender of the applicants was equally divided between women and men. Leebron stated the SAT scores of the applicants admitted generally fell between 1400 and 1500+.

Leebron then showed information on the students admitted to Rice by their choice of major. He stated that although there are no departmental caps or quotas used for admitting students, the Architecture School, the Shepherd School of Music, and the Baylor Program have limits on the number of students they can accept. The largest group of matriculants was in the Engineering school, followed by Natural Sciences. However, the percentage of Rice students in the Humanities and Social Sciences increased by the time the students graduated and decreased in the Engineering and Natural Science schools. He also noted that there are more majors than students at Rice because many students choose to double-major.

A comment was made at this point by Nancy Niedzielski that many students state they choose Science as their major because of parental influence and/or they are not familiar with other options such as Linguistics. Once in college, the students often change their majors.

Harter asked if there were caps in the past on the number of students admitted to the Humanities School. Leebron said no, perhaps that was an urban legend or a rumor, but he’s against caps. Chris Munoz said that for at least the past six years there have been no caps. Eugene Levy added that although there are no quotas or caps, by reputation Rice attracts many high academic candidates interested in Science and Engineering.

Harter then expressed a faculty concern that fewer humanities students are admitted to Rice because the admissions office knows that the Humanities will inherit a certain number of students from Science and Engineering. In the end, this makes for a less top-notch body of humanities students, since for many this was not their passion on entering the university. Leebron replied that this idea is false; this is not happening in the admissions office.

Harter also said that in Rice’s future, in an effort to be more balanced than it is, shouldn’t one look at these numbers and try to attract and admit more students dedicated to the Humanities? Leebron replied that the key is attracting these students: the professors in all departments need to be in the public eye—appearing on national television, publishing literature, producing websites, etcetera.

Leebron was then asked if this migration of majors is seen at other universities or if it is unique to Rice.Levy answered the question saying this pattern exists at most universities. Forman agreed that this pattern is common. He said that Rice University is just as attractive to Humanities students as it is to Science students, but a student who is interested in Humanities may also be considering liberal arts colleges, while there are fewer options for Science students.

Chris Munoz then presented information on the selection process used by the Rice admissions office. Each student’s academic and personal information is reviewed and rated with a score of 1 (low) to 5 (high). Various criteria are used for selection such as the competitiveness of the student’s high school, his/her courses during high school, the academic performance of the student, his/her recommendations from teachers, as well as personal qualities of the student such as recognition earned for his/her talent or sport.

Harter stated a concern expressed by some faculty that under the personal qualities category, the breadth of a student’s activities might unduly impress the admissions office. Harter asked if Rice will admit students who do not show a variety of activities, and Munoz replied yes.

Munoz was then asked to elaborate as there was concern that a student who had a great breadth of activities, but no depth, would earn a high ranking in the personal qualities category. Munoz stated that breadth of activities alone is not going to result in a high ranking in this area; it is used to look for students who have distinguished themselves. He gave an example of how this personal qualities category could identify a student who perhaps did not have an outstanding SAT score among the many applicants with high scores, but who might have a perfect score on an SAT subject exam. This shows he/she might be extraordinary in an area and one needs to pay attention to that.

Leebron reiterated that the “flags” will identify the students who have distinguished themselves in the personal quality category. He also stated that the admissions process is difficult. There are many applicants with good grades and high test scores. The task is to find what is special about a student.

Robert Raphael expressed concern with the subjective category of “personal qualities” used for admissions and asked if more objectivity could be brought to the process. The reply was that some subjectivity cannot be avoided.

Leebron concluded the presentation by stating what he feels the faculty’s role in the admissions process should be:

  1. Inform admissions office of goals
  2. Communicate desired characteristics of the entering class particular to each school
  3. Identify additional “flags” that suggest unusual academic promise to aid the selection decision
  4. Encourage admitted students to enroll
  5. Provide academic programs, faculty mentoring, and services that promote student success

Leebron stated that about 90% of the questions presented to him by the Faculty Senate had been answered, and even though the scheduled meeting was about to end, he could stay longer to discuss his presentation. However, since many Senators had to leave, Harter suggested this discussion be continued at a future meeting.

Evan Siemann announced that he had printed a memo with some options for the academic calendar, and he asked the Senators to each take one.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 p.m.