October 3, 2012

Faculty Senate Meeting - October 3, 2012

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall

Agenda (and actions taken):

I. Call to order; announcements

II. Presentations

A. Phased Retirement Policy (Paula Sanders)
B. Changes in options for retirement planning (Elaine Britt)
C. CPRIT (George McLendon)

III. New Business

A. Proposals from the floor

B. Motion: Faculty members are required to archive syllabi on Esther, beginning in Spring 2013. (Approved)

Senators present: David Alexander, Gregory Barnett, Kate Beckingham, Carl Caldwell, David Caprette, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Danijela Damjanovic, Mahmoud El-Gamal, Christian Emden, Jane Grande-Allen, Shirine Hamadeh, Illya Hicks, Christopher Hight, Betty Joseph, Rachel Kimbro, Michael Kohn, Anatoly Kolomeisky, David Leebron, Jonathan Ludwig, George McLendon, Fred Oswald, Rob Raphael, Brian Rountree, Stan Sazykin, David Scott, Michael Stern, Ruth Lopez Turley, Moshe Vardi, and James Weston.

Senators absent: Robert Atherholt, Rebecca Goetz, Lanny Martin, and Helena Michie.

PROCEEDINGS (To listen to an audio tape of this meeting, email senate@rice.edu.)

I. Call to order; announcements

Speaker Carl Caldwell called the meeting to order at 12:05 p.m. He announced that the working group charges and chairs presented in last month’s Senate meeting had all been approved by the Executive Committee. One additional working group on campus safety, especially laboratory safety, is now being considered.

II. Presentations

A. Faculty Phased Retirement Policy

Paula Sanders, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, made the following presentation: Faculty Phased Retirement Policy. Sanders stated that the Rice University policy, although not identical, is modeled after the Yale University plan, which had been recommended by the Senate’s Working Group on Retirement. She said that overall, the goal is to have a program that is consistent and predictable, but one which also allows for flexibility. She stressed that the phased retirement plan is simply one option, and it is voluntary; faculty may still simply retire outright. She said that this plan is for faculty members who wish to wind down their teaching career over a period of several years.

Following the presentation, Sanders was asked several questions. Scott Cutler asked why the policy is to include only tenured faculty. Sanders stated that this was originally the recommendation of the faculty committee, but it can be discussed further.

Illya Hicks asked why the phased retirement policy has an upper age limit of 70. Sanders replied that for the first year of the program, there is no upper age limit. After the first year, the program uses the common retirement age of 70. She noted that some universities begin their phased three-year retirement program at age 67, so that faculty members are fully retired at age 70. Martin Wiener was concerned about possible age discrimination, but President Leebron stated that the policy is not age-discriminating.

There was also a question as to the cost of the program to the university. Vice President for Finance Kathy Collins stated that faculty salary lines will stay within the school. She added that although there are future start-up costs involved when hiring replacement faculty, the program would work within appropriate parameters.

Collins was also asked about the age of current faculty. Her reply was that 116 people meet the eligibility requirements for the first year, with 39 more people eligible over the next four years.

Rob Raphael asked Sanders if there will be restrictions as to what faculty can do during the phase-out period, for example, if they could accept a half-time teaching job elsewhere. Sanders said that the same Conflict of Commitment rules would apply as they do to current faculty. Moshe Vardi stated that if this is the intent of the policy, it needs to be explicit. He also recommended that the work load (FTE) be spelled out, as well as the stated “10 years of continuous service.”

Mark Kulstad addressed the half-time teaching example brought up by Raphael, wondering why it would be a conflict of commitment, especially if the phased retirement policy is seen as an incentive for faculty to retire. Provost McLendon replied that this point would be considered, and he stated that there were still policy items to be determined. There were no further questions.

B. Changes in options for retirement planning (Elaine Britt)

Elaine Britt, Director of Benefits and Compensation, made the following presentation: Retirement Plan Changes. She explained that the changes, which go into effect January 1, 2013, were made to help faculty and staff members be successful with their retirement planning and to comply with new federal rules. Britt explained that Rice University currently has two retirement plans which are available to all faculty and staff: the Rice Retirement Plan, which is a 401-A plan; and a tax-deferred annuity, which is a 403-B plan. Changes to the plan include more investment choices for employees, which the benefits team has termed Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. Britt added that one change, the 403-B plan becoming an opt-out system instead of the previous opt-in system, was due in large part to a recommendation by Moshe Vardi.

Following the presentation, Britt accepted questions and comments. James Weston said that he liked the changes in the retirement plan; moving away from high fees, as well as moving to an opt-out instead of an opt-in 403-B plan. He recommended that the Benefits Office encourage people to contribute the maximum amount allowed.

Jim Young, faculty representative on the committee, stated that in Tier 1, the default choice is a Lifecycle fund. In Tier 2, the committee has selected about 15 funds from which employees may choose. However, if the employee does not like the investment options in Tier 2, he/she may choose Tier 3, which allows for many more choices.

C. CPRIT update (George McLendon)
Provost George McLendon explained to the Senate that Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2007 establishing the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas.

McLendon said that Rice University has taken advantage of some of the opportunities available from this funding, such as 1) individual or collective research grants, 2) recruitment of beginning or established faculty in a related field, and 3) translational commercialization, which can be summarized as taking research successes and translating them into actual medication and treatment for humans.

There was further discussion of Rice’s involvement with M.D. Anderson and other Texas Medical Center entities. McLendon said that Rice is an ideal neutral partner for TMC institutions to put together collaborative CPRIT proposals, since Rice does not have a medical practice. Overall, he said that he is very grateful for Rice’s connection to CPRIT.

Rob Raphael asked about possible conflict of interest issues, to which Provost McLendon replied that Rice has to have a management plan for any conflicts that arise. President Leebron added that even though the rules may be complicated or rigorous, they are important and there are real costs for non-compliance. In summary, Jane Grande-Allen said that due to CPRIT, there are amazing opportunities for Rice faculty, and she encouraged senators to discuss them with their constituents.

VI. New Business

A. Proposals from the floor—none

B. Motion: Faculty members are required to archive syllabi on Esther, beginning in Spring 2013.

Caldwell stated that the motion comes moved and seconded from the Executive Committee. He explained that students are very interested in having access to syllabi, especially when looking for employment after graduation. Caldwell also said that the archiving of syllabi can help to evaluate learning outcomes, as required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). In addition, the archiving of syllabi can help departments assess their curriculum as practiced. Caldwell discussed the availability of the syllabi; the default option is that the syllabi will be available only to students who took the class and to necessary department personnel. To make the syllabus available to the public, the faculty member must choose the public option.

David Alexander said that he must post his syllabus on his department’s website, Owl-Space, and now a third location on Esther. He asked if it were possible to post it once and have it appear in all three locations. Sanders stated that the faculty member does not personally have to post the syllabus on Esther; a staff member could probably upload it in the future. Alexander also asked, somewhat hypothetically, if the archiving of syllabi would apply to online courses. Caldwell said that is an issue for the working group to address.

The Faculty Senate voted unanimously to approve the motion.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:30 p.m.