October 5, 2016

Faculty Senate Meeting
October 5, 2016
Kyle Morrow Room of Fondren Library

Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):

I. Call to Order

II. Announcements and Presentations
A. United Way
B. Rice Campus Store
C. IDEA Course Evaluation Pilot
D. Campus Surveillance and Security
E. Alumni Office
F. Retirement Plans
G. State of the University Address Preview

III. Reports from Officers: Speaker’s Report

IV. New Business
A. Proposed Minor in Cinema and Media Studies (Approved)
B. Proposed Minor in Engineering Design (Approved)

Senators present: David Alexander, Graham Bader, Lisa Balabanlilar, Martin Blumenthal-Barby, David Caprette, Daniel Cohen, Andrew Colopy, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Erik Dane, Julie Fette, Jeffrey Fleisher, Charles Geyer, Christopher Hight, Christopher Johns-Krull, Kevin Kelly, Marek Kimmel, Michael Kohn, David Leebron, Susan McIntosh, Marie Lynn Miranda, Timothy Morton, Ed Nikonowicz, Fred Oswald, Stan Sazykin, Doug Schuler, and Kerry Ward.

Senators absent: Kate Beckingham, Gwen Bradford, Michael Diehl, Maryam Emami, Steve Klineberg, Anatoly Kolomeisky, and Laura Segatori.

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

I. Call to Order

Speaker Jeffrey Fleisher called the meeting to order at 12:00 p.m. He welcomed senators and guests to the meeting. He said that the Faculty Senate would meet as often as possible in the Kyle Morrow Room of Fondren Library because it is more accessible than the Founder’s Room of Lovett Hall.

II. Announcements/Presentations

A. United Way Campaign
Professor Herb Ward, faculty chair of the Rice University United Way Campaign, detailed the donations received to date from faculty and staff members. He said that donations can be made through January 2017 for the 2016-2017 academic year. Ward noted that the Better Business Bureau has determined that 35% is reasonable for a charitable organization to spend on its overhead, while United Way spends only 12%. Please view the full presentation: UNITED WAY.

B. Rice Campus Store
Matt Erskin, manager of the Rice Campus Store, formerly the Rice Bookstore and Recharge U, said that one goal of the new management is to make it easier for faculty members to select textbooks for their courses. Erskin said that the Campus Store would price-match new textbooks with other suppliers such as Amazon, Chegg, and Barnes & Noble, as well as renting textbooks and selling used textbooks. 

C. IDEA Course Evaluation Pilot
Lisa Balabanlilar, chair of the University Committee on Teaching, explained that a faculty-driven initiative to examine and possibly replace the current course evaluation system resulted in Rice’s use of IDEA on a pilot program basis. She said that the IDEA survey measures teaching effectiveness by how well students rate their progress on types of learning, while faculty indicate targeted learning goals for each course. Balabanlilar said that 200 courses were randomly chosen in an effort to make sure that the system suits Rice. She also said that additional faculty members may volunteer: http ://studentratings.blogs.rice.edu/volunteer/. For more information, email: idea.eval@rice.edu. Please view the full presentation here: IDEA.

D. Campus Security and Surveillance
Rice University Police Department (RUPD) Chief Johnny Whitehead discussed the draft Security Camera Acceptable Use Policy, provided to faculty members prior to the meeting. Whitehead said that previously, individuals did not know which department to call to request a security camera (RUPD, Facilities and Engineering, or Information Technology), and it was not clear who should download and/or review video recorded by the camera. He explained that a consulting firm hired by Rice also recommended that a policy be adopted. Whitehead said that the draft policy has been discussed with students and their feedback has been positive. Whitehead and Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby noted that the draft policy has been posted to the Senate’s wiki site and comments are requested: Draft Security Camera Acceptable Use Policy.

Chief Whitehead also spoke about a previous request from the Faculty Senate to install locks on the doors of all classrooms so that they can be locked from the inside. He said that RUPD has examined every classroom door, made an inventory, and requested an estimated cost from Facilities, Engineering, and Planning. He said the plan is to move forward with the locks.

E. Alumni Office: Lifelong Learning Programs, Sallyportal
Karen McDonnel, Director of Alumni Programs, presented information on the Lifelong Learning Opportunities offered by the Alumni Office. She said that Rice faculty members have supported these efforts by participating as “Traveling Owls” lecturers, by speaking at various signature alumni events, and by becoming “Brains in Bars” speakers, a popular new program. She asked that faculty members contact Dan Stypa for more information on these opportunities.

McDonnel then described Sallyportal ( www.sallyportal.org), a new website that can improve connections between Rice students, faculty, and alumni. She described its search function, which can be used to locate members of Sallyportal, and the “groups” page where a reader can follow a specific Rice group, such as the School of Engineering. She said that the Sallyportal message board is a place where faculty could seek alumni volunteers, students might ask alumni for advice, or alumni could post job opportunities. She encouraged the assembled faculty members to join Sallyportal. Please view the full presentation here: ALUMNI OFFICE.

F. Rice’s Retirement Plans
Speaker Fleisher introduced Vice President for Administration Mary Cronin, who was asked to present information to the Senate on Rice University’s Retirement Plans, in part due to lawsuits being brought against other universities for mismanagement of their retirement funds.

Cronin said that the Rice Board of Trustees established the Retirement Plan Investment Committee (RPIC) in September 2011 with these duties:

  • Fiduciary for investment options and expenses
  • RPIC includes faculty and staff, trained in fiduciary responsibilities
  • Acts solely in interests of plan participants; must be prudent and reasonable (ERISA standard)
  • Engaged expert advice (CAPTRUST, Inc.) and developed Investment Policy Statement to guide oversight
  • Developed new plan lineup according to Investment Policy Statement and regularly reviews investments’ performance and expenses; replaces funds when appropriate

Cronin explained that Rice’s retirement plans are ERISA plans. (The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established pension and health plans in private industry to provide protection for individuals in these plans.) She described Rice’s two retirement plans for benefits-eligible faculty and staff: the 401(a), a defined-contribution account paid by Rice, and the 403(b), a voluntary salary-deferral plan. Cronin said that Rice has two record-keepers, TIAA-CREF and Fidelity, and she outlined the current investments available on Tiers 1, 2, and 3. Cronin also presented the Plan Menus for both TIAA and Fidelity. She noted that CAPTRUST, the investment firm hired to advise Rice, is a co-fiduciary and thus has the same obligations as RPIC.

Cronin then addressed the lawsuits filed against other universities. She said that twelve major universities have been sued or had complaints raised against them, with one law firm in charge of most of the suits. Cronin said that the claims include too many investment choices offered, too many record keepers, and high fees. She said that Rice has reduced its choices from 200 to 29, it has only two record keepers, and it has negotiated lower fees. Please view the full presentation here: Retirement Plans, Oct. 2016.

Doug Schuler questioned the fees that Rice pays. Cronin explained that fees are based on the institution’s level of assets, with Rice classified as mid-sized. She said that CAPTRUST monitors the situation. Jim Young, the faculty representative on RPIC, said that CAPTRUST actively negotiates on Rice’s behalf, and he said that they have more leverage than Rice does because they represent many universities.

Deputy Speaker Julie Fette said that many of the suits are for past mismanagement of funds or overpayment of fees. She noted that Rice has reduced its fees by 50%, which could indicate that Rice was paying too much in the past. She asked if Cronin could reassure faculty and staff who have been investing for many years in Rice retirement funds. General Counsel Richard Zansitis replied that in 2011 or 2012, the federal rules regarding fiduciary standards were enhanced. He said that, for example, prior to that time, many institutions thought that the brokerage window was providing sufficient choice. He noted that the plaintiffs in a recent lawsuit against Chevron regarding its 401(k) plan lost their suit.

G. State of the University Address Preview
Fleisher reminded the senators that the annual State of the University Address is scheduled for October 26, at 3:00 p.m., in McMurtry Auditorium of Duncan Hall. President Leebron said that twelve years ago, he asked the Rice community to conduct a “Call to Conversation,” which resulted in the “Vision for the Second Century” (V2C). Leebron provided printed copies of the V2C at the meeting. He said that while some parts of the document are no longer relevant or should become more specific, the document has proven to be valuable. Leebron said that it was time to think about the next five to ten years for the institution and what kind of plan or document should be designed. He said that he would seek advice on both the process and the substance of the plan. He said that the document might include a preamble or umbrella statement. Leebron said that after today’s preview with the Senate, he would discuss the issue further at the State of the University Address, and then seek input from the Rice community.

III. Reports from Officers and Standing Committees: Speaker’s Report

Fleisher stated that the Faculty Senate Working Group on Student Learning Outcomes, announced at the last Senate meeting, has been put on hold. He said that the original request to form the working group came with a time restraint that was incorrect. Fleisher also said that there is a larger effort regarding General Education requirements that is currently being discussed by the faculty, and it will include student learning outcomes. He said that he would update the Senate in a later meeting.

Fleisher reminded the senators that they have a duty to communicate with their constituents. He asked that senators relay to them the information presented in each meeting.

IV. New Business

A. Proposed Minor in Cinema and Media Studies (CMST)

Susan McIntosh, chair of the University Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC), said that the CUC follows the published university-wide guidelines for new majors, minors, and certificates, vetting each proposal to make sure that it not only meets the guidelines, but that it adds value to the current curriculum. She said that the stability of each program is also considered by the CUC, and she noted that all minors are subject to a five-year review clause.

Regarding the proposed interdisciplinary minor in Cinema and Media Studies, provided prior to the meeting on the Senate’s wiki space, McIntosh said that the CUC requested revisions to the original proposal to ensure that it was sufficiently distinct from the Film Track offered by the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts. She said that once the issue was resolved, the CUC approved the minor.

Fleisher reported that the Senate’s Executive Committee also approved the minor in its recent meeting, thus the proposal was presented as a motion to the full Senate for approval. The motion was seconded, there were no questions, and the resulting vote was for approval, with one abstention. Please see the approved proposal on the wiki site: Cinema and Media Studies.

B. Proposed Minor in Engineering Design (EDES)

McIntosh said that the proposed departmental minor in Engineering Design, also provided prior to the meeting via the Senate’s wiki space, was exceptionally well designed. She said that the CUC members had only one small question, which was resolved, and the CUC approved the proposal.

Fleisher said that the Executive Committee also approved this minor in its recent meeting, thus the proposal was presented as a motion to the full Senate for approval. The motion was seconded, there were no questions, and the resulting vote was for unanimously for approval. Please see the approved proposal on the wiki site: Engineering Design.

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