September 15, 2010

Faculty Senate Meeting - September 15, 2010

Farnsworth Pavilion, Rice Memorial Student Center


I. Welcome and Introduction of Senators

II. Announcements; Speaker’s Report

III. Approval of 2012–2013 academic calendar

IV. Election of 2010-2011 Executive Committee

V. Working Group reports

A. Senate Governance

B. Appeals and Grievances

C. Communication in the Curriculum

D. Teaching

VI. Report on Faculty Salaries

VII. New Business

A. Motion to reduce the number of Senators on working groups

B. General Discussion on Senate priorities for 2010-2011

Senators present: Gregory Barnett, Randy Batsell, David Caprette, John Casbarian, Danijela Damjanovic, Sarah Ellenzweig, Ramon Gonzalez, Jane Grande-Allen, Deborah Harter, Matthias Henze, Tom Killian (Deputy Speaker), President David Leebron, Scott McGill, Susan McIntosh (Speaker), Provost George McLendon, Matteo Pasquali, Brian Rountree, Dale Sawyer, Stan Sazykin, Robin Sickles, Meredith Skura, Devika Subramanian, Jane Tao, Moshe Vardi, Duane Windsor, and Jim Young.

Senators absent: Mark Kulstad, Randy Stevenson


I. Welcome and Introduction of Senators

Speaker Susan McIntosh called the meeting to order at 12:00 p.m. and welcomed Senators and guests to the first Faculty Senate meeting of the 2009-2010 academic year. She recognized President David Leebron and Provost George McLendon (ex officio members), as well as Deputy Speaker Tom Killian and Convener John Casbarian. McIntosh stated that a Parliamentarian for the Senate is needed. Each Senator stated his/her name and department or constituency.

II. Announcements; Speaker’s Report

McIntosh announced the actions of the Executive Committee while the Senate was in recess over the summer, including the formation of three working groups: the Working Group on Senate Governance, the Working Group on Appeals and Grievances, and the Working Group on Communication in the Curriculum. In addition, the Executive Committee approved the reconstitution of the University Committee on Research, for which McIntosh sought Senate approval. After a brief discussion, the Senate voted to approve the University Committee on Research. Please use this link for more information: Research Proposal and Charge.

McIntosh briefed the Senate on several meetings that she and Killian held over the summer with President Leebron and Provost McLendon. Meeting topics included:

1) promotion and tenure practices. As an outgrowth of the Working Group on Appeals and Grievances, uneven annual faculty performance review practices across campus emerged as problematic in a number of recent tenure appeal cases. In response, the Provost has begun a review of P&T practices, including standards for annual reviews. A Senate liaison will be identified to the ADVANCE committee that is working on this issue.

2) the impact of enrollment growth. Last year the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee presented a resolution to Senate calling for an evaluation of the impact of budget cuts and student enrollment growth on the undergraduate curriculum, with special concerns about lab courses and upper level courses required for the major. A Dean's Council task force has been formed to evaluate particularly the impact of growth - it will liaise with Senate and a report is expected later this semester.

3) teaching effectiveness and faculty development. The concerns expressed in last year's report of the Working Group on Teaching regarding teaching effectiveness and faculty development are being researched by Jan Rinehart's ADVANCE Committees, and a Senate liaison will be named for those committees. In view of the momentum on these issues, the Working Group on Teaching will continue with some new members. Jim Young will continue to chair it and he will be joined by Paul Padley in Physics as co-chair.

4) service to the University by faculty. ADVANCE is also taking a look at university service and the question of expected levels of university service within faculty ranks, incentives, and compensation for exceptional service loads. A Senate liaison will be named.

5) the three University-wide task forces announced by the Provost. McLendon was asked to expand on the task forces. He said that the purpose of the task forces is to steer Rice’s focus to key areas. He said that he expects a white paper to be produced which will be presented to the Rice Board of Trustees at their December 2010 meeting. He also stated that each task force includes a representative from the Faculty Senate, and he encouraged Senators to contact these representatives: Dale Sawyer (Energy and Environment), Moshe Vardi (Biosciences), Matthias Henze (International). One question asked of McLendon was whether collaborative institutional partnerships could be proposed and accommodated. McLendon pointed to Rice’s Biomedical Research Center (BRC) as a successful venture with the TMC that could accommodate a variety of collaborative research groups, including ones that reach beyond the Biosciences to e.g., Anthropology and Sociology.

Turning to Senate initiatives, McIntosh announced some upcoming changes to enhance communication, as recommended by the Working Group on Senate Governance: 1) the Speaker or Deputy Speaker will attend the Dean’s Council once per semester, 2) each Senator will be asked to identify a second department, in addition to his/her home department, for which he/she will be responsible for communicating with at least once per semester, 3) a secure website portal has been created for faculty comments on posted Senate documents, and 4) the Senate’s Executive Committee will coordinate the assignment of Senate liaisons to committees, as well as receiving and communicating reports from the liaisons. The Senate is looking for ways to gather broad input in advance of meetings, McIntosh stated, so that the limited meeting time can be used more efficiently.

McIntosh stated that shared governance is most effective when processes are transparent and consultative, with the widest number of stakeholders informed. She asked if President Leebron would like to share any comments on this subject. Leebron first replied with information regarding the University’s financial status, the current capital campaign, and the recent data theft incident. He asked that these comments not be reported outside of the Senate meeting. He said that there are often confidentiality issues involved with decisions he must make, but when faculty will be affected by a decision, he does try to consult with the Senate.

Other updates announced by McIntosh included the status of two documents drafted last year. The “Guidelines on New Majors and Minors” document was recently circulated to deans and department chairs for comments and has now been returned to the Committee for the Undergraduate Curriculum for revision. The “General Announcements (GA) Oversight” document is being revised due to the ongoing efforts for creation of an online, searchable, linked GA. The policy for Senate oversight will have to be adapted as necessary.

III. Approval of 2012-2013 Academic Calendar

McIntosh sought Senate approval of the 2012-2013 academic calendar, a motion for which had been approved at the recent Executive Committee meeting. However, prior to a Senate vote on the motion, Deborah Harter asked Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson if he wished to discuss a possible change in the timing of the spring semester midterm grades. Hutchinson proceeded to discuss this topic, saying that the deadline for midterm grades occurs at the same time as the deadline to drop classes. Registrar David Tenney joined the discussion, as did Meredith Skura and Jim Young. It was stated that even though vacation dates and add/drop deadlines are part of the academic calendar that the Senate must approve, the deadline for professors to turn in grades is not under the purview of the Senate. It was also stated that the Senate spent a great deal of time on this issue in recent years; it should not be revisited without good cause. It was decided that Jane Grande-Allen, a member of the University Committee on Examinations and Standing (EX&S), would work out a proposal with EX&S, the Registrar, and the Dean of Undergraduates for presentation to the Senate. Jane Tao also brought up an issue regarding variable credit hours. Tenney said this issue should not affect today’s proposal to approve the academic calendar. He also said the current calendar formula works very well. It was explained that the 2012-2013 calendar, among others, is already posted on the Rice website; it simply needs Senate approval to become official. An official vote was held and the motion (below) passed with unanimous approval.

Motion for Adoption of the Rice Calendar for Academic Year 2012–2013

The Faculty Senate sets the Rice academic year calendars. This motion is brought and approved by the Executive Committee. This calendar conforms to the general formula for academic calendars passed by the Senate on January 23, 2008, and the motions passed regarding course add and drop dates on January 14, 2009.

IV. Election of 2010-2011 Executive Committee

McIntosh presented the 2010-2011 Executive Committee Slate that had been previously announced by the Nominations and Elections Committee last spring:

Susan McIntosh, Speaker (Social Sciences) – automatic

Tom Killian, Deputy Speaker (Natural Sciences) – automatic

Matthias Henze (Humanities)

Brian Rountree (Asst. Prof; Jones School)

Devika Subramanian (Engineering)

Jane Grande-Allen (Engineering)

Dave Caprette (NTT Teaching; Natural Science)

Meredith Skura (Humanities)

Robin Sickles (Social Sciences)

John Casbarian (Architecture)


McIntosh stated that the slate conforms to the requirements set forth in the Senate Bylaws. No alternative slates were proposed, and a motion was made to approve this slate, followed by unanimous approval. McIntosh said she will contact the new Executive Committee members.

V. Working Group Reports

A. Working Group on Faculty Senate Governance

Tom Killian, Chair of the Working Group on Senate Governance, reviewed the charge and announced the members of the working group to the Senate. (Please use this link to view the charge and membership: Governance.) He stated that although the Senate’s representative from of governance is working well, some areas for improvement have been identified. In addition, the working group identified some larger issues for future consideration, such as evaluation of the incentives for faculty service, and consideration of whether the faculty should have a larger and more formal role in setting priorities in areas such as curricular strategy above the programmatic level, new initiatives and development, and allocation of financial resources to support the academic mission.

Killian stated that the Interim Report of the Working Group on Senate Governance takes the form of 25 proposals that he hopes to introduce in manageable subsets, and he announced a tentative schedule. Overall, there are two main parts to the report: Sections 1 – 3 focus on improving the Senate’s connections to faculty, deans, and Senators; while Sections 5 – 8 discuss improvements to Senate rules and procedures. Killian said the report is considered “interim” because the working group felt it was appropriate for the Senate and the faculty at large to have an opportunity to comment on the proposals and guide revisions where needed. Killian said he did not wish to discuss all of the recommendations in detail now, but he directed the group to the Senate “wiki” space where the entire report is housed. In addition, he asked the Senators to specifically review Proposals 1.1, 2.1, and 3.2 and provide feedback by posting their comments.

During his presentation, Killian passed around a sign-up sheet on which each Senator was asked to indicate a second department (in addition to his/her own) which will constitute the Senator’s “core constituency.” Several Senators thanked Killian for the efforts of his working group and offered comments at the conclusion of his presentation. In addition, Killian received a round of applause.

B. Working Group on Faculty Appeals and Grievances

Moshe Vardi, Chair of the Working Group on Faculty Appeals and Grievances, announced the members of his group: Don Morrison, Randy Stevenson, and Susan McIntosh (ex officio), and he read the charge of the working group. (Please use this link for more information: Appeals and Grievances.) Vardi stated that there are four main issues that the working group will address: 1) clarification and document update for the Faculty Appeals and Grievances process, 2) clarification and document update regarding serious accusations, 3) recommendations for the promotion and tenure process; and 4) an ombudsperson, which could be valuable for informal problem resolution.

C. Working Group on Communication in the Curriculum

Meredith Skura, Chair of the Working Group on Communication in the Curriculum, announced the members of her group and reviewed its charge. (Please use this link for more information: Communication in the Curriculum.) She said the goal is to improve Rice students' communication skills, and her group will work to determine what should be done in order to achieve this goal.

D. Working Group on Teaching

Jim Young, Co-Chair of the Working Group on Teaching with Paul Padley, said that there are four main areas on which the working group is continuing its efforts: 1) teaching awards, including the Brown Teaching Awards, 2) evaluating teaching, 3) faculty development, and 4) incorporating teaching effectiveness into the promotion and tenure process, including the use of peer assessment and portfolios.

VI. Faculty Salary Report

In the interest of time, McIntosh asked Robin Sickles to postpone the presentation of the Faculty Salary Report until next month’s Senate meeting.

VII. New Business

A. Motion to reduce the number of Senators required on working groups

McIntosh introduced the following motion to amend the Bylaws:

WG on Senate Governance presents a Motion to reduce the number of Senators required on working groups.

``Section 7 ( second and third paragraphs) of the Bylaws shall be changed to:

The Speaker, with the approval of the Executive Committee, will appoint the Chair and the members of all working groups. One member of each working group must be a Senator .[ replaces: A majority of committee members must be Senators.] Vacancies will be filled by appointment by the Speaker, in consultation with the Executive Committee.

[ Delete: Every working group must have at least one member of the Executive Committee as a member.] Before a motion is brought to the full Senate, it may be assigned to a working group for investigation. The Chair of the working group should be prepared to report on a motion at the Senate meeting in which the motion is to be debated.”

A friendly amendment was proposed and accepted to add "At least" to the proposed change, such that it reads: At least one member of each working group must be a Senator.

Comments by Senators included Harter stating that there are now a large group of former Senators at Rice who can serve on working groups. Duane Windsor said one option was to put this rule into effect for one year as a test. President Leebron cautioned that as the Senate staffs the committees with interested individuals, one thing to watch out for was bias. He also cautioned the Senate about taking on too many projects, to which Harter agreed. After these comments, a vote was held on the amended motion, which passed with unanimous approval.

B. General Discussion of Senate Priorities for 2010-2011

McIntosh said that the last item on her agenda, a general discussion of Senate priorities for the year, would have to be postponed. However, she asked the Senators to communicate with her via email as to their priorities. In addition, she reminded them to read the Interim Report on Governance and post comments.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.