Faculty Senate Meeting
September 25, 2019
Kyle Morrow Room, Fondren Library

Senators present:  Gregory Chambers, Sergio Chavez, Nate Citino, Dennis Cox, Erik Dane, Michael Diehl, Daniel Domingues, Mahmoud El-Gamal,   Esther Fernandez, Dawn Finley, Charles Geyer, Chris Johns-Krull, Marek Kimmel, Eden King, David Leebron, Jun Lou,  Seiichi Matsuda, David Messmer, Ed Nikonowicz, Jamie Padgett, Rob Raphel, Doug Schuler, Ray Simar, Scott Solomon, Jesús Vassallo, Nicole Waligora-Davis, Pablo Yepes, Colin Zelt 

Senators absent: Gwen Bradford, Sarah Ellenzweig, Christopher Fagundes, Pat Hartigan, Angel Marti-Arbona, Emilia Morosan

PROCEEDINGS 

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

Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):

  1. Call to Order and Welcome
  2. Announcements
    1. Update from Student Judicial Programs on changes to Honor Council
    2. Update on 60-hour working group
    3. Announcements from the floor
  3. Report from Officers and Standing Committees
    1. CUC report
    2. Parking and Transportation Committee report
  4. Working Group Reports
    1. Calendar working group update
    2. Pass/Fail working group update
  5. Unfinished Business (None)
  6. New Business (None)
  7. Adjourn

Minutes

  1. Call to Order and Welcome

    Speaker Chris Johns-Krull called the meeting to order at 12:08 p.m.

  2. Announcements
    1. Update from Student Judicial Programs on changes to Honor Council

      Virginia Xie, the student director of the Honor Council, said the council is entirely student run and she reviewed the responsibilities of the council. She said when the council receives a case there is an investigative meeting to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold a hearing. Then, a hearing determines whether the student is in violation or not in violation. This year, she said, there are new procedures for what happens after a student is found in violation.

      Starting in the spring, there will be an alternative resolution option. Xie said alternative resolutions are standard for other disciplinary programs at Rice for students who want to plead “in violation.” Xie then reviewed the “consensus penalty structure” (CPS) which is the starting point when deciding what a penalty should be. She said the CPS standardizes the penalty process so that penalties do not fluctuate depending on which council members are present. She reviewed the updated CPS and noted that the alternative resolution removes suspension as a sanction if the student accepts responsibility. She said there would be a public meeting to discuss this year’s CPS on Saturday, October 25 from 12 noon to 2:00 p.m. in the Duncan PDR.

      Xie said another change for the Honor Council will be a statute of limitations on accusations. She said in the past, the council has received cases over a year old and that students cannot put together evidence for their defense in cases that old. She said now the council, in consultation with SJP, will reserve the right to declare that cases cannot be heard if more than 90 days have passed between the date of suspected violation and the date of submission to the council or more than 60 days have passed between the date of accusation and the submission of evidence. Finally, Xie announced that the Honor Council has a new faculty advisor, James DiNicco.

      Senator Scott Solomon noted that the 90 day limit meant that a violation that occurred early in a semester but was only discovered late in the semester, but while the class was still in session, could wind up being too late to bring an accusation forward. Xie responded that the concern was loss of evidence and that accusations more than 90 days old would be considered on a case-by-case basis. Solomon asked if the council considers whether a student is taking a class as pass/fail when applying sanctions. Xie answered that the council does not, but regardless of the grade, there is a disciplinary note put on the student’s file if they are found in violation. Deputy Speaker Ed Nikonowicz asked if the faculty advisor attends meetings of the Honor Council. Xie said that only students attend adjudication meetings, but there are also weekly meetings with SJP and the faculty advisor to review cases. Senator Marek Kimmel asked how many cases the Honor Council typically hears in a year. Xie answered that last year they had around 60 cases and most cases come toward the end of the semester. The slides from Xie’s presentation can be viewed HERE.

      President Leebron then asked to make follow-up remarks. He said Virginia had done a great job on the presentation and the Honor Council in general does a great job. He said he is the final appeal on Honor Council cases and that he reviews those appeals personally. President Leebron said he saw five issues that have arisen:

       

      • There are increasing numbers of cases from computer science that are challenging the system.
      • Faculty have unclear collaboration rules for some courses and students are receiving mixed messages.
      • The burden of proof is “preponderance of evidence” so sometimes there is just barely enough evidence to find a student in violation.
      • The CPS does not consider external circumstances but he does not feel bound by that same rule.
      • There is an enormous range of violations and the rigidity of the CPS doesn’t necessarily consider that.

       

      President Leebron said he meets with the council around once a year to discuss some of these issues.

    2. Update on 60-hour working group

      Johns-Krull reminded senators that the 60-hour working group was established last year and he reviewed the charge of the group. He said that due to a variety of circumstances the group never really began work. Now the group will be reconstituted as a Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum subcommittee, mainly with CUC members. He said the new members are:

      • Dave Caprette (chair): Natural Sciences
      • Reto Geiser: Architecture
      • Sarah Ellenzweig: Humanities
      • Brian Gibson: Dean of Undergraduates Office
      • David Tenney: Registrar
      • Joe Cavallaro: Engineering
      • Pat Hartigan: Natural Sciences
      • Jared Perkowski: Undergraduate student

         

  3. Report from Officers and Standing Committees
    1. CUC report

      Jeff Fleisher, chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum (CUC), presented an update on the CUC. Fleisher said this is his second year as chair. He reviewed the charge and membership of the committee. He said the committee has a large membership but is very dedicated with hands-on members. Fleisher said that this year the CUC will be taking up three issues in particular.

      First, Fleisher said a CUC subcommittee has been working on the creation of a new document that combines the many different current guidelines and procedures for creating or changing university credentials. The new document will be Requirements for the Creation, Modification, Oversight, and Elimination of Credentialed Undergraduate and Graduate Academic Programs at Rice. Fleisher said some of the documents it is replacing are potentially in conflict with one another, so there could be some changes to current policy. He said he did not currently have the document to circulate but wanted the Senate to know the document was coming. He also showed a companion website that Registrar David Tenney has been developing.

      He said the second topic for the CUC is the 60-hour credit subcommittee. He said the group probably should have originally been in the CUC, but he had pushed it to the Senate. He said now the CUC is ready to tackle it.

      Finally, Fleisher said this year the CUC will assess the area major program. He explained that the area major program allows students to create their own major when what they want is not currently offered at Rice. He said not many students take up the option. He explained that the area major proposal process is time consuming for academic advising. He said that it is time for the CUC to rethink the process and how it is currently pitched to students, along with evaluating the types of success area major students have. The slides from Fleisher’s presentation can be viewed HERE.

    2. Parking and Transportation Committee report

      Will Cannady, chair of the Parking and Transportation Committee said that his committee would have their first meeting of the academic year in October. He said the committee would discuss upcoming building projects and their effect on parking demand, efforts to reduce parking demand, RUMPAC parking issues, and proposed solar panels for covered parking for e-cars. He said there are still concerns about transportation safety and bicyclists that do not follow traffic laws. He said the committee will make parking fee recommendations to President Leebron. Cannady said that the campus is losing 1,280 parking spots due to RUMPAC, the football dome, and new college buildings. He said as the total square footage of buildings and the population increases, the number of parking spaces decreases. So, he said, the campus will become more like the medical center with an increase in people, buildings, and parking garages. He said the campus also expands into Rice Village and students and employees begin to find other ways to campus such as bicycles. He said employees might also modify their work hours so they work from home one day or have other incentives to reduce parking demand.

      Cannady then introduced Lisa Lin, director of Transportation Demand Management. Lin reviewed recent and current projects for her office. She said the RideSystems program has allowed the university to track ridership on nine shuttle routes. She said the university is looking into opportunities to shift to an electric fleet in the next ten years. She said there are electric vehicle charging stations at the entrance three garage and they have anecdotally seen an uptick in use of those.

      Lin said Bikeshare is part of a city-wide network and she reviewed usage of the program across campus. April was the highest month of usage with over 2,000 bicycle check-outs on campus. Lin said that the faculty commuter survey is currently being completed and she will be able to analyze the data once the survey is completed. Lin’s slides can be viewed HERE.

  4. Working Group Reports
    1. Calendar working group update

      Johns-Krull, chair of the calendar working group, said that the group hopes to have a recommendation at the October meeting. He said the academic calendar is typically approved in early fall, so he would like to begin collecting feedback now in order to have the proposal ready to go soon. Johns-Krull reviewed the current rules for calendar development. He said some people have been surprised by how early classes can start for the fall semester, and a survey of students showed that ten percent of students say the early start prohibits them from taking advantage of summer learning and working opportunities. He said very few other schools start as early as Rice does.

      Johns-Krull said the working group surveyed other institutions and that Rice is in the middle in terms of number of instructional days. He pointed out that Rice has more reading days than most institutions, though. So, he said, the working group might want to think about adjusting the number of exam or reading days. He said if the group adjusts the fall start date and nothing else, it will have other impacts on the calendar. He showed potential start dates and the way they would influence the last day of the semester and graduation. He added that there seems to be a lot of pressure to keep the start of classes on Monday. Johns-Krull asked senators to get feedback from their colleagues within the next week. Of particular importance was whether faculty believe that degrees should be certified before graduation. Registrar Tenney had surveyed other institutions and found the vast number of Rice’s peers do not certify degrees before graduation. He said abandoning that requirement would give the university much more flexibility in creating and adjusting the calendar.

      Johns-Krull then opened the floor for a fifteen-minute timed discussion on the academic calendar working group’s current survey results and questions. Senator Erik Dane asked what happens in the ten days between the last final and graduation. Tenney said two days are allowed for faculty to submit grades, then the degrees are certified, the plenary session is held, and the commencement book is produced. He added that he was very surprised how many peer institutions had changed their policies to allow graduation to occur before degree certification. Deputy Speaker Ed Nikonowicz asked how many students find that their degree will not be certified at the last minute. Tenney responded that thanks to the DegreeWorks program, few students are surprised. He said probably 10-12 do not have their degree certified in the ten day period. Johns-Krull noted that there is now a precedent for graduation before certification because the December graduates do not have their degrees certified before the ceremony.

      Senator Scott Solomon said that after living on campus for years, he believed the time period between finals and graduation was expensive and a liability for the university. He suggested that faculty participation in graduation might increase if the time were reduced as well. He added that if graduation is pushed later it could disrupt the short 3-week summer term currently offered. Senator Dennis Cox said that he believes two days for faculty to get grades submitted is too short. He suggested making senior grades due at the same time as the rest of students. Nikonowicz asked if this would impact travel for Rice-sponsored events. Johns-Krull answered that the working group would need to look at that. Senator Jamie Padgett asked about the reception to the idea of shortening finals or reading days. Johns-Krull said the students don’t “love” the idea and there were mixed opinions on the committee. But, he said, removing the graduation certification requirement would help the group to adjust the calendar without shortening finals or reading days. Senator Jun Lou asked about the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as a holiday. Johns-Krull reminded the senate that the designation of Wednesday as a holiday came as a result of discussion and vote the previous year. It was an attempt to equalize the number of instructional days in the fall and spring, and a survey showed Rice was in a small minority of universities that held classes on that day. Johns-Krull said the decision was not permanent at the time, but he suspected that Wednesday would remain a holiday.

    2. Pass/Fail working group update

      Scott Solomon, chair of the pass/fail working group said he would give a brief update on the group’s work. He said they were in the information gathering phase. He said they began with a survey of faculty over the summer and found that opinions were polarized. Now they were designing a similar survey for students. He said the group had asked the Student Association (SA) which questions they wanted included. The group is also planning a townhall style meeting with students.

      Solomon said the group received data from the registrar’s office on the usage of pass/fail system and a history of pass/fail through the years from other offices on campus. He said the group is also looking at data on how pass/fail impacts students and their learning. He said the group’s goal is to have a recommendations by the end of the semester. He added that it is not a foregone conclusion that they will recommend any changes. Johns-Krull asked when the survey would go out to students and Solomon said after he met with SA representatives.

  5. Unfinished Business (None)
  6. New Business (None)
  7. Adjourn

    Johns-Krull adjourned the meeting at 1:30 p.m.