September 26, 2007

Minutes of the Faculty Senate of Rice University

Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 12:00 p.m.

Shell Auditorium in the Jones School


I. Announcements

II. Proposal for a Ph.D. in Management from the Jones School (Jim Faubion)

III. Proposal for a Modification to Athletics Admissions (Evan Siemann)

IV. SACS Update (John Cornwell, Associate VP for Institutional Effectiveness)

V. New Business: Identification of faculty questions with regard to admissions

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

Senators absent: Dale Sawyer, Jim Young, Michael Deem, Matteo Pasquali, Brian Huberman, Robert Raphael, Rebekah Drezek.

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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I. Announcements

Deborah Harter welcomed two new Senators: Ed Cox (History) and Michael Emerson (Sociology). Emerson will replace Dave Schneider, while Ed Cox will replace Tony Pinn.

Harter announced the Executive Committee recommendation regarding a Senate response to the report from the Committee on the Rice Undergraduate Program (the CRUP report). The committee suggests that the Senate accept with gratitude this thorough report, and that the Speaker and Deputy Speaker speak with Robin Forman about ways in which the Senate and the faculty at large might become more involved as the CRUP process unfolds. Harter then asked the Senators to vote as to whether they approved of this recommendation. The vote was in the affirmative; no substantive reply from the Senate will be needed for the CRUP report.

Harter mentioned that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) initiative regarding review of key academic administrators introduced at the August 2007 meeting was warmly accepted by the president and the provost. Harter and Deputy Speaker Michael Stern have met with the president and the provost, who will come up with a proposal for a new system by the end of this semester. The goal is to have a plan the administration and the Faculty Senate can agree upon by the end of this academic year.

A workshop on the evaluation of teaching will be held October 16, 2007. An information sheet was distributed to all in attendance.

Evan Siemann explained that work on future academic calendars had begun by identifying problems with the current calendar: 1) too many exam days in the fall semester make for a short winter break, 2) separate exam days for seniors and non-seniors, and 3) no study period for seniors in the spring. One roadblock to solving the problem of too many exam days is the Honor Council’s Exam Seating Rules which result in the classrooms being one-quarter full. Siemann stated that many professors are not following these seating rules, but the registrar’s office is not agreeable to ignoring this rule in an official manner. Siemann stated that perhaps it can be suspended unofficially, thus eliminating the need for multiple exam days. Another issue is the “two exam per two day” rule which is not comparable to Rice’s peer institutions. The rule would need to be changed to two exams per day for meaningful change in the calendar.

Siemann stated that he and David Tenney had made a draft of a calendar for 2008-2009. By modifying the seating rule and modifying the exam limit rule, the number of exam days could be reduced to five, thus extending the winter break by four days. The mini-break would probably have to be eliminated. He offered to give a copy of this first draft to anyone who was interested. Stern asked if there was time to make these changes, and the response was that although the 2008-2009 calendar has been posted, the major events such as O-Week, Spring Break, and Commencement will not be affected, so it is possible to make these changes. Harter requested that if anyone else would like to work on the academic calendar with Siemann, they should let her know.

Linda Thrane, Vice President of Public Affairs, discussed the recent work of her office in promoting RiceUniversity among alumni, students, faculty, and the community at large. She stated the names of the persons in her department and their titles, and introduced David Ruth, Associate Director of Public Affairs, who works to promote Rice on the national level. She encouraged the group to let Mr. Ruth know of any newsworthy items. Thrane showed the many logos and symbols used by Rice in the past and noted the clutter. The consistent use of one image (Athenian owls on the shield) will better represent Rice University. Thrane introduced the new web director Sean Rieger, previously with the Houston Rockets, who will work to upgrade the pages on the Rice University website. “Who Knew” and “Unconventional Wisdom” are theRice University campaign slogans being used successfully in all media.

II. Proposal for a Ph.D. in Management from the Jones School

Harter explained the process for any new graduate degree at Rice: the Graduate Council reviews the proposal first, and then sends their recommendation to the Faculty Senate. Harter then introduced Jim Faubion (Anthropology) who was the chair of the Graduate Council last year.

Faubion began by stating that the Graduate Council has recommended without dissension that the Faculty Senate approve the proposal for a Ph.D. in Management. Faubion explained that the Graduate Council was first approached in the Fall semester of 2006 by the Jones School regarding this Ph.D. The Graduate Council did an assessment of the management programs at other business schools, asked for specifics from the Jones School on how this new program at Rice would conform to the emerging accreditation requirements, and asked for clarification from the Jones School on how this graduate program would act reciprocally with other graduate programs at Rice. The proposal came back to the Graduate Council in the Spring semester of 2007 with these questions satisfied, and at that juncture it was approved.

Harter asked the group if there were any questions and offered Seethu Seetharaman from the JonesSchool as a person who could answer them.

Gautami Shah stated that she liked the proposal, but she would like to know how the faculty of the JonesSchool felt about this proposal. Seetharaman replied that during the previous dean’s tenure, there was the feeling that a Ph.D. was needed. He stated that William Glick, the current dean, agrees, and there is no resistance among the Jones School faculty at all.

Randy Batsell added that when he came to Rice in 1980, there was no Ph.D. program in Management and this was a problem in attracting faculty and building the Jones School. He said all of the Jones Schoolfaculty members think this addition will impact the program positively.

Stern asked for clarification on the reciprocal issue—would instituting this program mean that any graduate student could take these Ph.D. classes? Are there prerequisites? Would this add a burden to faculty?

Faubion replied that these classes are not for progress to an MBA, only a Ph.D. Seetharaman added that the faculty involved understand how a doctoral program works and they do not expect an overload of students. Based on their experience, they expect most students to be from the Jones School.

Seimann referenced a recent article in the Thresher which compared the demographics of the MBA students unfavorably to the undergraduate students at Rice. He asked how these Ph.D. candidates’ scores will compare in terms of GPA and SAT to the Rice undergraduates’ scores. Seethamaran replied that the requirements for a doctoral program are very different from the requirements for a master’s degree. The proposal makes clear the distinction between courses, and the Ph.D. admission requirements will be quite stringent.

James Weston added that the admissions for the Ph.D. program will not be handled by the admissions office—these candidates will be hand-selected by the Jones School faculty who will be looking for outstanding academic quality and research-oriented students.

Ben Kamins said many of the Senators will be asked how this program will be funded at Rice, and he’d like to know how to answer that question. Dean Glick replied that zero dollars will come from the general fund. Eugene Levy added that the Jones School is financially independent.

Kamins said that if students across campus can take these courses as electives, the assumption is that they are funded by Rice University. Levy clarified by stating that reciprocity of enrollment is how it will be funded. David Leebron reiterated that in terms of financial resources, zero comes from Rice. In terms of teaching resources, there is an exchange, which is not unusual.

Peter Mieszkowski asked if the comprehensive exam mentioned in the proposal will cover all the subjects the student takes or just the Management courses. Seethamaran replied using a Ph.D. Marketing student as an example. The Marketing comprehensive exam will include everything the student has internalized over the past two years. While the exam itself might be quite specific, such as a pricing problem, it would encompass knowledge the student has gained through their courses, seminars, and experience with marketing research. The Finance student, on the other hand, will take a Finance comprehensive exam.

Harter asked for a motion to approve the Jones School Ph.D. program. Duane Windsor made the motion and also passed it out in written form. A second to this motion was made and a vote was held. The Faculty Senate approved the motion with one abstention. (See the approved proposal under "Actions of the Senate" on the Faculty Senate portion of the Rice University website.)

III. Proposal for a Modification to Athletics Admissions

Harter asked Evan Siemann to speak about the recommendation from the Working Group on Athletic Admissions to modify the athletic admissions process. Siemann first asked President Leebron if this information was confidential since it included student GPAs in a summary form. The reply was that although not confidential, it is not for publication by the media.

Siemann then explained the admissions process for athletes: there are three phases or categories of student-athletes based on class rank, SAT scores, and grades in courses. The applications from students in all three phases are read by the three faculty members on this committee in the admissions office, who give their opinions to the admissions director who makes the final decision. Some problems with this process include: 1) the three faculty members must often go quickly to the admissions office to read a single application, 2) for the most qualified students, the vote is almost always unanimous, and 3) the student-athletes the Rice faculty would most like to have and the ones that the coaches would most like to have are both good athletes and very strong students. He stated that what the committee would like is for the coaches to be able to commit to the best candidates quickly. The current process requiring the three faculty members to come across campus and read the applications causes a delay in making a decision.

Siemann stated the Working Group’s proposal is that the Faculty Senate endorses the following change: The Phase I (most qualified) students’ applications would no longer be read by faculty before the Director of Admissions makes the admission decisions. The Phase 1 applications would still be read by the faculty members, but all at once after the decisions have been made.

All of the Phase 2 and Phase 3 students’ applications would still require reading by faculty before any admissions decisions are made. At the end of the year, all aspects of the athletic admissions process would be discussed and evaluated in a meeting of the faculty readers, the chair of the committee on admissions, and the director of the admissions office. A report would be presented to the Faculty Senate in the Fall semester.

Siemann checked the data of past athletic admissions to see what would have happened had this process been used in the past. Of the records from 2000-2006, there was only one Phase 1 student out of 245 that the faculty readers said they did not want admitted. That student was admitted anyway, and he/she is on track to graduate this year. This proposed change is thus trivial, he stated, as shown by this research.

A discussion followed clarifying the three phases of student applicants, and there was some concern that less qualified students would be admitted under the new process. However, Siemann stated the phase criteria will not change. At this point, the Thresher representatives were asked to leave the room. John Bolesreiterated that of the 245 Phase 1 students who applied, 244 were approved by the faculty readers, and the final applicant is due to graduate this year.

Leebron clarified that coaches do not make admissions decisions. He stated that the Admissions Office makes the decisions regarding student-athletes just as they do with all students. Siemann added that neither do the faculty readers make admissions decisions; they simply make recommendations to the Admissions Office. Boles added that 65% of Rice student-athletes are Phase 1 students.

Leebron stated that the faculty has a critical governance and supervisory role to play in admissions. With the exception of the athletic admissions process discussed here, the faculty’s role should not be participating in individual admissions decisions, but to make sure the admissions office understands what the priorities of the faculty are, not just with athletes but students overall, and for the faculty to get feedback on this process. Leebron continued: there may be some disagreement on just what the faculty’s role should be or what the best use of faculty time is. He stated the faculty’s best use is providing governance over the admissions process, not the implementation of it. There are opportunities for the faculty to discuss in broad terms the students they want. This change discussed today could even drive Rice toward more Phase 1 students. In the past, Rice has been slower than other universities in getting the best student-athletes. Leebron said Rice’s competition is Duke, Stanford, Northwestern, and other Division 1A schools with high entry qualifications. If Rice can get more Phase 1 student-athletes by speeding up the admissions process, there will be less need for the Phase 2 students. Siemann added that many of the Phase 2 and Phase 3 students are likely to be successful as well, and this is where the faculty can be helpful in identifying those that are likely to succeed at Rice.

Harter said this proposal seemed to be reasonable and even productive, and she thanked the presenters for their work. Randy Stevenson moved that the Faculty Senate accept this recommendation, there was a second, and the vote passed unanimously. (See the approved proposal under "Actions of the Senate" on the Senate portion of the Rice University website.)

IV. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Update

John Cornwell, Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness, introduced himself and his colleague, Virginia Ann Coleman, who was an assistant dean at Fordham University prior to coming to Rice. Coleman handed out information on how to contact the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, a summary of the Monitoring Report submitted to SACS, and a glossary of terms. Cornwell stated that the mission of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness is to help others pull together documentation to show, both for our own purposes and in answer to external entities such as SACS, that we at Rice are achieving our objectives in accomplishing student learning outcomes. Another thing his office provides is technical assistance for identifying and assessing outcomes for continuous improvement. He has found that much self-assessment is already going on. Finally, his office strengthens the linkage of outcomes assessment with resource allocation and planning.

Cornwell stated that SACS, in January 2007, cited only three principles out of 80 that Rice needed to improve, shown below.

3.3.1 (Institutional Effectiveness)

Outcomes assessment for all academic & support services

3.4.1 (All Educational Programs)

Outcomes assessment for all degree programs

3.5.1 (Undergraduate Programs)

Assessment of common learning outcomes for all undergraduates

Cornwell’s office replied to SACS with a Monitoring Report on September 5, 2007. Cornwell feels that Rice is now in compliance with 3.3.1. Principle 3.4.1 means that each educational program must demonstrate established learning outcomes as indicators of what students are to know, think, or be able to do as a result of their program curriculum. Every academic program must have an assessment of one learning outcome. Much work has been done at Rice collecting outcomes assessments to satisfy 3.4.1. RiceUniversity will hear back from SACS in January 2008 with a response to this Monitoring Report.

Cornwell then explained that Principle 3.5.1 will require the most work during the upcoming year by the entire university. Rice is not making sufficient progress with this principle which basically states the university has an understanding of what the common educational undergraduate experience should be, that we can articulate it, we can assess it, and we can act on making changes as needed. The CRUP report, for example, shows that Rice University does not even agree on what the common undergraduate educational experience should achieve. However, Cornwell believes SACS will report in January that they are pleased with Rice’s progress in this area. The reason this is so important is because the federal government (U.S. Department of Education) has a policy, not SACS, that if a university has an issue that is unresolved at the time it has been reaffirmed, it has two years in which to resolve it. One year from now, Rice must pull together documentation showing that we do agree on what the undergraduate educational experience should be, that we have at least piloted assessment techniques, and that we are in a good position to build on this for the future.

Cornwell then summarized his plan for this year, as shown below.

2007-08 Work Plan

Every educational program engaged in outcomes assessment

Review/strengthen learning outcomes, assessment plans, curriculum mapping

Pilot assessment approaches for common UG learning outcomes

He also referenced the glossary of terms that SACS and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness uses, and asked for questions.

Randy Batsell asked if the exams he gives to students count as assessment documents. The reply was that exams assess what the student knows, but they don’t assess the whole program. Batsell then askedwhether, if the questions were on specific learning objectives, they would qualify, Cornwell replied that if he could add up the students who answered these specific questions correctly, representing the entire class’s learning of this objective, yes, this would count as assessment.

Shah asked Cornwell to clarify two points: first, “each educational program”—does this mean the Center for the Study of Languages needs to demonstrate an assessment of one learning outcome or does it mean a specific language class such as French needs to do so? Cornwell said SACS considers any major that is awarded as a department that must provide proof of one learning outcome.

Shah then asked if external reviews could qualify as assessment by SACS. Cornwell replied that it depends on the data provided to the outside reviewers--items such as student opinion surveys would not qualify as they do not assess learning.

Tom Killian asked about the recommendations from SACS and how Cornwell’s office is implementing them. Cornwell replied that in some cases, the dean of the department will meet with him or with Virginia Coleman, in other cases he is asked to speak to someone else in the department. Some departments will ask for help in changing their form of assessment as it is too time-consuming. Others say they have it under control and Cornwell will just ask for a report from the department. Cornwell agreed with Killian that 3.1, 4.1, and 5.1 are redundant and he can help each department interpret them.

Cornwell then discussed graduate degrees saying if a student is admitted into a doctoral program and earns a Master’s degree along the way, yet leaves before earning the doctorate, Rice does not have to provide SACS with two learning outcomes. However, Rice also has many terminal Masters programs which each need their own learning outcomes.

Harter thanked Coleman for his presentation and also welcomed him to Rice University.

V. New Business—Undergraduate Admissions

Harter explained that many Senators had expressed concern regarding undergraduate admissions at the last Faculty Senate meeting. At the next Faculty Senate meeting, President Leebron will discuss the undergraduate admissions process and how the faculty can have more input. In preparation for that discussion, she asked the Senators to articulate some of their questions. The following were raised:

  1. What is the ideal role for faculty in the course of the admissions process? What is the best use of our time and what is our responsibility? (Tom Killian)
  2. What is the actual admissions process? What happens to an application between receipt at Rice and the decision to admit or deny admission? (Mike Stern)
  3. What is the percentage of students who apply and show excellence in one area, but are not admitted to Rice? (Randy Stevenson)
  4. What is the profile of those students admitted who do not end up attending Rice?(Nancy Niedzielski)
  5. Would it be possible to identify successful former students and admit those types now? It was suggested that this could be a long-term research possibility. (Randy Batsell)
  6. Is there a departmental/division cap or quota used in admitting students? What is the justification for those quotas, and how does the current system of admissions account for the many students who change majors? (Randy Stevenson)
  7. Are there geographic or any sort of caps used in admissions? (Meredith Skura)
  8. As we discuss admissions, shouldn’t we ask ourselves about the overall profile of the person who will thrive at Rice? (Ben Kamins)
  9. Are there financial considerations in our admissions process? (Peter Mieszkowski)

Harter thanked all those who had presented information to the Senate in the course of the meeting, and then asked the group to take a moment to reflect on the recent death of Alan Grob. She said that one of the places his voice had been felt especially keenly had been at faculty meetings, where he had always spoken with real courage. Here, and in his teaching, he had had an enormous impact on the Rice community.

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