Faculty Senate Meeting
September 26, 2018
Kyle Morrow Room, Fondren Library

Senate Meeting Agenda (and actions taken):

  1. Call to Order and Welcome
  2. Announcements
    1. Reminder Faculty Ombuds
    2. Calendar Working Group
    3. Moody Center for the Arts
    4. Partisan Political Activities
    5. Remarks from President Leebron
  3. Report from Officers and Standing Committees
    1. Examinations and Standings Committee
  4. Working Group Reports (none)
  5. Unfinished Business (none)
  6. New Business
    1. Consideration for approval of revised Policy 202 "Honorary Faculty Titles" PASSED
    2. Presentation of revisions to Policy 201 companion document "Procedures for Faculty Reappointments, Promotion, and Tenure"
  7. Adjourn

Senators present: Graham Bader, Gwen Bradford, Sergio Chavez, Nate Citino, Dennis Cox, Erik Dane, Michael Diehl, Mahmoud El-Gamel, Christopher Fagundes, Julie Fette, Jeffrey Fleisher, Charles Geyer, Pat Hartigan, Christopher Johns-Krull, Marek Kimmel, David Leebron, Angel Marti-Arbona, David Messmer, Emilia Morosan, Ed Nikonowicz, Rob Raphael, Laura Segatori, Doug Schuler, Ray Simar, Scott Solomon, Kurt Stallman, Jesús Vassallo, Pablo Yepes, Colin Zelt

Senators absent: Lisa Balabanlilar (Proxy Kerry Ward present), Martin Blumenthal-Barby (Proxy Lida Oukaderova present), Daniel Domingues, Marie Lynn Miranda, Michael Wolf

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

  1. Call to Order and Welcome

    Speaker Ed Nikonowicz called the meeting to order at 12:04.

  2. Announcements
    1. Faculty Ombuds

      Nikonowicz opened the meeting by reminded senators of the new faculty ombuds, Anne Schnoebelen. Faculty can take issues, questions, or concerns to the ombuds and she will help them evaluate their options and facilitate communication. Anne can be reached at extension 4217 or ombuds@rice.edu.

    2. Academic Calendar Working Group

      Deputy Speaker Johns-Krull stated that at the last Senate meeting, there was a discussion on the inequity in number of class days between semesters and as a result a working group has been formed. The working group charge is as follows:

      The working group will examine the difference in the number of days of instruction between the Fall and Spring semesters in the proposed 2020-2021 calendar and consider whether this difference poses a problem, and if so to try to find a way to equalize the number of days of instruction in a way which will minimize the impact to the current proposed calendar. The working group will present a report and any proposed changes to the calendar at the November 14, 2018 meeting of the Rice Faculty Senate.

      The members of the working group are:

      • Gwen Bradford; Philosophy, Senate

      • John Casbarian; Architecture

      • Anna Clyburn; Undergrad rep, Martel Senator

      • Brian Gibson; Kinesiology, Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduates

      • Julie Griswold; Academic Advising for Athletics

      • Chris Johns-Krull; Chair, Physics & Astronomy, Senate

      • Dave Messmer; NTT, Lecturer and Associate Director FWIS Program, Senate

      • Bart Sinclair; School of Engineering, Senior Associate Dean of Engineering

      • Kurt Stallmann; Shepherd School, Senate

      • David Tenney; Registrar

    3. Moody Center for the Arts

      Alison Weaver, Executive Director for the Moody Center for the Arts said the center opened in February of 2017. The building has won architectural awards for its design and hosted over 14,500 visitors in the last eighteen months. It has hosted 20 classes serving 400 students. Weaver used a video to show the physical space and some of the programs that have occurred. You can view the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOSGBQ17vu0

      Weaver said that she is hoping senators will think about how the Moody Center can engage all parts of campus. She explained that they have physical spaces that include a maker space, performance space, classrooms, open space, and a café.

      When selecting programs, Weaver said, the center looks for projects that cross fields and disciplines. They always invite researchers to speak about how their work intersects in the arts. She said the workshop spaces have some regular classes with maker components that meet there, but they are also open for student’s personal projects. Previous examples include Coffeehouse and Beer Bike projects. Weaver added that the Moody Center has an artist-in-residence program. The current artist is Matthew Ritchie, whose work focuses on the history of the diagram. Upcoming programs will focus on ecology and the environment, and post-Harvey projects.

      Weaver concluded by listing three ways faculty can get involved with the Moody Center:

      • Through the Arts Initiative Fund, which provides funding for cross-collaboration with the arts

      •  Moody programing into course curriculum

      • Encouraging students to get involved

    4. Partisan Political Activities

      Nikonowicz said he invited Nathan Cook to speak to the Senate about Policy 807 since this seemed like an important time to check in. Cook began his presentation by explaining that as a 501c non-profit, the university does not participate in partisan political activities. For faculty, he said, it is most important to remember “what hat you’re wearing.” He said faculty should consider how things appear and make sure that people know when they are speaking for themselves, and not the university. Cook said that another important consideration is the distinction between policy and partisan issues.

      If an employee wants to invite a political candidate, Cook advises that they give Linda Thrane (Vice-President for Public Affairs) as much advance notice as possible and be clear about whether they are being invited to talk about policy or give a campaign speech.

      Lora Wildenthal, Associate Dean of Humanities, asked about a situation in which the Rice Democrats had trouble reserving a table for a voter registration drive. Cook and Kerry Ward, history professor, explained that it has to be clear if literature will be given out or fundraising will occur. Senator Gwen Bradford asked for more clarification about the line between public and private political views. Cook answered that if the university pays for it and it is in public view, it could be problematic. Senator Scott Soloman asked if there was a social media policy. Cook said that employees are free to express their views on their own personal accounts but should make clear that it is their own opinion and not representative of the university. Speaker Nikonowicz added that employees should be cautious of using university email as well. Cook explained that yes, employees should not write, respond, or forward political emails using their @rice address.

    5. Remarks from President Leebron

      President Leebron gave an update on the Rice Investment program that was launched the week before. He began by acknowledging concern that the program does not apply to international students. He said that international students are admitted based on merit and the availability of aid. He said the university has greatly increased financial aid for international students. The Rice Investment is targeted toward middle income students. He explained that it is difficult to identify what constitutes “middle income” for international students and it is sometimes difficult to verify the documentation of income.

      Leebron then said that people have asked if full tuition students will have to pay more to subsidize the Rice Investment. He explained that “not one dime” of a student’s tuition goes toward another student’s. He said he would expect a typical tuition increase this year and nothing more.

      President Leebron then said that the primary risk of this program is that it will be too successful. He said it is possible the university will end up with more middle income students and then will need to pay for that. He said the typical response has been overwhelmingly positive because it is deeply connected to Rice values. He said the media coverage was positive and that this was not a reaction to a problem but was done because it’s important to the Rice community.

      Speaker Nikonowicz asked how much money was needed for the plan. Leebron responded that the answer is complicated but the university has already raised $50 million and needs to raise another $100 million.

  3. Reports from Officers and Standing Committees
    1. EX&S Committee

      Pat Reiff, professor of physics and astronomy and chair of the Examinations and Standing Committee, was present to give a report on recent work and trends of the committee. She said this is her fifth year on the committee and first as chair. She said the committee sees about 400 petitions a year and that number has not really increased despite an increase in enrollment. She explained that Wendi Schoffstall, Division Manager for Academics, puts in a lot of effort to make sure petitions are completely ready to go before they come before the committee.

      Reiff overviewed a few key concerns of the committee. The first is a rise in mental health related cases. She said in the 2016-2017 year, 26% of the cases they saw were based on mental health. There was a decrease in 2017-2018 to 17% but it wasn’t clear if that was a “good news” case or a result of later deadlines after Hurricane Harvey. Reiff stated that Wellbeing and Advising have started working together earlier in the semester to identify problems so that courses are dropped sooner and students do not have to petition the EX&S committee. She stated the committee depends on the input of Aliya Bhimani and Brad Blunt in their decisions.

      Reiff said another issue that comes up repeatedly is the decision to audit a course. Students can drop a course, but they cannot change it to an audit. There is also an issue with courses that have variable credit hours that need to be changed. The default credit is set to one hour and Reiff said it might be easier to set it higher and then drop back if needed. The committee also sees many late adds related to internships that don’t get worked out until after the semester has begun.

      Finally, Reiff reported that the committee spends a lot of time on students who want to “uncover” their Pass/Fail grade. She said 10-15% of cases they see are related to the Pass/Fail. She said there is a range of opinion on the committee and that her report should not be seen as any sort of recommendation for a particular path. But, she added, it might save EX&S significant time if it was easier for students to uncover their P/F grades or allow them to uncover it at a later time if it counted as using one of the P/F’s.

      Senator Jeff Fleisher asked if a student is allowed to uncover their Pass/Fail grade, do they get that P/F usage back? Reiff answered that yes, they can, though many students don’t seem to know that. Speaker Nikonowicz asked how many Pass/Fails students get. Registrar David Tenney answered that students get one per year they are here, but can only use one per semester. He added that this topic consumes a large amount of the committee’s time. Schoffstall suggested that the students are bending the rule via committee. Tenney asked if the Senate could do something to address the issue and Nikonowicz responded that it is already on the list of items for the Senate to consider.

      Reiff concluded her report by explaining to senators that the more detail they can put in their support letters for student appeals, the more helpful it is. The committee often respects the wishes of the professor and the students do not see the letters. The committee reads the letters very carefully.

      Senator Julie Fette said that she wanted to thank Reiff publicly for her service on the committee for over half a decade.

  4. Working Group Reports (none)
  5. Unfinished Business (none)
  6. New Business
    1. Consideration for approval of revised Policy 202 "Honorary Faculty Titles"

      Nikonowicz opened discussion for revisions to Policy 202: Honorary Faculty Titles. He summarized the major changes by saying some portions had been broken into specific parts, certain terms were defined, and details were provided in how title holders are reviewed. Fleisher, who served as Speaker last year, commented that the Executive Committee had read and responded to the document last year so it had been through a review already. Nikonowicz added that the document had already been through the VPAA’s and General Counsel offices as well. Julie Fette motioned to approve the revised policy. Fleisher seconded it. The motion passed unanimously. The voting record can be found HERE.

    2. Presentation of revisions to Policy 201 companion document "Procedures for Faculty Reappointments, Promotion, and Tenure"

      Nikonowicz reminded senators that discussion of the revised Policy 201 began at the previous meeting and asked if senators had further questions or comments. Fette asked about the situation of a professor that comes to Rice with experience from another institution. She said it didn’t seem to be addressed in the document and wondered if it is or should be addressed in the appointment letter. Senator Emilia Morosan said that she believes it needs to be formalized because a candidate might not know to ask for the clarification when negotiating for a position. Deputy Speaker Johns-Krull said that the current document refers to the amount of time since a professor has earned her/his PhD so it wouldn’t invalidate a person’s earlier work. Fleisher said the procedures state that they can request to “come up early.” Fette responded that in these cases, a professor is not necessarily coming up “early” and the document states that it is rare.

      Wildenthal commented that the standard needs to be clarified as to whether it is counting the time since beginning at Rice or completing the PhD. Senator Pat Hartigan said that the worry is there’s variability in what people are coming with. We want to make sure that people who want the full seven years get the full seven years. He said he thinks the flexibility is needed. Fette said that you could add “OR junior faculty with prior experience at another institution.” Wildenthal added that this is a “real issue” and we should avoid the implication that there is a specific “quantity” required for tenure.

      Senator Chris Fagundes said that the psychology department was universally opposed to this document because they do not like the “one shot” restriction and they believe collaborators and former mentors can provide valuable letters. Senator Erik Dane added that the provost had provided the reasons for the “one shot” tenure restriction. Johns-Krull then reviewed those reasons. They include the amount of time invested by university and outside reviewers, a belief that only the strongest candidates should be put forward for tenure, and a history that indicates denied candidates rarely overcome an initial negative vote. He added that this is how P&T has been operating already, but the document codifies it. He also said that in the provost’s recent memory, no one has gone up for tenure early and been denied. Nikonowicz said he looked at information gathered by the provost as to what peer institutions do, and most only allow one attempt at tenure. Wildenthal commented that the draft clarifies the “point of no return” which is once the letters have been requested. Fagundes said the way other universities that he knows of (a neighboring example is at the UTs in the medical center on tenure track) deal with the case of an early tenure denial was that if a person goes up for tenure again, the new packet only addresses what was missing previously. Nikonowicz responded that he thinks it is viewed as restarting. Senator Gwen Bradford said there’s a strong case to be made that people carefully consider going up for tenure early and that the one-shot regulation could be seen as protecting pre-tenure professors.

      Nikonowicz said the goal is to vote on the document at the next meeting. Reiff said another discussion in her department was about retention. There is a concern that if people are not able to go up for tenure early, they might go somewhere else. Fleisher asked if there’s a chance the person could be denied, how good are they. He said if the university is putting people up early as retention, they are going in the wrong direction. Senator Emilia Morosan said external letters are not necessary to tell if someone is ready. Senator Mahmoud El-Gamal said the university might not know they have a star and the university discovers that when they go on the market.

      Nikonowicz responded that the provost received input on those two topics as well. Johns-Krull said that the suggestion is that previous advisors will get their own folder. The current document allows for close collaborators. He said the dean decides what a close collaborator is. Nikonowicz said that it is appreciated that collaborators and advisors have something to offer. The question is how to include it. Fleisher commented that the provost and P&T committee understand that.

  7. Adjourn

    Nikonowicz adjourned the meeting at 1:45.