September 3, 2014

Faculty Senate Meeting - September 3, 2014

Founder’s Room, Lovett Hall

Agenda (and Actions Taken):

I. Call to order and welcome

II. Announcements

III. Update from President Leebron

IV. Update from Provost McLendon

V. Working Groups and University Committee Reports

A. Working Group on Distance Education

B. Faculty Advisory Committee to the OFD (Recommendations Endorsed)

VI. New Business

A. Election of Executive Committee (Slate Approved)

B. Approval of Academic Calendar 2016-2017 (Fall 2016 approved; Spring 2017 tabled until December 3, 2014)

C. Senate priorities and working groups for 2014-2015


Senators present: David Alexander, Robert Atherholt, Kate Beckingham, Dave Caprette, Daniel Cohen, Keith Cooper, Scott Cutler, Erik Dane, Michael Diehl, Luis Duno-Gottberg, Claire Fanger, Jeffrey Fleisher, Illya Hicks, Christopher Hight, Betty Joseph, Rachel Kimbro, Anatoly Kolomeisky, David Leebron, Jonathan Ludwig, Susan Lurie, Susan McIntosh, George McLendon, Timothy Morton, Fred Oswald, Brian Rountree, Stan Sazykin, Laura Segatori, James Weston, and Michael Wolf.

Senators absent: Jerry Dickens, Marek Kimmel, Michael Kohn, and Luay Nakhleh.

PROCEEDINGS (To listen to an audio tape of this meeting, email

I. Call to order and welcome

Speaker James Weston called the meeting to order at 12:05 p.m. He welcomed all new and returning senators and guests to the meeting. He thanked the senators for their service, which he said they perform on a volunteer basis because they care about the university. He described the Faculty Senate as a well-functioning group that enjoys open, civil discourse and one that works well with the university administration.

II. Announcements

A. Introduction of Faculty Senate
Weston introduced the new senators: Daniel Cohen, Erik Dane, Luis Duno-Gottberg, Marek Kimmel, Susan Lurie, and Timothy Morton. Weston also announced the officers of the Senate for 2014-2015: Speaker James Weston, Deputy Speaker Rachel Kimbro, Convener of Appeals and Grievances Brian Rountree, Parliamentarian Fred Oswald, and in a non-Senate role entitled “Faculty Advisor to President Leebron,” Jane Grande-Allen. Grande-Allen described her new position and invited faculty members to visit in her office or at the Brochstein Pavilion on Wednesday afternoons. (Email:

B. Introduction of University Committee Chairs
Weston introduced each chairperson and thanked him/her for serving.

Admissions: Ric Stoll

Athletics: Jimmy Disch

Examinations and Standing: Elias Bongmba

Faculty & Staff Benefits: Richard Grandy

Fellowships & Awards: Matthew Baring

Graduate Council: James Faubion

Library: David Tobin

Marshals: Keith Cooper

Faculty Advisory Committee to the Office of Faculty Development (OFD):
Don Morrison

Parking and Transportation: William Cannady

President’s Lecture Series: Andre Droxler

Faculty Advisory Board (FAB) for the Program for Writing and Communication:
Helena Michie

Research: George Phillips

Teaching: Michael Gustin

Undergraduate Curriculum: Susan McIntosh

C. Introduction of Promotion and Tenure Committee

Weston announced the members of the Promotion and Tenure Committee and also thanked them for serving:

Engineering Danny Sorensen
(Sorensen to serve 2014-15 in place of Michael Wong)

Humanities April DeConick

Jones School Jeff Fleming

Natural Sciences Bonnie Bartel

Social Sciences Melissa Marschall

Music & Architecture Carlos Jimenez

Provost Appointment Kathy Ensor (Stat)

Provost Appointment Antonio Merlo (Econ)

D. New BioSciences Department
Janet Braam, chair of the new Department of BioSciences, announced that the department was formed July 1, 2014, by combining the departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) and Biochemistry and Cell Biology (BCB). Weston stated that the Executive Committee decided that since the formation of the department did not involve any curricular changes, Senate approval was not required.

E. Update on provost search

Deputy Speaker Rachel Kimbro, chair of the Provost Search Advisory Committee, listed the members of the committee:

Rick Barrera (Materials Science & NanoEngineering)
Margaret Beier (Psychology)
Carl Caldwell (History)
April DeConick (Religion)
Dawn Finley (Architecture)
Illya Hicks (Computational and Applied Mathematics)
Ben Kamins (Music)
Lydia Kavraki (Computer Science)
Kathy Matthews (BioSciences)
Cary Wolfe (English)
Peter Wolynes (Chemistry)
Michael Wong (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)
Jing Zhou (Business)

Kimbro explained that the role of the Advisory Committee is to gather information from the Rice community, including nominations, for the position of provost. She said that, to date, 80 nominations external to Rice and 25 internal nominations have been received. Kimbro said that the vetting of the final nominees will be the responsibility of a second-stage committee. She added, though, that the original Advisory Committee will be involved with the interview process in order to ensure continuity. Kimbro asked that any questions or comments be sent to her or any member of the committee before September 12, 2014.

President Leebron thanked the Advisory Committee for its work. He said that he agreed with the committee’s conclusion to perform a national search, as well as the two-stage process that the committee is using to find the next provost. Leebron said that the goal is to bring the search to conclusion by the end of 2014, with negotiations extending into 2015.

Leebron was asked why the second-stage group of five or six people was not going to be selected from the original Advisory Committee. He said that one reason is that the roles of the two committees are different. He said that the first committee was designed to be very broad, while the second committee will be an operational group. Leebron was also asked if he had thought of redefining the role of the provost, to which he replied no, but he said that he was open to suggestions.

F. Campus sexual assault policies, procedures

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said that the federal government, under President Obama, has made a series of pronouncements about sexual assault on university campuses. Hutchinson said that faculty and staff members need to be fully informed about Rice’s policies and practices regarding sexual assault and the appropriate response to make if notified that an assault has taken place. He introduced Don Ostdiek, Associate Dean of Undergraduates. Hutchison and Ostdiek explained the following efforts currently in place at Rice:

  • education and prevention of sexual assault, including Project SAFE (Sexual Assault-Free Environment);
  • a robust set of policies and practices which are ahead of the recommendations from the federal government;
  • dramatically increased support to student victims, including experts from the Houston Area Women’s Center, as well as immediate emergency service on a walk-in basis;
  • regarding outcomes of reported assaults, Rice adjudicates carefully with an eye towards fairness for all, including consultation from the survivor as to what he/she wants to occur.

Hutchinson was asked if there have been changes in the rules regarding reporting. Hutchinson replied that the White House has identified two categories of personnel: confidential staff and responsible staff. He said that all faculty are considered to be responsible staff who must relay any reported assaults to an officer or administrator in a confidential staff position, such as Russell Barnes, Stacey Mosely, or Don Ostdiek. Hutchinson stressed that faculty should never promise a student that they will not report an assault to the appropriate party.

Senator Mike Wolf, a former residential college master, said that in his experience, often the first discussion that a victim had with a faculty or staff member was relaying their feelings about an experience, but not immediately or directly reporting an assault. Wolf stated his concern that the new policies on mandatory disclosure could harm the trusting relationship between students and masters, making that first contact by the victim less likely. He said that the new policy threatens to weaken the system rather than strengthen it. Hutchinson replied that it was important for a central authority to be informed so that clues from disparate sources could be put together in order to combat a possible serial attacker.

Hutchinson was also asked about police involvement in assault cases. He explained that survivors are offered the assistance of the Rice University Police Department, but the university cannot make the determination as to whether criminal charges are filed; only the survivor can file charges. Ostdiek said that survivors may pursue internal or external measures, and while they usually choose internal, the Harris County District Attorney is informed of each case.

The last question asked of Hutchinson was the makeup of the adjudication board at Rice, should the survivor choose internal measures. Ostdiek replied that Rice does not have an adjudication board, but uses a single, professional investigator process.

Hutchinson said that although Rice has strong procedures and practices in place, an updated policy is being written, and he will keep the Senate informed.

III. Update from President Leebron

President Leebron said that he received overwhelmingly positive feedback for the new commencement ceremonies format used in May 2014. He thanked Keith Cooper, Head Marshal, for his efforts, and he said that no changes are expected for next year’s ceremonies.

Leebron said that the State of the University Address will be held on September 24, 2014, at 3:00 p.m., in McMurtry Auditorium of Duncan Hall, followed by a faculty reception. He said that the focus of the presentation will be on teaching, with brief reports on enrollment, the provost search, and the search for a Chief Information Officer, among other topics.

IV. Update from Provost McLendon

Provost McLendon said that he looked forward to a great year. McLendon encouraged faculty to meet with him at Brochstein Pavilion on Wednesday mornings, beginning at 7:30 a.m., for coffee and conversation. The provost then addressed the topic of capping class enrollment, stating that in general, modest-sized classes were preferable to large classes. However, he acknowledged that it is often hard for departments to find the resources to achieve small classes. He said that if a faculty member is teaching a large class and would like to bring down the number of students, his office has some resources to help achieve it. McLendon was asked when the official class size is determined. Registrar David Tenney said that the official census date is the Monday following week seven of the semester.

McLendon said that Rice continues to have a strong promotion and tenure system, as well as continuing to recruit great new scholars. He said that improvements could be made in holding better and more uniform reviews of systems and departments, as well as the fair promotion of associate professors to full professors, and he will be working on those issues.

V. Working Group and Committee Reports

A. Working Group on Distance Education

Jeffrey Fleisher, chair of the Senate’s Working Group on Distance Education, began his presentation by listing the members of the working group:

Jeffrey Fleisher, chair Joe Warren

Anatoly Kolomeisky Josh Eyler, ex officio

Kirsten Ostherr Caroline Levander, ex officio
Fleisher said that the working group on distance education was charged with determining whether Rice needs a policy on the creation and evaluation of distance education courses. He said that the working group defines distance education as a formal educational process in which the majority of the instruction (interaction between students and instructors and among students) in a course occurs when students and instructors are not in the same place.


The working group does not recommend creating a formal policy at this time, for the following reasons:

1. There is no University-wide policy that currently governs the creation of courses more generally; policies only exist at the departmental level, if at all.

2. Distance education courses (those for credit) have yet to be taught at Rice and there is currently no articulated vision at Rice to develop significant online for-credit courses.

The working group recommends that the Faculty Senate affirm the following:

1. All distance education courses must meet the same standards as on-campus courses and be evaluated and approved by departments.

2. Unless they are funded by the Provost’s grants for courses with asynchronous content (MOOCs), the responsibility for the costs of preparing, creating and maintaining distance education courses rests at the departmental level.

3. The Digital Education Advisory Committee should reassess annually the need for a policy on distance education at Rice.

Finally, the working group asks that the Digital Education Advisory Committee take up the following:

1. Research and draft a statement on best practices in distance education to help guide faculty that plan to develop distance education courses to resources available at Rice.

2. Administer a survey of online content and courses at Rice to create a baseline for future assessments.

Fleisher said that he had received two questions about the working group’s recommendation regarding the funding of distance education. He said that this recommendation was written so that departments will understand that faculty members who undertake distance education will need support from their department.. One senator suggested that a broader statement be made, and Fleisher said that the group could consider rewriting the statement. At this point, President Leebron said that he did not want a message sent as to what the university would or would not fund.

Caroline Levander, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives and Digital Education, elaborated on the topic. She said that a Rice faculty member might develop an on-campus course for-credit, then turn it into a MOOC (Massively Open Online Course), then bring it back to campus. She said that a lot of experimentation is occurring. Another senator asked if Rice has a way of assessing the effectiveness of the online versus in-class experience. Levander said that some assessments are occurring, such as John Hutchinson’s survey of his class. Hutchinson said that in general, comparison of the two systems is just starting. In summary, Weston said that no specific action is required of the Senate at this time. He thanked Fleisher and the working group for their report and recommendations.

B. Faculty Advisory Committee to the Office of Faculty Development

Don Morrison, chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee to the Office of Faculty Development, said that the committee recommends that Rice reduce the frequency and redundancy of university-wide faculty surveys by adopting the following guidelines

Internal surveys:

• Service-related surveys should be consolidated into a single short survey (max. 10-15 minutes) once per year;

• A faculty survey to cover questions related to climate and satisfaction should continue once every four years;

• Surveys should be managed through the Office of the Provost and the Office of Faculty Development.

• Those planning a survey should consider carefully the usefulness, possible duplication, and likely response rate of the survey.

• Surveys that do not fit these guidelines require authorization from the Provost. (For example, a survey conducted by a task force to gather faculty input for policy changes.)

External surveys:

• External surveys will be facilitated only if they provide Rice with valuable information and data not otherwise collected.

• The decision to approve an external survey will be made by the Faculty Advisory Committee to the Office of Faculty Development.

• Surveys should be managed though the Offices of Institutional Research and Faculty Development.

Following the presentation, Weston informed the senators that the Executive Committee had moved and seconded the committee’s recommendations for endorsement by the Senate. The Senate vote was unanimously in favor of endorsement.

VI. New Business

A. Election of Executive Committee

Speaker and Deputy elected Spring 2014:

James Weston (Jones School of Business)

Rachel Kimbro (Social Sciences)

Executive Committee slate proposed Spring 2014:

Christopher Hight (Architecture)

Betty Joseph (Humanities)

Anatoly Kolomeisky (Natural Sciences)

Fred Oswald (Social Sciences)

Stan Sazykin (Non-Tenure Track Faculty)

Laura Segatori (Engineering)

Weston asked if there were any alternate slates to be proposed; there were none. A vote was held on the proposed slate, and it was unanimously approved by the Senate.

B. Approval of the Academic Calendar, 2016-2017

Registrar Tenney stated that in 2007, the Senate’s Working Group on the Academic Calendar devised a formula for determining the calendar, and this formula was used to prepare subsequent calendars, including the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 calendars. Weston said that the Executive Committee had moved and seconded the calendars for Senate approval, but he asked for discussion prior to the vote. He noted that the calendars were posted to the Senate’s wiki space the week prior for review by senators.

Dean Hutchinson said that the current system of holding commencement ten days after the close of the spring semester was problematic, and he asked if Rice should extend the semester by an extra week. Senator Mike Wolf also had a suggestion: he asked that Rice try to align its week-long Spring Break with the Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) Spring Break. Wolf stated that the timing discrepancy can be hard not only for faculty and staff, but also that Rice students have complained that their Spring Break is too early. Wolf moved to table approval of the Spring 2017 academic calendar, review it, and try to align it with HISD. The motion was seconded by Illya Hicks.

Discussion followed the motion to table. President Leebron stated that although Rice tries to be family-friendly, the timing difference of these Spring Breaks is not family-friendly. He also said that although students think that Rice’s two-day fall and spring recesses are important, he asked the Senate to review these breaks as well.

Senator Susan McIntosh clarified that a tabled motion requires a specific deadline. Wolf’s motion to table was thus amended as follows: “Senate approval is sought for the Fall 2016 academic calendar, with approval of the Spring 2017 calendar delayed until the December 2014 Faculty Senate meeting.” The Senate voted unanimously to approve amendment of the motion. Next, a vote was held to approve the main motion, which was unanimously approved by the Senate.

C. Senate Priorities/Working Groups for 2014-2015

Weston reviewed the following list of Senate priorities for the year:

  • Working group to structure the honor council system for graduate students
  • Working group to consider a faculty ombudsman
  • Possible working group on the internationalization of Rice (i.e., dual degrees)
  • Directives to the University Committee on Admissions
  • The development of Graduate Program Certificate Guidelines by the Graduate Council
  • Faculty Salaries (the Senate has asked the Office of Faculty Development is to produce an annual report on compensation)
  • Pass/Fail for distribution credit (the Senate has asked the University Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum to address this issue, among others)
  • “CRUP” (Committee for the Rice Undergraduate Program) principles need to be revised per SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) requirements

He then asked senators to let him know via email of any other issues that they thought the Senate should try to address this year.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:59 p.m.