Agenda for the Faculty Senate Meeting
November 1, 2006
Room B-113 Robinson Hall
I. Call to Order
II. Approval of the Minutes of October 18, 2006
President Merten will address the Faculty Senate
IV. Unfinished Business
Resolution on Student Diversity and the Classroom Educational Experience
Resolution on Satellite Campuses
V. New Business - Committee Reports
A. Senate Standing Committees
Budget & Resources
Organization & Operations
Peter Pober is nominated to the Parking Services Advisory Committee
Report from the Nominations Committee Attachment C
B. Other Committees
VI. Other New Business
VII. Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty
Sponsored by Senator Jim Bennett, CHSS
RESOLUTION on STUDENT DIVERSITY
WHEREAS Mason is often cited as being “Number 1 in Student Diversity” among U.S. Colleges and Universities, and
WHEREAS Mason’s Office of Institutional Assessment has reported that “Of the Fall 2005 incoming freshmen class, ... 20% were born outside the U.S. compared to 9% of freshmen at public universities nationally,” and
WHEREAS a “diverse” student body can affect the quality of the educational experience if students of foreign origin have difficulties with oral or written communication or are not adequately informed about the cultural milieu and the institutional arrangements in the U.S.,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE FACULTY SENATE that the Committee on Effective Teaching is instructed to collect and analyze data and information regarding how a diverse student body affects the quality of the educational experience in the classroom and, if warranted, how class sizes should be reduced to compensate for diversity. Recommendations should be made to the Senate no later than at the April 2007 meeting.
The Central Administration frequently emphasizes that George Mason University has the most diverse student body in the nation. As all faculty who have taught students from abroad are keenly aware, many of these students have less than ideal written and oral language skills and have a limited understanding of the contemporary cultural environment and institutional arrangements in the U.S. As examples, the vast majority of U.S. students easily comprehend the term “Catch-22" and appreciate the historical role and significance of, say, the automobile industry in the U.S. economy. The same cannot be said for many foreign students. A heterogeneous or diverse student body thus causes unique challenges for the professor both in and outside the classroom that would not be present if the class were homogeneous. Thus, diversity may well negatively affect the learning experience of all Mason students unless these problems are identified and addressed.
With regard to class size, U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of colleges and universities notes that among Mason’s cohort institutions in the “Third Tier,” 72 percent have fewer large classes than Mason, and 86 percent have more small classes than Mason. Thus, to meet the challenges posed in the classroom by diversity, many more smaller classes and many fewer large classes may be needed.
Sponsored by Senator Rick Coffinberger, SOM
RESOLUTION ON SATELLITE CAMPUSES
WHEREAS the Central Administration has established a campus of George Mason University in the United Arab Emirates from which students may earn GMU degrees; and
WHEREAS similar operations may be established at other locations outside Virginia and, indeed, outside the U.S.; and
WHEREAS Faculty should have the primary role in decisions regarding curriculum and personnel matters;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Faculty Senate establish a Task Force on Satellite Operations to review the content of academic course offerings, to assess the qualifications of the Faculty, and to monitor any and all aspects of the programs, especially financial commitments and enrollments, offered at all satellite campuses. The Task Force shall consist of three GMU Faculty members in Virginia from programs offering degrees or certificates at satellite operations. This Task Force shall report to the Faculty Senate at least once each semester.
Report from the Nominations Committee
Trials and Tribulations of University Service
The Faculty Senate Nominations Committee wishes to share with you some observations and concerns regarding University service. Our motivation for doing so is the chronic problem of finding faculty members who are willing and able to work on committees and task forces and in the other positions that are essential to the functioning of the University as an academic enterprise. As the official voice of the faculty, the Faculty Senate is tasked with electing and appointing individuals to serve, and the Nominations Committee is tasked with providing a slate.
A “Call for Nominations” sent via e-mail to the entire faculty often produces few or even no responses. Then, it becomes the unenviable task of Nominations Committee members to dragoon, impress, arm twist, plead with, or harass their busy colleagues to accept a nomination to some committee, task force, or position. Rarely is an election contested because there are more candidates than vacancies to be filled. Even a casual review of the Minutes of the Faculty Senate’s (available for several years on the Senate’s webpage) first meeting in September of each year, the meeting at which most vacancies are filled, will show that except in rare circumstances, elections are by unanimous vote. The Faculty Senate Nominations Committee believes that it is fortunate to have even one person for each slot; nominations from the floor in addition to the Nominations Committee’s slate are rare.
This state of affairs is unsatisfactory for several reasons. First, it puts the members of the Nominations Committee in an uncomfortable position: We seem to be “manipulating” who does what in service to the University. And, unfortunately, there is a tendency for some to view those faculty who are willing to serve over and over and actively voice their views as “malcontents” or even “troublemakers.” Second, the Nominations Committee often is in the position of cajoling someone into serving when the most suitable person, i.e., someone with expertise specific to the issues to be addressed, declines to serve. Third, the burden of University service falls disproportionately on a small segment of the Faculty rather than being widely distributed. Fourth, there is a natural tendency to ask those who have been willing to serve in the past to serve again rather than scour lists of faculty for new faces and ideas. Thus, the range of views and ideas is more limited than it should be.
Why does the problem of finding qualified and enthusiastic nominees arise and persist? The Nominations Committee believes that the answer is simple: University service is not adequately rewarded or recognized. The Faculty Handbook states that each faculty member’s University service will be a factor — in addition to research and teaching — in decisions regarding promotion and tenure (Section 2.4.4) and in the annual evaluation of faculty (Section 2.5.4) on which salary increases are based, in years when raises are given. In practice, however, little weight is given to University service by faculty members at the department level, the college or school level, or even at the University level in the salary evaluation process, and especially when tenure decisions are made.
Second, other factors also contribute to the problem. As the institution has grown, the number of full-time faculty has not risen in direct proportion, because adjuncts and contract and term faculty carry a substantial part of the teaching load. These individuals have little incentive to engage in service because their job descriptions typically do not include service work and they suffer — as many of their full-time colleagues do — from inadequate compensation for the work that they already perform. Most are hired solely to teach or to work on grant-supported research projects. So, the service burden on full-time faculty has increased over the years.
A third consideration is that University service benefits primarily the institution, with little recognition or reward given to the faculty member for engaging in service activities. Research and publication benefits the individual faculty member and the institution because research activities make the individual more attractive to other universities; in contrast, service benefits only the “home” institution.
A fourth consideration is that faculty are expected to engage in service throughout the calendar year. Although the typical faculty member is paid for only nine months, there seems to be a growing expectation that faculty will be available for service activities year-round.
Finally, the work of administrative faculty is essentially service to the University. Some administrative faculty may teach and some may do research [the Provost is a notable example of doing both], but such activities are the exception rather than the rule in both the central administration and in the administration of the colleges, schools, and institutes. The faculty members who take administrative positions and go from a 9-month to a 12-month appointment are often given raises that can substantially surpass the amount to compensate them for the additional months. Moreover, an examination of administrative faculty salaries shows that raises have been received by many — sometimes even in years when faculty salaries were frozen. [Interested readers are invited to visit the Senate’s website where salaries may be easily accessed; the link is given below.] Surely, if administrative faculty receive salaries that are typically generous compared to faculty who teach, do research, and are also expected to actively engage in University service, more rewards should be offered for service. We believe that these rewards should include release time and additional compensation.
The Nominations Committee urges the Faculty Handbook Revision Committee to recognize the critical importance of University service and include provisions which mandate that such activity be adequately rewarded. Only then will individuals be willing to contribute enthusiastically to the work so critical to the functioning of our academic enterprise.
Faculty Senate Nominations Committee
Jim Bennett, Mark Houck, Linda Monson, Jane Razeghi, Phil Wiest
Note: Administrative and Faculty salaries may be accessed at the following link: