Agenda for the Faculty Senate Meeting

April 1, 2009

Room B-113 Robinson Hall

3:00-4:15 p.m.

 

I.                   Call to Order

 

President Merten

 

II.        Approval of the Minutes of March 4, 2009

 

III.             Announcements

 

IV.              Unfinished Business

Organization & Operations

Motions from the committee                                                                                        Attachment A

                                                                                                                                                Attachment B                   

            Report on Campus Bookstore

 

V.        New Business - Committee Reports

 

               A.  Senate Standing Committees

 

Executive Committee

 

Academic Policies

 

Budget & Resources

 

Faculty Matters

Motion from the committee                                                                                    Attachment C

 

Nominations

 

Organization & Operations

 

               B. Other Committees

 

Effective Teaching Committee

Report from the committee                                                                                    Attachment D

 

Task Force to Revise the Teacher/Course Evaluation Form

Motion from the committee                                                                                    Attachment E

 

VI.       Other New Business

 

VII.     Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty

            Ms. Betty Jolly, Director of State Government Relations

 

VIII.    Adjournment

 

 

 

ATTACHMENT A

 

Changes to the Charge of General Education Committee

Recommended by Faculty Senate Committee on Operations and Organization (0&0)

 

Original Charge

B.     For all foundation, core, and synthesis general education requirements, the Committee will approve courses to fulfill these requirements.  The Committee will develop procedures for the measurement of “satisfactory skills in oral and written presentations” for the synthesis requirement, and work with the Office of the Provost to develop procedures for the demonstration of these skills before a faculty panel.

 

0 & 0 recommendation:  delete “before a faculty panel.” 

Rationale:  Such panels are rarely convened.

 

  New Charge:

B.        For all foundation, core, and synthesis general education requirements, the Committee will approve courses to fulfill these requirements.  The Committee will develop procedures for the measurement of “satisfactory skills in oral and written presentations” for the synthesis requirement, and work with the Office of the Provost to develop procedures for the demonstration of these skills.

 

Change in Charge:

E. becomes F.

 

Original Charge

   F. The Committee will provide an annual report to the Faculty senate.  The report shall include:

      a.  the number of students taking and passing proficiency examinations

      b.  Changes in the criteria for general education

      c.  The process and timetable of implementation of the general education requirements. 

   More frequent reports to the Faculty Senate might take place as adjustments to the general education program may warrant.

 

Change in Charge under F

 delete  (c) The process and timetable of implementation of the general education requirements.

 

Rationale:  This charge was put in place when the formation of the current general education program was still in process.

 

New Charge

E.              The Committee will confer with the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Policies when changes to General Education requirements impact the entire university and/or would be a change to the university catalog.

 

Rationale:  Consistent with the role of faculty in matters of curriculum as set out in the Faculty Handbook , it is important for the General Education Committee to work in tandem with the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Policies when major changes, for example, a change in university wide general education requirements, are proposed for implementation.

 

 

ATTACHMENT B

 

Motion for a Standing Committee to Review Curriculum and Faculty Matters in Current and Future Campuses, Academic Programs and Activities of George Mason University

 

Whereas George Mason University is continuing to support and expand learning centers and academic programs and activities beyond the Commonwealth of Virginia campuses in Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington; and

 

Whereas the Faculty Handbook of the University specifies that control over curriculum matters resides with the faculty of the University; and

 

Whereas the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities (SACS) requires a thorough evaluation of all branch campuses within the first six months of operation, yet there exists no internal process for ongoing faculty review of the curriculum, faculty hiring, progress or effectiveness of these campuses, academic programs or activities;

 

Be it resolved that the Faculty Senate should establish a Standing Committee to review critical aspects of the development and ongoing operations of George Mason University learning centers and academic programs and services beyond the primary campuses of Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington.

 

Charge:

 

A.  To fulfill faculty responsibilities for curriculum oversight within the University:

1) Gather accurate information from the Provost’s Office to review

            a) Initial, current and projected course and program enrollment;

b)Any Memorandum of Understanding or similar governing document or contract specifying arrangements between George Mason University and the host government, state, or responsible organization;

c) Reports presented to any created governance structure such as a Board of Governors between George Mason University and any host government, state, or responsible organization;

d) Vetting and approval processes for faculty hiring and course offerings through Schools, Colleges and Departments and other local academic units, including negotiated “rights of refusal” and other practices directly affecting the curriculum offered on campuses beyond Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William;

e) Information about resources, pay scales and other financial information relevant to faculty support, faculty and staff hiring, and curriculum development.

2) Provide a regular report to the Faculty Senate every semester; should the above access not be granted, such resistance will be documented and included in the Committee’s regular report.

 

B.  Function as a liaison on related issues with global education academic programs and activities.

C.  Engage in the creation of any new campuses, academic programs and activities, and any processes for developing additional Memorandums of Understanding or similar governing documents or contracts, including access to information specified above in A-1.

 

D.  Create sub-committees as necessary within the Committee to ensure adequate attention is paid to the variety of satellite campus locations and opportunities.

 

E.  Committee representation of elected faculty from no less than five different academic units to serve staggered two-year terms.

 

 

 

 

ATTACHMENT C

Faculty Retirement Transition Leave

 Purpose

The guidance below is designed to assist Mason’s tenured faculty in transitioning from full-time active service to retirement. The Faculty Retirement Transition Leave guidance should be utilized by academic units as a management tool and a strategic opportunity to address staffing needs within the academic unit and by faculty in their retirement planning. The utilization of the process outlined below will be based on available funding at the academic unit and staffing resources.  

 Eligibility for Participation:

Participants must:

  1. be at least 60 years of age;

2.   be a tenured full-time faculty member and have worked (prior to the transitional leave) at George Mason University for at least a total of either

(Full-time service may include periods of leave with full or partial pay, but not periods of leave without pay);

 3.  agree to retire at the conclusion of this transition leave period from active membership in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) or Optional Retirement Plan (ORP). Mason will cease to make payments to VRS or ORP.

 4.  voluntarily participate in the program

       5.  have the approval of both the Dean or Director of their academic unit and the Provost. Transition leave is funded by the faculty member’s academic unit.  Timing of transition leave must be approved by the Dean or Director of the academic unit in consultation with the Provost in order to prevent overtaxing teaching capacity in any given year. The Dean or Director may limit the number of faculty who can participate in any particular year.

 Tier 1: 15 Years of Service:

 

               Transition Option

                             Impact

One year, at full pay, teaching a total of one course, with no expected service activities.  The faculty member may select to teach the course during fall  or spring semester.  If the transitional leave is scheduled for spring-fall and with approval of the dean/director, the course may be taught during summer of the transitional year.  If taught in the summer, the faculty member will not be paid the additional 10% summer salary.  In addition to teaching the course, the faculty member must work at least 20% of normal work duties in the semester immediately prior to retirement.  This work may involve research, internal or professional external committee work, advising, or a special project approved by the faculty member’s supervisor.

 

 

Faculty will receive full benefits.

  


Tier 2: 25 Years of service:

               Transition Option

                             Impact

Two years, at full pay, teaching a total of two courses during the first year, plus a reduction of expected service activities by 50% in the first year and no expected service activities in the second.  The faculty member may choose to teach a 2:0, 1:1, or 0:2 load the first year.  With approval of the dean/director, one of the courses may be taught in summer(s) of the transitional years.  If taught in the summer, the faculty member will not be paid the additional 10% summer salary.  In the semester immediately prior to retirement, the faculty member must also work at least 20%  of normal work duties.  This work may involve research, internal or professional external committee work, advising, or a special project approved by the faculty member’s supervisor.

 

 

Faculty will receive full benefits.

                                                                     OR

One year at full pay, with no expected service activities.  In the semester immediately preceding retirement, the faculty member must work at least 20% of normal duties  This work may involve research, internal or professional external committee work, advising, or a special project approved by the faculty member’s supervisor.

 

Faculty will receive full benefits.

 

Eligibility Period:

Each November, eligible faculty may apply to participate in the Faculty Retirement Transition Leave Program by completing an election form and submitting the form to his/her Dean or Director. The Dean or Director will make a recommendation to the Provost based on student/faculty scheduling needs and finances available to the unit. The Provost will then forward the form (whether approved, not approved, or delayed up to a year) to Human Resources. A Dean or Director making the recommendation not to approve the election will communicate the decision and the reason for the decision to the faculty member as well as to the Provost. It is understood that occasionally conditions may require the Provost to delay the implementation of a transitional leave for a semester or even a year.  However, every effort will be made to accommodate transitional leave requests in timely fashion, and a delay of more than a year will occur only under extraordinary circumstances.  In all cases, the faculty member must agree in writing to any delay to the requested implementation date.  An election form must be received by November 1 in any given year for participation in the Faculty Retirement Transition Leave Program during the following year.

Notes:

  1. Faculty members in transitional retirement leave may still participate in tax shelter annuities (TSAs).
  2. Faculty members in the 2-year transitional retirement leave option remain eligible for salary increases in the second year.
  3. Unless scheduling needs and finances preclude it, faculty with the greatest number of years teaching at George Mason University will have priority in having their transitional retirement leave applications approved.
  4. Acceptance into one of the retirement options constitutes a binding contract between the faculty member and the university.  Exceptions will be made only for personal or family health reasons or for death.
  5. During transitional retirement leave, faculty under contract for nine months should elect to be paid over nine months rather than twelve with a normal retirement date of June 1.

 

 


ATTACHMENT D

 

The Effective Teaching Committee has been working for the past year on a Classroom Environment Survey and results from that survey conducted in the fall of 2009.  Survey results are available on the Faculty Senate website at http://www.gmu.edu/facstaff/senate/Classroom-Environment-Survey.pdf.

 

Executive Summary

 

During the 2007-2008 year, the Effective Teaching Committee determined that a survey of faculty was needed to provide a broad and deep understanding of the issues from the perspectives of those who routinely use the classrooms, meet with students, and plan their instructional environments.  In the fall of 2008 the survey instrument was complete and all full time faculty members were surveyed.

 

In all, 174 individuals responded to the survey. In general the committee sought to gather information on space, rooms, equipment, and general environment.  The Effective Teaching Committee analyzed the results and summarized them in this report.  Based on these results, the Effective Teaching Committee makes the following overall recommendations:

 

1.      The Provost’s Office should ensure that faculty members are offered the opportunity to be involved directly in decisions regarding the design of new classrooms and faculty should be a part of the process that analyzes future space planning.

2.      The Faculty Senate should charge the Learning Environments Group with  investigating and making specific recommendations in the following areas:

a.      Flexible classroom seating design

b.      Consistent classroom quality throughout the campus(es)

c.      More fully equipped electronic classrooms for the future

d.      Diverse classroom structures for ultimate flexibility for instruction

e.      Respond to other recommendations based on results found in this survey.

f.        Re-survey faculty in Academic Year 09-10 and find an effective way to survey adjunct faculty and GTAs as well.

 

3.      The Faculty Senate should ask for better communication from the Academic Support Offices at Mason and ask that they provide specific training for faculty and students on how to access and effectively use these services.

4.      The Faculty senate should share these results with the GMU faculty by posting the results on the faculty senate website.

The summary of the results from the survey are included in pages 2-14 of this report.  The appendix provides a brief overview of the results of the report on pages 14-15.

 

 

 


ATTACHMENT E

Report of the Task Force to Revise the Teacher/Course Evaluation Form & Recommended Changes For The Current Evaluation Form

Several years ago, when the current evaluation form was adopted, many of the faculty in quantitative fields, and faculty who often taught large lecture sections, thought that some of the items on the course evaluation form weren't appropriate for the types of courses they taught. (They thought the wording of some of the items was better suited for classes in which students typically submitted papers and were expected to participate in class discussions, as opposed to classes where the vast majority of the class time is used for formal lectures and class participation does not play a big role, and assignments are typically problem sets (if anything).)

The changes indicated below were developed by the Task Force in order to make the items on the form, in a sense, more general. Without going to different versions of the form for different types of classes, and without making radical changes to the current form, the Task Force thinks that these suggested changes may be the best way to improve upon the current form.

The Task Force met with a student focus group and solicited opinions from other members of the faculty in order to determine what the appropriate changes to the evaluation form should be. We considered many different ideas, but in the end concluded that for now some simple changes will be best.

The Task Force recommends that a new, perhaps larger, task force be formed to deal with the university's conversion to online course/teaching evaluations, and to investigate having different evaluation forms for different types of classes, which is what some other universities have moved to, and would be possible at GMU with the conversion to online evaluations. (Note: The conversion to online evaluation is being seriously considered due to budget concerns, and because online evaluations will allow for department heads and instructors to get feedback about teaching more quickly.)

 


MOTION:  To approve the proposed changes to the Current Evaluation Form for implementation in AY 2009-10.

 

The recommended changes are shown in bold, below.


Item 1 on the current form is: Course requirements were clearly stated in the syllabus

 

Recommended change:

Course requirements and expectations were clear.

 

Comments:

Some students may not have easy access to the syllabus when they complete their evaluation, but they may remember a discussion of the requirements and expectations since many faculty routinely spend time on these things during the first class meeting. Plus, as the semester progresses, and more details are added, it's important that requirements and expectations remain clear.


Item 2 on the current form is: The course was well organized

 

No change suggested


Item 3 on the current form is: The instructor explained the material clearly

 

Recommended change:

The instructor helped me to better understand the course material

 

Comments:

The proposed item is more general, reflecting the fact that there are many ways to help students better understand the course material.


Item 4 on the current form is: Comments and suggestions on returned material were helpful

 

Recommended change:

Feedback (comments and suggestions written on papers, solutions provided, class discussion, etc.) was helpful

 

Comments:

With some types of assignments it's not efficient to write a lot of individual comments on student papers. In some classes, instructors supply the students with detailed solutions to problem sets, or routinely discuss typical mistakes in class. There are other ways to supply feedback than to write "comments and suggestions on returned materials."


Item 5 on the current form is: The instructor showed respect for the students

 

No change suggested


Item 6 on the current form is: The instructor was accessible either in person or electronically

 

No change suggested


Item 7 on the current form is: The instructor followed the stated course grading policy

 

Recommended change:

The course grading policy was clear

 

Comments:

Students aren't in a position to know whether or not the stated grading policy was actually followed, especially since the course evaluations should be turned in prior to final grades being given. What is important is that students have information, in advance, as to how grades will be assigned.


Item 8 on the current form is: The exams reflected what was covered in the course

 

Recommended change:

Graded work reflected what was covered in the course

 

Comments:

Replacing "exams" with graded work makes the item much more general. Some classes don't have exams, or only have a final exam which wouldn't have been seen at the time students complete the evaluations.


Item 9 on the current form is:

The assignments (projects, papers, presentations, etc.) helped me learn the material

 

No change suggested


Item 10 on the current form is: Readings helped me understand the course topic

 

Recommended change:

The textbook and/or assigned readings helped me understand the material

 

Comments:

In a lot of quantitative courses, there are no assigned readings other than the textbook.


Item 11 on the current form is: Assignments and exams were returned promptly

 

Recommended change:

Assignments and exams were returned in a reasonable amount of time

 

Comments:

Some students may take promptly to mean the next class meeting, but in some cases it may be unreasonable for students to expect their work to be graded and returned so quickly (e.g., if the class is very large, or if it typically takes the instructor a long time to grade a student's paper).


Item 12 on the current form is:

The instructor covered the important aspects of the course as outlined in the syllabus

 

No change suggested


Item 13 on the current form is: The instructor made the class intellectually stimulating

 

No change suggested


Item 14 on the current form is:

The instructor encouraged the students to be actively involved in the material through discussion and other activities.

 

Recommended change:

The instructor encouraged the students to be actively involved in the material through discussion, assignments, and other activities.

 

Comments:

With some classes (e.g., those which cover rather technical material), many students would much rather listen to the instructor teach them how to work with the complicated material than listen to other students discuss it, and the way students get involved with the material is to go home and work on carefully-designed assignments.


Item 15 on the current form is: My overall rating of the teaching

 

No change suggested


Item 16 on the current form is: My overall rating of this course

 

No change suggested