Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mason Hall, room D5 – 1:30 – 2:30 p.m.


Present:  Jim Bennett, Phil Buchanan, Dave Kuebrich, Janette Muir, Larry Rockwood, Suzanne Slayden, Susan Trencher.


I.  Approval of Minutes – September 15, 2008:  The minutes were approved as amended:

AP Committee Report, paragraph (3), p. 2 (changes appear in bold).   The Registrar also expressed concern that some faculty are not submitting grades within 48 hour time-frame after the last final – this is not to include in catalog – but late grades can impact GPA, graduation status.  Some large classes may have finals on last day; many papers to grade.  Also should grades not be reported in timely manner, affects students who file appeals in a timely manner at the end of the fall term, because university closes down until January 2nd.  One suggestion was made to include requirement in faculty contracts, especially to remind adjunct faculty about the deadlines.  To request data from Registrar's Office on extent of problem, whether primarily full-time or part-time faculty. 


II.  Reports of Senate Standing Committee Chairs for inclusion in October 22nd agenda and progress reports:


A.  Academic Policies – Janette Muir, Chair

Three motions were approved by the Academic Policies Committee on October 6th.  Motions 1 and 3 will be included in the October 22nd, 2008 agenda:


Motion 1: Approval of 3-Year Academic Calendar   Fall 2010-Spring 2013


The Academic Policies committee did have significant discussion regarding two specific areas of the calendar: 1) shifting Spring Break to match the Fairfax public school system calendar; and 2) moving the beginning of the Spring semester one week earlier.  We understand that these issues have come up in past academic calendar discussions, and that the decision has been made to adopt the calendar presented to the Committee from the Registrar’s Office.  We believe, however, that more discussion is needed regarding possible changes to this calendar in the future.  Therefore, we recommend that, given growth in graduate student programs and a new influx of faculty and students, a systematic survey be conducted to determine what calendar might work best for the majority of the University community.  (A copy of the proposed calendar was also distributed). 


Discussion:  Committee members recalled several issues examined during the exhaustive study performed by the AP Committee, under the chairmanship of Cliff Sutton (AY 2005-06) preceding approval of the present calendar in effect from Fall 2007 – Spring 2010. The Committee also received much information from Professor Sutton.  A motion will be prepared to recommend approval of the proposed calendar.


Motion 2

Change of wording in University Catalogue regarding Appeal Process policy

Under Appeals of Academic Procedures:

Current reading: “The Provost’s Office may refer the case to the University Academic Appeals Committee.”

Change to: “The Provost’s Office will refer the case to the University Academic Appeals Committee.”

Rationale:  The AP committee reviewed several previous GMU catalogues regarding the academic appeals process and there has clearly been ongoing changes listed to the appeal policy.  Most recently, the wording change from “will” to “may” in the 08-09 catalogue shifts the final locus for appealing student grade decisions to the Provost’s Office, rather than keeping this as a faculty matter.  The AP Committee recommends this minor word change to return the intent of the appeal process to faculty oversight.  What does not change in the process is the Provost’s Office responsibility for maintaining appeals records, determining just cause, and ensuring adequate documentation is in place.


Discussion:  Wording changes in this section of the catalog have appeared since 2002; suggestion made that AP Committee review history of recent changes. Past catalogs are available on-line.  A faculty member complained to the Executive Committee in 2005 regarding changes inserted by a (senior) member of the Provost Office staff.   Issue of “creeping” changes noted, a lot of people responsible for catalog (text). The AP Committee will further research background of catalog changes regarding appeals and to request data on the number of appeals cases dealt with per year.


Motion 3:  Forbearance in Academic Standing for New Undergraduates

Proposal for a new, brief section in the catalog, on the current page 40, between the sections "GPA Retention Levels" and "Periods of Academic Suspension," as follows:

Exception for freshmen and transfer students

Freshmen and transfer students in their first semester of study at George Mason will receive probation as the strongest academic sanction.  GPA retention levels, as stated above, will apply in all subsequent semesters.  Students in this category should be on notice that they must make up ground in order to avoid suspension in future semesters; in particular they should consult their advisors and consider repeating courses in order to achieve academic good standing.

This change in policy to be effective with the Spring 2009 semester.


Rationale:  According to the Academic Procedures Advisory Committee (APAC) – a group of Assistant and Associate Deans and administrators chaired by Susan Jones while the current academic standing policy precludes freshmen who enter Mason with no credit from being suspended in their first semester.  Students who take more than 17 credits and those who have pre-college credit (from Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or dual enrollment) however, find themselves at risk.  In addition, the more credit a transfer student has, the greater their GPA requirement.  Students do not bring in grades for any of this prior work, therefore their academic persistence in the current policy is based on this single semester of work, but applied at the higher GPA standard.  This provides an inadvertent disadvantage to higher profile students coming in with greater amounts of credit.


A brief report from the Registrar’s Office is attached showing some basic information:  the number of first semester students suspended after Fall 07, and the Spring 08 performance of those given Dean's overrides who continued attending in the Spring.  (Note that the report does not indicate the number of requests for overrides turned down by the Deans.  It also does not indicate the number of students dissuaded from trying to continue in attendance once a suspension was placed on their record.) 


Academic Standing for Spring 2008

For New Students Suspended after Fall 2007

Given Dean’s Overrides for the Spring


                                                                                    Spring End of Term Academic Standing

Student Type



Number of Overrides





















B.  Budget and Resources – Phil Buchanan, Chair

No action items, we are working on indirect expenditure reports. 


C.  Faculty Matters – Larry Rockwood, Chair

A meeting scheduled with Josh Cantor, Director of Parking and Transportation, was cancelled and will be rescheduled. 


D.  Nominations – Jim Bennett, Chair

No action items.


E.  Organization and Operations – Susan Trencher, Chair

No action items; we have devised a new tracking (numbering) system.  At its first meeting, the committee discussed changes to the General Education Committee Charge proposed by Rick Davis, (Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Chair of General Education Committee).  We will also contact the Task Force on Satellite Operations to ascertain their status; they have never presented a report (since their establishment in November, 2006).  In response to a recent question about faculty qualifications at the UAE (see EXC Minutes August 22, 2008), the Provost Office affirmed that hiring criteria at any of the distributed campuses should be the same.  Curriculum Vitae for proposed hires at distributed campuses are (routinely) circulated by the Provost’s Office.  The charge of Task Force on Satellite Operations is not a negligible one (see Appendix 1). 


Other proposed agenda items include: 

·        Approval of proposed university policy on Ownership and Maintenance of Research Records

·        Guest speaker:  Rector Volgenau


III.  New Business

Are university-wide committees supposed to be in concert with the Faculty Senate?  A member of the Executive Committee was invited to join a new inter-college Curriculum Committee. Faculty are invited to serve on committees; the Faculty Senate is often asked to elect someone to serve on committees; other times a faculty member is chosen with no connection to the Senate.


New programs such as globalization do not seem to come through faculty as they used to, but through the Provost’s Office. New programs have to be submitted for unit’s approval.  Many program initiatives begin at the faculty level.  Was the change in core requirement in Global Understanding approved only by the General Education Committee or was it just a name change?  Other issues for which updates have been requested from the Gen. Ed Committee include Math and Information Technology proficiency; dual degree programs.  A new committee charge may request report more than once a year; perhaps once a semester, or (more often) as needed.  


Faculty are encouraged to publicize that Student Government is paying for buses to transport students to polling places.


Respectfully submitted,

Meg Caniano

Clerk, Faculty Senate





IV.  Unfinished Business


Resolution on Satellite Campuses:  sponsored by Senator Rick Coffinberger


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.


Discussion points included the definition of Satellite campuses as out of state.  An amendment was proposed that the Task Force report at least once a year instead of once a semester.  The amendment to the motion passed unanimously by voice vote.  The amended motion passed unanimously by voice vote.