MINUTES OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

OF THE FACULTY SENATE
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mason Hall, room D7,  9:30 – 11:00 a.m.

 

Present:  Jim Bennett, Rick Coffinberger, David Kuebrich, Janette Muir, Peter Pober, Joe Scimecca, Peter Stearns, Susan Trencher, and special guest Rector Ernst Volgenau.

 

I.  Approval of Minutes of November 23, 2009:  The minutes were approved as distributed.

 

II.  Announcements

 

III.  Progress reports, business, and agenda items from Senate Standing Committees

A.  Academic Policies – Janette Muir

 

B.  Budget and Resources – Rick Coffinberger

 

      C.  Faculty Matters – Joe Scimecca

 

      D.  Nominations – Jim Bennett

·        Writing Across the Curriculum Committee:  Joan Bristol to replace Ben Carlton as rep from CHSS; and Tamara Maddox to replace Aimee Flannery as rep from VSITE.

 

E.  Organization and Operations – Susan Trencher

 

IV.  Other Committees

A. Minority and Diversity Issues Committee –David Anderson, Chair

 

B.  University Standing Committees continue to notify us of election of chairs.

 

C.  Salary Equity Study Committee: Margret Hjalmarson (Faculty Senate member of the Committee) reported in an email (Nov. 30, 2009):  No report on salary equity has been submitted in the last few years.  The committee has had difficulty getting the data required to do the appropriate analysis.
There is some feeling that general interest in this committee has waned due to lack of salary increases.  In her opinion, there is still a need for some analysis even in the current financial climate given there are still promotions and hires that have occurred over the last few years.

Discussion:   The Provost suggested we contact Renate Guilford.  A member of the EXC who once

 served on the committee in the past noted it was difficult to obtain data.

 

D.  Athletic Council  Linda Miller – will provide a report on  NCAA Cycle III Re-certification Process

 for inclusion on the February 10th Meeting Agenda.

 

 VI.  Agenda Items for January 20, 2010

 

 VII.  New Business and Discussion

·        Procedures for Revision of the Faculty Handbook:  Renate Guilford and Brian Walther are working up a list of topics – please include them in proposed revision process. 

·        Faculty concerns about student comments on Faculty (Course) Evaluation forms:  At this time, the comments are shared with the faculty member’s department chair.  The Provost hopes we can agree it is desirable to share this one level of additional openness, so the department chair can advise faculty members, especially with respect to student comments.  Student comments are becoming public (on various internet sites) whether we like it or not.    There was once a statement on the form that comments would only be seen by faculty member, but not anymore.  The whole package goes to the chair; s/he distributes them to faculty members.  The purpose is not to send to deans or the provost for evaluation, but to department chair to offer guidance.  Does the policy state comments only read by chair for guidance?  Not applicable to adjunct faculty, as chair needs these to decide whether to have them back.  A member of the Executive Committee suggested this policy be included on the Provost’s web page.

·        A general discussion took place about GMU’s precipitous drops in Kiplinger report ratings – contact Kris Smith for more information.  The report rated both quality and price, but changed how they evaluated quality.  Our out-of-state tuition price is pretty high – we need to watch this; it is now more than Delaware’s, and comparable to Maryland’s, which affected the value part.

·        O&O, as per Dr. Bennett's reminder,  is responsible for addressing the Charter and any updates necessary.  

·        Summer School:  In a general discussion, it was confirmed that full-time faculty who taught one course last summer received 10% of their salary (per the Faculty Handbook); payment practices varied among schools regarding salary for teaching second course.  It was reported that CVPA does not allow any tenured faculty to teach over the summer.  In the English Department, 10% salary not guaranteed, but if it works out right, you will receive 10%;.every department does things differently.

For a number of years, the Summer School has promoted a theme; encouraging departments to contribute to theme by paying for courses.  The theme will remain, but they will no longer pay for courses.  If a faculty member is earning 10% or more of their salary in the summer (up to 33%), they will not consider you for teaching a course over the summer.  Some see this as an effort to be equitable across the board with a limited amount of funding; however the Faculty Handbook places no limit.  Summer school will be handled differently in the future, at the college, not centralized level. Cathy Evans, the present Summer School Director, will attend a future EXC meeting to explain changes and provide an opportunity to ask questions, for inclusion on a future Senate meeting agenda this spring.  Joe Scimecca noted he has been fighting this battle for twenty years; he and Susan Trencher will meet with Cathy Evans today.

 

Who decides whether a course makes it?  At a meeting with Deans/Directors and Chairs, Cathy Evans explained that in this time of financial constraints, if salary is paid, we consider course to be made.   Summer school classroom are the poorest classrooms.  Financial control no longer under C. Evans – Faculty Matters needs to address this. 

 

·        Compensation Package will be discussed at the EXC Meeting (Feb. 22) at the request of Provost Stearns.

 

VIII.   Discussion with Rector Ernst Volgenau about faculty participation in reappointment process now underway for President Merten

 

On behalf of the Executive Committee, Senate Chair Peter Pober expressed his appreciation for the Rector’s joining us today.  As defined in the Faculty Handbook, Section 1.2.5 Faculty Participation in the Selection of Certain Members of the Central Administration (para. 2) elected representatives from the General Faculty play a significant role in decision to reappoint the President.  A side-by-side comparison with the 1994 Handbook text was distributed.  We ask the BOV to focus on the approval process, as was recently done in an exemplary way for the Provost’s reappointment*.  (*Four faculty members were elected to serve as faculty representatives to the Provost Review Committee.  Faculty were encouraged to contact elected representatives to provide input; forums were scheduled on each campus, attendance open to the entire university community.)

 

Professor Bennett sent a letter to Rector Volgenau asking whether the Faculty Handbook applied to appointment/reappointment procedures for President Merten. Rector Volgenau, noting he is not a lawyer, asked University Counsel “What do our procedures call for?  University Counsel responded that the Faculty Handbook does not apply to President Merten’s contract extension”.  Rector Volgenau presented the issue to the BOV in Executive Session.  In this session, the Board accepted the Counsel’s recommendation.  Nobody challenged what the Counsel said.  We can revisit it, but that’s where we are. 

Question:  Did University Counsel give any explanation as to why?  Rector Volgenau responded that he was sure they would come and explain it to you.

 

Comment:  The phrase “contract extension” is not in the Faculty Handbook.  I queried Handbook committee members about this.  True, we never talked about that phrase, because extension/renewal (interpreted) the same.  He then went to his old Webster’s (Dictionary), “renewal” defined as “to prolong, or lengthen”, giving example of “extending a contract.”  Before the Faculty Handbook was revised, in practice, the Provost and Deans used a committee of elected faculty members; the Handbook codified this. 

 

The Rector asked the EXC about past procedures for hiring/reappointment of the President before the revised (2009) Faculty Handbook.  Some members of the Executive Committee recalled a consulting firm came up with four candidates, when President Merten was hired in 1996.  Rector Volgenau also asked University Counsel about his initial appointment, and was informed what applied to the appointment of the President also applied to reappointment of the President. The present agreement was signed by Rector Dewberry, the chairman of the GMU Foundation, and President Merten in 2006.  So President Merten has been in fact, reappointed at least once, maybe more than once.  Rector Dewberry informed Professor Kuebrich (Chair of the Faculty Senate AY 2005-06) that the BOV consulted with a faculty member about President Merten's reappointment.

 

In the previous edition of the Faculty Handbook (1994), the participation of faculty (in the presidential appointment process) was not spelled out.  What is the harm in faculty participation?  If the President is doing well, it would validate contract extension; and if not, input would provide information to the BOV.

 

Rector Volgenau observed that the Chair of the Faculty Senate is now a (non-voting) member of the BOV, we can get feedback from him, and asserted that we have been a most open and receptive BOV.  In 2004, Rector Dewberry discussed whether we should have any faculty representatives at all – faculty cannot be official Visitors (per state law); a fair number of people on the BOV at the time objected to this.  He did not object to it.  Faculty representatives are now elected to committees where substantive work is done.  Later, the BOV agreed to a full-faculty representative to the BOV.  If we are not the leading state university with respect to faculty representation, we must be near the top. 


It was confirmed that GMU leads in faculty representatives to the BOV in Virginia.  We are all very appreciative of the representatives that we have.    You get good input from faculty representatives, and would think you would seek the very best faculty input, that faculty could have a significant voice in it.  To do it (in) the very best possible way – we didn’t get off to a good start, want to do better.  Members of the Executive Committee concurred; we greatly appreciate that this has been the most open BOV.  Participation in the appointment/reappointment process is seen as an issue of faculty governance.  Had it not been for a rumor, we would not have known the President's reappointment was under consideration.  This creates a lot of animosity. 

 

 Comment:  If we have a Faculty Handbook, approved by the BOV (Dec. 2008), then let’s follow it.  Whatever faculty says will not alter the outcome, but very important to relationship to follow process in the Faculty Handbook.  Rector Volgenau responded that the BOV did not address this issue at all when the Faculty Handbook was approved, because the amount of detail in the Handbook is beyond our ability to deal with, except in a broad policy way..  The Rector thanked the Handbook Committee publicly for its pro bono work.   Second:  there is nothing sinister in extending (the President's)  contract; not our intent to make it seem that way.  Personnel issues are discussed in Executive Session; state law requires this, rigorous with regard to FOIA.  Raises/bonuses, targets (are contained) in employment agreements; targets must be set by BOV this (each?) year. 

 

While acknowledging the BOV's intentions were not sinister, in the past faculty had no idea when contracts were up.  Decisions were made and then they seeped out.  Part of the issue comprises lack of knowledge about what the actual job of the president is, and how his performance is (judged).    While it is not our place to attend Executive Board meetings as personnel matters are discussed, what is important to the BOV?  What are they looking for?  The BOV's assessment of the president does not have to be made public. Faculty have very little interaction with the President.   Is this relevant to the job the President is doing?

 

Rector Volgenau estimated there are at least 3,000-4,000 employees at GMU.   As Rector, I see the president because I am on the body that evaluates his performance.  We struggle with performance criteria every year for the President’s annual review.  We articulate performance criteria for him, such as running an efficient organization.  Each (Visitor) grades him individually; we have a set of criteria by which we judge him.  If he meets criteria well, then he’ll be rehired.  

 

The Rector expressed his desire to achieve a solution.  Faculty Senators are elected by the faculty.  Senators elect a chair, who serves as a non-voting representative to the BOV., therefore we already have the chair of the Faculty Senate as faculty elected representative (to the BOV). He suggested faculty give input to Senate chair, who will present it to the BOV.  You are the Executive Committee – you have procedures, you have a chair, let’s use it.  At what point would the Senate Chair be able to discuss it, if he cannot attend Executive Session where President is discussed?  The Rector responded that we can work this out.  Perhaps Chair could attend Executive Session; awkward to discuss in an open session, most organization do not do this.

 

A Senator proposed the Nominations Committee conduct an election among the General Faculty to elect a committee to advise the Senate Chair.  The Senate chair gives input to the BOV.  Committee could also invite President to public forum for committee involved. The Rector responded it was fine to elect committee, but thought the President's attendance at public forum could be awkward.  We want to handle this is the most constructive way.

 

The Senator replied that process is very important, even if outcome remains the same.  We would not have known about this without hearing rumor; need to build trust, transparency.  How many years’ renewal has he asked for?  Two, responded the Rector.  The Senator then observed that corporate and university cultures are very different.  Rector Volgenau noted he has taught graduate courses as an adjunct professor. 

 

At the last Senate meeting, President Merten refused to answer question regarding whether his contract was up for renewal.  We felt it was his responsibility to answer the question.  The Rector acknowledged “Had I been more sensitive, might have told President Merten he should have done that.” He surmised President Merten’s view as “I work for the BOV and am responsible to them.”  If he chooses not to share that as public information, I would not chastise him for that.  If I were the head of an organization, I may not want to tell people who work for him until reappointment (decision) made; it is a personal issue. 

 

In conclusion, Senate Chair Peter Pober expressed the Committee's gratitude to Rector Volgenau for coming today, and all the work he has done to open modes of communication. The Nominations Committee will put together a slate – once created, will hold elections.  Once elected, committee may hold a series of meetings, and will work on process with the Rector to provide faculty input to the  BOV.   Separately the committee may offer President Merten an invitation to speak, but not as a recommendation from the BOV or Rector. 

 

In response to question about the time frame; the Rector noted if we are not successful in negotiations with President, we need to know that before the end of the spring term and would have to begin search over the summer.  We hired a consultant to look at peer-universities, to sum up and normalize comparison of President; not just VA, wanted a broad-based sample.   There are different ways of compensating Presidents of universities – salaries – yes, not all have bonuses; different variances.  We have received the consultant's report as one input into the process.    Being president of an institution like this is a tough job – there are so many ways to fail, some out of your control.   I favor openness as much as possible in any organization –asks why things are held in CLOSED sessions without embarrassing people, and requested the Executive Committee's permission to tell President Merten about this meeting and conversation.    The Executive Committee unanimously responded YES, transparency works at all levels.  All our minutes are on the web.

 

In a brief brainstorming session after the Rector's departure, the Nominations Committee will distribute a draft letter calling for nominations to the Executive Committee for input.  Tenured and non-tenured faculty would be eligible to serve.  The Committee will need to quickly conclude its operations before the end of the spring term to provide timely faculty feedback.

 

Chair Peter Pober expressed his appreciation for everyone's input today.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Meg Caniano

Clerk, Faculty Senate