Monday, January 31, 2011

Mason Hall, room D5; 2:30 – 4:00 p.m.


Present:  Jim Bennett, Doris Bitler, Janette Muir, Star Muir, Peter Pober, Peter Stearns, June Tangney, Susan Trencher.


I.  Approval of Minutes of November 29, 2010:  The minutes were approved as distributed.


II.  Announcements

Director Andrea Bartoli will offer brief remarks at the next Faculty Senate meeting. 


Legislative Update:  Provost Stearns reported encouraging news from the legislative staff in the House of Delegates that budget legislation will include aurthorization to renegotiate our peer institutions list with SCHEV, to include COLA..  While no money  is immedately available, should GMU’s percentage ranking go way down, pretty good assurance.  He saluted the efforts of  Faculty Senators and Morrie Scherrens on the COLA issue.  The EXC concurred that this development positions us much more strongly.  The Provost added that current prospects are that $23 million for (higher education) progrm support will be carved up over the next few weeks.  If prorated, GMU could receive $2.3 million, outcome pending.


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


A.  Academic Policies – Janette Muir

Graduate Council By Laws Revisions:  Met with Michelle Marks (Associate Provost for Graduate Education) to discuss the role of the AP committee in the grad council.  Since the bylaws for the council have just been revised, we agreed to spend this year look at the relationship between the two entities. A member of the AP Committee will sit on the Graduate Council, and Michelle will come to a future meeting to discuss the kinds of issues that the council addresses. Apparently, there is miniscule work that impact catalog copy changes. The main point is that we are establishing ways to work together. 

AP/IB Credits:  There was a meeting in early January attended by twenty people (academic associate deans and other administrators) to look more at nondegree dual enrollment issues. All nontraditional credits were put on the table for discussion. Everyone agreed not to change the amount of AP/IB credit that students bring into Mason.  Other issues discussed included how to distinguish between Freshmen/Sophomore/Junior/Senior credits.  Also to explore matriculation with NOVA. And, to continue discussing the issues with Governor’s School credits.

Guest Matriculations -- No closer to resolution with Governor’s School credit, agreement to continue discussion.  In response to a question raised, Janette confirmed there is no agreement about dual enrollment and the committee will continue discussion with other involved parties.

Academic Calendar – suggestion made to start classes earlier in January:  feedback received from the Registrar, prior minutes, and we are reviewing data and reports from 2001, 2006.  This is not an item for the agenda yet. In response to a question raised, the exam schedule will remain as is.  In a general discussion, some committee members recalled long ago there was once a break between commencement and summer school.  When folks register for summer school in advance and subsequently learn they passed a course, then cancel summer school registration, causing enormous changes to enrollment.    Janette will find out when the break occurred.  Other committee members appreciate the extra week in January (before classes start) to get work done.  The idea of a “January term” or “J-Mester” was floated.  While not bad to look at it, costs unknown, to include costs to operate dorms in cold weather.  Unknown what tradeoff would be, but would fit into Governor’s proposal for more efficient use of space.  The AP Committee will further discuss the issue.


B.     Budget and Resources – June Tangney

In a general discussion, suggestions made to facilitate meetings included use of email and/or setting up an organization within Blackboard.

Deans/Directors survey of faculty work in independent study/directed readings/dissertations:  How  is work acknowledged/credit determined/appear in review process? Tuition cost-sharing of university-level teaching?   The Committee will contact the Registrar’s Office for data and Meg will send June a report from AY 2004-05 which addressed similar issues.  The Committee may draft a letter to all department chairs asking whether they consider this in faculty evaluations/promotion./tenure decisions. 

Extramural Funding Study—2011 – pending meeting of the Committee.

Salary Data 2011 was just received today.

BPT Meetings are very instructive.  Impressed with how carefully General Education Funds are tracked, but saw no tracking of extramural funding as a major issue.  Provost Stearns disagreed, adding that information sent out in which there is clear tracking of indirect expenditures.  The committee received some information from Morrie Scherrens and needs a more detailed accounting.

Changes to VRS/ORP Retirement Plans Proposed:  An email from the Chair of the FSVA asking Faculty Senators to contact their state legislators was distributed to Faculty Senators.  Peter Pober contacted Linda Harber, who was hesitant because some information in the FSVA letter was not 100% accurate, looking for additional information.  Also numerous pieces of legislation bandied about in Richmond.  Original ORP presumption was not true, that input reduced by 1.9% reductin, but a different strategy than VRS.  We will ask Linda for the most semming/realistic assessment  to distribute to faculty asking them to contact their state legislators. 


C.  Faculty Matters  – Doris Bitler

Faculty Evaluation of Administrators Survey will be distributed soon.

Review of Consensual Relationships Policy presented at October 6, 2010 FS Meeting:  We have received the original and updated version and are reviewing them.

Voluntary Practice Plan:   An amended resolution will be included on the next FS meeting agenda..  The previous motion was presented in Doris’ absence at the Dec. 8th meeting by Star Muir. 

On-Line Teaching Evaluations:  Introduced by the Faculty Matters Committee at the Dec. 8th FS Meeting, the chair of the Effective Teaching Committee’s remarks indicated that they should take the lead on this.  The EXC agreed that Faculty Matters should shift the responsibility for on-line evaluations to Effective Teaching Doris will speak to Paula Petrik about this, with the proviso that their recommendations be presented to the FS.  In a general discussion, concern expressed responses have dropped from 85-87% (paper evaluations) to less than 33% (on-line evaluations), says we’re not getting feedback.  Also financial considerations with you look at the low number of on-line evaluations received – drawing conclusions based on a smaller sample. 


D.  Nominations – Jim Bennett

Faculty Representatives to the BOV Elections:  we will ask for nominations/.bios in late February, to allow three weeks for response, then distribute ballots right after spring break, with two three weeks response.


Nominees for the  proposed Senate Task Force to Examine the Agreements between George Mason University and Private Donors are Bob Ehrlich (COS), Esther Elstun (CHSS-Emerita), Dave Kuebrich (CHSS), Earle Reybold (CEHD), and Rich Rubenstein (ICAR).  We will contact Paula Petrik (Effective Teaching Chair) to nominate a representative from their committee to the Distance Education Council.


E.     Organization and Operations – Star Muir

Motion to Create a Senate Task Force to Examine the Agreements between George Mason University and Private Donors (Attachment A)

After some discussion, the O&O Committee and the EXC agreed not to fine-tweak this and let the FS chew on it.  A member of the O&O Committee expressed reservations about it as follows: 

“I am in favor of such a Task Force if it operates with great transparency and objectivity.  I am NOT in favor of it should it become a witch hunt for unpopular funding (e.g. Koch brothers/Mercatus).  Frankly, I think the first order of business should be to determine if the policies currently in place protect the objectivity and quality of the research and teaching at the university are working and sufficient.    If a committee with that task needed to examine specific agreements with funders, then that would be part of their work.  But I would rather have  a Senate committee that focused on the general principles of ethics and quality control on sponsored research and gifts/grants than a Task Force that ONLY examines agreements between GMU and Private Donors.
For example -- what about gifts from foreign countries (Like the Confucius Center)?  I worry that the current phrasing seems aimed at attacking corporate/private donors with conservative agendas, and such an approach will hurt, not help, the University.   So I would, in the end, say that I oppose the motion as it is now framed.”


Revision of FS Charter and By-Laws: We  decided not to go through the entire process of revising the charter for bookkeeping issues.  Have contacted two other parliamentarians to ask their opinion whether a resolution could be used to address inconsistencies in the charter, such as mixing up of titles, etc. 

Committee Charge for Recreation Advisory Committee-to include in agenda as previously omitted.  To verify with Jim Sanford the names of faculty representatives now serving.


IV.  Other Committees/Faculty Representatives


Academic Initiatives Committee:  Fall 2010 Report received.  Committee very antagonistic toward discussion about initiatives.  Now that the VP for Global and International Strategies is in  place, wish to amend committee charge to include VP as a member, among other changes.  The EXC will invite Anne Schiller and Thomas Speller (Chair of AI Committee) to a future FS Meeting. 


Faculty Reps/BOV: 

·         Faculty Qualtiy of Life Survey:  to move forward what can be done at BOV meetings.

·         Criteria BOV uses to review the President:  Peter Pober received four very general statements, move to consider a more concrete set of guidelines on the radar. 

·         Election of Faculty Reps to serve on Presidential Search Committee – Five elected reps plus chair of Faculty Senate.  To have elections during Fall 2011, Committee will begin Spring 2012


Task Force on Speech Code (University Space and Expressions Committee) has received no response yet from the University Counsel on its recommendations, examining similar codes at other Virginia universities.  To contact Tom Moncure about delay.  The Committee met in spring 2010. 


Technology Policy Committee to examine whether additional fees should be charged for distance education courses.  The Provost confirmed we are charging fees for distance courses.  Star Muir will ask Goodlett McDaniel (Associate  Provost for Distance Education) for more information about the Distance Education Council, which has not been formally constituted.


V.  Agenda Items for February 9,  2011


VI.  New Business and Discussion


Respectfully submitted,

Meg Caniano

Faculty Senate clerk



Motion to Create a Senate Task Force to Examine the Agreements between George Mason University and Private Donors


Motion: The George Mason University Faculty Senate shall create a fact-finding “Task Force re Private Donors” (TFPD). The charge of the Task Force will be to review significant agreements the University that have an overt intellectual dimension.  The activities of the Task Force shall include examining the impact of these agreements in regard to A) the teaching and research missions of the University; B) the University’s mission to serve the public good; C) the University’s use of resources; and D) the image of the University--as perceived both by the George Mason community and the larger public.


Composition: The task force will consist of five faculty members elected by the Faculty Senate and one non-voting ex officio member appointed by the Provost.


 Schedule: The Task Force will make a preliminary report to the Senate by the end of the Spring semester and a second report early in the Fall semester. In its fall report, the Task Force will recommend either that it be dissolved or that it continue in order to develop and recommend needed changes in University policy.


Rationale:  Such a task force is needed for various reasons:


1. Quality of Leadership: George Mason University often expresses a desire to be a model university for the twenty-first century. Such aspirations to innovation and leadership must include high ethical standards.


2. Current Ethical and Political Concerns: There is growing concern both within higher education and among the general public about conflicts of interest and lack of transparency in the scholarship, public presentations, and official testimony of university professors and researchers. This concern is expressed in, among other places, a recent New Yorker article that included discussion of GMU’s Mercatus Center (Aug 30, 2010); the film Inside Job, a recently-released documentary on the current economic crisis; and the Nov-Dec, 2010 issue of Academe: The Magazine of the American Association of University Professors, entitled “The Conflicted University,” which discusses how monied interests use donations, political clout, and legal muscle to influence research, scholarship and teaching.


3. Right to Know: Faculty, students, and other members of the George Mason community have a right to know about agreements that are made between the University and private interest groups.


4. Right to Know: Taxpayers also have a right to know about these agreements.


5. Right to Know: Before the Faculty Senate (12/8/2010), President Merten stated that the University has existing conflict-of-interest policies that require all faculty and researchers to reveal sources of funding that might influence their work. He also stated that the University receives funding from groups across the political spectrum that seek to influence public policy.  Since these facts are not widely known, they should be reviewed and given greater visibility.


6. The mission of the public university is to serve the common good as a disinterested center of teaching and research. It is vital to the well-being of public higher education that this understanding of the public university be preserved.