December 6, 1995

Senators Present: Albanese, Blaisten-Barojas, Boileau, Censer, Clements, Conti, Crockett, De Nys, Eagle, Elstun, Fuchs, Gantz, Hamburger, Hammond, Jensen, Kaplan, Lont, Metcalf, Perry, Robbins, Rossini, Ruth, Sanford, Sofer, Spikell, Tabak, Taylor, Thomas, Todd, Tongren, Torzilli, Wright, and Zoltek.

Senators Absent: Black, Buckley, Carty, Chung, Fulmer, Hurt, Johnson, Manchester, Manne, Mellander, Mose, Potter and Sage.

Attending Guests: Nourbakhsh (UCIS), Adcock (UCIS), Jones (Registrar's Office), Lytton (BIS), Das (Institute of Graduate and Professional Business Studies), McKalip (Academic Advising Center), Brandwine (Legal Affairs), Fletcher (Provost Office), Jack Censer (History), Richardson (Mason Gazette), Lee (Faculty Senate Office), STUDENT SENATORS: Reed, Farfone, Van Hook, Mazo, Hubbard, Khokhar, Schmidt, and Jacob.

I. Call to Order

The Chair, Anita Taylor, called the meeting to order at 3:07 P.M.

II. Approval of Minutes

The minutes of the November 8, 1995 meeting were approved as distributed.

III. Announcements

Ms. Taylor announced that the first meeting of the Presidential Search Committee will be held on Saturday, December 9, 1995, in Assembly Room F of the University Learning Center. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss procedures. The meeting will be open.

Ms. Taylor also announced that faculty salary letters have been distributed.

The latest issue of SCHEV Council Notes is distributed with these minutes. SCHEV recommends 4-6% increases in faculty salaries next year.

George Mason's birthday celebration will include a panel discussion titled "Speaking Freely: The Birth and Evolution of Freedom of the Press" on Sunday, December 10 at 2:00 P.M. in Harris Theater.

Mr. Sanford reminded Senators that minutes will be distributed by e-mail beginning January, 1996.

IV. Unfinished Business

Mr. Gantz reported for the Ad Hoc Committee on Plus and Minus Grading System that faculty had expressed strong opposition to inclusion of an A+ grade. In addition, grandfathering current students in the present grading system would be administratively cumbersome. In its deliberation, the Committee requested and received recommendations from several other colleges and universities suggesting the infeasibility of a grandfather clause. Each respondent strongly recommended that a plus-minus system be implemented for all students. Furthermore, none of the responding institutions allows a GPA over 4.00 on a 0.00-to-4.00 scale. Therefore, the Committee stays with the motion presented at the last meeting. Ms. Taylor then recognized Mr. Reed, Ms. Farfone and Mr. Hubbard from the Student Senate. They reiterated the four concerns which they had presented at the November 6, 1995, Faculty Senate meeting. (See Attachment D of the November 6, 1995, meeting.) Ms. Farfone also discussed results of a survey which had been administered to 432 students and faculty. The majority of students surveyed indicated that upon making their decision to attend GMU, they had planned their course-load according to the terms of the catalog in force at the time of their admission; these catalogs describe a letter grade system only. Survey participants favored grandfathering present students and suggested that a plus-minus system, without the benefit of an A+ grade, would hinder them in their attempts to secure employment and graduate school admission. Student Senators urged Faculty Senators to vote against the proposed system if student concerns are not met.

Mr. Eagle MOVED and it was SECONDED to AMEND the motion by adding:

"The School of Law, the faculty of which have maintained a separate grading system since it became affiliated with the University, shall not be affected by this modification of the University grading system or by future modifications that do not specifically include it."

Mr. Eagle pointed out that the School of Law has used a grading system common in law schools nationwide, yet different from that used in other LAU's. Mr. Gantz responded that the Ad Hoc Committee had not considered the School of Law's grading system to be within its charge. Ms. Elstun pointed out that a different School of Law grading system has been recognized from the time that the School was acquired by George Mason. Mr. Spikell MOVED and it was SECONDED to AMEND the amendment by deleting "or by future modifications that do not specifically include it." The amendment to the amendment PASSED by voice vote. The amendment PASSED by voice vote without dissent.

Mr. Boileau commented that the possible small drop in GPA (by inclusion of A-, but not A+ grades) would have no effect on graduate school admission. Graduate admissions committees use letters of recommendation, professional publications and presentations, etc, rather than minor GPA differences in making decisions about top applicants. He also pointed out that an accurate distinction between A and A- grades may work to students' benefit by identifying the very best students, i.e. those most likely to be successful in graduate studies. Mr. Censer suggested that a middle ground regarding A+ grades may be reached if faculty are allowed to award A+ (which would subsequently appear on the transcript) without a change in grade point value.

Mr. Sanford MOVED and it was SECONDED to AMEND by dividing the main motion between graduate and undergraduate grading systems. Mr. Sanford suggested that nearly all graduate grades are A, B (both satisfactory) and C (unsatisfactory). This system allows insufficient distinction at the graduate level. However, the proposed system includes nine grades at the undergraduate level, a number which may make meaningful distinction difficult. Ms. Albanese responded that English Department faculty favor the proposed system because better distinctions can be made at both graduate and undergraduate levels. The amendment FAILED by voice vote.

Ms. Lont reminded Senators that implementation of a plus-minus system at other institutions had not noticeably affected grade point averages.

Mr. Ruth MOVED and it was SECONDED to AMEND the motion to allow an A+ grade worth 4.00 grade points. Thus, A+ grades could appear on a transcript, but the integrity of the 4.00 system would be maintained. Mr. Eagle responded that this could be misleading unless an individual pays very close attention to the transcript key. The amendment FAILED by voice vote.

It was proposed from the floor that implementation of the new system be delayed until Fall Semester, 1998. This was accepted as a friendly amendment by the Committee. The Senate also suggested that the impending change be announced in all future Undergraduate Catalogs.

The amended main motion PASSED by a vote of 20-11.

V. New Business

A. Ms. Taylor requested that the remainder of the agenda be taken out of order. Hearing no objection, she presented the list of candidates for the BIS degree. Mr. Metcalf MOVED that these candidates be approved as certified by the Registrar and with silent correction of clerical errors. The motion was SECONDED and PASSED by voice vote without dissent.

B. Ms. Taylor announced that the Executive Committee was working with representatives of the Office of the Provost to develop procedures by which appropriate consultation between administration and faculty could take place during planning and implementation of changes in academic organization. Mr. Spikell distributed information regarding organization of academic programs and Faculty Handbook information related to Senate responsibilities in these matters. He invited Senators to discuss these matters with him. Procedures will be considered at the next Faculty Senate meeting. If the University Administration feels its establishment is warranted after consultation with the Faculty Senate, present schedule calls for a proposal to create an Institute for Educational Transformation to be submitted to the Board of Visitors at its March, 1996, meeting.

VI. Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 4:18 P.M.

Respectfully Submitted,

James F. Sanford
Secretary, Faculty Senate

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