February 18, 1998


Senators present:  A. Berry, P. Black, E. Blaisten-Barojas, D. Boileau, L. Bowen, K. Clements, R. Conti, M. De Nys, M. Deshmukh, S. Eagle, E. Elstun, D. Gantz, D. Kaplan, J. Metcalf, L. Miller, S. Muir, J. O'Connor, A. Palkovich, R. Ruhling, J. Sanford, J. Scimecca, A. Sofer, D. Struppa, J. Tangney, C. Thomas, E. Thorp, T. Travis, K. Vaughn, S. Zoltek


Senators absent:  R. Carty, J. Crockett, T. Domzal, C. Fuchs, G. Galluzzo, M. Grady, L. Griffiths, J. Hale, A. Merten, E. O'Hara, W. Perry, D. Potter, J. Reid, D. Rine, A. Taylor,  J. Walsh, S. Weinberger, P. Wilkie


Guests present:  G. Cook (ECE & Football Task Force), P. Denning (Provost), R. Ehrlich (Physics), D. Holisky (CAS Associate Dean), L. Irvine (Provost), S. Jones (Registrar), J. Kanyan (Music), T. O'Connor (ICA), J. Shirk (Music), M. Vance (Academic Advising), J. Wood (Provost)


I  Call to Order

Chair Esther Elstun called the meeting to order at 3:05 pm.


II  Addendum to Agenda -- President Merten' Address

President Merten briefly addressed the Faculty Senate.  He discussed his directive to deans and directors concerning their suggestions for organizational change within academic units and the university as a whole.  He said that two years ago, when he was a finalist for the Presidency of GMU, there were four issues to tackle if he was given the job.  First, he wanted to create a better sense of community.  Second, he wanted to find more money for the university.  Third, he wanted to prepare a future for GMU.  And fourth, he wanted to better define the structure of the university, creating what he called a "rationalization" for GMU.


There has been a great deal of progress in several of these areas -- community, finances, and even the groundwork for the future.  While the 'Future Project' has advanced to it's second phase and the Governor's campaign for "equity adjustments" in financing of state universities could produce a down payment and real money soon, President Merten hoped that more suggestions regarding the restructuring of programs would have been suggested by now.


Dr. Merten stated that the impending millions of dollars need to be spent rationally on a structure reflecting the programs and needs of the university.  He went to the academic unit heads (deans and directors) and asked for input about what programs, structures and organizations are needed.  He asked them what they think about their unit, about things going on between units, about the university as a whole (outside of their unit), and about how to make their units more business-like and better interact with other units.


President Merten decided that the need to prepare for the future requires action, not merely more prolonged discussion.  He has called for the creation of a document, through the aid of Provost David Potter and Vice Provost Joe Wood, to detail the suggestions to be made.  The document will address what types of things institutes or colleges should be doing.  He hopes that during early March through early April there will be ample discussion of the document, and that in April some decisions will be made.  He wants to have focused discussions and broad-based discussions on the document to provide the best output.  Asked in what forums these discussions would occur, the President said in individual units, among units and community wide.  E. Elstun added that proposed changes that transcend individual units would also require Senate discussion, in accordance with the Faculty Handbook.  Some changes and actions will occur immediately, while others may require additional time to enact -- potentially next year or later.


The deans and directors, as unit heads, are the first representatives to the idea gathering process, and ultimately will be held accountable for what happens within their units.  George Mason must operate with a high level of quality and service in the unit level.  The units must serve the students' needs and do what is necessary to attract the quality of students desired.  Dr. Merten said that academic units must share operations, doing as much for other units as possible rather than just serving their own interests.


III  Approval of Minutes

A correction to the minutes from January 21, 1998 was made.  The Executive Committee corrected that David Rossell's report on early retirement is scheduled for the February Executive Committee Meeting, not the February Faculty Senate Meeting. The minutes were approved as corrected.


IV  Announcements

There is a Called Meeting of the Faculty Senate on Wednesday, March 4, 1998 at 3:00 pm to adopt a position on the possible introduction of NCAA football at George Mason University.


A large number of bills in the state legislature regarding higher education have been eliminated.  However, several are still active, some of these include:  House Joint Resolution 346, which requires the teaching of U.S. History;  Senate Bill 680, which addresses the suspension of students for alcohol related offenses;  House Bill 1033 (carried over to 1999 session), requiring SCHEV to establish minimum guidelines on number of classroom teaching hours for fill-time professors.


Professor R. Pasnak provided and article from a University of Central Florida student addressing the problems and outlook of many working students.  Copies of the article were made available and additional copies are available in the Faculty Senate Office.


V  Unfinished Business

There was no unfinished business.


VI  New Business

A.  Report from Gerald Cook, Chair, Task Force on Football

Mr. Cook reported that on October 15, 1997, the Board of Visitors and President Merten created the Task Force to study the feasibility of football at George Mason University.  The Task Force is comprised of members of the faculty, staff and administration, student body, and the external community.  In a brief presentation, Mr. Cook described the structure and function of the Task Force, and then addressed questions.


The approach of the Task Force is to be open-minded and objective.  There are five committees within the Task Force.  These committees and their objectives are listed as follows:

1)Policy -- to address and adhere to the mission and policies of the University.

2)Regulation -- to address the legal issues associated with having football at GMU.  (Particularly the Title IX issue).

3)Finance -- to address the costs of football to GMU.  Four main areas of concern:

          a)direct costs -- scholarships, etc.

          b)indirect costs -- academic support unit, etc.

          c)Title IX costs -- additional sports for gender equity needs.

          d)debt service costs -- facilities, etc.

4)Implementation -- to address the transition from football as a club sport to its status following the final decision.

5)Market Assessment -- to investigate interest level in football among all members of the university community.


The Task Force also hired an external consultant to aid in the feasibility study of football at GMU.  Carr and Associates (the consulting firm) assisted the Task Force in reaching their objectives.


Several goals of advocates of football at George Mason are that it could build community spirit, stimulate alumni interest, and increase visibility of the university.  However, to achieve these goals George Mason must compete with its traditional rivals and would thus require Division I-AA status with scholarships.


The impact of adding Division I-AA scholarship football at GMU would be widespread.  First, due to Title IX requirements, it would require the addition of women's field hockey, women's swim and dive teams, and improvements in women's crew.  Second, it would raise the number of sports to 24, and the number of scholarships from 120 to 240.  Third, it would increase the budget of the Athletic Department from $7 million to $11 million.  Fourth, it would create the need to increase student fees by $240 per year.  Realistically, a lower cost program is not a viable alternative.  However, the Task Force has not made a decision to recommend or not recommend this version of football.


The Policy Committee is trying to determine if football is the best use of student fees, if it would divert alumni gifts, what impact it would have on existing sports, and what impact it would have on community relations.  The Task Force is conducting surveys of alumni, faculty and staff, and students and should be finished by March 1.


Several questions were raised and answered.  These included:

1)  Has the Task Force contacted other Division I-AA schools that have added or dropped football for their input?

            Yes, both the Task Force and the consultant have done so.

2)  What is the financial difference between having Division I-A and Division I-AA?

            Division I-A is higher visibility and requires up to 85 scholarships, Division I-AA only 63 scholarships.

3)  Is the $240 per year student fee increase based on full-time students, or FTE?  And, did you consider that, in general, part-time students are less interested than full-time students and probably wouldn't want to incur the additional expense?

            The $240 is the student fee increase for a full-time student, and is pro-rated according to the number of hours in which the student is enrolled.

            We are not finished with our surveys and therefore do not know the amount of interest among part-time students.

4)  How thorough is the $240 student fee figure?  Does it incorporate costs such as parking and stadium costs?

            The $240 student fee figure is the basis of the Task Force estimate of $4.1 million in annual costs to cover the described additions.  The consultants figures estimated $4.3 million and included a similar student fee.


B.  Committee Reports


1.            Executive Committee

E. Elstun reported that David Rossell reported on the proposal for a retirement incentive option.  It would be a one time window for participation, open to full-time, tenured faculty over the age of 60.  The charge of determining interest in the option has been passed on to the Faculty Matters Committee.


2.            Academic Policies Committee

On behalf of the Academic Policies Committee M. De Nys moved that the following statement regarding observances of religious holidays be inserted in the University Catalogue.

It is the policy of George Mason University to make every reasonable effort to allow members of the University Community to observe their religious holidays without academic penalty. Absence from classes or examinations for religious reasons does not relieve students from responsibility for any part of the course work required during the period of absence. Students who expect to miss classes, examinations, or other assignments as a consequence of their religious observance shall be provided with a reasonable alternative opportunity to complete such academic responsibilities. It is the obligation of students to provide faculty with reasonable notice of the dates of major religious holidays on which they will be absent. Students who are absent on days of examinations or class assignments due to observance of major religious holidays shall be offered an opportunity to make up the work without penalty, unless a makeup opportunity would constitute an unreasonable burden on the faculty. Should disagreement arise over what constitutes an unreasonable burden or any aspect of this policy, parties should contact the department chair or program director.


This motion, regarding observance of religious holidays, verbalizes an unspoken existing policy and must be applied prudently.

J. Sanford proposed an amendment (see Attachment A) to the motion and it was seconded. The amendment was approved.


Discussion of the main motion as amended continued regarding the identification of and interpretation of religious holidays.  The motion assumes that all parties act responsibly in applying the policy.  A suggestion that some sort of a 'list' of applicable holidays could be helpful.  A potential conflict exists between a predetermined class schedule and obligations to do work on religious holidays falling on the scheduled class days.


VII  Adjournment

A motion to adjourn was made, seconded, and passed unanimously at 4:30 pm.


Attachment A -- Proposed Amendment to the motion of the Academic Policies Committee


The following is an amendment to the Academic Policies Committee motion regarding religious holidays as submitted by J. Sanford. Amendment to motion from Academic Policies Committee regarding religious holidays:


Substitute: “Faculty should be sensitive to religious observances in their construction of class schedules and syllabi.”


for:  “Students who are absent on days . . . department chair or program director.”



1.         Part of the intention of the motion is to sensitize faculty to awareness of religious holidays of various faiths.  The original motion places the responsibility solely on students, on a case-by-case basis, to alert faculty of religious observances.  The amendment suggests that faculty should take some responsibility in planning course requirements so as not to conflict with religious holidays, while not relieving students of their responsibilities when a conflict arises.

2.         The statement in the original motion, “Students . . . shall be offered an opportunity to make up the work without penalty, unless a makeup opportunity would constitute an unreasonable burden on the faculty,” appears both too prescriptive and too vague.  There are some courses that cannot avoid in-class participation on a regular basis (e.g., laboratories, art studio courses, music participation courses).  Classes that do not allow make-up exams are also problematic.  It would not be fair to students who must miss exams in these classes for reasons not associated with religious observances if religious holidays constitute a basis for a special make-up policy.  Finally, it is not clear what “an unreasonable burden on the faculty” consists of (e.g., would constructing a new exam or spending additional time with students in a make-up lab session be an “unreasonable burden?”).

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