December 3, 1997

Senators present: A. Berry, P. Black, E. Blaisten-Barojas, D. Boileau, M. De Nys, E. Elstun, C. Fuchs, D. Gantz, J. Hale, D. Kaplan, J. Metcalf, L. Miller, S. Muir, J. O’Connor, W. Perry, J. Reid, R. Ruhling, J. Scimecca, A. Taylor, C. Thomas, E. Thorp, T. Travis, P. Wilkie, S. Zoltek

Senators absent: L. Bowen, R. Carty, R. Conti, J. Crockett, K. Clements, M. Deshmukh, T. Domzal, S. Eagle, G. Galluzzo, M. Grady, L. Griffiths, A. Merten, E. O’Hara, A. Palkovich, D. Potter, D. Rine, J. Sanford, A. Sofer, D. Struppa, J. Tangney, K. Vaughn, J. Walsh, S. Weinberger

Guests present: A. Cary (CNHS), G. Foster (Chemistry), C. Gibson (Libraries), M. Karina (University Publications), M. LeBaron (ICAR), E. Todd (History and Art History), A. Torzilli (Biology), M. L. Vance (Academic Support and Advising Services)

Senate Chair Esther Elstun called the meeting to order at 3:05 pm. Prior to getting on with the business of the meeting, she introduced the new Senate Staff Secretary Scott Petitto.

She announced that the single item of business for this special meeting is a discussion of “Engaging the Future,” the Report of the President’s Faculty Task Force on the Future of the University. Her hope is that the Senate will reach a collective response to that Report. She suggested that one alternative for proceeding was an orderly sequential discussion of the five scenarios in the report; however, she preferred to use the content of a memo to the Senate from Jim Sanford as a point of departure. She requested comments on the method of proceeding. Anita Taylor suggested that the response to the “Futures” Report drafted by the College of Arts and Sciences Department Chairs would be a good point of departure for the Senate discussion. Don Boileau stated that the Senate could make a statement or get a committee to draft a statement or just pass good meeting minutes to the Task Force Chair, Joe Wood.

A. Taylor read the following five point statement from the CAS Chairs; copies were made and distributed.

We accept the importance of flexibility, but not in the terms laid out by Plan E, “Flexible Response.” We advocate a flexibility that puts the quality of education and research at GMU first, rather than one that treats flexibility and growth as ends in themselves.

We believe that excellence in research and teaching are mutually reinforcing and that we cannot build a great university without strengthening both. We strongly advocate increased support for both, but we believe it is one of the strengths of CAS that it has never sacrificed teaching to research, and we wish to preserve the balance between them. Before it can improve the quality of teaching and research, the university will need to address current inadequacies in basic infrastructure, staffing, student support, and undergraduate admissions standards.

We believe that “Learning Clusters” can function most productively when voluntarily integrated into the pedagogical options of local academic units, where they could allow for more flexibility in scheduling, staffing, and curriculum development for interested faculty.

We acknowledge that it is important for the university to respond to the needs and interests of our constituency, but we also believe that it is the role of the university to offer intellectual leadership to society. We think that a wholesale adoption of Plan C, “Consumer Sovereignty,” would reverse this role by allowing the latest needs in training to displace our mission of preparing students for life-long learning. We think that the kinds of training programs imagined by Plan C should remain strictly limited and subordinated to the university’s mission.

We take seriously our responsibility as faculty to insure the integrity of our curriculum and degree requirements, and we strongly oppose any changes that would weaken faculty governance. To protect this commitment to faculty governance, we think that it is crucial for administration to collaborate with faculty when implementing pedagogical experimentation and flexible responses.

In response to a question regarding the strength of CAS Chair support for this statement, A. Taylor stated that it was universally supported and that non-signers had not expressed disagreement.

E. Elstun summarized the memo from J. Sanford saying:
If the Senate takes a position, he hopes it is in opposition to plans C, D and E. And that any position taken be flexible enough to increase the strength and quality of graduate and undergraduate programs; Plan B by itself is not appropriate for GMU since it implies a relative reduction of efforts at the graduate level, does not provide potential business partners for graduate programs and is not likely to retain and attract top faculty.

He proposes a continuing movement toward the undergraduate goals of B but encompassing a revised A which defines scholarship in multiple forms.

The Chair then requested comments on these various statements. The comments are summarized:
An amended CAS Chairs’ response should include support for tenure and a statement on the use of part-time faculty members noting that increased utilization of part-time faculty seems to be where the University is heading.
What are the hidden agendas? What are the goals? Should the Senate naively provide a position and give approval to a finding or is the Senate discussion part of a strategic negotiation?

E. Elstun responded that she knows of no hidden agenda. The Senate Executive Committee thought that the Senate should have its own meeting outside of the town meetings, and that it would be inappropriate for that meeting to have the same format as the Task Force’s scheduled meetings where the Task Force fielded questions and engaged in debate. This special meeting was called to hear what Senators really think.

The University must provide incentives for innovative designs. For example, ad hoc interdisciplinary clustering must have an overlay that encourages people and rewards them. Where is the benefit? How do the plans intend to get people to volunteer and reward them?

A. Taylor stated that the CAS Chairs’ response doesn’t set forth how to do actions, but rather that local academic units are best suited to implement clustering.

It was suggested that in plan C - consumer sovereignty option - consumer influence cuts against the University’s sovereignty; there is a distinction between being sensitive to new fads and chasing them. The university has something to offer in leadership rather than always chasing the dollars. The chase always seems to lead to being a step behind and never getting us to where we want to be.

It was suggested that we’re not here to choose a scenario, but to think and create new ideas, identifying the good and bad of all the scenarios, and come up with a best alternative.

It was noted that the “Futures” Report does not propose that we choose among the scenarios, but rather that we think about the values and assumptions, both good and bad, of the scenarios. This is hard to do since each scenario has abstract presuppositions as well as actual examples that are concrete and less benign. The last three scenarios are  problematic in their concrete details and need a lot of critical rethinking. A combination of plans A and B seems the best scenario. The research scenario of A, aimed at soliciting funding, emphasizes sciences but does not prioritize the humanities; however, GMU is not prepared to handle this scenario in the hard sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics, etc. An integration like the CAS chairs suggest is therefore a good choice.

Exception was taken to the statement concerning the ability of current biology resources to support doctoral research; an assertion was made that, given current potential, it is not an unreasonable goal to expand doctoral research in biology.

There was support for the assertion in J. Sanford’s memo that research equals scholarship; further, there was belief that Plan A supposes research may not be scholarship.

Several statements were made in support of the CAS Chairs’ response. Further comments were made which were specific to the five scenarios. An A and E combination is appealing; Plan A is explicit with clear guidelines for scholarship and research although it is not clear that it takes a broad view of scholarship. Plan E provides a flexible response which allows an infusion of resources to increase infrastructure and doctoral research. GMU’s current implementation of Plan E has not had the infrastructure to support doctoral research. Plans A and B show a forward moving approach. Plan C is an abomination. Plan D supposes that there is always a role for clusters, interdisciplinary study and flexibility, and Plan E allows for flexibility but chases fads and the ever-changing hot topics. The CAS Chairs’ address Plan C well, but they should be sensitive to who the students are and what they want and expect.

The discussion focused on several “How do we do it” issues, and what are the tough issues we will have to deal with? First, an issue introduced earlier was reiterated – what kinds of faculty roles and appointments will there be in the future? It was noted that the CAS has previously used second and third tiers of faculty workloads and part-time faculty. Second, undergraduate admissions was identified as one of the “How do we do it” issues. It was noted that a lot of things need to happen together and that the reality of transfers has to be factored in.

It was mentioned that the recent newspaper article on the University of Maryland’s improvement included comments on the metropolitan universities. Also, a SCHEV report had a high percentage of students satisfied with their GMU education but put GMU at the bottom of state schools relative to satisfaction with advising for students. GMU was first in students graduating without debt. These were all presented as casting a challenging atmosphere for marketing and carrying implications for our choices of where to go. It was stated that the University of Maryland has been cutting back on enrollments even though it means less money. This was followed by a comment that as long as GMU undergraduates and graduate students pay the same tuition, our undergraduate enrollments impact our ability to make graduate offerings; we cannot service our undergraduate program any cheaper. There was then a discussion concerning varying the charges for programs. How do you attract better students, without the expectations of “betterment?” How do you reach the goals from a resource perspective? Third, multi-campus utilization introduces the question of roles played by various locations in the dispersion. An expanding multi-campus university such as this still has infrastructure needs on the main campus that should be addressed.

A question was raised regarding the role the Senate would play in the decision making processes of where GMU will go. There was a general agreement that the Senate should be part of the decision making process. E. Elstun responded that the Senate Executive Committee will discuss the Senate’s role in the next steps of the “Futures” at their meeting this Friday (December 5). She then asked Task Force Chair Joe Wood to comment on the next steps.

J. Wood said that in his new position as Associate Provost he will probably play some role in the “Futures” implementation. The scenarios arose because the President asked for them when charging the task force. The scenarios reflect things we are already doing in some way somewhere on the campus. There was a deliberate intent to make sure everyone sees something offensive in the scenarios. The desired agenda to get faculty, staff, and others to discuss the future, question assumptions and identify shared values is playing out in the current meeting. The next step is to report on those responses to support the President in decision making for directing new funds and making allocations.

J. Wood sees the Senate playing its traditional role of commenting on and/or voting on degree programs, openings and closings, etc..

The Senate discussion then turned to the question of where resources come from and how the scenarios need to be amended accordingly. Some Senators saw GMU’s position to be a high growth university missed in the early ‘80s and questioned how that opportunity was lost. In light of that history, what good does it do to discuss the scenarios and what we’ve already missed once before? The comment was made that Plan E doesn’t require we do anything. There was general agreement that it would be disillusioning to talk about the scenarios without discussing resources, expenditures, allocations and planning.

Senators reported that the town meetings they attended reached the same agreement that we should be less concentrated on the scenarios and more concerned with resource issues and the quality of education. Some Senators complained that the quality of student performance has gone down over the past ten years, and we need to find out how to provide appropriate education to the students who come here.

This turn in the discussion spawned a number of comments:
The scenarios allow flexibility in creative ways to think but still keep us in a box – bounded in the ideas of what external future lies ahead. That is, assumptions are being made concerning where the world outside the institution is going in the 21st century. The scenarios lack a view of the future. They amplify one or more directions GMU has been taking but lack a vision of what the 21 st century bodes for us all and an understanding of the things we need to deal with, particularly as a public institution.

We must recognize that choices have to be made, ones not necessarily liked or even presented yet. It is our responsibility as faculty members to make the choices, and we must be an integral part when any future changes and plans are implemented. It all comes down to money. If the money is the same, then choices have to be made. If improvements come from additional money, then where does the money come from? We must recruit to improve students and faculty, and how do you do that?

John O’Connor responded that $1500 per student is all it takes to recruit. We have the numbers and that’s all it takes to get the student here instead of Wake Forest or wherever. There are four appointed senators and four elected senators on the resource allocation committee; they can have an impact. The faculty liaisons to the Board of Visitors need to share the statement from the President regarding what we’ll do with additional funds from Governor-elect Gilmore.

We have to address the nature of the students, why are they worse not why are they different. First, the student base here is 18-75 not 18-24; that requires a different perspective. Second, the faculty is different. What you are researching is a big question; we want to be like our mentors, but perhaps our research should  address real problems and issues or at least have some balance. Third, the nature of faculty could be different in the future. Fourth, the nature of teaching is changing rapidly, and we must determine how to evaluate and identify new teachers. Fifth, the nature of the university in society as a whole needs to be examined. We aren’t and shouldn’t be a contained unit, and we can’t give in to becoming something too external; there must be a balance. Sixth, the nature of communication within the university is important, letting everyone know appropriately and efficiently what is going on; both governance and sharing of information must be maintained in any avenue taken.

D. Boileau made the motion: I MOVE to endorse the CAS Department Chairs’ statement with T. Travis’ addition that special attention needs to be paid to the categories of full-time and part-time appointment. The motion was seconded by R. Ruhling.

There were some comments that the CAS Chairs’ statement is too conventional. There are concerns that GMU is just continuing the smoke and mirrors of the last ten years. The students are different today; they give us less of their time and attention placing more importance on their 40 hour/week jobs. There needs to be a culture change for students and faculty. Values need to be resurrected, and we need to re-establish some of the more traditional foundations of education for the future of the university.

A Senator asked if the CAS Chairs’ statement endorsed a combination of Plans A and B or, in fact, was a new vision not outlined in any of the scenarios. A. Taylor responded that it is the latter.

An addition was made to the end of the CAS Chairs’ response: A first step would be some discussion of budgeting and resource consequences of various scenarios with the Faculty Senate.

The vote to endorse the CAS Chairs’ statement as amended was unanimous among those senators present.

The meeting adjourned at 4:30pm.

Return to Archive