George Mason University
Approved Minutes of the Faculty Senate
February 12, 2003
Senators Present: J. Bennett, A. Berry, E. Blaisten-Barojas, D. Boileau, D. Boehm-Davis, B. Brown, L. Brown, P. Buchanan, Y. D. Chung, R. Coffinberger, R. Diecchio, E. Elstun, M. Ferri, H. Gortner, J. High, M. Kafatos, D. Kuebrich, W. Kurkul, C. Mattusch, J. Metcalf, L. Monson, J. Moore, R. Nadeau, L. Rockwood, S. Ruth, J. Sanford, F. Shahrokhi, S. Slayden, D. Sprague, P. Stearns, E. Sturtevant, C. Sutton, I. Vaisman, J. Zenelis, S. Zoltek
Senators Absent: P. Black, S. Cobb, S. deMonsabert, M. De Nys, M. Deshmukh, T. Friesz, J. Gorrell, M. Grady, L. Griffiths, K. Haynes, C. Kaffenberger, H.W. Jeong, R. Klimoski, J. Kozlowski, C. Lerner, P.J. Maddox, B. Manchester, A. Merten, L. Pawloski, P. Regan, W. Reeder, J. Scimecca, R. Smith, A. Sofer, M. Stearns, D. Struppa, S. Trencher
Guests Present: S. Beach, D. Bitler, J. de Freitas, J. Flinn, D. Fox, A. Frederiksen, S. Greenfeld, R. Herron, J. Jobbitt, S. Jones, W. Rankin, W. Sutton, M. Zamon
I. Call to Order
Chair Jim Bennett called the meeting to order at 3:02 p.m. The Minutes of the January 22, 2003 meeting were approved as distributed.
A. Remarks to the Senate by Rector Meese
The Chair introduced Edwin Meese, Rector of the GMU Board of Visitors. Mr. Meese began by thanking the faculty on behalf of the BOV for doing a superior job under the current fiscal stringencies. During his travels, he has been pleased to hear people remark on GMU’s growing national reputation.
Reporting on the work of the Board, Mr. Meese stated that it is becoming more proactive. They now have an annual two-day meeting with the President’s Council to plan priorities and goals for the year. Their goal is to develop a long-range strategy. At present, the Board has formulated a “2007 Plan,” which attempts to integrate all major aspects of university planning, including budget and facilities.
Regarding budget planning, Mr. Meese pointed out that in the past the Board had simply responded to the GMU budget process, but in an effort to be more involved in planning, the Board created a primer (subsequently adopted by various other Virginia schools) that outlines the budget process in a month-by-month calendar. This is used to educate new Board members and to allow the Board to anticipate budget issues and help shape the University’s response.
Mr. Meese expressed disappointment with the state legislature’s handling of the higher education budget, noting that GMU has always been underfunded compared to other doctorate-granting universities in Virginia. Accordingly, it is most severely impacted by recent budget cuts. The funding crisis may be further exacerbated by bills passed in the House and Senate that put a cap on tuition increases. Rector Meese promised that the BOV and the Administration will continue to lobby the state government and Governor Warner to support higher education.
In answer to a question concerning faculty representation on the BOV, Mr. Meese responded that a faculty member on the Board might institute a conflict of interest, and the faculty member would have to recuse him/herself often. He considers an active and participatory faculty liaison to the BOV a better idea. He agreed that a non-voting faculty seat on the Faculty and Academic Standards Committee would be a good idea and something he would support. He affirmed that he wants to increase communication between the faculty and the Board, and he encouraged the Senate leadership to let him know of faculty questions and concerns.
Another question was raised about fundraising by the BOV. Rector Meese replied that this is the official responsibility of the Foundation. However, all Board members contribute to the Foundation on an annual basis and are committed to raising funds for the University.
B. Special Meeting of the Faculty Senate : February 26, 2003
The Chair announced that he has received a memo from the President’s Office with recent changes proposed by the BOV (1/30/03) to the Faculty Handbook regarding the importance of teaching as a criterion for tenure. The Provost added that the new language is a serious effort at a compromise intended to please all parties. The new wording highlights the University’s traditional emphasis upon teaching excellence without substantially modifying existing Handbook criteria for tenure. The Faculty Senate has 21 days to review the proposed changes. Accordingly, the Faculty Matters Committee will expeditiously review the changes and write a report with recommendation(s) for the Senate. There will be a special meeting of the Senate on February 26, 2003 to discuss and vote on these recommendations.
III. Old Business
A. Update and Assessment of the “Comprehensive Campaign”—Mike Ferri
Mike Ferri thanked the GMU Foundation staff and Board for his warm welcome as the first Faculty Senate representative to the GMU Foundation. He believes the experience has improved understanding and communication between the faculty and the GMU Foundation.
Reporting on the current “Comprehensive Campaign,” Professor Ferri explained that between1998 and December 2002, the Campaign had raised approximately $87 million in gifts and pledges of the goal of $110 million by June 30, 2005. From the monies received, however, only $10 million have been added to the endowment, and the rest has been spent. He also noted that some of the real estate held by the GMU Foundation may entail large future costs.
Professor Ferri also pointed to a need for improvement in alumni giving. Out of 85,000 alumni, the University has current addresses for 74,000. Of those contacted in the campaign, only slightly over 6,000 alumni contributed a total of about $500,000. Professor Ferri suggested there may be a need to give more attention to GMU undergraduate programs and alumni relations.
Judy Jobbit, President of the GMU Foundation and Vice President of University Development and Alumni Affairs, provided a brief update. Since December, the foundation has raised another $3 million, much of which is earmarked for student and faculty support.
B. CAS Undergraduate Experience—Mary Zamon
Mary Zamon, Director of the Undergraduate Student Experience, noted that her position was created about two years ago to connect Academic and University Life. Ms. Zamon briefly explained that she assists the Admissions and Orientation Offices, the College of Arts & Sciences, and other GMU colleges and units with recruitment, orientation, retention, testing and academic activities and events.
C. C- Grade Issue—Academic Policies Committee
The Academic Policies Committee resubmitted the motion: The C- grade is “Unsatisfactory.”
The question was again raised as to whether it would be inconsistent to have “C” considered a satisfactory grade and “C-“ considered an unsatisfactory grade. There was concern expressed that technology was driving the way grades are given. It was noted that, due to implementation of the Banner system, there is no way to change the parallel systems of GPAs and Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory designations for two more years. The Senate needs to come up with a short-term solution for the C- at this point because of its numerous discrepancies.
Jane Flinn, one of the two original proposers of the C- grade as satisfactory, noted that she had wanted the use of the C- grade in order to differentiate students that were just barely passing from the true C students. Now, recognizing the difficulties inherent in the “satisfactory” designation, she favors the current motion.
The motion passed with several abstentions.
The Academic Policies committee presented a second motion as follow-up:
The GMU Catalog (p. 38) currently states: “An undergraduate may present all courses in which satisfactory grades have been received and up to 12 credits of courses in which D grades have been received. A student may not use a grade of D in BIS 490, however, and may not use more than six credits of D grades in a major or in the BIS core of study, nor more than three credits of D grades in a minor. Some programs may have a more restrictive policy regarding the number of D grades allowable in majors, minors, or certificates.”
The Academic Policies Committee recommends that the policy be changed to:
An undergraduate may present up to 12 credits of courses in which C- or D grades have been earned. A student may not present more than six credits of C- or D grades in a major nor more than three credits of C- or D grades in a minor. Some programs may have a more restrictive policy regarding grades allowable in majors, minors, or certificates.
Rationale: At present, the system used in determining student achievement and progress is a “dual track” in which the more recent determination of GPA is superimposed on the older method of partitioning all grades into the two categories of Satisfactory/ Unsatisfactory. At this time, it is not possible under the current system to limit the number of C- and D grades separately if both are defined as Unsatisfactory. Since both of these grades are associated with sub-standard Quality Points (1.67 and 1.00, respectively), continuing the current credit limits will help maintain academic standards. The information on grades allowable for the BIS degree appears in the BIS section of the Catalog.
The motion passed unanimously.
IV. Committee Reports and Action Items
A. Executive Committee – Jim Bennett
B. Academic Policies – Esther Elstun
Jack High presented a report on Credit Earned Elsewhere on behalf of the Committee (Attachment A). After review of the current policy, the Committee determined that no action was necessary. The question was raised as to whether the policy was too restrictive. Jack answered that the Committee has been asked to determine if the policy was too lenient, not if it was too restrictive. He suggested that the question should be addressed to the LAU leadership, since the Catalog is actually lenient on the issue, but the academic units sometimes are not.
The Committee then introduced the following motion:
The GMU student government has submitted a request to the Provost of the University that in future the traditional Latin terms be used to designate honors. The Academic Policies Committee favors this change, as does the Provost. No practical problems of implementation would attach to the change. The Academic Policies Committee therefore MOVES:
That the Faculty Senate endorse the request of the GMU student government that honors at George Mason University be designated by the traditional Latin nomenclature cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude.
The motion passed unanimously.
C. Facilities & Support Services & Library – Lorraine Brown
D. Faculty Matters – Marty De Nys
The Committee will be meeting this Friday to discuss the Faculty Handbook changes proposed by the BOV.
E. Organization & Operations – Phil Buchanan
The Committee introduced the following motion: The Organization and Operations Committee moves that the charge of the University Grievance Committee be modified to read as follows:
TO INVESTIGATE GRIEVANCES OF INSTRUCTIONAL, RESTRICTED, AND RESEARCH FACULTY:
A. which involve faculty matters from more than one local academic unit. Issues of investigation include alleged infringements of academic freedom, alleged unfair or inappropriate conditions of employment, and any other due process issue with the exclusion of retention, promotion and tenure appeals,
B. which are not addressed by, or do not fall within the purview of the grievance
committee of the pertinent local academic unit; and
C. for local academic units that do not have grievance committees established, or when a grievance committee does not conform to the written procedures of the local academic unit. Faculty appeals from local academic unit grievance committees are excluded.
Justification: The current charge and university policy does not permit Research Faculty members to file grievances as either instructional faculty or as classified employees except in cases of discrimination. This change in the University Grievance Committee charge will enable the Committee to hear grievances from research faculty on matters of infringements of academic freedom, unfair or inappropriate conditions of employment, and any other due process issue.
Support was expressed for the motion since this has been a problem in the past, and there is a constant increase in research faculty since GMU’s goal is to have 10% of their faculty be research.
The motion passed unanimously.
F. Nominations – Rick Coffinberger
The Committee nominated Priscilla Regan to fill the vacancy on the General Education University Standing Committee. The nomination passed unanimously.
The Committee announced that Stanley Zoltek has been appointed as the Senate representative to the Security Review Panel.
G. Ad Hoc Budget Committee – Rick Coffinberger
H. Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Senate Bylaws — Bob Nadeau
The Committee has reviewed the Faculty Senate Bylaws, asked for clarification on certain issues, reviewed past changes of the Bylaws, and determined that no changes are needed at the present time. The Chair dismissed the Committee and instructed the Secretary to send a letter of thanks to the Committee members.
V. New Business
A. Task Force to Review the Parallel “Satisfactory Progress” Systems Currently Existing at GMU — Hal Gortner
Hal Gortner provided a brief overview of the present “dual grading system.” George Mason University, as a relatively new and fast-growing university, has had to change its academic policies in order to match the demands of growth and maturation. During its early years, the lack of a grade point average (GPA) system required that GMU create a unique procedure (all grades were classified as satisfactory or unsatisfactory) by which satisfactory progress toward a degree could be calculated, but GMU later changed from a grading system that did not calculate grade points to one that does. Not surprisingly, the dual existence of our “satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade” procedure—which now operates parallel to the GPA system—causes some serious inconsistencies in calculating satisfactory progress toward graduating and general confusion for students (and advisors).
This has become abundantly obvious as the Faculty Senate attempts to develop some consistency in the calculation of “C-“ when determining the academic status of students. Undoubtedly there are other places in the Catalog that also suffer from the presence of dual systems for calculating “satisfactory progress.”
Professor Gortner suggested that a Task Force be created to deal proactively with the parallel systems so that, when Banner allows it, a new system can be implemented quickly. He then submitted the following motion:
The motion passed unanimously I propose the creation of a task force, composed of not more than seven members—to include the University Registrar, one other administrator to be appointed by the Provost, and five faculty members from across the university and selected by the Senate—which shall be charged with developing, and laying out a time line for implementing, a single system to determine “satisfactory progress toward graduation.” The report of that task force shall include (1) a statement of all inconsistencies and problems generated by the dual system; (2) a carefully prepared plan for solving the problems; and (3) a time line for implementation that takes into account the difficulties inherent in such a transition. That report should be presented to the Faculty Senate no later than the second meeting of the Senate in the 2004-2005 academic year. In the interim, while preparing the report, the task force shall report on its progress to the Faculty Senate at the end of this semester and at the second meeting of the Faculty Senate each semester during the 2003-2004 academic year.
The motion passed unanimously.
VI. Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty
The Chair announced that the Executive Committee met with President Merten to discuss faculty representation on the BOV. It had been mentioned at the last President’s Council meeting that a bill in the state legislature on this matter was on the Administration’s “to kill” list. President Merten explained that the Administration is neither opposing nor supporting the bill, that he personally favors faculty representation on the BOV. For consistency with his position to legislators that tuition should be left to the Boards of Visitors, he also maintains that the state legislature should leave such matters to the wisdom of the individual university. The President also told the Executive Committee that he would welcome the opportunity to address the Senate once every fall and spring semester.
A motion to adjourn was requested, and it was so moved and seconded. The meeting adjourned at 4:17 p.m.
Secretary, Faculty Senate
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