George Mason University
Approved Minutes of the Faculty Senate
January 22, 2003
Senators Present: K. Avruch, J. Bennett, A. Berry, P. Black, E. Blaisten-Barojas, D. Boileau, D. Boehm-Davis, B. Brown, L. Brown, P. Buchanan, Y. D. Chung, R. Coffinberger, S. deMonsabert, M. De Nys, M. Deshmukh, E. Elstun, M. Ferri, H.
Gortner, J. High, D. Holisky, H.W. Jeong, M. Kafatos, R. Klimoski, J. Kozlowski, D. Kuebrich, W. Kurkul, C. Mattusch, J. Metcalf, L. Monson, J. Moore, L. Pawloski, P. Regan, L. Rockwood, S. Ruth, J. Sanford, F. Shahrokhi, S. Slayden, P. Stearns, E. Sturtevant, C. Sutton, I. Vaisman, J. Zenelis, S. Zoltek
Senators Absent: S. Cobb, R. Diecchio, M. Dworzecka, T. Friesz, J. Gorrell, M. Grady, L. Griffiths, K. Haynes, C. Kaffenberger, C. Lerner, P.J. Maddox, B. Manchester, A. Merten, R. Nadeau, W. Reeder, J. Scimecca, R. Smith, A. Sofer, D. Sprague, M. Stearns, S. Trencher
Guests Present: S. Beach, D. Bitler, R. Ehrlich, J. Flinn, S. Greenfeld, R. Herron, J. Jobbitt, S. Jones, W. Rankin, D. Roe, W. Sutton, C. Thaiss
I. Call to Order
Chair Jim Bennett called the meeting to order at 3:08 p.m. The Minutes of the December 4, 2002 meeting were approved as distributed.
The Chair announced that Rector Meese will address the Faculty Senate at the February 12, 2002 meeting.
Report on Budget Planning in Regards to Academic Programming
Provost Stearns reported that the academic units have just been given their budget outlines for next year, and there are no additional cuts. He stated that the units will have half of their previous budget cuts restored as long as the BOV approves the tuition increase plan and there are no reductions beyond the $ 5.5 million already announced by the State for next year. Part of the money being restored to the units will be contingent on the number of full-time faculty teaching freshman and sophomore classes.
Dr. Stearns was asked about the $1.1 million from the tuition surcharge that was supposed to be used to increase the number and variety of course offerings and to reduce class size. He replied that this money has been allocated to the units and used for these purposes. Asked if the tuition increases might change the socio-economic profile of the student body, the Provost responded that he considers this a matter of grave concern; that the current GMU students are, on average, less affluent than those at any other Virginia college or university; and that his office will examine the economic profile of the students who enroll this spring and fall to see if GMU is attracting a more affluent student population. The Provost noted that the Administration’s plans call for a significant increase in student financial aid.
Report on Lobby Day for Higher Education
Esther Elstun and David Kuebrich reported on their participation in the Lobby Day for Higher Education organized by the Virginia State Conference of the AAUP and the Faculty Senate of Virginia. Lobbyists were encouraged to emphasize four issues: the effect of the budget cuts on the faculty’s ability to fulfill its educational mission; the need for faculty representation on the Boards of Visitors; the various time-consuming activities that faculty perform in addition to their classroom teaching and research; and a bill introduced by Delegate Albo (R, Spfld.) calling for the elimination of tenure for faculty hired after July 1, 2003 (which was subsequently tabled in committee).
The AAUP and Faculty Senate organizers advised faculty participants on how to lobby and provided brief fact sheets that could be left with the legislators. The organizers are now continuing to monitor relevant legislation and do follow-up work with individual legislators.
Elstun and Kuebrich visited with 21 of the 26 Northern Virginia legislators or their legislative assistants. Because it is important to visit all of the NoVa legislators plus key down-state members of the House and Senate Education Committees, it is hoped that more GMU faculty will join in next year’s lobbying day.
III. Old Business
There was no old business.
IV. Committee Reports and Action Items
Executive Committee – Jim Bennett
The Chair reported that at a fall AAUP program, Rector Meese stated that Tom Hennessey, Chief of Staff to the President, is considered the contact person between the BOV and the university community. The Executive Committee subsequently discussed this arrangement and, feeling that students, faculty and staff might be uncomfortable having their complaints filtered through a member of the Administration, drafted the following resolution (presented by David Kuebrich).
Resolution on the Appointment of a Board of Visitors Ombudsman
WHEREAS Shared Governance is a hallmark of outstanding educational institutions, and
WHEREAS open and candid communication among all constituencies in the educational enterprise—Faculty, Administrators, Students, and Board Members—is crucial to effective Shared Governance, and
WHEREAS the former General Counsel of Yale University recommended in the Chronicle of Higher Education (October 18, 2002, page B20) that one or more trustees be appointed “ombudsmen who can be approached directly and confidentially by anyone involved with the institution,”
BE IT RESOLVED by the Faculty Senate that the Rector of the University be asked to appoint a Board of Visitors Ombudsman to enhance communication between the BOV and the University Community.
If adopted, the Secretary of the Senate is directed to send this resolution to the Rector of the University.
Two friendly amendments were offered and accepted that changed the fourth paragraph to read:
BE IT RESOLVED by the Faculty Senate that the Rector of the University be asked to appoint one or more Board of Visitors members as Ombudsmen to enhance communication between the BOV and the University Community. (changes in bold)
In ensuing discussion, it was pointed out that the described position would be more aptly termed a “contact person,” for an ombudsman is a “genuine neutral” who has independent authority to investigate issues brought before her/him and negotiate a
solution or, failing that, recommend a fair resolution.
A motion to refer the resolution back to the Executive Committee for further discussion—in consultation with Kevin Avruch and Brack Brown—was seconded and passed by voice vote with two dissenting votes.
Academic Policies – Esther Elstun
For the Committee, Suzanne Slayden introduced a motion on the C- grade: “The C- grade is ‘Unsatisfactory’.”
Dr. Slayden briefly reiterated the four problems (she had presented at the December Senate meeting) that became evident when the C- grade, worth 1.67 grade points and designated as Satisfactory, was put into effect Fall 2002.
1. Standard for transfer of grades.
GMU will accept only courses with grades of C or better (unless an institution’s grade of C- = 2.0 in which case the C- will transfer to GMU). GMU regards a grade of C- worth less than 2.0 as substandard (unacceptable) and incompatible with GMU’s initiative to improve the quality of students admitted.
Designating a GMU grade of C- = 1.67 as Satisfactory is inconsistent with rejecting a grade of C- < 2.0 from another institution as unsatisfactory.
2. Standard for academic good standing.
While a student may earn Satisfactory grades of C- or better in all courses during a semester, the result could be a semester in which the undergraduate receives a warning or more consequential academic action, depending upon the student’s previous academic performance.
Designating a grade of C- = 1.67 as Satisfactory is inconsistent with the standard of acceptable academic performance for a semester as 2.0 (1.8 for the first two academic periods of the freshman year).
3. Standard for completion of major programs.
Of the sixty or so active undergraduate programs, only a few [replaces Government and Psychology] have allowed their degree audits to be reprogrammed to reflect their approval of the C- grade as acceptable in the major. All others have maintained the requirement of C or 2.0 as the minimum.
Designating a grade of C- = 1.67 as Satisfactory is inconsistent with the higher standard of satisfactory performance required by most undergraduate programs.
4. Standard for repeating a course.
Students are prohibited from repeating a course not designated as “repeatable for credit” in which they have previously earned a Satisfactory grade.
Designating a grade of C- = 1.67 as Satisfactory and then prohibiting students from repeating a course with that grade is inconsistent with requiring a grade of C/2.0 or better in a major program.
Dr. Slayden concluded by stating that after extensive deliberation the Academic Policies Committee presents this motion as the simplest and best solution to the various problems associated with the C- grade.
Vigorous discussion ensued. One senator questioned how it could be justified to students that a C was satisfactory but a C- was unsatisfactory. She asked that further consideration be given to the possibility that both the C and C- be assigned a grade point of 2, just as currently an A and A+ both equal 4.
Another senator spoke in favor of retaining the C- as a satisfactory grade that sent a “strong message” to the student. In response, it was suggested that a D sends a stronger warning.
Another senator questioned the procedure of designating all grades as either “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory.” The Registrar replied that grades must be so designated because the degree audits at GMU are structured on the basis of the “Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory” and “Passing/Failing” designations, and the system cannot be changed at this time. The Registrar distributed a handout showing the current system and the two options available.
The Registrar also spoke in favor of retaining the grade standard for prerequisite courses as currently presented in the catalog, since it would be redundant to have to re-state the standard for every prerequisite course.
Doris Bitler, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Affairs (CAS), pointed to the difficulty of explaining to students who receive all C- grades that the C- is “satisfactory,” but they are nevertheless being placed on probation or dismissed due to an unsatisfactory GPA.
Senators from CVPA and some of the CAS departments reported that their faculties were in favor of the motion presented. A Senator from IT&E stated that her department wanted to abolish the C- grade. Bill Sutton, Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, spoke in favor of abolishing the C-, stating it confused students and lowered academic standards. On a point of order, it was noted that a substitute motion to eliminate the C- was not in order.
It was noted that at an earlier period GMU did not calculate GPAs but used “Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory” designations. The subsequent adoption of grade points has resulted in a complex hybrid system, and the addition of a “Satisfactory” C- grade of 1.67 grade points, which is an unsatisfactory GPA, creates great confusion.
The Registrar noted that if the C- gets moved to “Unsatisfactory/Passing” status, the Senate would then have to determine if the current limit of 12 “unsatisfactory/passing” credit hours that can be applied to a degree should be increased.
It was moved that the motion be referred back to the Committee for further discussion concerning the unsatisfactory credit hours limit. The motion was seconded and passed.
The Chair asked senators to solicit the opinions of their units on this issue.
Facilities & Support Services & Library – Lorraine Brown
Faculty Matters – Marty De Nys
Organization & Operations – Phil Buchanan
Nominations – Rick Coffinberger
Rick Coffinberger asked for nominees, preferably from the social sciences, to fill a current vacancy on the General Education Committee for the spring semester.
Ad Hoc Budget Committee – Rick Coffinberger
V. Other New Business
Because of the lengthy debates on the Resolution and Motion presented to the Faculty Senate, the New Business items will be moved to Old Business for the February 12, 2003 meeting.
VI. Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty
A motion to adjourn was requested, and it was so moved and seconded. The meeting adjourned at 4:15 p.m. 235
Secretary, Faculty Senate
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