George Mason University
Approved Minutes of the Faculty Senate
February 26, 2003

Senators Present: J. Bennett, A. Berry, P. Buchanan, R. Coffinberger, M. De Nys, R. Diecchio, R. Klimoski, D. Kuebrich, W. Kurkul, C. Lerner, J. Metcalf, L. Monson, R. Nadeau, P. Regan, S. Slayden, A. Sofer, D. Sprague, P. Stearns, C. Sutton, S. Trencher, S. Zoltek

Senators Absent: P. Black, E. Blaisten-Barojas, D. Boileau, D. Boehm-Davis, B. Brown, L. Brown, Y. D. Chung, S. Cobb, S. deMonsabert, M. Deshmukh, E. Elstun, M. Ferri, T. Friesz, J. Gorrell, H. Gortner, M. Grady, L. Griffiths, K. Haynes, C. Kaffenberger, J. High, H.W. Jeong, M. Kafatos, J. Kozlowski, P.J. Maddox, B. Manchester, C. Mattusch, A. Merten, J. Moore, L. Pawloski, W. Reeder, L. Rockwood, S. Ruth, J. Sanford, F. Shahrokhi, J. Scimecca, R. Smith, M. Stearns, D. Struppa, E. Sturtevant, I. Vaisman, J. Zenelis

Guests Present: S. Beach, S. Greenfeld, D. Haines, R. Herron, D. Rossell

I. Call to Order
Chair Jim Bennett called the meeting to order at 3:08 p.m. The Minutes of the February 12, 2003 meeting were approved as distributed.

II. Announcements
President Merten will address the Faculty Senate at the April 9th meeting.

The Faculty Senate meeting agendas will be posted on the website from now on instead of being sent by e-mail. All faculty members will receive an e-mail reminding them of the next meeting and providing a website link to the agenda (and attachments when necessary). This change is advantageous because it conserves “bandwidth.”

The agenda for the March 5, 2003 Faculty Senate meeting and the draft minutes of today’s meeting will be sent out on Friday due to time constraints and the inclement weather.

The Chair reminded everyone that, at special meetings, the Senate may only address the issue that the meeting was specifically called for. When the BOV proposes modifications to the Faculty Handbook, the Senate only has twenty-one (21) days in which to respond. Therefore, since the next scheduled Faculty Senate meeting falls outside of this range, a special meeting was called to formulate a Senate response to the current BOV changes to the Faculty Handbook Sections 2.1.3, 2.1.6, and 2.4.

III. Report of the Faculty Matters Committee on proposed BOV changes to the Faculty Handbook
The Chair introduced Martin De Nys, the Chair of the Faculty Matters Committee, to present the Committee’s report on the BOV’s proposal. Dr. De Nys noted that the Faculty Matters Committee had reviewed the BOV changes very carefully and proposes two motions in response to those changes.

The Faculty Matters Committee MOVES that:
In Section 2.1.3 as modified, the statement, "however, prior service on a fixed term appointment does not have to be applied to a consideration for tenure," should be replaced with the language of the current Handbook, "however, prior service on a fixed term appointment is not applied to consideration for tenure unless this is specified in the letter of appointment to probationary status."

The Provost indicated that he believed this to be a sensible motion. The question was raised about whether the modified language might give local academic units more control over fixed-term faculty. It was answered in the affirmative, but it was also pointed out that the motion protects fixed-term faculty. By retaining the original language, the faculty member must be informed in his/her letter of appointment whether his/her prior service on a fixed-term appointment will apply toward tenure. It was believed that the BOV’s proposed language is somewhat vague, and it might allow for instances in which the probationary faculty would not have a clear understanding, ab initio, of whether or not his/her year(s) of fixed-term service applied toward the tenure process. Dr. De Nys also clarified that this sentence applies only to fixed-term faculty receiving a letter of appointment to probationary status, not those members already on probationary status.

The motion passed unanimously.

The Faculty Matters Committee further MOVED that:
The first two paragraphs in Section 2.4 of the current Handbook be retained in the modification of that Section.

The Chair noted that the Executive Committee had been told orally that the paragraphs were not part of the document received from the President’s Office because there were no modifications to them, but it is believed to be in the Senate’s best interest to err on the side of caution by stating explicitly that these two paragraphs are to be retained.

The motion passed unanimously.

In further discussion, the Law School representatives noted that the BOV changes seemed to create a shift in emphasis to excellence in teaching over excellence in research. If this shift was intentional, their faculty had serious misgivings, believing the changes to be inconsistent with their views on the proper criteria for tenure. The Provost responded that the language did not fundamentally change the Handbook since it had always emphasized the university’s desire for excellence in teaching. He further noted that no unit could deny faculty promotion and tenure if the instructor deserved it on the basis of excellence in teaching. Clarification was requested regarding the issue of peer review of teaching to determine excellence: would this be internal or external review? The Provost responded that it would require both.

Two further concerns were raised. One was the BOV’s use of the phrase “to the same degree” in its addition to Section 2.4, Paragraph Three: “This institution values excellence in teaching. Those who achieve genuine excellence in teaching shall be rewarded in tenure decisions to the same degree as those who achieve genuine excellence in research.” It was suggested that a clearer wording might be: “shall be given equal consideration in tenure decisions as those who . . . .”

The other concern was the BOV change from “very few doubts, if any” to “no doubt” in paragraph five of Section 2.4. In ensuing discussion, it was judged that the changes were more rhetorical than substantive, and that they should be accepted so as to not further extend the complicated process of negotiations with the BOV.

VI. Adjournment
A motion to adjourn was requested, and it was so moved and seconded. The meeting adjourned at 3:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
David Kuebrich
Secretary, Faculty Senate

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