George Mason University
Approved Minutes of the Faculty Senate
December 4, 2002
Senators Present: K. Avruch, J. Bennett, A. Berry, E. Blaisten-Barojas, D. Boileau, L. Brown, P. Buchanan, Y. D. Chung, R. Coffinberger, S. deMonsabert, M. De Nys, M. Deshmukh, E. Elstun, M. Ferri, D. Holisky, C. Kaffenberger, R. Klimoski, J. Kozlowski, D. Kuebrich, W. Kurkul, J. Metcalf, L. Monson, J. Moore, R. Nadeau, L. Pawloski, L. Rockwood, S. Ruth, J. Sanford, F. Shahrokhi, S. Slayden, A. Sofer, D. Sprague, P. Stearns, C. Sutton, S. Trencher, I. Vaisman, J. Zenelis, S. Zoltek
Senators Absent: P. Black, D. Boehm-Davis, B. Brown, S. Cobb, R. Diecchio, M. Dworzecka, T. Friesz, J. Gorrell, H. Gortner, M. Grady, L. Griffiths, K. Haynes, J. High, H.W. Jeong, M. Kafatos, C. Lerner, P.J. Maddox, B. Manchester, C. Mattusch, A. Merten, W. Reeder, P. Regan, J. Scimecca, R. Smith, M. Stearns, E. Sturtevant
Guests Present: S. Beach, A. Flagel, S. Greenfeld, D. Haines, R. Herron, S. Jones, W. Sutton
I. Call to Order
Chair Jim Bennett called the meeting to order at 3:10 p.m. The Minutes of the November 13, 2002 Faculty Senate meeting were approved as distributed.
The Chair announced that Rector Meese was called out of town and will address the Faculty Senate at the February 12, 2002 meeting instead of today’s meeting.
The Faculty Senate has gathered information on the study leave policies of SCHE-designated peer institutions and local universities. This is now available on the Faculty Senate website: http://www.gmu.edu/facstaff/senate/Info%20for%20Senators.htm
Esther Elstun announced an AAUP-FSV Lobby Day is planned for January 9, 2003 at the General Assembly in Richmond. It will begin with an orientation session at 10:00 a.m. and end with a reception that evening. Principal issues to be addressed include the budget, the Virginia Retirement System, faculty representation on Boards of Visitors, and educating legislators about what faculty do. For further information, contact Brian Turner at email@example.com or 804-752-3743.
The Chair noted that the Faculty Rewards and Incentives Report was discussed at the last BOV meeting. It appears that the Board’s dual-track tenure proposal, which would permit probationary faculty to choose between tenure tracks emphasizing either quality of teaching or excellence in research, has been tacitly dropped from further consideration. This proposal was opposed by the Provost as well as by Resolutions from the School of Law and the Faculty Senate. The Provost added that at the next meeting of the BOV he will report on measures already in existence at GMU to encourage excellence in teaching.
The Provost anticipates that the dual-track proposal may be officially dropped at this meeting.
III. Old Business
There was no old business.
IV. Committee Reports and Action Items
Executive Committee – Jim Bennett
Rick Coffinberger introduced the following Resolution on Shared Governance. He noted that shared governance is one of the principles contained in the Executive Committee’s Statement of Principles. He further noted that the Resolution is a statement of encouragement that does not require or force action on any unit.
Resolution on Shared Governance in Academic Units
WHEREAS shared governance is one of the primary hallmarks of all outstanding universities, and
WHEREAS shared governance requires open and candid exchanges of views between faculty and administrators on all aspects of the academic enterprise, and
WHEREAS when administrators chair the faculties of their own academic units there may be a chilling effect on debate and concern about the agenda-setting process,
BE IT RESOLVED by the Faculty Senate that all academic units be encouraged to elect instructional faculty peers to serve as chairs of their respective faculties and to amend their faculty by-laws as necessary to implement this resolution.
If adopted, the Secretary of the Senate is instructed to forward the resolution to the President, Provost, Rector, and Deans and Directors of the academic units.
David Haines, CAS Faculty Chair, opposed the Resolution on two grounds: procedurally, because he believed the Senate should first consult with the various academic units before taking action; and substantively, because he believed it implied
Senate authority in local unit governance beyond its jurisdiction. He noted that the Resolution could also be seen as censuring schools whose bylaws allow faculty other than instructional faculty to be Chairs. SOM Dean Richard Klimoski concurred that it could be construed as censure of his unit, since SOM had just passed new bylaws that would be in violation of the spirit of the Resolution.
Various responses ensued. A senator stated that the “dean-as-chair” policy had been abused by a prior SOM Dean, so the issue addressed by the resolution was a legitimate concern. It was also pointed out that although the Senate cannot dictate unit governance, it may encourage what it sees as “best practices.” The Executive Committee introduced this Resolution because it sees the policy of electing instructional faculty to serve as chairs of unit faculties (as opposed to having these chaired by administrators) to be a “best practice.” It was also noted that this Resolution takes the Senate full circle from when a prior provost tried to force units to only allow the deans to serve as chair.
The question was posed concerning how many units had non-instructional faculty as chairs. Rick Coffinberger said that he had requested this information from the units; and that while not all units replied, the responses he obtained indicated that presently the bylaws of two schools name the dean as chair; one unit’s bylaws state that the chair must be instructional faculty; and the bylaws of several other units leave this issue open. It was noted that the Resolution was intended to create conditions that would facilitate unit faculty in giving better advice to their administrators, to foster faculty leadership within the units, and to help prepare faculty for possible future administrative service.
The Resolution was adopted by a voice vote.
Academic Policies – Esther Elstun
Suzanne Slayden introduced a preliminary report on the C- grade. The Committee asked for input on this issue prior to its submitting a motion to the Senate in January.
Preliminary Report on Issues Related to the C- Grade
On May 3, 2000, the GMU Faculty Senate approved the following motion:
Therefore, be it resolved to add A+ and C- grades as follows: For undergraduate courses: Add A+ grade worth 4.0 grade points; Add C- grade worth 1.67 grade points; Regard C- grade as “satisfactory” if given by GMU or if C- grade is permitted to transfer to GMU. For graduate courses: Add A+ grade worth 4.00 grade points; add B- worth 2.67 grade points; Regard B- grade as “satisfactory” if given by GMU or if B- grade is permitted to transfer to GMU. The effective date of implementation of the new A+ and C- grades is the current Fall 2002 semester.
Recently, faculty and administrators have become increasingly
aware of several inconsistencies between application of the C- grade and some
standards of university academic policy. The table below shows the university
grading system (for undergraduates only) before and after implementation of
A+/C- grades with respect to the satisfactory/unsatisfactory
designation and associated grade points.
F2002 and thereafter
|Letter Grade||Grade Points||
The four points outlined below describe the inconsistencies that the AP Committee has identified by the introduction of C- = 1.67 grade points, designated as a Satisfactory grade. Although only undergraduate grading is addressed in this document, some of the same inconsistencies are apparent in the graduate grading system.
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 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
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 of C- or higher.
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.
It is the opinion of the AP Committee that these inconsistencies do not pass the “common sense” test that might be expected for a university-wide academic policy based on coherence and rationality. Therefore, the committee intends to recommend at the next meeting of the Faculty Senate this change to the undergraduate grading system:
The C- grade is worth 2.00 grade points.
By making this change, the inconsistencies between the C- grade and academic standards will disappear. One reason for changing the grade point value is to mirror the situation at the other end of the Satisfactory grade range: the highest grade, A+, is worth 4.00 grade points – the same as the next lowest grade, A. If the recommended change is approved, the lowest grade, C-, would be worth 2.00 grade points – the same as the next highest grade, C.
Based on this preliminary report, the AP Committee is requesting Faculty Senate representatives to confer with, consult, and solicit the opinions of their colleagues in schools/colleges/departments/programs so that the debate on the committee’s
recommendation proceeds from an informed understanding of the issue and its consequences for the entire university community. It is also hoped that senators will confer with faculty and administrative advisors who must monitor and explain grading and academic standards to students and parents.
In the ensuing discussion, one Senator mentioned several other universities that use the C- grade, and one visitor spoke in favor of retaining it as presently defined. However, many others spoke in favor of abolishing it. They argued that it would be unfair and misleading to make both the C and C- worth 2.00 grade points; that defining a C- grade to be satisfactory lowers academic standards; and that it allows marginal students to continue without giving them a clear message that their work is of low quality. Senators from IT&E reported that colleagues had contacted them, stating that the C- should be abolished or be defined as “unsatisfactory.” It was also pointed out that a major argument for adopting the C- grade was that it would give faculty who favored it the opportunity to use it and that faculty opposed to it need not use it. However, the C- has proven to be not just a matter of individual faculty choice but a source of systemic problems for the University.
Suzanne Slayden thanked the Senators and guests for their advice. The Registrar was asked to report the number of C- grades given this fall semester, so this information would be available for the January Senate meeting.
Facilities & Support Services & Library – Lorraine Brown
No action items.
Faculty Matters – Marty De Nys
Marty De Nys introduced the following Resolution on Administrative Activities Reports, noting that the Faculty Handbook requires faculty evaluation of administrators, but the faculty can’t make fair evaluations unless they have sufficient information.
Resolution on Administrative Activities Reports
WHEREAS the Faculty Handbook (2.6.2) calls for an annual faculty evaluation of administrators, conducted under the joint auspices of the Faculty Senate and the University Office of Institutional Planning and Research, and
WHEREAS the annual evaluation is intended to provide input on faculty perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the performance of administrators, and
WHEREAS the Handbook specifically indicates that the annual faculty evaluation of administrators should be a reference that the President normally consults in reviewing the performance of administrators, and
WHEREAS the annual faculty evaluation of administrators can serve these purposes only if faculty making the evaluation are adequately informed of the individual activities and achievements of administrators being evaluated,
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Faculty Senate requests that administrators being evaluated by the faculty prepare on an annual basis an activities report for the preceding calendar year for the purposes of this evaluation. The report of each administrator being evaluated will be distributed to the faculty evaluating that administrator. It is expected that this report will specifically address the topics for evaluation indicated in the evaluation instrument. The activities report will be due to the Secretary of the Faculty Senate on February 1st. While administrators may discuss the overall condition of the institution or of their area of responsibility, it is expected that administrators will primarily report on their own individual activities and achievements.
If adopted, the Secretary of the Faculty Senate will forward this resolution, along with items from the relevant section of the evaluation instrument, to administrators affected by it.
Asked for his views on the Resolution, Provost Stearns replied that he favored the resolution and that his only concern was a matter of timing. Administrators are required to file self-evaluations in November, and it would be more convenient for them to also submit materials to the Senate at this time. It was decided that Activities Reports should be submitted in February this year, but the date can be negotiated for the coming year
The Resolution was adopted by voice vote.
Organization & Operations – Phil Buchanan
No action items.
Nominations – Rick Coffinberger
The Committee submitted a slate of nominees for the Task Force on Academic Standards created at the November Senate meeting. It was moved, seconded, and an unanimous ballot cast approving Don Gantz, Jim Sanford, Yvonne Demory, and William Sutton as the nominees for the Task Force.
Ad Hoc Budget Committee – Rick Coffinberger
The Committee met today and had both positives and negatives to report. The severity of the budget problems has somewhat diminished, thanks to the tuition surcharge passed by the BOV. Rick Coffinberger has been invited to a meeting on December 23rd with the Provost and Vice President to discuss the Governor’s budget for next year and its impact on GMU.
The Committee feels it is at a crossroads, however. Although the Administration has been forthcoming and helpful at the University level, the Committee has not received the information it needs at the unit level. The Committee finds that it cannot fulfill its charge to report to and advise the Executive Committee and Faculty Senate on implementation of the budget cuts without more financial information. At this point, the Committee feels it is faced with a difficult choice: it must either ask to be discharged since it cannot fulfill its duty or seek to obtain the needed information using the Freedom of Information Act.
The Provost indicated that he was under the impression the Committee had received all the information it required. The Senate Chair recommended that further clarification and information be asked for at the December 23rd meeting before the Committee takes any further action.
V. Other New Business
There was no other new business.
VI. Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty
The Provost was thanked for distributing information about budget reductions to the faculty through the Senate.
It was suggested that the External Academic Relations Committee respond to the AAUP/FSV Lobby Day.
The recent cheating scandals at UVA and the US Naval Academy were noted.
The University Librarian stated that the Library is currently in the process of creating a copyright policy for GMU.
A motion to adjourn was requested, and it was so moved and seconded. The meeting adjourned at 4:25 p.m.
Secretary, Faculty Senate
Return to Archives