George Mason University
Approved Minutes of the Faculty Senate
October 9, 2002
Senators Present: K. Avruch, J. Bennett, A. Berry, P. Black, E. Blaisten-Barojas, D. Boehm-Davis, D. Boileau, B. Brown, L. Brown, P. Buchanan, R. Coffinberger, M. De Nys, M. Deshmukh, R. Diecchio, M. Dworzecka, E. Elstun, M. Ferri, H. Gortner, M. Grady, D. Holisky, H.W. Jeong, C. Kaffenberger, R. Klimoski, J. Kozlowski, D. Kuebrich, W. Kurkul, C. Lerner, B. Manchester, J. Metcalf, L. Monson, J. Moore, R. Nadeau, L. Pawloski, P. Regan, J. Sanford, S. Slayden, A. Sofer, D. Sprague, E. Sturtevant, C. Sutton, J. Zenelis, S. Zoltek.
Senators Absent: Y. D. Chung, S. Cobb, S. deMonsabert, T. Friesz, J. Gorrell, L. Griffiths, K. Haynes, J. High, M. Kafatos, P.J. Maddox, C. Mattusch, A. Merten, W. Reeder, L. Rockwood, S. Ruth, J. Scimecca, F. Shahrokhi, R. Smith, M. Stearns, P. Stearns, S. Trencher, I. Vaisman.
Guests Present: S. Collins, C. Douglas, L. Fathe, D. Fox, K. Gentemann, S. Greenfeld, D. Haines, R. Herron, S. Jones, G. Mulherin, C. Poland, W. Rankin, K. Rosenblum, L. Schwartzstein, E. Verheyen.
I. Call to Order
Chair Jim Bennett called the meeting to order at 3:05 p.m. The Minutes of the September 25, 2002 Faculty Senate meeting were approved.
It was announced that Vernon Smith, Professor of Economics and Law, is a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics this year.
Mark Grady, the Dean of the School of Law, eulogized Professor Wesley (Jim) Leibeler. Professor Leibeler specialized in anti-trust law and taught at UCLA before coming to GMU. He was also a skilled legal analyst who worked on Wall Street and was a member of the Warren Commission. The Senate noted his passing with sadness.
The Chair requested a moment of silence in memory of Margaret Howell, a long-time staff member in the University Equity Office, who died suddenly last week.
III. Old Business
There was no old business to report.
IV. Committee Reports and Action Items
Executive Committee – Jim Bennett
Martin De Nys introduced the following resolution regarding the proposal for dual tenure tracks currently under consideration by the Board of Visitors.
WHEREAS on September 26, 2002, the Faculty of GMU’s School of Law adopted the following RESOLUTION:
WHEREAS the Faculty of the School of Law notes the increased recognition that George Mason University has achieved in recent years for the scholarship of its faculty and the quality of its instructional program, and whereas the laws faculty desires to protect these hard-won gains.
WHEREAS the law faculty notes that: A proposal now before the Board of Visitors would permit probationary faculty to choose between a tenure track that would stress quality of teaching versus a tenure track that would stress excellence in research. There is no need for a dual-track system, since the University tenure and promotion process already recognizes and takes into account that faculty seeking tenure will have variations in their relative teaching and research achievements. “Genuine excellence must be exhibited in the areas of teaching or scholarship and high competence must be exhibited in both.” (Faculty Handbook, Section 2.4)
Based on our experience, we believe that such a dual-track system would be affirmatively harmful. Since it would institutionalize the compartmentalization of faculty oriented towards teaching and research into distinct groups with differing loyalties and academic standards. Each group might be expected over time to undermine the requirement for “high competence” in the other area and substitute mediocre performance instead. Furthermore, tenure-track faculty would be disadvantaged by having to select in advance their area of concentration, thus reducing their incentive to strive for maximum achievements in both areas.
THEREFORE, the faculty of the School of Law HEREBY RESOLVES that instituting such a dual-track system is not in the best interest of our students.
And WHEREAS the Faculty Senate of George Mason University shares the concerns
voiced by the Faculty of the School of Law,
BE IT RESOLVED that the Faculty Senate of George Mason University fully endorses the RESOLUTION of the Faculty of the School of Law.
The Resolution PASSED unanimously.
Academic Policies – Esther Elstun
Esther Elstun reminded the Senate that on 9 May 2001 it adopted a motion to “institute an 11-member Task Force on Teacher/Course Evaluation, charged to review current GMU practices and their effects. The Academic Policies Committee will exercise oversight of the Task Force and work with it to establish the dates of interim reports to the Senate in the fall and spring semesters of the academic year 2001-2002.” Professor Elstun reported that the Task Force has completed its work and submitted a set of recommendations designed to provide a coherent institutional framework and policy for the evaluation of 16 teaching and courses at GMU. The Academic Policies Committee has reviewed the recommendations and converted them to motions for the Senate's consideration and action.
John Miller, the Chair of the Task Force, briefly described the work of the committee which met throughout most of the 2001-2002 academic year. The members read relevant scholarship; interviewed GMU department representatives, deans and other administrators; and investigated the student course-evaluation systems at other universities. In examining how the course evaluations were used at GMU, the Task Force found a great deal of variation among academic units. Some used them as one part of a larger body of evidence in the assessment of teaching; others used only the evaluations to assess quality. Some used them to make “fine distinctions” about the quality of instruction. In its report, the Task Force stressed the need to make a clear distinction between evaluation for the purpose of teaching improvement and the assessment of faculty for R,P&T.
Professor Miller also reported that the Task Force was disappointed that one of its recommendations—that each academic unit create a committee for the preservation and improvement of teaching quality that would report annually to the Provost—was not included in the list of motions the Academic Policies Committee was bringing to the full Senate. The Task Force found a great deal of “inertia” in the present assessment of teaching by many units, and it felt the creation of such committees would provide needed motivation and incentive.
In the ensuing discussion, three concerns were raised. First, it was noted that the proposed committees on teaching quality would use up a great deal of faculty time and scarce financial resources. Professor Miller responded that teaching was central to the university’s mission, and so it was appropriate to devote considerable resources to teaching improvement and assessment. Second, concern was expressed about the proper use of the student evaluations. Given the Task Force’s judgment that the student scores are a measure of student satisfaction and not teaching excellence, what can be done to insure that everyone involved in the evaluation of teaching shares this understanding and uses the evaluations in appropriate ways? Professor Miller acknowledged that this is a valid concern that deserves further attention. Third, it was asked if the Task Force could provide additional guidance about the proper use of the numbers generated by the student assessments. Professor Miller reiterated that the forms should not be used to make “fine distinctions” and that at a future date further direction should be given on how to interpret the numerical scores.
The Academic Policies Committee then submitted the following motions concerning Teacher/Course Evaluation:
Motion One: “that all local academic units undertake the evaluation of both teaching and courses as a major responsibility.”
The motion PASSED unanimously.
Motion Two: “that the Student Ratings of Instruction (SRI) be administered in all undergraduate and graduate classes (except in independent studies and sections with enrollments of fewer than five students) in all terms.”
The question was raised as to why this motion was being submitted since the SRI is mandatory. It was answered that, even though it was deemed mandatory by the Provost’s office, many professors are not administering the SRI.
A friendly amendment was offered, adding “in which data from several small sections of the same course must be aggregated” at the end of the parenthetical section. The proponents of the amendment argued that the exception would eliminate student assessment of many graduate classes, while those in opposition countered that it would be statistically too hard to aggregate data from different classes. The amendment FAILED by voice vote.
A second friendly amendment was offered to change the word “administered” to “required” in the first line of the motion. The motion, along with the second friendly amendment, PASSED with one abstention.
Motion Three: “that the University Committee on Effective Teaching, in consultation with the Provost's Office, review the SRI form currently in use, in order to eliminate its ambiguities and perceived deficiencies, and to provide for the inclusion of localized questions by the local academic units; and further, that the University Committee on Effective Teaching, in consultation with the Provost's Office, establish a mechanism for regular review of the SRI forms and report to the Senate with recommendations no later than May, 2003.”
Motion Three PASSED unanimously.
Motion Four: “that the local academic units of the university limit the use of the SRI forms for purposes of salary increases and as evidence of quality in renewal, promotion and tenure cases; and in particular, that the SRI be used ONLY together with other evidence to rank faculty for any of the foregoing purposes. Examples of other evidence are: (a) factors specific to the types of teaching in each unit (e.g., clinical, professional, course levels, course sizes); (b) peer reviews; (c) faculty advisory roles; (d) training or mentoring of teaching assistants; (e) design and development of new courses and programs; (f) development of instructional materials, including technologies.”
A discussion ensued regarding whether post-tenure review should be included. It was noted that “post-tenure review” was not included in the Task Force’s recommendations, and is not part of the Faculty Handbook phraseology.
Two friendly amendments were offered and accepted: changing “rank” to “evaluate” on line 4, and changing “are” to “include, but are not limited to” on line 5.
Motion Four, along with the friendly amendments, PASSED unanimously.
Motion Five: “that local academic units encourage faculty members to obtain mid-semester student feedback for course modification; and that the university provide technical assistance and support to faculty for this purpose.”
Motion Five PASSED by a show of hands with 19 ayes, 10 nays, and 6 abstentions.
Motion Six: “that the University's Office of Institutional Research and Reporting work with the University Committee on Effective Teaching to provide comparison group data on the SRI reports (such as all sections of a large course or introductory courses), as well as improved statistical analyses and explanations of the data.”
Motion Six PASSED unanimously.
Motion Seven: “that the University Committee on Effective Teaching, in consultation with the Provost's Office, review the current university policy concerning student comments on the SRI forms, which is that the comments are for the instructor's eyes only; and that the University Committee on Effective Teaching report to the Senate with recommendations concerning the policy no later than May, 2003.”
It was clarified that there is currently no written policy. The motion PASSED unanimously.
Esther Elstun moved to dismiss the Task Force on Teacher/Course Evaluation with grateful thanks. The motion PASSED unanimously with applause. The Secretary of the Faculty Senate was requested to send a letter of thanks to the members of the Task Force.
Facilities & Support Services & Library – Lorraine Brown
The Committee had no action items. The Committee received a report on e-mail viruses from the ITU Department that will be sent to all members of the faculty.
Faculty Matters – Marty De Nys
The Committee had no action items this meeting but will be submitting resolutions at upcoming meetings.
Organization & Operations – Phil Buchanan
The Committee had no action items but continues to receive items to distribute among the different Senate and University committees.
Nominations – Rick Coffinberger
The following Nominees were presented for membership on the new Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Senate Bylaws: Ann Baker, David Kuebrich, and Robert Nadeau.
The slate of nominees was APPROVED unanimously. Robert Nadeau was charged with calling the first meeting to elect a Chair.
Ad Hoc Budget Committee – Rick Coffinberger
Provost Stearns and Senior Vice President Scherrens invited a Senate member to attend a briefing last Friday on budget cuts and the current financial plans. Rick Coffinberger attended on behalf of the Faculty Senate and reported that it was an informative and productive meeting. Professor Coffinberger commended the Provost and Vice President for providing this briefing and conducting it in a manner that promotes “shared governance” of the university.
Dr. Coffinberger reminded the Senate that Dr. Merten promised in a mid-September meeting with the Executive Committee that the Deans and Directors would open the budget-reduction planning processes to permit meaningful faculty participation. Specifically, the President committed that the Deans and Directors would share their budget-reduction priorities and alternative reduction scenarios with their faculties in a consultative manner. So far, the response of the Deans has been mixed. While they are sharing budget information with their faculties, it appears that little or no consultation is occurring. Instead, the Deans are making budget reduction decisions and then announcing them to their faculties. The Ad Hoc Budget Committee as well as the Executive Committee are extremely disappointed in this outcome. The Budget Committee will continue to monitor the situation and to challenge the Deans and directors to emulate the example provided by Provost Stearns and Vice President Scherrens.
V. Other New Business
A. Quality of Work Life Report – Karen Rosenblum
Karen Rosenblum, Vice President of University Life, provided a brief history of the Task Force on the Quality of Work Life. The original Task Force, created by President Merten in 1999, consisted chiefly of administrators, along with the Chairs of the Faculty and Staff Senates. At the same time as the Task Force was beginning its work, some Psychology faculty wanted to survey GMU employees about their work lives. The shared interests of these two groups resulted in a survey of a sample of 600 employees, distribution of open-ended questionnaires to all other employees, and twelve open meetings with employees. Findings that emerged from these sessions included the following: 1) there was a substantial level of dissatisfaction among minority faculty and staff; 2) faculty morale was greatly affected by the condition of classroom and office facilities; and 3) there was considerable variation in the quality of work life in different units, especially for staff members.
In March, 2001 the Task Force issued a report with 70 recommendations. These included such items as increasing the opportunities for telework, tuition wavers for faculty dependents, increasing the number of GTA’s, improving conditions for adjunct and term faculty, and increasing the number of faculty study leaves.
Since 2001, the composition of the Task Force has been changed to include representatives from each employee category as well as the Chair of the Staff Senate and a representative from the Faculty Senate.
The problem that the Task Force faces is two-fold: 1) it can only give recommendations, not make them binding or enforce them, and 2) the current budget situation has frozen any recommendations with cost associated with them. Examples of recent recommendations of the Task Force are that the University run shuttles from Occoquan to the Fairfax Campus and that the decision-making about closing the school for snow or ice should consider the condition not only of the roadways and parking lots (as is done at present) but also of the sidewalks.
Faculty concerns about work-life issues may be forwarded to the Task Force through Jim Metcalf, the current Senate representative.
B. Report on Honor Committee and Academic Integrity Issues – Girard Mulherin
Girard Mulherin, Dean of Students, who has served as an advisor to the Honor Committee for twelve years, began by commending Senator Alok Berry for his extensive involvement in Honor Committee issues, especially his willingness to meet with incoming international students to explain the honor system and American definitions of plagiarism.
Dr. Mulherin noted that the Task Force on Academic Integrity created in 2001 found the Honor Committee was very inefficient in hearing cases in a timely manner. This continues to be a major problem.
There has been a significant increase in reported Honor Code violations, from 105 in AY2000-01 to 165 in AY2001-02. National statistics indicate that cheating is rampant among college students, and the reported cases at GMU are most likely just the tip of the iceberg.
Some steps are being taken to address the problem. This year, orientation sessions for students and their parents emphasized the importance of the Honor Code. Also, in September, the Provost appointed a committee to work with the Honors Committee and the faculty.
Dr. Mulherin stated that too much responsibility is presently being placed upon the students. They should play an important role but should not have sole responsibility. The Faculty Senate needs to help review and maintain the Honor Code process. Dr. Mulherin and Chairman Bennett are currently discussing how the Senate can better address this issue.
A motion to adjourn was requested, and it was so moved and seconded. The meeting adjourned at 4:20 p.m.
Secretary, Faculty Senate
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