George Mason University
Approved Minutes of the Faculty Senate
November 19, 2003
Senators Present: K. Avruch, J. Bennett, R. Berroa, A. Berry,
D. Boehm-Davis, L. Brown, P. Buchanan, R. Carver, R. Coffinberger, M. DeNys,
M. Deshmukh, C. Douglas, E. Elstun, M. Ferri, H. Gortner, J. Kozlowski, D. Kuebrich,
K. McCrohan, J. Metcalf, L. Monson, L. Pawloski, D. Polsby, W. Reeder, E. Roman-Mendoza,
S. Ruth, J. Sanford, J.
Scimecca, S. Slayden, P. Stearns, E. Sturtevant, C. Sutton, S. Trencher, P. Wiest, S. Zoltek.
Senators Absent: P. Black, B. Brown, S. Cobb, S. deMonsabert, J. Gorrell, M. Grady, L. Griffiths, E. Gunn, K. Haynes, M. Houck, K. Johnsen-Neshati, M. Kafatos, C. Kaffenberger, R. Klimoski, W. Kurkul, C. Lerner, J. Mahler, B. Manchester, A. Merten, P. Moyer-Packenham, R. Nadeau, P. Regan, L. Rockwood, F. Shahrokhi, C. Sluzki, R. Smith, D. Struppa, J. Tangney, J. Zenelis.
Liaisons Present: L. Fauteux (Staff Senate), R. Pettit (Student Government).
Guests Present: D. Faxon, B. Fleming, S. Greenfeld, R. Herron, S. Jones, M. McKenzie, B. Rooney, B. Sutton, S. Vallas, B. Willis.
I. Call to Order
Chair Jim Bennett called the meeting to order at 3:02 p.m.
II. Approval of Minutes
The minutes of October 29, 2003 were approved as distributed.
A. Moment of Silence for Aliza Kolker
Aliza Kolker, who joined our faculty in 1975, passed away Friday after a nine-year battle with cancer. In his eulogy for Aliza, Joe Scimecca remembered her as a “fighter” for what was right; as someone with an unflagging sense of humor who was absolutely without guile or malice. As she struggled with her own cancer, she also gave support to other cancer patients, on and off campus. A moment of silence was held in Aliza’s memory. Contributions may be made in her name to the Jewish Film Festival of Northern Virginia.
B. Senate Resolution on “Outside” Administrators
The Provost has responded to the Senate’s resolution regarding the appointment of “outsiders” as heads of Academic Units adopted at the October 29th meeting. He stated that the Administration will adhere to the Senate’s recommendations to the best of its ability.
C. Faculty Evaluation of Administrators
The Senate applauded the Faculty Matters Committee’s excellent work in compiling the 2002-2003 Faculty Evaluation of Administrators.
D. Alliance of Virginia Students’ Meeting
The Senate’s External Relations Committee and the President’s Office have requested the faculty’s participation in a town hall meeting concerning education funding in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The discussion will be sponsored by the Alliance for Virginia’s Students, a nonpartisan, grassroots, statewide network of organizations and individuals that works to strengthen educational funding at the state level. The meeting will be held at Frost Middle School tonight (11/19) at 7:30.
III. Old Business
A. Faculty Lounge Task Force – Susan Trencher
A faculty lounge will be created in George’s Restaurant by the addition of soundproof partitions to divide the restaurant. The lounge will open the first day of the spring semester, and will operate Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Free coffee, tea, and pastries will be offered from 8:00 to 11:30. Dr. Trencher thanked Evans Mandes and Rick Coffinberger for serving on the Task Force, the Provost's Office for its donation, and Marriott Sodexho for their assistance in this project. The Clerk of the Senate will send an e-mail to the general faculty informing them of the lounge’s creation.
VI. Senate Committee Reports and Action Items
A. Executive Committee – Jim Bennett
B. Academic Policies – Esther Elstun
1. University Task Force on Academic Standards Report and Recommendations – Donald Gantz and Esther Elstun
Esther Elstun introduced Don Gantz, Chair of the Task Force on Academic Standards, to present the Task Force’s final report to the Senate.
The Task Force reviewed and evaluated the literature on academic standards
and grade inflation, surveyed the George Mason faculty to ascertain their perceptions
concerning grade inflation at the University, analyzed data on undergraduate
course grades from 1991 through 2000, and analyzed data on student Cumulative
Grade Point Averages (CGPAs) from the Spring 2003 semester.
In its survey of the faculty, the Task Force found that most faculty believe that grade inflation has occurred, and the average increase is thought to be about 0.50 grade points. The most commonly suggested causes for grade inflation were pressure from course evaluations and the increasing use of adjunct faculty, graduate students, and non-tenure line faculty.
The Task Force did not find significant trends toward higher or lower grades in grading practices within schools over the 1991-2000 decade. However, it did find that grading practices vary significantly among schools. In courses given by CAS, SOM, and IT&E, the average grade point for sections are very consistently symmetric and centered around a median GPA from 2.75 to 3.00. In courses given by CVPA, GSE, NCC, and CNHS, the GPA for sections are consistently asymmetric with section GPAs clustered at high values.
The question was raised as to whether, regardless of findings regarding grade inflation in the last decade, the faculty is grading at a level that challenges the students and makes their grades a true measure of the standard of education they are receiving and deserve to receive. In particular, it was pointed out that grades seem to be very high, given that exit polls of graduating seniors indicate that they study (on average) only about sixteen hours per week.
As follow-up to the Task Force’s report, the Academic Policies Committee submitted two motions:
Motion #1: The Final Report of the Task Force on Academic Standards will be made available to Mason Administrators and Faculty to inform them about historical grading patterns at the University.
The first motion passed unanimously by voice vote.
Motion #2: Detailed grading summaries at the department, course, and instructor levels similar to those prototyped in the Task Force Final Report should be prepared annually by the appropriate University office, presumably IRR, and provided to Deans for dissemination to units in their colleges.
Two concerns were expressed about the second motion: 1) Does the faculty truly want the depth of administrative surveillance it would take to obtain detail at the instructor level, and 2) Does IRR have the financial and personnel resources to produce the required reports? Dr. Gantz stated that the motion proposal was reviewed by IRR and it does not think the workload will be a problem.
The second motion passed by a divided voice vote.
The faculty will be notified when the entire report is available on the Faculty Senate website.
2. University-wide Grade Appeal Policy Motion – Jim Metcalf
On behalf of the Committee, Jim Metcalf presented the following motion to rectify the problem of grade appeals when the professor involved cannot be located to respond to the appeal (for example, an adjunct professor who has moved out of this area):
MOTION: The following wording will be added as a footnote indicated by asterisk at the appropriate position within the Catalog text:
* If the instructor is no longer associated with the University, the local administrator of the unit offering the course will appoint a faculty surrogate who will assume the magisterial authority of the instructor of record at this level of appeal.
Discussion ensued as to whether this would become a managerial nightmare. The alternative option that professors commit to being available for grade appeals an entire semester after they stop teaching was debated and found untenable in some
The motion passed unanimously by voice vote.
C. Budget & Resources – Rick Coffinberger
The Committee is reviewing and analyzing 2000-2003 faculty salary data—especially raises given during that time period—received from Associate Provost Rossell and Human Resources. The Committee is also reviewing the financial aspects of the Summer School, especially in light of the fact that its tuition revenue increased by $2.4 million in 2003. The Committee is also working with Associate Provost Rossell to create an acceptable and consistent severance package for faculty members.
D. Faculty Matters – Marty De Nys
E. Organization & Operations – Phil Buchanan
F. Nominations – Lorraine Brown
The Provost has named Martin Ford, Senior Associate Dean of GSE, as his designee (replacing Jim Conant) on the University External Academic Relations Committee.
V. New Business
A. Executive Committee Annual Report – David Kuebrich
In what it hopes will be an on-going tradition, the Executive Committee presented its first “Annual Report to the Faculty.” In prefatory remarks, David Kuebrich explained that the “Report” is intended to give Senators a shared understanding of our agenda and promote dialogue within the Senate. It will also inform the GMU Faculty about the ongoing work of the Senate, provide important information about the GMU workplace, and encourage faculty participation in the Senate’s deliberations. The “Report” also describes steps that have been taken, as well as future plans, for improving communication with the administration and promoting shared governance. The Executive Committee believes that as faculty achieve a greater voice in decision-making, they will also develop a greater sense of ownership in their workplace and a deeper commitment to the University.
The motion to have the Faculty Senate adopt the report and distribute it as a Senate document carried unanimously.
B. Report on the GMU Foundation – Michael Ferri
Michael Ferri reported that the GMU Foundation has projected a deficit this year of approximately $500,000 due to the Foundation Investment Committee’s decision to decrease the endowment service charge from 2.5% to 1.75%, lower interest rates on unrestricted assets, declines in the stock market, the Foundation’s rising administrative responsibilities, and low unrestricted contributions.
Two plans are being considered to relieve the financial situation. First, LAUs that make use of the Foundation may either be charged a usage fee or make a remittance to the Foundation for funds used. Second, the Deans and Directors have agreed that, in total, they will remit $270,000 to the Foundation this year and possibly the same amount next year, if necessary. The Foundation has established a Task Force with the Deans and Directors to help with two objectives: to develop a fee structure appropriate to the services that the Foundation provides, and to balance the Foundation’s budget by fiscal 2004-05.
In ensuing discussion, Senators discussed the complex legal and accounting
relationship between the University Development Office and the Foundation, voiced
concern about the Foundation’s fund-raising efforts, discussed likely
reasons for low rates of giving by alumni of the undergraduate programs, debated
the pros and cons of the Foundation fee structure, and raised questions about
the responsibility of the LAUs to pay a service fee.
It was concluded that more information was needed, and Dr. Ferri was asked to gather information and report back to the Senate.
VI. Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty
“Cheap Seats”: Dean Bill Reeder distributed a memo concerning CVPA’s new policy of discounted seats for faculty and staff for performances at the Center of the Arts. Senators responded with a warm round of applause.
A concern was noted regarding students parking in staff/faculty parking spaces, especially since construction of the parking garage began in Lot B.
The meeting adjourned at 4:18 p.m.
Secretary, Faculty Senate
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