George Mason University
Approved Minutes of the Faculty Senate
January 21, 2004

Senators Present: K. Avruch, J. Bennett, R. Berroa, A. Berry, P. Black, D. Boehm-Davis, B. Brown, L. Brown, P. Buchanan, R. Carver, R. Coffinberger, M. DeNys, C. Douglas, E. Elstun, M. Ferri, J. Gorrell, H. Gortner, M. Houck, K. Johnsen-Neshati, C. Kaffenberger, R. Klimoski, J. Kozlowski, D. Kuebrich, J. Mahler, B. Manchester, K. McCrohan, J. Metcalf, L. Monson, A. Motro, P. Moyer-Packenham, R. Nadeau, D. Polsby, W. Reeder, P. Regan, L. Rockwood, E. Roman-Mendoza, S. Ruth, J. Sanford, J. Scimecca, S. Slayden, R. Smith, P. Stearns, C. Sutton, J. Tangney, S. Trencher, P. Wiest, B. Willis, S. Zoltek.

Senators Absent: S. Cobb, M. Deshmukh, M. Grady, L. Griffiths, K. Haynes, M. Kafatos, C. Lerner, A. Merten, L. Pawloski, F. Shahrokhi, C. Sluzki, D. Struppa, E. Sturtevant, J. Zenelis.

Liaisons Present: L. Fauteux (Staff Senate), Ashish Gupta (Student Senate).

Guests Present: L. Fathe, D. Fox, K. Gentemann, D. Haines, R. Herron, S. Jones, M. McKenzie, B. Rooney, L. Schwartzstein, E. Verheyen.

I. Call to Order
Chair Jim Bennett called the meeting to order at 3:02 p.m.

II. Approval of Minutes
The minutes of December 3, 2003 were approved as distributed.

III. Announcements
A. Eulogy for Kenneth Kovach – Dean Richard Klimoski

Kenneth Kovach, Professor in the School of Management, who joined the faculty in 1976, passed away Friday, January 16. He was remembered as a “dedicated and passionate teacher with a loyal following of students,” and the recipient of numerous teaching awards at George Mason. Dean Klimoski recounted his students’ enthusiasm for his classes; his ability to teach through life experiences; his passion for physical fitness and food; and his wonderful sense of humor. “He touched so many of us,” Dean Klimoski concluded, “we are only just now becoming aware of the many lives he impacted in such a personal way.” A moment of silence was held in memory of Professor Kovach.

B. Other Announcements
Rick Coffinberger has been appointed the Faculty Senate Representative on the Search Committee to replace Karen Rosenblum as Vice President of University Life.

The Eighth Annual Victims’ Rights Run and Walk will be held April 22, 2004 (Mason Day) on the Fairfax Campus. Faculty are encouraged to participate.

A memorial service for Aliza Kolker will be held on Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 4:00 p.m. in the Center for the Performing Arts, third floor tier.

IV. Old Business
A. GMU Foundation Report – Michael Ferri

Mike Ferri reported on the current state of negotiations between the GMU Foundation Board and the Task Force composed of the Deans and Directors regarding the Foundation’s operating deficit.

These parties have agreed that, in the current academic year of 2003-2004, the units will remit $270,000 to the Foundation. The breakdown per unit is as follows:

Alumni Affairs
Other departments
Public Policy
Athletics/Patriot Club
Grand Total

Regarding next and later years, the Task Force has recommended a fee of 3% on all restricted gifts flowing to and through the Foundation. (The current practice of a 1.75% fee on contributions to the Endowment Fund will probably continue, but some discussion of raising it to 2% has taken place.) The Foundation’s board will consider this proposal in the coming months.

V. Senate Committee Reports and Action Items
A. Executive Committee – Jim Bennett

No report.

B. Academic Policies – Esther Elstun
1. Task Force on Academic Progress – Hal Gortner

Dr. Gortner and Registrar Susan Jones presented a motion to replace the current dual academic progress system with one using only GPAs. It was explained that under the new proposal, the University’s academic standards would remain essentially the same. It was also clarified that the new system would only apply to undergraduate standing. The Task Force then presented the following motion and supporting documentation:

Motion: Whereas current standards are confusing for both students and advisors, the Task Force moves that determination of undergraduate academic standing and the GPA standard for graduation be changed effective Fall 2004 as follows:
1) Standards for graduation and academic standing will be based on the student’s cumulative grade point average (GPA), with a 2.0 cumulative GPA required for graduation;
2) Degree GPA will be discontinued after a transition period for Fall 2004 seniors who graduate by May 2006. For those students only, the graduation standard remains a minimum degree GPA of 2.0;
3) A repeat policy will be in effect for degree-seeking undergraduates, allowing previous grades for courses retaken Fall 2004 or later to be removed from the cumulative GPA, but not from the student’s transcript;
4) Academic Clemency will be available, subject to Dean’s approval, for students absent from the University at least three years. Up to 16 credit hours of previously completed work may be removed from the cumulative GPA, but not from the student’s transcript;
5) Cumulative GPA standards will be applied to all degree-seeking undergraduate students and all extended studies and non-degree students.

Goals for evaluating systems of academic progress, good standing, and graduation:
1. Easily communicated
2. Numerical basis
3. No qualitative descriptors attached to grades, i.e., satisfactory or unsatisfactory
4. Optimal number of academic standing categories
5. Automated system, to handle a large undergraduate population
6. Supports an acceptable standard of graduation
7. Single system (no significant ancillary systems)
8. Exceptions for freshmen and part-time students do not add too much complexity
9. System accommodates forgiveness
10. System can be used to suspend/dismiss a similar number of students as currently (No goal to either increase or decrease the numbers of students suspended or dismissed)
11. Ability to implement in Banner

Management of Academic Progress, Good Standing & Graduation:

"Current Semester" System
AP Comm. approved "Retention Policy"
Philosophy: Standard of graduation is virtually universal satisfactory performance. Poor performance can be offset with good. Graduation standard is a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale.
Determine Academic Status By pattern of good and bad semesters, based on level of semester GPA and any number of credit hours for a semester. By level of cumulative grade point index within a graduated system, with the standard increasing as credit levels increase.
Take Academic Action Limit campus activities for students on probation. Prohibit suspended and dismissed students from pursuing course work at GMU; prohibit suspended students from attending elsewhere. Same
Maintain Standards Limit number of unsatisfactory/passing course grades -- undergraduate “D” grades and graduate “C” grades -- that can be presented for graduation [the “virtual” part of virtually universal]. Ancillary undergraduate dismissal rule uses cumulative GPA as one part of a formula to remove poor performing students not removed by current semester system. All courses taken apply to graduation, subject to repeat policy. Higher or separate standards may apply to the major.
Offer Forgiveness “Good” semesters for first-time freshmen in first two semesters (one semester for transfer freshmen) based on 1.8 semester GPA, rather than 2.0. Special rules for part-time students, e.g., 3 semesters rather than 2 to recover from suspension. Separate degree GPA is computed, based on grades of courses applied to graduation. Student can exclude courses from presentation for graduation. Retention policy not applied to students taking their first six credit hours. Strongest sanction for students with 7 - 16 credit hours is Warning. Matrix based on credit level keeps lower standards in effect longer for part time students. Repeat policy allows re-taking of the same course to improve grade. Most recent grade would count in the cumulative GPA. Earlier takings would be removed from the cumulative GPA, but would remain on the student’s transcript permanently.
Allow Recovery Students can recover quickly, even from suspension, by simply achieving a minimum semester grade point index of 2.0 each semester.Depending upon degree requirements, students may not have to repeat exactly the same courses in which they did poorly before –degree GPA in effect excludes earlier course(s) from calculation.Recovery for graduation purposes requires achieving a 2.0 degree GPA. (2.0 cumulative index not required for graduation.) Total recovery requires achieving a 2.0 cumulative index. Particularly as total credit hours on the student’s record build up, improving the cumulative index may take several semesters. Academic Clemency may be approved by Dean for students absent at least three years. Would eliminate from cumulative GPA calculation up to 16 credit hours of previous academic work.

S. Jones 12/09/03

GPA Retention Levels:

Credit Level
Cumulative GPA range
Cumulative GPA range
Cumulative GPA range
7 - 16
0.000 - 1.999
17 - 29
1.750 - 1.999
1.000 - 1.749
0.000 - 0.999
30 - 44
1.800 - 1.999
1.100 - 1.799
0.000 - 1.099
45 - 59
1.850 - 1.999
1.250 - 1.849
0.000 - 1.249
60 - 74
1.900 - 1.999
1.400 - 1.899
0.000 - 1.399
75 - 89
1.950 - 1.999
1.550 - 1.949
0.000 - 1.549
90 - 104
1.975 - 1.999
1.700 - 1.974
0.000 - 1.699
1.850 - 1.999
0.000 - 1.849

11.12.03 D. Gantz

Questions were raised concerning the new policy of allowing students to repeat a course regardless of the grade received. It was pointed out that other universities do not necessarily allow unlimited repetition of classes. It was also noted that the new policy might play into a consumer mentality of “buying” a class again to achieve a higher grade. Ms. Jones noted that all of the courses would remain on the transcript, and that this, plus the cost of tuition, should temper any abuse of the policy.

It was also clarified each academic unit would continue to set its own policy for acceptable academic standards, especially for courses within its major. Concern was expressed that the new policy could, however, undermine the individual school’s autonomy in the long run.

It was explained that the dismissal policy remains the same and the suspension periods remain the same under the new system (one semester for the first suspension and one calendar year for the second).

The motion passed by a majority.

The Academic Policies Chair made a motion that the Task Force be dissolved with warm thanks. The motion passed unanimously. The Secretary was directed to send letters of appreciation to all of the Task Force members. At the meeting, special note was made of the extensive contributions of Susan Jones, Don Gantz, and Hal Gortner.

2. Motion on Graduation with Recognition – Cliff Sutton
Dr. Sutton noted that the current catalog (page 40) allows for “Graduation with Distinction and Recognition,” but no one has graduated from GMU with this honor since Spring 1999. He then presented the following motion:

Motion: that, effective Fall 2004, the current use of the term “recognition,” as described in the paragraph under the heading “Graduation with Distinction and Recognition” on page 40 of the 2003-2004 Catalog of George Mason University, be retired as obsolete; and further,
that the paragraph under the heading “Graduation with Distinction and Recognition” on page 40 of the Catalog be replaced by a new paragraph which provides a new meaning for the graduation honor of “recognition.” Under the heading “Graduation with Recognition,” the new paragraph will state:

“A student graduates with recognition from the university when between 45 and 59 (inclusive) credits applied toward graduation are earned at George Mason University and the student's cumulative grade point average is at least 3.800. Note: Seniors with at least 90 earned credit hours before the Fall 2004 semester and who graduate May 2006 or sooner will have a degree grade point average computed on courses applied to the degree. For these students, the degree GPA will determine graduation with distinction (Latin honors) and recognition.”

The Committee was asked why it decided on 45 credit hours at GMU as the minimum instead of 30 as recommended by the Provost. Dr. Sutton explained that all of our peer Virginia schools require 60+ hours for Graduation with Distinction (except VCU which requires 45+). The Committee felt that one year at GMU was not a sufficient period to ascertain that a student deserved to graduate with recognition.

The motion passed unanimously.

Dr. Elstun announced that the next Academic Policies Committee meeting will be held in D105 Mason Hall on February 4th at 1:30 pm. The Committee will be discussing Academic Integrity issues.

C. Budget & Resources – Rick Coffinberger
The Committee will meet with the University Budget Planning Committee for the first time on February 3rd and will report on that meeting at the February 11th meeting of the Faculty Senate.

D. Faculty Matters – Marty De Nys
1. University Effective Teaching Report – Egon Verheyen

Dr. Veheyen, Chair of the University Effective Teaching Committee, presented a draft version of an alternative Teacher Course Evaluation form.

The Task Force on Teacher/Course Evaluations had charged the Effective Teaching Committee to review the current evaluation tool. The Committee submitted a detailed report and recommendations at the end of the Spring 2003 semester, and it began meeting on a weekly basis in Fall 2003 to create a revised evaluation tool.

The Committee plans to have volunteer faculty use the new form for a pilot program at the end of the Spring 2004 term. The Committee will then follow-up with focus groups of students and faculty who used the new form in order to determine if additional revisions are needed. It was suggested that the test classes be given either both forms, or half and half, so that the old forms can continue to be used for ranking and comparison until the new forms are finalized and implemented throughout the entire university.

The following pilot course evaluation form was presented and distributed: TCE Pilot Form

E. Organization & Operations – Phil Buchanan
No report.

F. Nominations – Lorraine Brown
No report.

VI. New Business
A. Admissions Report –Andrew Flagel, Dean of Admissions

Dean Flagel will give his report at the March 24, 2004 meeting of the Faculty Senate.

B. Honor System Changes – Girard Mulherin, Dean of Students
Dean Mulherin announced that cases regarding alleged violations of the Honor Code are running about the same level as last year (250 cases total). He also noted that there were two major changes in the Honor System since AY 2002-2003.

Last May, a new Honor Code was adopted. None of the policies or procedures were changed, but the new document is more concise and free of legalese. The new Honor Code can be found at:

Based on the Provost’s recommendation, a new policy was implemented to expedite cases in which students plead guilty. Students can now agree to waive the hearing process and accept the recommended faculty penalty. Of the 107 cases filed last semester (most after 12/1), 71 are already closed.

In those cases in which a student pleads innocent, Dean Mulherin reports that about 80% are clearly guilty, but the complete hearing process must then be implemented (with five judges, a faculty advisor, etc.) and the case can take 8-9 months. To solve this problem, the Honor Committee is working to institute a second expedited process for students who plead innocent but are willing to waive their right to a full hearing.

A question was raised concerning whether students would have any incentive to plead guilty if the expedited process is the same regardless of how they plead. It was explained that those pleading innocent but found to be guilty would face additional penalties (such as community service).

Dean Mulherin stated that many of the honor code cases involve students who don’t understand what they did wrong or the idea of “culpable responsibility.”

VII. Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty
Esther Elstun announced that a bill allowing faculty members to serve as non-voting members of university boards of visitors passed the Virginia House Education Committee on Monday. Last year the bill was defeated in the Senate, so Dr. Elstun encouraged faculty to contact members of the Senate Health and Education Committee concerning Senate Bill 244. It is crucial to pick up two more votes in the Committee for the bill to pass this year.

Stephen Ruth, Bob Smith, and Chris Thaiss from the University External Academic Relations Committee went to Richmond last week to meet with legislators. They reported that they received various—but positive—responses and felt they were effective in explaining the impact of the budget cuts on GMU and higher education in general.

Susan Trencher announced that the faculty lounge on the fourth floor of the Johnson Center had a successful grand opening yesterday (January 20). The lounge offers free coffee, tea and donuts from 8-11:30 a.m.

Bill Reeder announced the following upcoming performances: Murder by Poe (The Acting Company), Rigoletto and Fidelio (the Virginia Opera Company), Cinderella and Giselle (The Moscow Festival Ballet), Mark O’Connor, Ute Lemper, and the Four Tops. The “Cheap Seats” for faculty and staff continues this semester.

VIII. Adjournment
The meeting adjourned at 4:10 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
David Kuebrich
Secretary, Faculty Senate

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