George Mason University
Approved Minutes of the Faculty Senate
February 11, 2004
Senators Present: K. Avruch, J. Bennett, R. Berroa, A. Berry,
D. Boehm-Davis, L. Brown, P. Buchanan, R. Carver, R. Coffinberger, C. Douglas,
E. Elstun, M. Ferri, J. Gorrell, L. Griffiths, M. Houck, K. Johnsen-Neshati,
C. Kaffenberger, J. Kozlowski, D. Kuebrich, J. Mahler, B. Manchester, K. McCrohan,
J. Metcalf, L. Monson, A. Motro, P. Moyer-Packenham, L. Rockwood, E. Roman-Mendoza,
S. Ruth, J. Sanford, J. Scimecca, F. Shahrokhi, S. Slayden, R. Smith, P. Stearns,
D. Struppa, C. Sutton, J. Tangney, S. Trencher, P. Wiest, S. Zoltek, J. Zenelis.
Senators Absent: P. Black, B. Brown, S. Cobb, M. DeNys, M. Deshmukh, H. Gortner, M. Grady, K. Haynes, M. Kafatos, R. Klimoski, C. Lerner, A. Merten, R. Nadeau, L. Pawloski, D. Polsby, W. Reeder, P. Regan, C. Sluzki, E. Sturtevant, B. Willis.
Liaisons Present: L. Fauteux (Staff Senate).
Guests Present: R. Ehrlich, L. Fathe, B. Fleming, S. Greenfeld, D. Haines, R. Herron, C. Hylton, S. Jones, T. Kiley, M. McKenzie, B. Rooney.
I. Call to Order
Chair Jim Bennett called the meeting to order at 3:04 p.m.
II. Approval of Minutes
The minutes of January 21, 2004 were approved as distributed.
A. Introduction of New Senators
The Senate welcomed two new Senators. Ami Motro (IT&E) will serve the remainder of the term of Sharon deMonsabert, who is on leave, and Boris Willis (CVPA) will serve the remainder of the term of Wenyi Kurkul, who is no longer at the University.
B. Special Called Meeting
A special called Meeting of the Faculty Senate will be held on March 3, 2004 concerning a Resolution on the Confiscation of Faculty Funds at GMU Foundation:
Resolution on the Confiscation of Funds from Faculty Accounts at the GMU Foundation
WHEREAS the GMU Foundation (GMUF) is touting a highly successful Comprehensive Fundraising Campaign at the same time that the Faculty Senate has been informed that the Foundation’s leadership has not raised enough money to support the Foundation’s operations so that a deficit of $270,000 exists for this year alone; and
WHEREAS Deans and Directors have been asked to provide funds to cover the Foundation’s deficit and have—at least in the case of CAS—confiscated funds from the accounts of faculty at GMUF without consulting them in advance or obtaining their approval; and
WHEREAS this confiscation of funds violates the GMUF’s own policy and procedures on disbursement—no one but the Project Director or his or her designee (specified in writing) may disburse funds from a restricted account; and
WHEREAS a similar deficit is projected for the coming year so that the GMU Foundation has now become a net burden—and the University Faculty are to carry this burden; therefore
BE IT RESOLVED that the Faculty Senate instructs the Chair to inform all members of the University Faculty that, under current conditions, grants and other funds deposited in Faculty accounts at the GMUF may be confiscated without consultation by University administrators; and
BE IT RESOLVED that the GMUF leadership be CENSURED for failure to follow their own policies and procedures with regard to disbursements from Faculty accounts; and
BE IT RESOLVED that the Senate Budget and Resources Committee be directed to ascertain what further measures, if any, should be taken to address this problem, including recommendation of a Senate vote of “NO CONFIDENCE” in the GMU Foundation’s leadership and in all administrators who support, sponsor, or condone this confiscation of faculty funds; and
BE IT RESOLVED that the Senate Faculty Matters Committee review this matter to ascertain what actions should be taken to protect funds raised by University Faculty to support their research, travel, and other professional activities.
Background: Last month Mike Ferri reported on the negotiations between the GMU Foundation Board and a Task Force composed of the Deans and Directors regarding the Foundation’s operating deficit. The parties agreed that, in the current academic year of 2003-2004, the units will remit $270,000 to the Foundation, with the College of Arts and Sciences portion totaling $63,200.
Last week, the following memo was sent from CAS Dean Daniele Struppa to Project Directors: “As reported to the Faculty Senate on January 21st, 2004, the Deans have approved a $270,000 levy to the Foundation for fiscal 2003-2004 against their respective units in aggregate. Each Dean and Director was left to determine the method of payment of their approved portion of the fee. I directed that the Foundation allocate the College of Arts and Science fee proportionately across restricted accounts greater than 1% of CAS’s total restricted funds based on December 2003 account balances. You have at least one Foundation account that will be allocated a portion of the College of Arts and Science’s restricted fund Foundation fee for FY2004. The Foundation Business Office will post these fees to your account as of February 15, 2004. If you have any questions please contact me.”
|Fund ID||Name||Billing Amount||Project Director|
|01102023||Science & Technology In Media||$11,420.17||Roy Rosenzwieg|
|01061528||Bennett Research||$8,713.11||James Bennett|
|01061826||Center for Public Choice||$6,676.97||James Buchanan|
|01064323||CAS Faculty Support||$3,949.15||Don Boudreaux|
|01061423||Economics Department||$3,473.90||Walter Williams|
|01060128||Free Enterprise||$3,274.64||Walter Williams|
|01063223||Economic Chairman’s Fund||$2,737.69||Don Boudreaux|
|01150623||CBL Professorship||$2,669.26||Rita Sambruna|
|01100623||History Department||$1,961.98||Jack Censer|
|01063622||Olofsson Weaver Fellowship||$1,675.47||Peter Boettke|
|01102530||September 11 Digital Archive||$1,671.31||Roy Rosenzweig|
|01070223||English Department||$1,431.89||Chris Thaiss|
|01063830||JM Kaplan Fund||$1,209.21||Peter Boettke|
|11001530||Prince William Institute||$1,134.83||Larry Czarda|
|01040223||Communication Department||$1,031.42||Cynthia Lont|
|01030123||Chemistry Department||$1,011.43||Greg Foster|
It was pointed out that drawing the above monies from the accounts without
the Project Directors’ approval violates GMU Foundation’s disbursement
V. Senate Committee Reports and Action Items
A. Executive Committee – Jim Bennett
B. Academic Policies – Esther Elstun
1. Task Force on Midterm Grading – Stephen Greenfeld
Dr. Greenfeld and Dr. Trencher presented the Task Force on Midterm Grading’s motion and report. Each section of the motion was voted on separately.
1. All subsequent references to mid-term grades should read “mid-term progress reports.”
2. Mid-term progress reports will be submitted between weeks five and eight of the semester.
3. Faculty may assign letter grades or S (satisfactory)/U (unsatisfactory) as the mid-term progress report.
4. Mid-term progress reports are to be submitted for all 100 and 200 level courses. In addition, instructors teaching 300 and 400 level courses have the option to give mid-term progress reports as well.
5. Plans should be developed by the appropriate administrative office to notify students not performing satisfactorily at mid-term, and to recommend specific interventions.
Background: On April 9, 2003, the Senate passed a motion to create a Midterm Grading Task Force with the charge to research and evaluate the midterm grading system in current practice: the mandatory reporting of midterm grades in 100 and
200 level courses. This system has been in place campus-wide for the past two years.
The Task Force first met in May 2003 and subsequently met five more times. To fulfill its charge, the Task Force conducted a review and analysis of the following: i) literature in support for or against the use of midterm grades, ii) midterm grading practice in other undergraduate institutions within Virginia and nationwide, iii) the student position on midterm grades as expressed in a questionnaire developed by the Midterm Grade Task Force, and iv) faculty input on midterm grades sought by Task Force members in their departments. The Task Force focused its investigation by asking the following, among other, questions:
• Do midterm grades affect student performance adversely by either -- providing a false sense of optimism about the pending final grade or -- causing demoralization and/or discouragement if the mid-term grade is lower than expected?
• Does receiving a midterm grade improve the student’s performance/persistence in the course?
• Was there a positive or negative effect on the level of communication between faculty and student that resulted from the use of midterm grades?
• Does the reporting of midterm grades have an impact on student retention?
• Should midterm grade reporting be limited to students performing unsatisfactorily (i.e., students receiving grades of C- or below at midsemester)?
• Of the professors using midterm grades in upper level classes as well (though not mandated to do so), what were their results?
i) Literature review
Although the research and resultant literature was found to be less substantial and less substantive than desired, the overall sense is that the use of midterm grades provides advantages and potential benefits to students. For many students, grades
at midterm will be a catalyst to initiate the students’ greater engagement in their studies, and student engagement is well documented to increase student persistence to graduation.
a) Review of research on midterm grades in relation to student discouragement and motivation. See Attachment A(1).
b) Review of research on midterm grade in relation to final course grade. See Attachment A(2).
ii) Midterm grading practice in other undergraduate colleges within Virginia and nationwide
A search of dozens of university websites nationwide showed that the vast majority of undergraduate institutions use midterm grades. The annual survey of the Policy Center on the First Year of College lends further support to this finding. Every year, the Policy Center conducts a national survey of first-year structures, policies, and practices in the collegiate curriculum and co-curriculum. Chief academic officers and chief student affairs officers at 621 two- and four-year colleges and universities are asked a broad range of questions, and responses to these questions have been analyzed by institutional size, type (2-year and 4-year), and Carnegie classification (2000 edition). In the survey of 2000, one of the questions asked concerned the collection and reporting of mid-term grades for first-year students, and it was found that over half of two-year colleges and approximately ¾ of four-year colleges collect and report mid-term grades. See the Carnegie Classification Survey for breakdown by institution of respondents and Attachment A(3) for information on Virginia undergraduate institutions
iii) Results of the student questionnaire on midterm grades.
A student questionnaire on midterm grades was given to all sections of STAT/IT 250 late in the Fall 2003 semester, between November 13 and November 20, 2003. Of the 468 students enrolled in the six sections of STAT/IT250 (based on information obtained from the SIS in January, 2004) 259 (55%) students completed the survey. See Attachment A(4) for survey results.
iv) Faculty input on midterm grades in Task Force member departments
A small number of faculty were informally canvassed for their response to their experiences in the use of midterm grades. Although the number of positive responses was seen to cancel out the negative responses, a common concern was the need to expand the time frame of the current midterm grade reporting period.
Recommendations: There is more research to be done on the
effects of midterm grades, particularly in relation to student persistence to
graduation and student learning outcomes. Such limitations notwithstanding,
after review and analysis, the Task Force on Midterm Grading recommends that
the practice of reporting midterm grades be continued with the modifications
set forth in the motions above.
Review of research on midterm grades in relation to student discouragement
David Borland reported, in his study of 420 first semester freshmen at Miami University in Ohio, that most students indicated that if they felt that they were doing better than the midterm grades indicated, they tried harder to improve. In “Grade Expectations” (Journal of Higher Education, 23: 97-101), which Borland cites, Arnold Rose revealed that students are bad guessers on the high side of what their grades will be. Thus, Borland writes, “the midterm grades possibly served as stimuli to bring their [these students’] estimates closer to reality or else served to motivate the necessary behavior to achieve the desired level of academic performance.” Borland writes further that “discouragement . . . appeared to be an incentive for a change in behavior or a change in the perception of the situation.” Nevil Sanford (cited by Borland) attests that “Bad news may be better than no news; better that is, than uncertainly or than his gloomy imaginings. Freshmen flourish best not when they are given no grades, but when they are given searching and hard-hitting analyses of their performances—accompanied by intelligible and realistic pictures of what they can become” (“Developmental Status of the Entering Freshman,” The American College, New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1962, p. 264).
In their exploration of how the disappointment of student grade expectations can, in fact, enhance academic performance and persistence, Frank Wicker, et al. writes of a “student strategy of changing goal levels in order to maintain desire in the face of declining expectations” (“Expectancy, Value, and Motivation for Test Taking When Optimism Declines,” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Quebec, April 19-23, 1999). The authors attest to the “complexity of their [“expectancy value variables’] contribution to classroom motivation” (3). A similar complexity is described in Ralph and Mineka’s finding that after a poor academic performance at midterm, low self-esteem pessimists experienced only slightly increased distress, but much greater increases in distress after a nonfailure outcome. They write that “A relatively high midterm grade might be perceived as incompatible with their negative self-image, leading them to experience at least transient symptoms of nonspecific distress and anxiety” (“Attributional Style and Self-Esteem: The Prediction of Emotional Distress Following a Midterm Exam,” J. Abnormal Psychology, 107 (2), 203-215). The findings in these studies negate the assumption that student disappointment after receiving a poor midterm grade will have the effect causing them to give up does an injustice to the complex nature of the relationship between discouragement and student academic motivation.
Review of research on midterm grade in relation to final course grade
Evidence that students who receive midterm grades improve significantly in the final grade is not strong, as expressed in “Assessing the Impact of Freshmen Midterm Grades on Retention” (Acker, Hughes, and Fendley, authors of a paper they presented at the 2002 SAIR Conference at Baton Rouge, Louisiana). The authors do report that roughly one year after midterm grade implementation, “nearly 45% of end-of-semester grades increased from the midterm grade, while little more than a quarter decreased or stayed the same” (14). However, the actual grade improvement was minimal: one half of all end-of-semester grades were found to be within one third of a letter grade of the midterm grade. Similarly, when David Borland compared the midterm and final performances of the 420 first semester freshmen in his study, “while the balance tended to be on the side of improvement, most of the change that did occur was within a small range and of little significance as a general result” (“The Effect of Midterm Grades on the Academic Performances of College Freshmen (College and University, Winter 1970, 181-5)). Nevertheless, in his conclusion, Borland contends that “students are poor predictors of their own grades on the high side and that students need feedback concerning their performances, especially freshmen.” One of the Midterm Grad Task Force members went further when he wrote that “poorly performing juniors and seniors deserve a mid-term “wake-up call” just as much as poorly performing lower division students.”
Midterm grading information in Virginia undergraduate institutions
Christopher Newport University: Mid-semester grades are issued for all Freshmen for Fall and Spring Semesters.
College of William and Mary: Mid-semester reports issued for students on probationary status.
James Madison University: Mid-semester grades are issued for all Freshmen for Fall and Spring Semesters.
Longwood University: Grade estimates are issued to all first year students and any other students making D or F.
Mary Washington: Mid-semester grade report quote from website: “In the middle of each semester, students are notified by the Office of the Registrar if their performance in a course is unsatisfactory. Although the report is neither entered on a student’s permanent record nor sent to parents or guardians, midsemester unsatisfactory reports are sent to the Office of Academic Services (B.L.S. Office) and to each B.A./B.S./B.L.S. advisor. Because a U is a warning that significant improvement is needed, the student should consult instructors, advisors and the Office of Academic Services for assistance.”
Old Dominion University: Students in 100 and 200 level classes receive midsemester reports
University of Virginia: No mid-semester grades issued.
Virginia Tech: Mid-semester grades issued to Fall Semester Freshmen.
The following tables summarize the results of the student questionnaire on midterm grades:
RESPONSES TO ITEM 1 - 4
Not Applicable (#/%)
|1. Midterm grades are important primarily for students performing below C in a course.||
|2. I found out what my midterm grade was in this course.||
|3. My professor’s feedback before the midterm grade matched the midterm grade.||
|4. My midterm grade in this course was not as high as I expected.||
The majority of the respondents (85%) had obtained their midterm grade and
56% responded that midterm grades are most important for students who are performing
unsatisfactorily in a course. More than half of the respondents (52%) felt that
the midterm grade was accurate, and 68% of the respondents felt that the midterm
grade was an accurate reflection of the feedback they had received prior to
midterm. Items five, six, and seven attempt to elicit information about how
students responded to a midterm grade that was not as high as they had anticipated.
RESPONSES TO ITEMS 5 - 7
|5. As a result of getting a midterm grade that was not as high as I wanted, I felt too discouraged to try to improve||
|6. As a result of getting a midterm grade that was not as high as I wanted, I considered the midterm grade to be a useful alert.||
|7. As a result of getting a midterm grade that was not as high as I wanted, I took one or more of the following actions*||
*asked instructor for suggestions, improved my study habits, spoke to an academic
advisor, sought other resources
Of the respondents who received a midterm grade lower than they expected, 31% reported that they became too discouraged to attempt to improve performance, 82% felt that midterm grades were a useful alert, and 72% took some type of corrective action (see item 7* above). Only students who had received midterm grades the previous semester were supposed to respond to items 8 and 9.
RESPONSES TO ITEM 8 AND 9
Do Not Remember
|8. My final grade was higher than my midterm grade in one or more courses.||
|9. My final grade was lower than my midterm grade in one or more courses.||
Approximately one-third of the respondents to these items did not remember
how their midterm grades related to their final grade. Of those who did remember,
55% indicated that their final grade(s) was/were higher than the midterm grade(s),
and 25% indicated that the midterm grade(s) was/were higher than the final grade(s).
The Task Force asked that the wording of the first paragraph, second sentence under Findings: i) Literature Review be modified from:
“For many students, grades at midterm will be a catalyst to initiate the student’s greater engagement in their studies, and student engagement is well documented to increase student persistence to graduation.” to:
“For some students, midterm progress reports may contribute to greater engagement in their studies which we hope will increase persistence to graduation.”
It was pointed out that the students are strongly in favor of mid-term reports. However, it was argued that mid-term grades are less valid for subjects such as math and science where there is a greater disparity in the subject matter from the beginning of the semester to the end. It was also noted that mid-term progress reports could cause students doing well to get overconfident.
Motion #1: All subsequent references to mid-term grades should read “midterm progress reports.”
It was noted that this would be hard to enforce since faculty and students are used to calling them mid-term grades and the nomenclature cannot be changed in the Banner System.
The motion passed unanimously.
Motion #2: Mid-term progress reports will be submitted between weeks five and eight of the semester.
It was explained that faculty members had expressed concern that the current time period falls too late in the semester to give students the chance to significantly improve their grades. The Provost and Registrar confirmed that this new timeframe can be noted on the academic calendar.
The motion passed unanimously.
Motion #3: Faculty may assign letter grades or S (satisfactory)/U (unsatisfactory) as the mid-term progress report.
Many questions were raised concerning this motion: Would it mean extra work to implement this in addition to giving letter grades? Does it contradict the motion passed last month abolishing the overall S/U system? Is it necessary? Does the S/U system provide enough information to serve the purpose of helping students?
A substitute motion was submitted: “Faculty should assign letter grades as the midterm progress report, though they need not use + or –.” The substitute motion was seconded. It was argued that the substitute motion was too specific and the main purpose in using the S/U system is to allow the earliest possible notification of problematic grades, even if it is too early to give a specific letter grade. In opposition, it was argued that the S/U system is too vague to be of use to students, especially since students tend to overestimate their grades.
The substitute motion passed by a majority.
Motion #4: Mid-term progress reports are to be submitted for all 100 and 200 level courses. In addition, instructors teaching 300 and 400 level courses have the option to give mid-term progress reports as well.
The motion passed unanimously.
Motion #5: Plans should be developed by the appropriate administrative office to notify students not performing satisfactorily at mid-term, and to recommend specific interventions.
It was clarified that “appropriate administrative office” referred to the Academic Advising Center or, once assigned, faculty advisors. It was further clarified that “interventions” meant such actions as a follow-up letter inviting students to meet with an advisor. This would alert a student doing poorly to take advantage of the advising procedure.
The motion passed unanimously.
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.
Dr. Elstun announced that the next Academic Policies Committee meeting will be held in D105 Mason Hall on February 25th at 1:00 pm. The Committee will finish discussing Academic Integrity issues and begin work on a Student Senate motion requesting the extension of the drop period from five to nine weeks.
C. Budget & Resources – Rick Coffinberger
1. Report on University Budget meeting
Two Committee members met with the University Budget Planning Committee for the first time on February 3rd. Provost Stearns and Vice President Scherrens have invited Committee members to attend the administrative budget planning meetings on a monthly basis. The Committee will report on these meetings to the Senate. It was noted that budget discussions are necessarily speculative until the General Assembly determines the budget.
2. Resolution on Posting Faculty Salary Reports
The Committee submitted the following Resolution concerning posting faculty salary reports on the Faculty Senate website:
Resolution on the Posting of Faculty Salaries
WHEREAS George Mason University is a public university which is governed by the laws and policies of the Commonwealth of Virginia including a Freedom of Information Act; and
WHEREAS George Mason University has for many years produced a report of the salaries of all university employees and placed this report in the Fenwick Library for all interested parties to review because salaries of all state employees are in the public domain; and
WHEREAS President Merten has advocated providing information about fiscal operations of the university to the faculty and other interested parties by increasing the transparency of the budget and resource allocation decisions at all levels of the university as exemplified by the “Unit Profiles” posted on university’s web page last fall; and
WHEREAS the charge of the Standing Committee on Budget and Resources is to collect, analyze, and distribute data to enhance the transparency of all of the University's sources of funds and the allocation of said funds, including salaries; therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED that the Faculty Senate endorses the Standing Committee on Budget and Resources’ action to compile and post faculty salary reports on the Senate’s web page and to update these data periodically as needed to insure the accuracy of the data.
Background: Salary information is currently, and has been, available in print format to the public in the University library for many years, if not decades. Moreover, www.roblink.com has long posted GMU faculty salaries; however, there have been errors in this data, and no attempt has been made to correct these errors. Thus, this action by the Budget and Resource Committee is not a new initiative, but merely an effort to make the data more readily accessible to on-campus users and to improve its quality. Both the Budget and Resources Committee and the Faculty Senate’s Executive Committee have unanimously endorsed the digitalization and posting of faculty salary data on the Senate’s web page for restricted access.
Several concerns were raised: What details would be included on the report?
Why does the Committee want greater accessibility to faculty salary data? Why
the emphasis on digitalization instead of the current practice of a hard copy
library? How will this information be protected from “googling” and identity theft? What is the “need to know” basis for releasing this information?
The Committee noted that this information is already available in other—sometimes
very unreliable—forms. Since GMU is a public University, it is also available
through the Freedom of Information Act. Like the LAU financial profiles have
been put on the web, this would be another piece of the increased financial
transparency that the Senate has made a priority. This information would not
be available to search engines.
A friendly amendment was offered and accepted that “Fenwick” be changed to “Johnson Center” to reflect the change in location of the hard copy of the salary data. An amendment was submitted and seconded that the following sentence be added to the last paragraph: “This information will only be available to faculty who must enter their “G” number and PIN number to obtain access.” This would prevent search engines from accessing the information.
The amendment passed unanimously. The resolution passed by a majority.
D. Faculty Matters – Marty De Nys
The 2003-2004 Faculty Evaluations of Administrators will be distributed at the end of February.
E. Organization & Operations – Phillip Buchanan
The Committee will present the 2004-2005 allocation of Senate seats at the March Faculty Senate meeting.
F. Nominations – Lorraine Brown
The Committee submitted a nominee, Julie Mahler (PIA), as a replacement for Betsy Gunn on the University Effective Teaching Standing Committee. A unanimous ballot was cast approving the nominee.
V. New Business
A. Update on Excellence in Teaching – Laurie Fathe
Due to time constraints, Dr. Fathe’s presentation was moved to a future meeting this semester.
VI. Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty
Susan Trencher noted that the Faculty Lounge has been a great success, and would not have been possible without the strong support of the Provost. Applause was offered for his invaluable support. In addition to the morning coffee, tea and donuts, tea and cookies are now available in the afternoon.
The meeting adjourned at 4:18 p.m.
Secretary, Faculty Senate
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