GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY

MINUTES OF THE FACULTY SENATE

JANUARY 26, 2005

 

 

Senators Present:  Kevin Avruch, Jim Bennett, Alok Berry, Russ Brayley, Lorraine Brown, Richard Carver, Richard Coffinberger, Charlene Douglas, Bob Ehrlich, Esther Elstun, Michael Ferri, Lloyd Griffiths, Carol Kaffenberger, Jim Kozlowski, David Kuebrich, Jane McDonald, Jim Metcalf, Linda Monson, Jean Moore Ami Motro, Patricia Moyer-Packenham, Robert Nadeau, Peter Pober, Daniel Polsby, Jane Razeghi, Priscilla Regan, Larry Rockwood, Esperanza Roman-Mendoza, James Sanford, Joseph Scimecca, Suzanne Slayden, Christine Smith, Clifton Sutton, June Tangney, Tojo Thatchenkery, Susan Trencher, Iosif Vaisman, John Zenelis, Stanley Zoltek.

 

Senators Absent:  Rei Berroa, Michelle Boardman, Deborah Boehm-Davis, Phillip Buchanan, Sara Cobb, Warren Decker, Martin De Nys, Jeff Gorrell, Kingsley Haynes, Mark Houck, Bruce Johnsen, Kristin Johnsen-Neshati, Dan Joyce, Menas Kafatos, Rich Klimoski, Julie Mahler, Alan Merten, William Reeder, Peter Stearns, Daniele Struppa, Phil Wiest.

 

Liaison Present:  Linda Fauteux, Staff Senate.

 

Guests Present:  D. Faxon, Dolores Gomez-Moran, Robin Herron, Susan Jones, Walter Rankin, Win Stevens, Michael Terry, Deborah Wyne.

 

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 1, 2004 were approved as distributed.

 

III. Announcements

 

Chair Jim Bennett welcomed members back for a new semester.  He noted that the University continues to receive unfavorable publicity. Most recently, Governor Warner’s Secretary of Technology was quoted in The Washington Post as characterizing George Mason as “second rate” and incapable of becoming a great research university.

 

On a more positive note:  The Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate met with Provost Stearns on December 13, 2004 and resolved the salary issue for Summer, 2005.  For full-time faculty, second courses will be paid at a rate of 10 percent of their annual salary.  The Provost has created an additional $50,000 reserve fund for Summer, 2005 with the hope that it will accommodate full-time faculty teaching two courses, at 10%, provided the courses are approved and garner adequate minimum enrollment.  Renate Guilford will work with the LAUs to make sure that the stipulations are met.

 

The Executive Committee had a productive luncheon discussion with Rector Dewberry on January 13, 2005.  He will address the Senate at its April meeting. 

 

At a meeting of the President’s Council last week, Joy Hughes, Vice President of Technology and Tom Hennessey, Chief of Staff to the President, discussed the recent hacking of the University computer system.  Jim Bennett asked senators for a show of hands to see if they wished to have a special meeting to learn more about the incidents.  Only eight raised their hands, and so there will not be a meeting.

 

IV. Reports from the Senate Standing Committee Chairs

 

A.  Academic Policies – Cliff Sutton

 

The Committee has completed work on three items:

 

1) The Committee was asked to consider the thirteen-hour rule that limits  undergraduates on academic probation from registering for more than thirteen credits.  Specifically, it was requested to consider suspending the rule. Jean Moore took the lead on this item, and she communicated with appropriate people - specifically, those who had thought that perhaps the rule was no longer needed.  But in the end the AP Committee believed that it would be premature to suspend the rule at this time.  In short, in a relatively brief span of time the rule was voted in place by the Senate; there was a switch from SIS to Banner, and the criteria for going on academic probation have been changed (due to the actions of the Senate).  These last two actions, which followed the establishment of the rule, have made it impossible to accurately assess the effectiveness, or the lack of effectiveness, of the rule.  Given that no compelling evidence has been presented which indicates something is broken, rather than suspend the rule now, and then possibly in the future vote it back in for the same reasons that we did in the first place, we think that it is best to leave it alone for now, at least until a proper assessment of its effect can be made.  It is noted that deans have the power to override the rule in special cases in which students on probation make a convincing argument that they are ready to handle a full load.  Overall, the Committee concluded that keeping the rule in place will do more good than harm.  The original intent of the rule was to help prevent students in trouble from getting themselves into deeper trouble.

 

2) The Committee was asked to determine whether or not the faculty has an appropriately strong role in the approval process for multi-unit sponsored undergraduate degree programs.  Carol Kaffenberger took the lead on this item, and she communicated with a fair number of people, and sent out an e-mail to all Senators to solicit opinions on the matter.  Based on the fact that concern that something is wrong was only expressed by a very small number of people, and because an alternative such as the creation of an Undergraduate Council does not seem to us to be a good idea, we determined that no specific action regarding this issue is appropriate at this time.  We believe that at present it is best to wrap up the matter with an appeal that we all keep in mind that the faculty is supposed to have the primary voice in curriculum matters.  When unusual cases occur concerning the approval of an academic program not housed within a single unit, we are all mindful of the faculty’s role and responsibility concerning matters of curriculum.

 

3)  Last spring the Senate approved a resolution that allowed undergraduates, on a very limited basis, to drop classes after the usual drop deadline. At that time, the Committee stated it would also consider whether or not it would be good to establish something of a similar nature for graduate students.  Cliff Sutton took the lead on this item, and last spring Esther Elstun and Cliff discussed it with the Graduate Council. There was initially mixed opinion regarding this matter within the Graduate Council, and they requested more time to consider the issues.  The situation was discussed by the Council at various times during the fall semester, and although for a while it seemed some sort of a change in policy would be suggested, in the end the Council concluded it would be better to leave things as they are, because certain problems were identified (some concerning GTAs and GRAs).  The AP Committee accepted this recommendation and considers this item to be closed.  

 

B. Budget and Resources – Rick Coffinberger

 

The committee met earlier this afternoon; there are no motions or actions to report.  Updates on three ongoing topics:

 

1) Discrepancies in the new salary data with the last series of increments are being corrected.  Once the new data are posted on the Senate website, faculty will be informed by e-mail. 

 

2) A member of the Budget and Resources Committee has been invited to attend the University budget meetings.  At the state level, Governor Warner proposes a 3% salary increase for faculty.  The GMU Administration has petitioned for an additional 2%, for a net 5% increase.  Should the amendment not pass, the University expects to allocate sufficient funds to effect a 1.5% increase in order to establish a net salary increase of 4.5%.

 

3) Several members of the Budget and Resources Committee and the Faculty Matters Committee will meet next week with David Rossell, Associate Provost, Personnel and Budget, to learn more about the various retirement options open to GMU faculty.

 

At the conclusion of the Budget and Resources report, Jim Bennett noted that the Executive Committee is preparing three reports pertinent to finances and resources that will be distributed to the Faculty:

 

1. Fundraising: A report that compares GMU’s program for fundraising to those of its peer institutions.

2. Travel:  Data are being collected regarding the travel expenses over the last two years of the individual administrative offices and academic departments.

3. Independent Studies and Course Overloads:  Data have been requested from the Registrar regarding the number of additional students that faculty teach either by agreeing to allow additional students into their courses or by offering independent study courses. Professor Bennett noted that teaching occurs in many different contexts, and we need to find ways of reporting and encouraging non-traditional approaches.  There is a special need to give the BOV and the public a better understanding of all the work the faculty does.

 

C. Faculty Matters – Jim Sanford

 

The Faculty Evaluation of Administrators is on schedule at this time.  Administrators’ websites with updated vitae are due by February 1.  A meeting with Karen Gentemann, Director of Institutional Assessment, to discuss logistics is planned.  The Committee expects to have the survey distributed by the third week of February in order to provide faculty with the results of the survey by the end of the semester. 

 

In response to a question raised as to why department chairs are excluded from the survey, it was explained that they hold part-faculty, part-administrative positions and are evaluated by their faculties every four years.  Concern was also raised about the possibility, if a fairly low percentage of faculty respond to the survey, of determining why.   Does this indicate that most faculty are satisfied, or is it indicative that some fear retribution?  Professor Sanford noted that a detailed description of how the faculty submissions are processed will be provided in the cover letter to assuage concerns about confidentiality.

 

The Committee has made arrangements to meet with the Office of Sponsored Programs to gain a better understanding of the mission of the office.

 

The Committee has also scheduled a meeting with Human Resources to discuss a proposal currently being considered that would require criminal background checks on new employees.

 

D. Nominations – Lorraine Brown

 

A motion was made and seconded to nominate Priscilla Regan to the General Education Committee for this semester to fill out the term of Peter Black.  As no nominations from the floor were made, nominations were closed and the motion was passed unanimously by voice vote. 

 

E. Organization and Operations – Michael Ferri – no report.

 

V.  New Business

 

A. Disability Resource Center – Debbie Wyne

 

Debbie Wyne, Director of the Disability Resource Center, and Win Stevens, Advisor, made the following presentation (using transparencies):

 

As provided by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, in post-secondary education, no qualified individual with a disability, on the basis of a disability, may be excluded from participation in, denied benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program, service or activity which is operated by a public entity (ADA) or which receives or benefits from federal financial assistance (504).  Students who have a documented chronic disability that substantially limits them in one or more major life activities and who are otherwise academically qualified are eligible. 

 

Students Served (listed by Disability)   (as of end of fall semester 2004)

 

      ADD/ADHD                        261            26%

      Head/Brain                     19          2%

      Hearing                      31          4%

      Learning Disability              350            35%

      Medical                     125            12%

      Mobility                     42        4%

      Psychological/Emotional           110            11%

      Temp                         16        2%

      Visual                         47        5%

 

The mission of the Disability Resource Center (DRC) is to provide appropriate academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services necessary to afford a disabled student an equal opportunity to participate in the school’s programs and services. The DRC is required to maintain complete confidentiality in regards to a student’s disability.

 

The number of students using the services of the DRC between 1996 – 2005 has nearly tripled.  Ms. Wyne explained that as a result of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) more students are receiving additional support in their secondary schools and are better prepared and more likely to go on to college than they were in the past. The DRC office does not provide an accommodation that would fundamentally alter the nature of a course.  It does not compromise on requirements that are essential to the course or program.  Nor does it provide an accommodation that creates an undue financial or administrative burden.

 

 Faculty should review the Faculty Contact Sheet (FCS) provided by the disabled student and discuss any questions or concerns regarding the accommodations with the student.  Further information may be obtained from the advisor that has signed the FCS.  Note:  you may not ask the student any specific information regarding the nature of the disability.  If the disability would put the faculty member, the student, or other students at risk, the DRC advisor will provide needed additional information.  If the student does not have an FCS, accommodations should never be provided.  Refer the student to the DRC to pick up an intake packet and to schedule an appointment with an advisor.  Advisors are trained to review documentation and determine if accommodations are appropriate and which ones to provide.  Because some students may need guidance about what to do if they have a disability, faculty should include a statement on their syllabi referring students to the Disability Resource Center.  Sample statements are available from the DRC. 

 

In addition to the Disability Resource Center’s Website http://www.gmu.edu/student/drc , other resources on the web include:

http://www.washington.edu/doit/faculty

http://www.ods.ohio-state.edu

http://www.ldonline.org/

http://www.coe.jmu/LearningToolbox/

http://www.heath-resource-center.org/

 

Several faculty posed questions to which Ms. Wyne responded, and she encouraged them to contact her at 3-2474 at any time with questions or concerns they may have.  The Disability Resource Center is located in the Student Union Building 1, Room 222; copies of its Handbook of Services – Disability Resource Center are available upon request. 

 

B. Hacking of GMU Computer – Stan Zoltek

 

The investigation is ongoing.  Some confusion has been raised by the newspaper accounts regarding whether information had been withheld. It has not, but the investigation is on-going.  Mason’s misfortune is not unique: a number of universities have had their computers broken into.  Unlike corporations, universities must be an open loop for access, and maintaining security in this environment is very demanding. 

 

 In ensuing discussion Daniel Polsby explained that the University is not likely to be liable for any resultant identity theft as due care was being exercised.  The credit bureau alert was made out of an abundance of caution.  Susan Trencher stated that such a warning is meaningless because a thief could wait until after the ninety-day notification period by the credit bureau has expired; the institutional response was inadequate; every university in this area has better protection than GMU; and she has received no response to repeated inquiries for more information about a study done a few years ago explaining how confidential data are being protected. 

 

VI. Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty

 

Christine Smith and Jane Razeghi attended Higher Education Advocacy Day in Richmond on January 13, 2005.  Suggestions regarding how the State might best allocate its billion-dollar surplus are requested by the Virginia State Faculty Senate.

 

It was suggested that GMU should respond to the Secretary of Technology’s disparaging remark.  It was also noted that Governor Warner has distanced himself from the comment, but that he needs to make a more adequate response.

 

The Faculty Lounge is being updated.

 

VII. The meeting adjourned at 4:02 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

David Kuebrich

Secretary