NOVEMBER 30, 2005


Senators present:  Jim Bennett, Rei Berroa, Alok Berry, Russ Brayley, Phillip Buchanan, Richard Carver, Julie Christensen, Rick Coffinberger, Jose Cortina, Warren Decker, Charlene Douglas, Bob Ehrlich, Lloyd Griffiths, Karen Hallows, Susan Hirsch, Mark Houck, Dan Joyce, Matthew Karush, Jim Kozlowski, David Kuebrich, Linda Monson, Jean Moore, Ami Motro, Patricia Moyer-Packenham, Paula Petrik, Peter Pober, Jane Razeghi, William Reeder, Kenneth Reinert, Larry Rockwood, James Sanford, Joseph Scimecca, Suzanne Slayden, Peter Stearns, Cliff Sutton, June Tangney, Susan Trencher, Iosif Vaisman, Phil Wiest, James Willett, Mary Williams, Stanley Zoltek.


Senators absent:  Ernest Barreto, Sara Cobb, Lloyd Cohen, Jeffrey Gorrell, Kingsley Haynes, Bruce Johnsen, Kristin Johnsen-Neshati, Menas Kafatos, Richard Klimoski, Julie Mahler, Jane McDonald, Alan Merten, Robert Nadeau, Lisa Pawloski, Daniel Polsby, Christine Smith, Daniele Struppa, Tojo Thatchenkery, Ellen Todd, Shirley Travis, John Zenelis


Guests present:  Lorraine Brown (Professor of English), Michelle Carr (Staff Senate), Laurie Fathe (Associate Provost for Educational Improvement and Innovation and Director, Center for Teaching Excellence), Dolores Gomez-Moran (Ombudsman for Students), Robin Herron (Editor, Mason Gazette), Susan Jones (University Registrar), Marilyn McKenzie (Associate Provost for Education Programs), George Oberle (University Libraries)


I.                   Call to Order:  The meeting was called to order at 3:01 p.m.


II.                Approval of Minutes:  The minutes of November 2, 2005 were approved as distributed.


III.             Announcements


Chair Dave Kuebrich welcomed Michelle Carr who is serving as liaison from the Staff Senate for this meeting.


Rick Coffinberger announced that the Faculty Handbook Committee, charged with review and potential revision of the Handbook will begin meeting in the spring term.  Suggestions from Senators are invited and plans will be made to organize one or more open forums for further faculty input.  Committee members are: faculty members Kevin Avruch (ICAR), Lorraine Brown (CAS – English), Rick Coffinberger (SOM), and Suzanne Slayden (CAS-Chemistry; Provost appointees Martin Ford (Sr. Associate Dean – CEHD), David Harr (Sr. Associate Dean – SOM), Marilyn McKenzie (Associate Provost for Education Programs); and David Rossell (Associate Provost – Personnel and Budget), ex-officio.


Three meetings to discuss retirement options for instructional faculty have been held.   Participants included David Rossell, Linda Harber (Vice President for Human Resources), Jim Sanford, Rick Coffinberger,  and Dave Kuebrich. At least one additional meeting is planned.


IV.              Old Business:  Teacher  Evaluation Pilot Program:  Pilot Course Evaluation Form (Attachment A) – Explanation of Changes (Attachment B)


Resolved:  The Pilot Course Evaluation Form will be adopted as the University’s official course evaluation form, starting Fall Semester, 2006.  Comments were made for and against full adoption of the pilot form. 

  Arguments in favor of adoption included assertion and recognition of the work of the Task Force that researched, designed and under whose aegis the new form was pilot tested in approximately 300 classes involving over 4,000 students. Supporters of the resolution noted the new form as an improvement over the previous one without significant additional length (estimated at 1-2 minutes); the ability of individual faculty to add up to five additional questions for specific use in a particular class; opportunity for student comment; inclusion of questions less likely to be misinterpreted by respondents.  Task Force representatives and others speaking in support argued that while no form can appropriately be used as the sole criteria for teaching effectiveness the pilot form should be adopted as the official form.


Arguments against the resolution to adopt the form included concerns about the length of the form (twenty-two questions), including questions that were considered unimportant, ambiguous, poorly worded  and especially ill suited for large classes in which multiple choice exams are generally used and feedback is provided through mechanisms not accounted for on the new forms. Senators teaching science and engineering classes were specifically and especially critical of the new form and voiced concern that no full-time teaching faculty member from IT&E, SCS or the science or math departments of CAS had served on the Task Force.


Following a vote in which twenty-two Senators indicated that they were ready to vote rather than table the resolution to allow for further discussion and development of a new evaluation form 22 Senators voted to approve the form; 15 voted against its approval.   The motion to approve the pilot course evaluation form was passed by a divided house.


V.                 Reports from the Senate Standing Committee Chairs


A.  Executive Committee – Dave Kuebrich

Dave Kuebrich warmly thanked Jim Bennett for writing the following resolutions:


1.      Resolution of Appreciation to the Board of Visitors


WHEREAS the Board of Visitors has invited members of the Faculty to have nonvoting seats on five of its committees; and


WHEREAS this new arrangement will enhance communication between the Faculty and the BOV by allowing greater Faculty input into BOV deliberations; and


WHEREAS this unique opportunity for faculty input into the governance of the University affords Faculty greater voice so that BOV decisions can be better informed from a Faculty perspective;


THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Faculty Senate expresses its gratitude and appreciation to the Rector and to the members of the BOV.


The resolution passed unanimously by voice vote.


2.  Resolution of Appreciation to Donald and Nancy de Laski

Dean William Reeder of the College of Visual and Performing Arts thanked Donald and Nancy Laski for their generous gifts which have provided practice rooms large enough for use by marching bands. 




WHEREAS Donald and Nancy de Laski’s commitment to the performing arts and to opportunities for students of all ages and circumstances have led them to make most generous gifts to George Mason University’s School of Visual and Performing Arts; and


WHEREAS resources are critical to all aspects of higher education, and funds from the private sector are essential to providing a quality education experience for students and support for faculty research and professional activities; and


WHEREAS the philanthropy of Donald and Nancy de Laski will benefit the entire University, its students, and its faculty for years to come,


BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Faculty Senate expresses its gratitude and appreciation for the contributions of Donald and Nancy de Laski to George Mason University.


The resolution passed unanimously by voice vote.


3.  Resolution of Appreciation to Ernst and Sara Volgenau

Dean Lloyd Griffiths of the School of Information Technology and Engineering thanked Ernst and Sara Volgenau for their generous support.




WHEREAS Ernst and Sara Volgenau have made a generous gift to George Mason University’s School of Information Technology and Engineering; and


WHEREAS resources are critical to all aspects of higher education and funds from the private sector are essential to providing a quality education experience for students and support for faculty research and professional activities; and


WHEREAS the philanthropy of Ernst and Sara Volgenau will benefit the entire University, its students, and its faculty for years to come,


BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Faculty Senate expresses its gratitude and appreciation for the contributions of Ernst and Sara Volgenau to George Mason University.


The resolution passed unanimously by voice vote.


Dave Kuebrich also warmly thanked President Merten for his work in designing the electoral process and defining the positions so that they would have genuine substance.  The President was also key in encouraging the Board of Visitors to accept faculty representation.  Without his help, the process would not have been successful.


B.     Academic Policies – Cliff Sutton

1. The annual catalog review is on track. Karen Hallows completed her review of the catalog copy for the Academic Policies section of the next GMU catalog.  A meeting is scheduled with the Registrar and Dr. Sutton to discuss some remaining catalog issues.

2.  Cliff Sutton has communicated with Vice Provost Linda Schwartzstein regarding possible changes to the academic calendar and has plans to meet with Registrar Susan Jones, Peter Pober (member of Academic Policies) and Student Government representatives on this issue.  A narrowed down list of options should be ready early in the spring semester at which time feedback about them will be requested.  A final proposal for calendar changes should be ready for consideration by the middle of Spring semester.


C.  Budget and Resources – Rick Coffinberger

1.  A report Human Resources on salary increments is expected by mid-December and is expected to be added to the Senate webpage by late January.

2.  The Committee is waiting for receipt of a report from David Rossell on special needs raises recently granted.

3.  A lengthy report on Summer School activities was received today (11/30/05).  A summary of  the report will be provided at the next Faculty Senate meeting.

4.  The OTPS Report for travel monies at the university and unit level, including information about how funds are distributed, has been received. 


D.  Faculty Matters – Jim Sanford

1.  The committee continues to negotiate with Matt Kluger (Vice President for Research) and the ad hoc committee looking into revising GMU’s copyright policy.  A representative of the Faculty Matters Committee will attend a meeting of the ad hoc committee tomorrow (12/1/05) in an attempt to come to agreement on the few issues on which there is disagreement.

2.  The committee is currently looking into the possibility of reduced parking fees for adjunct faculty.

3.  The committee received today a request from Suzanne Slayden to review new class scheduling policies that appear to adversely affect smaller departments.


E.  Nominations – Jim Bennett

The election of faculty representatives to five standing committees of the Board of Visitors (Finance and Resource Development, Faculty and Academic Standards, Student Life, Land Use and Physical Facilities, and Equal Opportunity) is underway.  Faculty are encouraged to vote early as the deadline for return of ballots is next Monday, December 5th.  Representatives are more than liaisons; they will serve as non-voting members of the committees.  He also thanked Rick Coffinberger and Susan Trencher whose meeting with the Board of Visitors during the summer requesting one non-voting faculty representative to the full Board resulted in this response – a giant step forward.


F.      Organization and Operations – Rei Berroa

  1.  Motion to amend the By-Laws of the Faculty Senate

The O & O Committee moves to amend the bylaws of the Faculty Senate to read:

1) Change the title of ARTICLE VI: "Effective Date, Amendment and Review" by inserting the word "and" between "Date" and "Amendment" and deleting the words "and Review" so that it reads “Effective Date and Amendment”.


2) Delete ARTICLE VI Section 3: "Due to the constant evolving of the University, these bylaws shall be reviewed at least once every five years by an ad hoc committee.


This section of the bylaws as part of the original bylaws, dates to sometime between 1974 (adoption of the Charter of the Faculty Senate) and 1977 (the earliest available publication of the bylaws found by the committee). Although a section describing the process of amendment is nearly universally included in bylaws, section 3 is unusual and may be unique to GMU. The duty of reviewing and recommending revisions to an organization’s bylaws is commonly given to a standing committee, usually called a Bylaws Committee. The Faculty Senate does not have such a committee; instead, the duty of considering amendments to the bylaws, but not explicitly reviewing them, is given to the Organization and Operations committee. (See Motion 2.)


The last revisions to the bylaws were made in 1996, effective January, 1997. The review was initiated by the O & O committee (Minutes, November 13, 1996):

“[O & O Chair] Spikell reported that the Committee had been reviewing the Senate bylaws for 14 months and explained the rationale for the proposed changes. The first reading and consideration of bylaw changes occurred. The second reading will take place at the December 4, 1996 Senate meeting….”

The O&O committee can find no record that an ad hoc committee has even been constituted to review the bylaws.

Ad hoc committees are appointed to consider a specific motion or to carry out a special task. A review of bylaws is not usually considered a special task, especially if there is a Bylaws Committee or other standing committee charged with considering changes to bylaws. By eliminating this section of the bylaws, there is no need for the Senate to keep track of 5-year intervals, for the Nominations Committee to solicit volunteers, or for the Senate to elect a committee or to hear a report.


The motion to amend the By-Laws must be considered at two meetings of the Faculty Senate prior to approval.  As introduced today, no vote was taken at the meeting.


2.  Motion to change Part C of charge of Organization and Operations Committee

The O & O Committee moves to change Part C of the charge of the Organization and Operations Committee from:

Its functions shall include but not be limited to:

“C. Initiating, receiving, studying, and reporting proposed amendments to the Bylaws;”


Its functions shall include but not be limited to:

“C. Annually reviewing the bylaws so that it can recommend appropriate changes as needed;

receiving proposed amendments to the bylaws and, after consideration, making recommendations to the Faculty Senate concerning such proposed amendments."


The new language incorporates the old language and extends the duties of the O & O committee to include a continual review of the bylaws. Because of their review, or at least their reading, of the bylaws on a periodic basis, the members of the committee could be expected to be familiar with the bylaws and such expertise would be continuous within the committee due to the staggered terms of the committee members. The committee thus would be prepared to recommend changes to the bylaws at any time and an ad hoc committee would not be necessary.


The motion passed unanimously by voice vote.


VI.  New Business

A discussion took place regarding re-evaluation of the newly approved Teacher Course Evaluation Form using a timetable of one year; particularly to obtain feedback from science classes.  A motion may be formulated for consideration at the next meeting.


VII.  Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty

Jim Bennett encouraged faculty to join the Faculty Arts Board.  The Board holds four annual events.


VIII.  Adjournment:  The meeting adjourned at 4:11 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,


Susan Trencher



George Mason University  --  Office of Institutional Research and Reporting

Pilot Course Evaluation Form


Course Title _______________________________________  Instructor’s name____________________________


Please thoughtfully consider the following statements and indicate your level of agreement or disagreement .



 Strongly                                         Strongly        Not

   Agree                                            Disagree  Applicable

Course Organization and Planning

1)  Course requirements were clearly stated in the syllabus


      5             4            3             2            1

     O          O        O          O          O           O

2)  The course was well organized


     O          O        O          O          O           O




Communication and Faculty/Student Interaction

3)  The instructor explained the material clearly



      O         O        O          O          O           O

4)  Comments and suggestions on returned material were helpful


      O         O        O          O          O           O

5)  The instructor showed respect for students


      O         O        O          O          O           O

6)  The instructor was accessible either in person or electronically


      O         O        O          O          O           O




Assignments, Exams, and Grading

 7) The instructor followed the stated course grading policy         



      O         O        O          O          O           O

 8) The exams reflected what was covered in the course 


      O         O        O          O          O           O

 9) The assignments (projects, papers, presentations, etc.)

       helped me learn the material


      O         O        O          O          O           O

10) Readings helped me understand the course topic


      O         O        O          O          O           O

11) Assignments and exams were returned promptly


      O         O        O          O          O           O




Course Delivery

12) The instructor covered the important aspects of the course

       as outlined in the syllabus.



      O         O        O          O          O           O

13) The instructor made the class intellectually stimulating


      O         O        O          O          O           O

14) The instructor encouraged the students to be actively involved in the material through discussion and other activities


      O         O        O          O          O           O




How would you rate the teaching of this course, and the course itself? 

Please do your best to separate your feelings about the course from the way it was taught.

15) My overall rating of the teaching


Excellent                     OK                         Poor

      O         O        O          O          O

16) My overall rating of this course


      O         O        O          O          O


Student Information

17) The amount of effort you put into the course


   Very High                        Moderate                    Very Low

                O                O                O                O                 O

18) The number of times you were absent from class


8 or more O           6-7 O            4-5 O            2-3 O             0-1 O

19) The grade you expect in this class:


          A  O              B O              C  O             D  O                F O

20) Your class level is:


      Fresh. O       Soph. O      Junior O      Senior O         Grad. O

21) Your overall GPA is:


      3.51-4  O   3.01-3.5 O     2.51-3 O    2.01-2.5 O  below 2.0 O  

22) This course is:


 Required O    ElectiveO    Gen Ed O     Other O


Space will be included at the end of the form for departments to ask 5 other questions

5                    4                3              2              1


O                   O               O             O                O


O                   O               O             O                O


O                   O               O             O                O


O                   O               O             O                O


On the back of this form, please answer the following questions:

1)      What aspects of the course and the way it was taught helped you to learn?

2)      What modifications do you suggest for the next time the course is taught?          

Thank you for your input!



Dear Faculty Senate members,


Through late October into mid-November, the Committee that researched, designed and tested the proposed new course evaluation from over the past 3 years received feedback from various members of the Faculty Senate on the evaluation form.  We received written feedback from less than 10 members of the Senate.  On November 17th, the committee met and considered the feedback we had received.  We invited Cliff Sutton to that meeting, as he had provided the most extensive feedback, and had expressed a desire to talk to the group face to face. 


The most consistent response we received was that the form should have a Not Applicable option.  The argument was that some of the questions simply did not fit certain courses, or types of courses.  The committee acknowledged that the tradeoff for having questions that are more specific than the current form was the possibility that the questions might not apply in a few circumstances.  They were persuaded that this was a useful addition, and would help provide more accurate feedback.  This change has been made.


A second concern, which was raised in the October Faculty Senate meeting, and was echoed in some of the written feedback, was that statement # 6, which dealt with the Professor’s availability during office hours, was somewhat anachronistic.  These days, many students and professors communicate largely through e-mail and the course website.  Again, we were persuaded that making a change would lead to more accurate feedback, and statement 7 was modified to reflect the realities of communication between students and faculty members in 2006.


We also shortened the second open-ended question to make it easier for students to think about and respond to.  The idea is to foster the written feedback that is not always included by the students.


A number of other areas were raised in the feedback, but there was no consensus seen.  Thus, we did not make changes in other areas.


The committee understands that no instrument will ever satisfy every member of the faculty, nor will it be able to address all aspects of what occurs in the vast universe of teaching at George Mason.  What we present to the Faculty Senate is what we find to be the strongest compromise instrument we could produce.  It addresses areas the experts have found to be critical, in a way the committee members felt was appropriate for Mason.  It uses language that has been vetted, so that we know that most students interpret it the way in which we intend.  It will be a single page form (even smaller that the current version, once it is translated to scantron form) which should not take more than 15-20 minutes to administer.  And it provides concrete feedback to faculty members and department chairs that can be used to help faculty members identify those areas of teaching in which they are the strongest, and those areas in which they might improve.   Please do not let the appearance of the form influence you.  The current format will be cleaner once it is translated onto a scantron. 


Lastly, we feel that providing departments or individual faculty with the opportunity to hand out 5 questions of their own choosing, which will be scored through Institutional Research (even thought IR will not have any knowledge of the questions themselves), will provide units and faculty members the chance to address any aspects of their course or program which do not fit well into the current form.


We hope that the Faculty Senate will choose to adopt this new form.  We feel it will provide helpful information for faculty members, and for the departments in which they work.  The feedback from faculty members who have used the form is overwhelmingly positive – we are encouraged by that.


But the most important message the committee wants to communicate is that no matter how good a course evaluation form is, it is only one aspect of faculty evaluation.  It should never be used as the only measure of teaching success, but should always be coupled with peer observation, self-evaluation, and in many cases other student input.  We implore the Senate to consider how it can help ensure that the evaluation of faculty members’ teaching is reliable, effective, and constructed so that it fosters the best possible education for the students at Mason.





Dr. Laurie Fathe, Associate Provost

For the Teaching Evaluation Committee