GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY

MINUTES OF THE FACULTY SENATE
JANUARY 23, 2008

 

Senators Present:  Ernest Barreto, Andrea Bartoli, Sheryl Beach, Kristine Bell, Jim Bennett, Alok Berry, Deborah Boehm-Davis, Phil Buchanan, Frieda Butler, Elizabeth Chong, Julie Christensen, Rick Coffinberger, Jose Cortina, Penelope Earley, Karen Hallows, Allison Hayward, Mark Houck, Dimitrios Ioannou, Matthew Karush, Jim Kozlowski, David Kuebrich, Linda Monson, Jean Moore, Patricia Moyer-Packenham, Janette Muir, Paula Petrik, Larry Rockwood, Jim Sanford, Joe Scimecca, Suzanne Slayden, Peter Stearns, June Tangney, Ellen Todd, Susan Trencher, Phil Wiest, Mary Williams, Peter Winant, Michael Wolf-Branigin, John Zenelis.

 

Senators Absent:  David Anderson, Rei Berroa, Lorraine Brown, Jack Censer, Vikas Chandhoke, Sara Cobb, Lloyd Cohen, Sharon deMonsabert, Rutledge Dennis, Allison Frendak, Jeffrey Gorrell, Lloyd Griffiths, Kingsley Haynes, Richard Klimoski, Howard Kurtz, Alan Merten, Daniel Polsby, Jane Razeghi, William Reeder, Ray Sommer, Shirley Travis, Iosif Vaisman, James Willett, Stanley Zoltek.

 

Visitors Present:  Beth Brock (Associate Vice President and Controller, Fiscal Services); Pat Donini (Employee Relations Director and Deputy Director, Human Resources and Payroll); Esther Elstun, Professor Emerita, Modern and Classical Languages; Dolores Gomez-Moran, University Ombudsman for Students; Linda Harber (Associate Vice President, Human Resources/Payroll); Robin Herron, Editor, Mason Gazette, Susan Jones, University Registrar; Della Patrick, Vice Chair, Staff Senate.

 

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

 

II.            Approval of the Minutes of November 28, 2007:  The minutes were approved as distributed.

 

III.            Announcements

Chair Suzanne Slayden welcomed new Senators Elizabeth Chong (CHHS – School of Nursing) and

Allison Hayward (SOL).

 

An overhead projector will be requested for Robinson B113, which was converted into an electronic

classroom over the winter break. 

 

IV.            Unfinished Business

 

Motions from the Faculty Matters Committee – Larry Rockwood, Chair

Awarding of Tenure at the time of Hiring in Competitive Searches

Last year the Senate passed a motion requiring a “second level review” of direct hire candidates. The current proposal is for a  required second level review be required (including national competitive searches) where tenure is proposed to be granted at the time of hire.

Motion

In keeping with Section 1.3 of the Faculty Handbook that states, “In accordance with the best traditions of American universities, the faculty plays a primary role in…faculty personnel actions,” this policy applies to searches, (including competitive national searches), in which there is a proposal to award tenure at the time of hire. 

Procedures. Faculty in the Local Academic Unit (LAU) will review the credentials of any individual who is a candidate for hire. These include, at a minimum, the opportunity to examine a curriculum vitae, meet with the candidate, attend a job seminar or formal presentation by the candidate, and review letters of reference. The LAU faculty then vote to accept or reject the candidate and, in a separate vote, determine whether to hire the candidate with tenure. The hiring process moves forward only when a majority of the LAU faculty who are eligible to vote accept the candidate. 

If the candidate is nominated for tenure upon hiring, s/he must also be reviewed by the college- or school-level promotion and tenure committee. As stated above, the LAU review requires a majority positive vote by eligible faculty for tenure consideration. If the LAU faculty vote is positive and the chair recommends tenure of the candidate, the dossier is then sent to the college or school promotion and tenure committee. As with all tenure reviews, independent external letters from recognized experts in the candidate’s field must be obtained in a manner consistent with other tenure reviews, and candidates are held to the same standards as other candidates in that LAU. Since such hires may be made outside the normal annual promotion and tenure cycle, college and school promotion and tenure committees must develop procedures for promptly reviewing candidates out of cycle.

Discussion:  Provost Peter Stearns suggested a modest amendment to include promptly in the last sentence as noted in bold above in order not to lose flexibility in cases of direct hires. The motion to amend was approved.

Senator comment:  The Senator was concerned that this might have a chilling effect upon prospective faculty already tenured at other institutions. 

Response: Chair of Faculty Matters:  The second-level review would take place at time of hiring and tenure documents would be reviewed before any decision was made.

Senator question:  How  would this be enforced?  Will it be incorporated into the Faculty Handbook?

 Response:  Chair of the Faculty Senate:  Over the past year, the Faculty Matters Committee has considered several policies subsequently presented to the Faculty Senate for approval and then fast-tracked to the Faculty Handbook Committee for inclusion in the revised Handbook. 

The amended motion was approved.

Motions on Tenure Clock Extensions for Military Service and Serious Illness

 

Last year, the Faculty Senate approved a motion for Tenure Clock Extension for New Parents (May 2, 2007).   Tenure clock extensions are now being considered for two other situations: 1) Call up for Military Service and 2) Serious Illness.  The Committee withdrew the second motion pending further review (in consultation with) Human Resources.

 

Tenure Clock Extension for Military Service

 

A tenure track faculty member who is also a member of the U.S. military and is called to active duty for a minimum of four months will be entitled to an automatic extension of the term in which she or he is currently employed.  The extension will last for the duration of the active duty assignment, rounded to the nearest year.  Therefore, an active duty assignment lasting between 4 and through 15 months will earn a one-year extension, 16 through 27 months will earn a two-year extension.  etc. Any extension beyond two years would require further discussion with the appropriate department chair and Dean.  This extension will be granted automatically upon the faculty member’s notifying in writing the chair of the department or the dean/director of the college, school or institute in which the faculty member serves.  The faculty member should make the request prior to entering active duty and prior to September 1 of the academic year in which the tenure decision would have been made. 

 

Professor Rockwood proposed the amendment(s) noted in BOLD above.

 

Senator question:  What  about tenure-track faculty away for more than two years?

 

Response:  Chair of Faculty Matters:  The amendment would address this issue.

 

Senator comment:  Federal law covers some of this suggesting a need for review by the School of Law so that nothing is passed contrary to federal law.

 

Comment: Linda Harber (Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Payroll):  The law is very employee-oriented.  Wording (in the amended motion) is very loose thus encourages discussion rather than stating  “not continue to extend”. 

 

The motion as amended was approved. 

 

Motion to approve the proposed University Policy on Patenting University Inventions

 

The full text appears at http://www.gmu.edu/facstaff/senate/patent-policy.htm

 

Since the Nov. 28, 2007 Faculty Senate meeting, several revisions to the proposed policy were made in response to suggestions from faculty. The old and new texts are both included at the webpage linked above.

Professor Slayden noted that the Deans and Directors have approved the revised form; and wished to thank Professors John Crockett (SOM - Finance), Ken Hintz (IT&E-ECE), Sean Luke (COS - Computer Science), and Tamara Maddox (COS - Computer Science) for their hard work on this policy. 

 

The motion was approved unanimously. 

 

V.        New Business - Committee Reports

A.     Senate Standing Committees

 

Executive CommitteeSuzanne Slayden, Chair

 

Faculty Senate Meeting Schedule Change

In order that the Faculty Senate complete its business in a timely way, the Executive Committee recommends that in the event classes are cancelled or the University is closed at the time of a scheduled meeting, the Faculty Senate will meet on Wednesday of the next week at 3:00 p.m in Robinson B113, the regular meeting room of the Faculty Senate. The Clerk of the Senate will send a reminder message and the agenda of the cancelled meeting will be followed. 

New Committee – Learning Environments Group (LEG)

 

At the Faculty Senate meeting of October, 10, 2007, lengthy and spirited discussion centered around classroom environment issues. As a result a new university-wide committee (the Learning Environments Group),has been formed. Associate Provost Rick Davis has been asked to convene and chair the committee. The following paragraph is an excerpt from a message of invitation he sent recently:

 

The University's Executive Council*, represented by Joy Hughes, in consultation with the Chair of the Faculty Senate, has created a new committee (see also task force, study group) to examine the question of classroom design and the learning environments that we inhabit. This committee will not principally be concerned with issues of scheduling and use patterns, as there is a preexisting body that looks at those issues regularly. Likewise, technology will be a subject of discussion of course, but insofar as it relates to a holistic view of learning environments and not as an end in itself. We will look at existing spaces, planned renovation projects, and clean-sheet ideas for new buildings. We will concern ourselves with color, light, space, and furnishings in addition to chalk and projectors. Among our tools will be a "sandbox" classroom in which we will have the opportunity to try out 3D full scale set-ups, and some electronic design tools as well.

 

The committee includes many faculty, including ex officio members from the Effective Teaching and Technology Policy Committees and the Chair of the Faculty Senate, so that the Faculty Senate and its relevant committees will receive regular reports and can provide feedback.

 

The first meeting took place on Wed., Jan. 16.

 

*Executive Council is composed of the President, Senior Vice President, Vice President for University Relations, Vice President for Information Technology, Provost, Vice President for University Development and Alumni Affairs, Vice President for University Life, Chief of Staff.

 

Academic PoliciesJanette Muir, Chair

The committee meets regularly and is working on revisions to the Incomplete policy.

 

Budget & Resources – Phil Buchanan, Chair

Professor Buchanan reported on the resolution of “9-over-12-month” deferred salary issue as discussed at our last meeting (November 28, 2007).  The group has completed its work and faculty should have received an email from Morrie Scherrens (Senior Vice President) related to this issue.  Last semester, it came to our attention that (9 month instructional) faculty paid over 12 months were not receiving their salary in the month that the pay raise was letter was received. An outside accounting firm  (Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman) was brought in to review the methodology being used by the University to pay those faculty who are being paid their nine month salary over twelve months (9/12).  9/12 faculty are paid their full academic year salaries over the course of the academic year period, Sept.-August. The problem is the way system is programmed over 12 months.  Faculty receive their entire raise; but a portion of the raise specified in the salary memo, effective Nov. 25th, is deferred after the 12-month period to ensure consistent payments throughout the year. 

 

Reversing contractual requirements for recently hired 9 month faculty requiring that they be  paid 9/12,  all new and current faculty may choose whether to be paid their salary over nine months or over twelve months, a major accomplishment,  Should new faculty not make a choice to be paid 9/12, payment will automatically default to 9/9.  All existing faculty paid 9/12 can change during open enrollment month. 

 

In the event we continue to have salary increases from November 25th in the future, Vice President Scherrens agreed to have Banner reprogrammed to have different payment periods.  Members of the administration and faculty worked together cooperatively to resolve an issue deceptively simple; yet really complicated.

 

However, this may not be an issue since in the Governor’s Budget a proposal to defer the next raise for seven months (to 1 July 2009) for all Commonwealth employees means the problem is likely to go away, although other issues with raise deferral exist.  A delay in enacting raises happened twelve years ago.  The university has asked for an interim pay raise (COLA), special 3%.

 

Senator question:  Now that the outside company has identified the problem, did they identify solution for next raise if state does not (approve budget) until May? 

Response: Chair of Budget and Resources: The  difference will go away when raise timing changes.  He noted the assistance of  Ernie Barreto, Kristine Bell, Karen Hallows, and Suzanne Slayden who have all worked on this and cited Beth Brock (Associate Vice President and Controller) and Linda Harber for their work in the group. 

 

Visitor comment:   Thanked the Faculty Senate for taking this issue up as she had found that in her department  a lot of faculty had raised the issue with Human Resources but received no response.  The response of the Senate was a testament to effectiveness of Faculty Senate.

 

Faculty Matters – Larry Rockwood, Chair

No additional business beyond the motions above.

 

Nominations – Jim Bennett, Chair

Motions: Linda Samuels (SOM) and Jane Flinn (CHSS) are nominated to serve on the committee for development of a new university policy on Financial Conflicts of Interest under Federal Law. Phil Wiest (CHSS) is nominated to fill a vacancy on the ad hoc Task Force on Salary Issues. 

 

No further nominations were made from the floor, nominations were thus closed and a unanimous ballot cast to elect the candidates. 

 

The Nominations Committee is conducting an election for four members of the general faculty to serve on the Review Committee established for the Provost’s reappointment. (A call for nominations was distributed yesterday – nominations due Monday, January 28th; ballots to be sent out Tuesday, January 29th). 

 

Organization & Operations – no report

 

B.     Other Committees

 

Ad hoc Task Force on Salary IssuesRick Coffinberger, Chair

Report of the Ad Hoc Task Force on Faculty Salaries

The Task Force met several times during the fall semester to identify data needs and strategies for obtaining a COLA adjustment and curbing the salary growth among the top levels of the central administration. The Task Force was disappointed albeit not surprised to learn that the Governor’s proposed budget contains no raises for faculty for the fiscal year 2008-9 and no support for a COLA for Mason Faculty. The Central Administration has indicated that they will introduce amendments to the Governor’s proposed budget but acknowledge that the Commonwealth is facing a revenue shortfall for the next few years.

 

The Task Force unanimously supported the call for a special meeting on February 6th to provide an opportunity to discuss issues of concern to the Mason Faculty as they teach and conduct research.  A Senator also noted that the Commerce Department announced the rate of inflation for 2007 at 4.1% thus if raises are less than that the faculty will fall further behind.

 

Committee to Revise the Faculty HandbookRick Coffinberger, Chair

The Committee to Revise the Faculty Handbook met over the summer and throughout the fall semester of 2007. We expect to complete development of proposed changes to the Handbook by May of 2008 and to solicit feedback from the Instructional Faculty during the early part of next fall. If this process proceeds as planned, a final set of recommended changes will be presented for approval by the Board of Visitors by the end of the fall.

 

VI.       Other New Business

Resolution Seeking a Nonvoting Faculty Representative on the Board of Visitors:  Sponsored by Senators Jim Bennett (CHSS), Rick Coffinberger (SOM), Mark Houck (ITE), Janette Muir (CHSS).  Supporting sponsor: Toni Travis (CHSS)

 

WHEREAS the success of George Mason University as an academic enterprise and a world class institution would be enhanced by direct communication between the Board of Visitors and the Faculty; and

WHEREAS a nonvoting student representative has for many years held a seat on the BOV to provide a student perspective; and

 

WHEREAS the Faculty representative would have no vote and would be subject, as a state employee, to all pertinent conflict of interest restrictions, there is no possibility that a conflict of interest can occur; and

 

WHEREAS the precedent for Faculty representation on Boards has been successfully established in the Commonwealth at Virginia Commonwealth University, VPI & SU and the College of William and Mary.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Faculty Senate that the BOV be requested to accept a nonvoting Faculty representative to the BOV who is elected by the General Faculty; and

If adopted, the Secretary of the Senate is instructed to send this Resolution to the Rector and members of the Board of Visitors.

 

Discussion: Sponsors of this motion currently serve as Faculty Representatives to the BOV Committees and that there was general discussion of this motion at the last BOV meeting.  The BOV has asked for the faculty’s position on this. 

 

The motion was approved unanimously.

Motion from the Task Force on Salary Issues – Rick Coffinberger, Chair

 

Motion: “To change the name of the Salary Task Force on Salary Issues to the Salary Task Force on Compensation Issues and add examination of compensation issues to its charge”

 

Discussion: The change was recommended by the Rector of the GMU Board of Visitors during his presentation to the Faculty Senate on November 7th, 2007.  This broadens the charge of the Task Force and is consistent with its work on salary issues as salary and compensation issues are so closely connected.  The motion was amended to remove the word “Salary” from the first name as redundant.  The motion as amended was approved.

 

VII. Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty

Faculty are reminded to visit the Faculty Lounge.  Phil Buchanan was thanked for all his hard work on behalf of the faculty.  Concerns were expressed about the parking situation this semester.  Students who park in the field house lots (across Route 123) have been told to arrive 45 minutes before classes begin in order to allow enough time for shuttle transportation to the main campus.  There was concern expressed that many students work and may have little additional time to get to class on time or avoid leaving class early. The safety of students crossing Route 123 at University Drive also cited as an issue of great concern as so many parking spaces became unavailable at the same time in the middle of the academic year.

Some Senators will plan to meet with the Director of Parking and Transportation to relay these concerns.

 

VIII.  Adjournment:  The meeting adjourned at 3:41 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Meg Caniano

Clerk, Faculty Senate