GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY

 MINUTES OF THE FACULTY SENATE

OCTOBER 10, 2007

 

Senators Present:  David Anderson, Ernest Barreto, Andrea Bartoli, Sheryl Beach, Jim Bennett, Rei Berroa, Alok Berry, Lorraine Brown, Phillip Buchanan, Frieda Butler, Jose Cortina, Sharon deMonsabert, Rutledge Dennis, Jeffrey Gorrell, Karen Hallows, Mark Houck, Dimitrios Ioannou Jim Kozlowski, David Kuebrich, Linda Monson, Jean Moore, Patricia Moyer-Packenham, Janette Muir, Paula Petrik, Jane Razeghi, Larry Rockwood, Jim Sanford, Joe Scimecca, Suzanne Slayden, June Tangney, Susan Trencher, Iosif Vaisman, Phil Wiest, Mary Williams, Peter Winant, Michael Wolf-Branigin, Jennie Wu, Stanley Zoltek.

 

Senators Absent:  Kristine Bell, Deborah Boehm-Davis, Jack Censer, Vikas Chandhoke, Julie Christensen, Sara Cobb, Rick Coffinberger, Lloyd Cohen, Penelope Earley, Allison Frendak, Lloyd Griffiths, Kingsley Haynes, Matthew Karush, Richard Klimoski, Howard Kurtz, Alan Merten, Daniel Polsby, William Reeder, Ilya Somin, Ray Sommer, Peter Stearns, Ellen Todd, Shirley Travis, James Willett, John Zenelis.

 

Visitors Present:  Jessica Bowdoin (University Libraries/Librarians’ Council); Eileen Chandhoke (University Libraries/Librarians’ Council); Pat Donini (Employee Relations Director/Deputy Director, Human Resources/Payroll); Esther Elstun (Senator emerita and Professor emerita of German); Dolores Gomez-Roman (Ombudsman for Students); Barbara Gruber (PhD Student, GMU); Linda Harber (Associate Vice President, Human Resources/Payroll); Nancy Irby (PhD Student, GMU); Susan Jones (University Registrar);  Della Patrick (Vice Chair, Staff Senate); Sirfaraz Piracha (Student Government Undersecretary for Academic and Government Affairs for Legislative Affairs). Tiffany Seal (PhD Student, GMU).

 

I.  Call to Order:  The meeting was called to order at 3:02 p.m.

 

II.  Approval of the Minutes of September 5, 2007:  The minutes were approved as distributed.

 

III.  Announcements

Archie Nesbitt (Landscape/Grounds Supervisor, Facilities Maintenance) is responsible for the grounds if anyone wants to congratulate him directly on their excellent appearance.

 

Chair Suzanne Slayden welcomed Andrea Bartoli, the new Senator from ICAR (fall term). 

 

Rector Ernst Volgenau will address the Senate at our next meeting, November 7, 2007; President Merten will address the Senate at the meeting on November 28, 2007.  If Senators would like to submit questions for them ahead of time, please send them to the Senate clerk at facsen@gmu.edu. 

 

Several elections of chairs to University Standing Committees are still pending.  Please notify the Senate clerk when chairs are elected.

 

IV.  Unfinished Business – None.

 

V.  New Business – Committee Reports

 

A.  Senate Standing Committees

 

Executive Committee – Suzanne Slayden, Chair

Reauthorization of ad Hoc Faculty Task Force on Salary Issues

 

Motion

Be it resolved that the Faculty Senate reauthorizes the Faculty Task Force on Salary Issues to continue its work for an additional two years and to report back to the Senate periodically on its progress.

 

Rationale

At its March 8, 2006 meeting the Faculty Senate unanimously created the Faculty Task Force on Salary Issues with the general goal of determining if GMU’s current salary practices meet the highest standards of professional equity, promote the general well being of the University, and best serve the interests of students, faculty, tax-payers and the general public. The Task Force has reported on its progress at two special meetings and several regular meetings of the Faculty Senate. It continues to meet with the Provost, the Senior Vice-President and their respective staffs to discuss relevant salary issues and how they might be resolved.

 

The motion was approved unanimously.

 

Academic Policies – No report.

 

Budget and Resources – Phil Buchanan, Chair

The Committee met today and will meet every Wednesday prior to the Faculty Senate meeting in Enterprise 204 at 1:00 p.m.

 

Faculty Matters – Larry Rockwood, Chair

The Committee met with David Wynn of the Safety Office about the new guidelines for amplified sound, especially outdoor sound.  Mr. Wynn monitors decibel levels at events around campus; which so far have been within OSHA guidelines.  Individual classrooms will also be monitored and data collected.  Most of the time there is not a problem.  Faculty teaching in affected areas will be informed when activities occur; in order to better plan test schedules. The number of events in a given week will also be regulated.  Need to identify where problems occur such as the plaza near Robinson Hall and the Patriot Center grounds.  The south plaza at the lower level of Johnson Center was identified as a venue where loud sound affects many buildings.  Professor Rockwood also attended a University Life meeting where these issues were discussed.

 

Nominations – James Bennett, Chair

No further nominations were made from the floor, nominations were thus closed and a unanimous ballot cast to elect the following nominees:

 

Admissions Committee

Peter Pober (CHSS)

 

General Education Committee

Rose Cherubin (CHSS)

James Harvey (SOM)

John Kulesza (COS)

Peter Winant  (CVPA)

 

Salary Issues Task Force

Rutledge Dennis (CHSS)

 

Task Force to Evaluate the Student Courses Evaluation Form

Cynthia Beck (COS)
Lawrence Butler (CHSS)

Kim Eby (Associate Provost) (Provost appointee)

Kris Smith (Associate Provost) (Provost appointee)

Cliff Sutton (IT&E)

Mary M. Williams (CEHD)

 

Organization and Operations – No report.

 

B.  Other Committees

 

Technology Policy  - Stanley Zoltek, Chair

The University Technology Policy Committee will report on DOIT instructional support problems brought to its attention by several faculty. Examples include (1) deployment of Microsoft Office 2007 in electronic classrooms and academic computing labs with an announcement date of August 20, with no available documentation or training, and prior to seeking broad faculty input; (2) replacement of overhead projectors with docucameras, again without seeking broad faculty input as regards the desirability of this action or providing advance notice; (3) persistent hardware problems in a few electronic classrooms.
 
The committee considers problems such as these very serious, even when limited in number.  We will work with DOIT to develop a more faculty-input driven and controlled model for classroom design and instructional support.
 

Our report will include data from DOIT's classroom surveys and trouble ticket system. Additional written "evaluations" of the level of support provided by DOIT will be provided. Committee members also surveyed their units and will provide reports.

 

Committee Discussion: 

Professor Zoltek:  All classrooms are going to become electronic classrooms in the future which will have both negative and positive impact. DOIT must recognize that not every great teaching environment benefits from electronic classrooms.  Members of the Technology Committee had been asked to survey (their colleagues). 

 

Senator and Committee member Paula Petrik reported relatively few problems identified by members of her department (History and Art History) but also noted that some faculty (including committee members) had spent a lot of time on classroom design but none of their suggestions had been implemented.  Problems such as screens placed over blackboards, single aisle “quiz show environments” were cited but not rectified or prevented. Professor Zoltek agreed with the importance of Professor Petrik’s comments and noted that the new DOIT director has only been here for a year and is still working on identifying what the breakdowns are and where they occur.

 

The Chair also reported a particular case of numerous problems in Enterprise Hall; which even when addressed by technology staff did not stay fixed and stated that a plan was needed to alleviate these kinds of instances.

 

Professor Star Muir (Technology Committee member and former Senior Director, DOIT Learning Services) reported looking at “trouble tickets” and that most were addressed in timely fashion to the satisfaction of faculty member but agreed that the DOIT unit should encourage more faculty involvement.

 

General Discussion:  A variety of questions and views concerning decisions about technology, changes to it, implementation, usefulness etc. arose during discussion.  Issues raised included (1) whether there were efforts to coordinate technology available to most faculty as part of their departmental allocation with new technology in electronic classrooms given that many faculty had equipment that could not support the newer versions of technology now available in the classrooms, (2) the removal of “older” technologies as new ones were implemented (3) problems with technology staff beyond the incompatibility or unavailability of technology per se, including bullying and condescending behavior on the part of ITU staff directed toward faculty, (4) the usurpation of decisions regarding technologies appropriate for pedagogical use by technology staff rather than faculty members; (5) incidents where faculty attended technology “briefings” two weeks prior to class at the behest of technology staff, yet equipment working at the briefing was changed or not working when classes began setting poor tone on first day.  Faculty further noted instances where they are assigned electronic classrooms which they don’t request and for which they have no use and instances where the reverse is true, leading to unofficial exchanges of space. Senators raised the question of why some technologies which faculty still find useful are routinely removed (e.g. overhead projectors) when new technology is installed.  (A straw poll of those present at the meeting showed about half of faculty members interested in keeping overhead projectors even when other technologies are installed).  Common complaints included screens installed that covered green or white boards, making the latter entirely unusable, or inaccessible when other technologies were in use; supplies (e.g. markers for white boards) regularly unavailable in classrooms; a “mother-may-I” approach to use of certain technologies that ITU deems “outdated;” loss of flexibility for teaching styles as the result of some technologies and their placement; and “top down” style in the university, including the new decision to provide a university “portal” for costs and reasons which have not been discussed with faculty.

 

Some Senators voiced general approval of the way technology has been implemented, noting that there seem to be differences in units (e.g. one unit getting information about the change to Office 2007 in June, while others did not get word around until the Fall semester began) as well as responsiveness to the kinds of classrooms requested and assigned.  

 

Sharon Pitt (Executive Director, Division of Instructional Technology (DOIT) announced that faculty can call and get Office 2007 installed; but (some faculty) computers cannot take it.  Patriot Computer falls under the ITU Projects Office.  There is currently a $15.00 administrative charge for getting Office 2007 license for installation on home computer with the provision that it be used for university related work.   Star Muir, former Director of DOIT had looked at “trouble tickets” and found that the majority of issues were solved in a timely manner.

 

The Chair of the Senate thanked Professor Zoltek for his report.

 

Faculty Task Force on Salary Issues – David Kuebrich

Professor Kuebrich presented the report in the absence of Chair Rick Coffinberger.  The Task Force met with the Provost at the beginning of the term who reported that the administration has met with SCHEV regarding new peer institutions; including the University of Maryland and George Washington University.  The Committee, notwithstanding the Provost’s stated disagreement with the Committee’s assessment of this situation, continues to be concerned with the ongoing gap between upper-level administrators and faculty raises noting that according to their calculations, last year the percentage and amounts of administrative raises were greater than faculty raises, A second member of the Task Force, June Tangney, strongly protested the differential trajectories between administrative and instructional faculty raises arguing that there are disparities in both the percentage and absolute amount using data from Faculty Evaluation of Administrators’ surveys – large correlation (negative) -.7.  While the Task Force was assured by the Provost that their numbers were wrong, there has been no receipt of requested updated information from the appropriate university officers. 

 

A Senator noted that the only data that was used by the Task Force was provided by those responsible for having this information on the administrative side, thus if the information the Task Force had was incorrect the error was made by those reporting the numbers, not those seeking and using the numbers reported.

 

A Senator inquired about a report requested by the Salary Task Force which the Provost had refused access to stating that the report was for management purposes.  The Senator suggested that if the report is paid for by state funds, it may be possible to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get it.  The Senator asserted that if the refusal for access continues, the Salary Task Force should write to the Commonwealth Attorney to ask why it should not be provided. 

 

Task Force on Research Productivity – Alok Berry

The Task Force has held two meetings and is in the process of creating a survey to send to faculty. 

 

VI.  Other New Business

 

Resolution Recommending Emeritus Status for Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith – James Bennett and Phil Wiest

 

WHEREAS Vernon Smith joined the Economics Department of George Mason University in 2001 and in the following year was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics which enhanced Mason’s national and international reputation; and

 

WHEREAS, at age 80, Vernon has decided to leave Mason for Southern California; and

 

WHEREAS the Faculty Handbook (Sec. 2.2.6) states that professors with “ten or more years of service may be recommended for the rank of Emeritus”, so that Vernon will not have fully met the length-of-service requirement when he departs in January 2008;

 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE FACULTY SENATE recommends Vernon Smith for Emeritus status in recognition of his past contributions to the University and wishes him well in his future endeavors.

 

Discussion:  A Senator asked whether this recommendation would be sent directly to the BOV; Professor Bennett responded it would then be sent to the Dean, Provost, President, and then to the BOV.  The motion was approved unanimously. 

 

Credit Expansion Initiative - Sirfaraz Piracha (Student Government Undersecretary for Academic and Government Affairs for Legislative Affairs)

 

The Student Government asked for Faculty Senate support for the expansion of number of credits for the same tuition. Current policy: 12-16 credits for full time enrollment.  The Student Government requests an expansion from 12-18 credits without extra tuition payment for full time enrollment noting the costs of tuition per credit hour (Instate: $250; Out-of-state: $750/credit hour).  Mr. Piracha argued that in addition to the financial savings, students could graduate faster and have more maneuverability in their course selection and cited the collection of 200 student signatures in support of this issue, noting that most schools (including some other Virginia state schools i.e., UVA, VCU) allow you to earn 18 credits for the same tuition.    Provost Stearns and Associate Provost Rick Davis said it was a purely financial matter.

 

A Senator noted that the policy used to be 12-17 or 12-18 credit hours, but was changed to 12-16 hours.  Money was given as the rationale for the change.

 

A Senator asked whether this had to do with permission required in order to sign up for 18 credits, or was it a strictly financial issue?  The Registrar responded that students can already take 18 credits without additional permissions except in cases of academic probation.

 
Discussion among Senators included noting that if the matter is a strictly financial one, the university will be likely to find other ways to get money from students.  One Senator noted that at GMU, 2008 E&G funding = $7,060 per FTE student while the average of other VA doctoral universities = $8,777 FTE leaving GMU with about a  $1600 shortage per FTE.   Another Senator noted that it makes more sense to spread these costs out among all students rather than have an inequitable system that makes us look silly to comparable state universities. While some Senators felt that 18 credits put students at academic risk, thus they should be deterred (financially and otherwise) from taking on such a heavy course load, other Senators argued that it should be up to the students to make these decisions.

 

In response to faculty requests, Mr. Piracha will return to the Senate and provide further information about numbers of students affected and policies at other universities before the Senate votes on this matter.

 

 

VII:  Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty

At the request of Professor Jim Bennett, “Eroding the University’s core mission:  the assault on faculty time” by Professor Bob Smith is included (see Attachment A).

 

Professor Jim Sanford commended the Provost for The Vision Series in which faculty give public lectures.  They are very good – all are encouraged to attend.

 

VIII.  Adjournment:  The meeting adjourned at 4:04 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Susan Trencher

Secretary

 

ATTACHMENT A

 

Eroding the University’s core mission: the assault on faculty time

Bob Smith, Professor of Psychology

 

Historically, the university has had two core missions: teaching and scholarship.  Faculty teach courses, do research, publish that research, and do ancillary things in support of education and research.  In the recent past, a flurry of assaults on the principal resource with which faculty tackle these missions – faculty time – has substantially reduced time actually available for teaching and research.  For a while, these were stealth assaults, gradually taking faculty time from other tasks.  The pace of assault has increased, and it now threatens our ability to perform our core missions.

 

What are these assaults?  One is technology, which is both a boon and a bane.  The boon is more rapid communication and better data management.   Students can now contact faculty easily by email, and faculty can collaborate without geographic limits.  On the bane side, information formerly on transparencies now requires Powerpoint, and faculty must, in many cases, serve as their own IT tech to set up equipment for a class.  Students want faculty to distribute their slides and notes to classes, to respond quickly to an increasing volume of student email, etc.  In my experience, the mere use of Powerpoint takes an extra two hours per week of time per class, to accomplish nothing more than we used to use transparencies for.  This number differs by discipline, as some evolve rapidly and others much more slowly, but technology does take time. Technology ‘advances’ are sometimes less capable than older technology, as in budget management systems which make it impossible to actually determine the remaining balance in an account. These examples don’t even take into account faculty time required for learning technology and then keeping pace with upgrades.

 

A second is evaluation.  The evaluation movement in public schools threatens to creep into higher education, and has already made inroads.  While evaluation has real value, it is sometimes undertaken in knee-jerk fashion, and evaluation undertaken without thought to its purpose and uses typically has no consequences other than the consumption of faculty time.  Annual performance review of faculty and tenure review have gotten more time-consuming, and the time becomes egregious in the case of massive faculty time for program reviews undertaken solely for the sake of creating a review.

 

The third, and probably most selective and most time-consuming, is regulation.  Laboratory safety, human subject review, animal subject review – all of these have gotten much more time-consuming in recent years, and have focused on sciences and social sciences.  The amount of paperwork, the number of staff generating regulations for faculty to respond to, the total amount of faculty time consumed – the impact on faculty in the sciences is amazing.  And for what?  While we certainly don’t want to kill or injure students, or mistreat animals, we weren’t doing that before the massive increase in regulation, and we are not doing it now – where’s the actual benefit to this enormous consumption of faculty time?  For those who aren’t impacted as much by this, imagine being asked to divert some of your time from scholarship or teaching to create, in case the university must close for a month due to major attack or plague, a disaster plan – for rat care!  An unimaginable scenario, and rats would be off the priority list if it happened, but there must be a plan [and there now is].

 

All of the people involved in these efforts are good people, working in good faith, trying to do their jobs, and seldom realize the cumulative impact of their efforts on faculty time.  But technology, evaluation, and regulation generate, collectively, enormous amounts of work for faculty to accomplish.  The week doesn’t get any longer simply because there is more busy work to do, and something has to give.  That something is reduced time for teaching and scholarship.  The university simply must do something to balance time and demands, in order to meet its stated priorities.  A recent priority has been external funding, based, of course, on scholarship.  The implicit motto has become “increasing scholarship and funding, by forcing faculty to do other things”.  It can’t work well.