GMU Faculty Senate Minutes - November 19, 2008


NOVEMBER 19, 2008

Robinson Hall B113, 3:00 - 4:15 p.m.


Senators Present:  James Bennett, Alok Berry, Doris Bitler, Lorraine Brown, Phillip Buchanan, Rick Coffinberger, Jose Cortina, Nada Dabbagh, Yvonne Demory, Betsy DeMulder, Rutledge Dennis, Penelope Earley, Allison Hayward, Mark Houck, Alan Hughes, David Kuebrich, Howard Kurtz, Alan Merten, Linda Monson, Jean Moore, Janette Muir, Star Muir, Jane Razeghi, Larry Rockwood, Pierre Rodgers, Jim Sanford, Joe Scimecca, Suzanne Scott, Suzanne Slayden, Peter Stearns, June Tangney, Susan Trencher, Iosif Vaisman, Harry Wechsler, Michael Wolf-Branigin, Stanley Zoltek*

(*by teleconference phone).


Senators Absent:  David Anderson, Ernest Barreto, Sheryl Beach, Kristine Bell, Rei Berroa, Frieda Butler, Jack Censer, Vikas Chandhoke, Claudio Cioffi-Revilla, Sara Cobb, Lloyd Cohen, Sharon deMonsabert,  Jeffrey Gorrell, Lloyd Griffiths, Frances Harbour, Kingsley Haynes, Richard Klimoski, Peter Pober, Daniel Polsby, William Reeder, Ray Sommer, Tojo Thatchenkery, Shirley Travis, Nigel Waters, Peter Winant, John Zenelis.


Visitors Present:  Mona Assaf, PhD student; John Blacksten, Director, Office of Media and Public Relations; Curtis Carver, Jr., ACE Fellow, Office of the President; Pat Donini, Employee Relations Director and Deputy Director, Human Resources; Esther Elstun, Professor emerita, Modern and Classical Languages; Donna Fox, Associate Dean, University Life; Kathy Gillette, Director, DOIT - Classroom Technologies; Dolores Gomez-Roman, University Ombudsman; Linda Harber, Associate Vice President, Human Resources and Payroll; Robin Herron, Editor, Daily Gazette, Office of Media & Public Relations;  Susan Jones, University Registrar; Sharon Pitt, Executive Director, DOIT; Barry Stevens, Director, Policy Development, Provost Office; Daniel Walsch, University Press Secretary, University Relations.


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


Chair Suzanne Slayden welcomed President Merten to the Faculty Senate, and what follows is a brief summary of his presentation:


When I arrived at GMU twelve and a half years ago, one of my hopes and dreams was that GMU would become part of the world around us. Recently, I was invited to attend the official ceremony for the re-opening the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Attendees also included Robinson Professor Spencer Crew, President Bush, and historian David McCullough. This made me feel very good, as did a recent visit to an honors class on faith and reason taught by Professor Hugh Heclo. 


These are difficult times, but we have to keep our spirits up.  If GMU stopped being innovative, stopped doing the right things—despite insufficient funding-- we wouldn't be doing one-tenth of what we now do because of the tremendous strength of our dedicated faculty, staff, and friends in the community.


Public institutions used to be state-supported; then state-assisted; now they are merely located “in-state.”  We are now less dependent on the Commonwealth of Virginia than in the past, but we are still very dependent for capital and operating expenses.  A new director of government relations, Ms. Betty Jolly, has been hired.  She has worked in various roles in government and will coordinate our efforts to gain funding from Richmond.   Perhaps the Faculty Senate might invite her to a future meeting.   


Vince Callahan, appointed to the Board of Visitors by Governor Kaine in July 2008, has served in the House of Delegates for over thirty years.  No longer in political office, he is being encouraged by Rector Volgenau to help us better make our case in Richmond.  Visitor Callahan suggests we concentrate our efforts on key legislators serving on the "money" committees (Senate and House Finance Committees).  Significant members of Finance Committees hail from Northern Virginia and comprise 25-30 members of the entire General Assembly (140).   I am also planning to meet with Bill Howell, Speaker of the House. 


The University is now focusing on three initiatives regarding funding:

1.  Base Adequacy COLA:  the state determines funding compared to external peers every two years.  Sr. Vice President Morrie Scherrens has challenged the comparisons they make, insisting data needs to be updated every year.  Governor Kaine has agreed to discuss this with his Secretary of Finance.


2.  COLA Discussions:  A consulting firm has been hired by 5-6 universities in the “urban crescent” of Northern Virginia to more adequately study institutional costs.  Professor Slayden, among others, are involved in this effort.


3. Politics:  we are now into the 2009 state election cycle for governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor, and we are beginning our efforts to establish good relations with the potential gubernatorial candidates:  Republican Bob McDonald, born and raised in Northern Virginia, now living in Hampton Roads; and Democrats, Brian Moran, brother of (Alexandria congressman) Jim Moran; Craig Deeds of  Southwestern Virginia, who narrowly lost a race for attorney general (in 2005); and Terry McAuliffe, (former head of the Democratic National Committee). We need to put our story together for each candidate. I have for materials to be mailed to Craig Deeds and Brian Moran, in anticipation of their upcoming visit to GMU. 


Faculty across the University have been involved in politically-related activities that raise GMU’s visibility, making over a hundred television appearances – especially faculty from PIA, SPP, and Communications, but others also..  For instance, Roger Wilkins appeared on ABC News when Obama was declared victorious, and Richard Norton Smith was on PBS.


Regarding New Facilities:  Everything has been approved for a 149-room hotel and conference center to be located on Route 123.  The opening is planned for April, 2010 Announcement of a full-time manager is expected shortly. Faculty involvement in attracting conferences and workshops to the center is encouraged.  Plans for Arlington II are moving along, as are work on the bio-research laboratory and the Center for the Performing Arts at the Prince William campus.   The (new) Volgenau School building will open in March 2009.


Re Sponsored Research Funding:  About $20 million/year ten years ago, it is now $90-$100 million/year.


Re Membership on the BOV: This is the time of year for input for recruiting BOV and Board of Trustees appointments.  Every year the terms of four members of the BOV end. Visitors may be reappointed to one additional term only.  The Governor makes sure he has at least two (new) appointments annually.  We need people who appreciate GMU and higher education, and who can give us money and assist in fund-raising. In the past, some members of the Board of Trustees have given generous support to the Department of Psychology, the humanities, and the College of Visual and Performing Arts. 

Almost all of GMU’s schools and colleges have an advisory board, which solicits contacts for donations, etc.  Roger Stough (Vice President, Research & Economic Development) also thinks we need a research advisory board.  People now want to be on our boards (unlike ten years ago).


 Thank you for all you have done to make GMU what it is today.


Senator question:  What performance goals does the new director of government relations have?


President Merten:  We are in the midst of determining this right now.  She just started this week. To be more specific, I would need to provide you with the job description used in the hiring process.


Senator question:  State funding per student here is much less than at UVA or V Tech.  How can we get a fair share of funding?


President Merten: Current funding is based upon the specific kinds of programs (e.g. sciences, engineering) at each institution.  Costs of educating students across the board are not equal.   We need to make a better case for the existing formulas to be recalculated. 


In response to a question raised about the future of federal earmarks, given current national financial problems, Provost Stearns reported that so far this year there has been no slowdown.  We are relatively well-positioned regarding contracts we have for defense programs, research, etc.  Earmark pattern slowed markedly but our research programs have not slowed.  President Merten added that in some cases, earmarks have lasted 6-7 years.


A Senator (and member of the Task Force on Compensation Issues) noted that research arms of DOD will have significant cuts, thus placing more emphasis on PI initiating research.   


II.  Approval of the Minutes of October 15 and 23, 2008:  The minutes were approved as distributed.


III.  Announcements


The GMU Chapter of the AAUP is hosting a celebration to honor Professor Lorraine Brown, Faculty Senator and Professor of English:  this afternoon at Damon's at 4:30 p.m..  All are welcome to attend.


Most of you are probably aware that President Merten signed the “President's Climate Commitment” in the Summer of 2007, but much of the campus community is still not aware of this ambitious goal.  The Athletics Department and the Sustainability Office have teamed up to raise awareness about Mason's efforts to reduce carbon emissions.  A Green Night is planned for the January 27th (basketball) game, and Cheer for Climate Action t-shirts are being raffled at games prior to that.  To find out more see the flyer.


IV.  New Business – Committee Reports

A.  Senate Standing Committees


Executive Committee -no report.


Academic Policies – no report.


Budget and Resources – Phil Buchanan, Chair


Professor Buchanan presented the following resolution, noting that we do not have the decision-making power (to enforce it), but wish to show concern for faculty and staff.  Recall faculty and staff were scheduled to receive a 3% raise (2% from the state, 1% from University funds).  The amount was reduced to 2% and delayed until July 1, 2009; and even this reduced, delayed funding is not certain.  Budget and Resources recommends the raises of Central Administration not exceed the percentage provided by State.  The Chronicle of Higher Education reported yesterday (November 18, 2008) that several university presidents have donated their raises to other parts of their universities.  One president donated his bonus ($114,000) to student financial aid. 


Motion from the Budget and Resources Committee -Attachment A1


WHEREAS current economic conditions have severely affected Virginia’s tax revenues and, as a consequence, reductions in the state’s support of the University have occurred and neither faculty nor staff will receive salary increases raises during AY 2008-2009; and

WHEREAS tuition and fees were increased by approximately ten percent for AY 2009-2010, increasing the financial burden on all GMU students and their families; and

WHEREAS the Rector of the University informed the Senate at its October 22 meeting that the Board of Visitors had awarded President Merten a performance bonus of $108,000 [reduced from $120,000 because he did not adequately meet his goals]; and

WHEREAS this bonus was in addition to a $21,000 (5.2 percent) base salary increase already mandated by the President’s employment contract; and

WHEREAS the faculty and staff were only to receive a two percent raise before the raise was deferred due to economic exigencies; and

WHEREAS Governor Kaine has announced that he will take a pay cut of five percent to demonstrate his concern and support for state employees -- and other state leaders are reducing their salaries as well, e.g., the state’s attorney general and nine of his deputies have already taken a two percent cut in salary;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE FACULTY SENATE that the President be requested to show his solidarity with and concern for the University’s faculty, staff, and students by contributing his recent performance bonus and base salary increase to student financial aid and by ensuring that in the future his raise and raises of all members of the Central Administration not exceed the overall percentage awarded to Faculty and staff as a way of sharing economic sacrifice in these troubled economic times.

If adopted, this Resolution shall be sent to the President and to all members of the Board of Visitors.

Co-sponsored by the ad hoc Task Force on Compensation Issues, and Senators James Bennett (CHSS), Rick Coffinberger (SOM), Dave Kuebrich (CHSS), Janette Muir (CHSS), and Susan Trencher (CHSS).


Professor Dave Kuebrich presented the following alternative motion, adding that he supports both motions. 

Motion to amend the motion in Attachment A1 (a substitute motion)

Given the current economic downturn, reduction in state tax revenues, and painful cuts to the GMU budget, the Faculty Senate should endorse the following resolution:

Resolution: In a spirit of collegiality and also candor, the Faculty Senate asks President Merten to consider donating a significant portion, or even all, of his performance bonus for AY2007-08 to fund the hiring of additional adjunct professors and to increase need-based student financial aid.


1. For his performance in AY 2007-08, President Merten has been awarded a bonus of $108,000, in addition to a $21,000 (5.2%) raise. Such a large increase in pay seems inappropriate and unfair.

2. Faculty and Staff are only scheduled to receive a 2% raise (now deferred until Summer, 2009), and it is quite possible they will not receive any salary increase.

3. Current plans call for a 10% increase in tuition and fees for AY2009-10, so there is a vital need to increase need-based student financial aid.

4. Current plans call for an increase in class sizes and a reduction in the number of new tenure-line faculty hires, so hiring more adjuncts would help limit the need for larger classes.

5. Awarding such a large bonus to the President is, in general, a highly questionable practice: the increasing gap between the salary of the President (and other upper-level administrators) and the salaries of the Faculty erodes collegiality and creates an Administration that is out of touch with the economic hardships of the Faculty and Staff.  In addition, there is reason to worry that such high administrative pay may endanger the standing of the University with the state legislature and the general public. This is a special concern in a time of cutbacks in government services, widespread economic hardship among tax-payers, and increasing tuition costs for GMU students and their families.

If passed, this motion will be sent as a separate mailing to the President, the General Faculty, and the Board of Visitors.

Sponsored by Senators James Bennett (CHSS) and David Kuebrich (CHSS)


A motion was made to amend the pending motion with the substitute motion. 

A Senator spoke against amending the motion:  This is happening at other universities – important that all share the burden of the financial situation here; we are all in the same boat.  President Merten is scheduled to receive a quite significant increase in his base salary.  Faculty and Staff will receive 0% increase. More and more students find student loan funding drying up.  Money needs to go directly to students rather than to hire more adjunct faculty.   

A Senator added the level of faculty pay compared to upper administrators historically (declines).  Faculty pay (at GMU) is well below peers despite working hard.  Upper level administrators in 90th percentile – the current trajectory is increasing this disparity. 

In response to a question raised by a new Senator about whether there has been a period where faculty did not get raises but administrators did, Professor Buchanan responded that faculty salary data is posted on the Senate website.  During a three-year period in the past when Faculty did not receive salary increases, the President's posted salary was not increased. Another Senator added that the data would not include bonuses.

A Senator spoke very strongly against the pending resolution and amended resolution, arguing that such resolutions work against needed collegiality and were unfair to the President who is doing a good job.

The motion to substitute the amended motion was defeated (10 in favor, 17 against).

Further discussion of the pending (A-1) motion:

A Senator spoke in favor of the motion as not being confrontational, saying it merely spelled out what needs to be spelled out.  The Senate represents all faculty, including some full-time faculty who earn as little as $40,000 per year. Given such salary disparity, and given the dire need for student financial aid, it is only fair to ask the President to share the burden. 

A motion was made and passed to amend the motion, striking the phrase “reduced from $120,000 because he did not adequately meet his goals.” Paper ballots were distributed to vote on the amended motion A1, which passed by a vote of 25 in favor, 5 opposed.

Faculty Matters – Larry Rockwood, Chair

Professor Rockwood recently attended a meeting about future parking plans on the Fairfax campus.  The new parking deck under construction on the north side of campus is projected to be completed prior to the Fall 2009 semester.  It will contain 2,650 parking spaces, 800-900 will be available for faculty with surface permits.  There will also be a reserved level for faculty and staff with about 500 spaces – a permit purchased for this level will guarantee one a space on that level.  Lot G (currently a faculty parking lot) is the site of a future administration building and will likely close during the Spring 2009 semester.  At some time in the distant future, there is a plan to put the Academic VII building and another parking deck on the remaining faculty/staff lot, lot H.  Lot I has been reserved for resident students, but some of those spaces may be opened up for general parking in the future.  The left half of the Patriot Village lot has been made into faculty/staff overflow parking.  This lot is located behind the PE building.  Surface parking will disappear over the next 10-20 years.  We will be paying more and parking in decks. 

Nominations – Jim Bennett, Chair

Suzanne Smith (CHSS) is nominated to serve on a planning committee for “INTO”, a which recruits international students for several U.S. universities

Dan Joyce (CVPA) is nominated to serve as faculty representative to a planning committee for a joint program between GMU and Moscow State University

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

Organization and Operations – no report.


V.  Other New Business

A. Motion to approve the proposed University Policy on Ownership and Maintenance of  Research Records

During discussion at a previous Faculty Senate meeting, questions about the provisions in the Research Records policy were asked by Senators, and subsequently, by other faculty. These questions were sent to the Research Records Policy committee for answers. In response, the committee made a few revisions to the policy.

The proposed revised policy has been sent to the Deans and Directors for review and comment by Nov. 14, 2008. The revised policy and the faculty-generated questions and the committee's answers are linked to the Faculty Senate website (

The proposed University Policy on Ownership and Maintenance of Research Records was approved.

B.  Motion on orienting new members of the Board of Visitors


WHEREAS each year new members are appointed by the Governor to the University’s Board of Visitors; and

WHEREAS communication between the BOV and the Faculty is a critical element of the principal of shared governance; and

WHEREAS some of these new BOV members may not be familiar with faculty issues and concerns and would benefit from a Faculty perspective;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Faculty Senate urges the Faculty Representatives to the Board of Visitors to arrange to meet with the BOV’s new members to open an ongoing dialogue with them and to orient them regarding Faculty concerns.

Sponsored and endorsed by faculty representatives to the BOV:

Jim Bennett (Senator, CHSS), Rick Coffinberger (Senator, SOM), Mark Houck (Senator, VIT&E), Janette Muir (Senator, CHSS), Suzanne Slayden (Senator, COS), Toni-Michelle Travis (CHSS).

The motion was approved.


VI.              Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty

Donna Fox, Associate Dean of the Office for Academic Integrity, welcomes faculty comments, questions, and concerns about the Honor Committee.  More information is available on the office's website at  Faculty who may need help with Honor Committee procedures are encouraged to contact us.


VII. Adjournment:  The meeting was adjourned at 4:00 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

David Kuebrich