GMU Faculty Senate Minutes - January 21, 2009



JANUARY 21, 2009

Room B-113 Robinson Hall; 3:00 – 3:54 p.m.


Senators Present:  David Anderson, Heibatollah Baghi, Ernest Barreto, Sheryl Beach, Kristine Bell, Jim Bennett, Alok Berry, Deborah Boehm-Davis, Phil Buchanan, Claudio Cioffi-Revilla, Rick Coffinberger, Jose Cortina, Yvonne Demory, Betsy DeMulder, Rutledge Dennis, Allison Hayward, Mark Houck, Allen Hughes, David Kuebrich, Linda Monson, Jean Moore, Janette Muir, Star Muir, Peter Pober, Larry Rockwood, Jim Sanford, Joe Scimecca, Suzanne Slayden, Peter Stearns, June Tangney, Tojo Thatchenkery, Susan Trencher, Iosif Vaisman, Harry Wechsler, Phil Wiest, Michael Wolf-Branigin, Stanley Zoltek.*


(*by teleconference phone)


Senators Absent:  Rei Berroa, Doris Bitler, Jack Censer, Vikas Chandhoke, Sara Cobb, Lloyd Cohen, Nada Dabbagh, Sharon deMonsabert, Penelope Earley, Gary Galluzzo, Lloyd Griffiths, Frances Harbour, Kingsley Haynes, Richard Klimoski, Howard Kurtz, Alan Merten, Daniel Polsby, Jane Razeghi, William Reeder, Pierre Rodgers, Suzanne Scott, Ray Sommer, Shirley Travis, Nigel Waters, Peter Winant, John Zenelis.


Visitors Present:  Shane Beers, University Libraries, Librarians' Council; Eileen Chandhoke, University Libraries, Librarians' Council; Pat Donini, Employee Relations Director and Deputy Director, Human Resources; 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; Sharon Pitt, Executive Director, DOIT.


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


II.            Approval of the Minutes of Nov. 19, 2008:  The minutes were approved as distributed.


III.             Announcements

Chair Suzanne Slayden welcomed two new Senators:  Heibatollah Baghi, from the College of Health and Human Services, and Phil Wiest, returning Senator from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.


IV.              New Business - Committee Reports


A. Senate Standing Committees


Executive Committee – Suzanne Slayden, Chair

The Executive Committee has been considering many items of business, such as budget plans and changes to the charge of the General Education Committee.  As Chair, I also participate in the meetings of a COLA working group,  comprised of public universities in Northern Virginia and Richmond.. 


Academic Policies – no report.


Budget and Resources – Rick Coffinberger, Chair

The Budget and Resources Committee met today for the first time this term.  We have not yet received updated salary data, and look forward to receiving it by the end of the month. 


The following draft policy on Phased Retirement from the Provost's Office has been included with the meeting agenda for your information.  Questions and comments are welcomed.


Faculty Retirement Transition Leave



The guidance below is designed to assist Mason’s tenured faculty in transitioning from full-time active service to retirement. The Faculty Retirement Transition Leave guidance should be utilized by academic units as a management tool and a strategic opportunity to address staffing needs within the academic unit. The utilization of the process outlined below will be based on available funding at the academic unit and staffing resources.  


Eligibility for Participation:

Participants must:

1.      be at least 60 years of age;


2.      be a tenured full-time faculty member and have worked (prior to the transitional leave) at George Mason University for either

·        15 years

·        25 years

(Full-time service may include periods of leave with full or partial pay, but not periods of leave without pay);


3.      agree to retire at the conclusion of this transition leave period from active membership in the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) or Optional Retirement Plan (ORP). Mason will cease to make payments to VRS or ORP.


4.      voluntarily participate in the program


5.      have both the approval of the Dean or Director of their academic unit and the Provost. Transition leave is funded by the faculty member’s academic unit.  Timing of transition leave must be approved by the Dean or Director of the academic unit in consultation with the Provost in order to prevent overtaxing teaching capacity in any given year. The Dean or Director may limit the number of faculty who can participate in any particular year.

Tier 1: 15 Years of Service:


               Transition Option


One year, at full pay ˝ load

Half-time work can be achieved either by working full-time during one semester and not working the other semester, or by working half –time both semesters in any given academic year

Compensation will correspond to the option chosen and there is no impact on benefits



Tier 2: 25 Years of service:


               Transition Option


Two – years, at full pay, ˝ load

Half-time work can be achieved in both years either by working full-time during one semester and not working the other semester, or by working half –time both semesters in any given academic year. 


Compensation will correspond to the option chosen and there is no impact on benefits


One year at full pay, one course


Compensation will correspond to the option chosen and there is no impact on benefits




Eligibility Period:

Each November, eligible faculty may apply to participate in the Faculty Retirement Transition Leave Program by completing an election form and submitting the form to his/her Dean or Director. The Dean or Director will make a recommendation to the Provost based on student/faculty scheduling needs and finances available to the unit. The Provost will then forward the form (whether approved or not approved) to Human Resources. A Dean or Director making the recommendation not to approve the election will communicate the decision and the reason for the decision to the faculty member as well as to the Provost. An election form must be received by November 1 in any given year for participation in the Faculty Retirement Transition Leave Program. 

Discussion:  Linda Harber, Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Payroll, clarified that this is a draft policy.  In response to a question raised about who would be the approving body for the policy, Provost Peter Stearns surmised that since it is a personnel policy, it would have to be approved by the BOV. The policy may be presented to the BOV at its March 2009 meeting. In response to a question asking if the Faculty Senate had been consulted in the development of the proposed policy, the Provost responded that he had taken into consideration a draft policy developed three years earlier by a committee with Senate representation.  A  Senator who was a member of the previous committee remarked that the present proposal differs substantially from the draft of the earlier committee, adding that the earlier meetings broke down eventually.  Another Senator complained that the draft policy is much less than faculty are getting now.  The Provost responded that it is not entirely accurate that the proposed policy is very different, some things faculty had earlier requested were rejected.


[See further pertinent comments below in Section C of “Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty.”]


Faculty Matters – Larry Rockwood, Chair


Professor Rockwood presented the following resolution from the Faculty Matters Committee:


A Proposal for the Senate to Make an Annual Evaluation of the President and Provost


Introduction:  The Faculty Senate currently conducts an annual evaluation in which the Faculty assesses the performance of the President, the Provost, and the Deans and Directors. While this assessment should be continued, it would also be useful to have the Senate conduct its own evaluation. Therefore the Faculty Matters Committee proposes the following motion:


Resolution:  The elected members of the Faculty Senate will conduct an annual evaluation of how effectively the President and Provost have interacted with the Faculty Senate during the preceding academic year.  The results of this assessment will be summarized in narrative form and sent to the General Faculty and to the Board of Visitors.  The Senate Chair and the elected Faculty Representatives to the BOV will discuss the report with the Board of Visitors.


Explanation: The Executive Committee will solicit input from the chairs of the Senate Standing Committees, as well as from ad hoc and University Committees that report to the Senate), and then compose a draft version of an annual assessment report of the President and the Provost.  This draft report will be presented for discussion, amendment, and approval by the elected members of the Senate at its April meeting.  The approved report will then be sent to the General Faculty and Board of Visitors as a separate mailing.


The assessment will include but not be limited to the following issues:


1) Have the Senate and its committees been provided access to the President, the Provost and their staffs in a timely manner?


2) Have the President, Provost and their staffs provided the Senate requested information in a timely manner?


3) In the case of joint Senate-Administration committees or task forces, have the President, Provost and/or their staffs participated in a collegial and effective manner?


4) Have the President, Provost and their staffs complied with the Faculty Handbook?


5) In policies involving the future of the University that have the potential to have significant impact upon the nature of the University or upon the Faculty and their work, has the Senate been included in the planning process in a significant way from the beginning?


Rationale:  Because the General Faculty “delegates to the Faculty Senate the responsibility for participation in governance at the university level” (Handbook, 1.3.1), the Senate interacts regularly with the President and Provost regarding “all governance issues not internal to any single school or college” (Handbook, 1.3.2).  Given this mandate, the Senate has both a unique need for effective relations with the chief administrative officers and a unique perspective upon how well these officers are collaborating with the Senate. Accordingly, it is appropriate that the Senate make a separate annual evaluation of how effectively the President, the Provost, and their staffs, have interacted with the Senate and that it share this information with the General Faculty, and with the members of the Board of Visitors.  The overall goal of this procedure is to ensure that both the General Faculty and the Board gain an understanding of the Faculty Senate’s perception of cooperation between the George Mason Central Administration and the Senate.


Discussion:  An amendment to add “by the Executive Committee” between “summarized” and “in narrative form” in the second sentence of the resolution was accepted with no objection. 


The amended motion was approved.


Nominations – Jim Bennett, Chair  

Joe Scimecca is nominated to fill a vacancy on the Faculty Matters Committee.  No further nominations were made from the floor; nominations were thus closed and a unanimous ballot cast to elect the candidate.


Organization & Operations – no report.


B. Other Committees


External Academic Relations Committee – Debbie Boehm-Davis, Chair

As announced at the last Faculty Senate meeting (November 19, 2008), Betty Jolly has been hired as Director of State Government Relations, she is now working in Richmond.  The Committee is working to find a mechanism to get information to her as issues arise.      


V.        Other New Business – none. 


VI.              Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty


A.  Special-Called Meeting Petition:  GMU hasn't done very well in getting money from the state of Virginia. A petition to call a special meeting of the Faculty Senate after the General Assembly session ends was signed by 15 Senators. GMU's state representatives have been invited to attend the special meeting, both of whom expressed interest in doing so.  The central theme of the meeting will be to discuss how we as a faculty can work with our legislators to better represent GMU's interests in Richmond. 


B. Resolution Seeking Solidarity and Shared Sacrifice Between Faculty and the Central Administration during the Current Economic Crisis:  The Resolution was passed by the Faculty Senate at its previous meeting (November 19, 2008) and sent to the President. He responded that he had received the letter, with no further comment.


There was considerable discussion about if and how the Senate should respond. It was suggested that rather than respond to the President, it might be more effective to discuss the President’s contract with the BOV. It was also asked why the Senate was focusing solely on the President. Did other administrators also receive raises and/or bonuses?  To this question, a Senator responded that the Senate did not at this time know if others had also received bonuses/raises, but the Senate knew the President was slated for a large performance bonus and a guaranteed increase in base pay. In addition, the Senate knew that many university presidents had given up some or all of their bonuses/salary increases.


Another question was whether the Senate had any right or competence to raise this issue with the President. A Senator responded that the Senate has no authority to force the president to give up his money, but it can offer advice. In this case the Senate was offering moral and professional advice, and the President’s failure to make a substantive response was an insult to the Senate. It was also noted that the Senate’s request for an explanation is in keeping with Section II. B of the Faculty Senate Charter which states in part:

          After due consideration of the Senate's advice [on an issue], the

          President will reach a final decision and communicate it to the Senate.

          If the decision differs from the Senate recommendation, an explanation

          will be included in this communication.


After considerable discussion about how the Senate might best follow-up with the President about this issue, two motions were developed: 


First Motion:  As a follow-up to its earlier motion, the Secretary of the Senate is instructed to write President Merten, asking him to respond within two weeks to its request that he donate his 2008 salary increase and performance bonus to student financial aid. 


The motion was approved.


Second Motion:  If President Merten does not provide a substantive response to the Senate's second request that he redirect his salary increase and bonus to student financial aid, the Executive and Budget Committees will form a delegation (the membership of which will be determined by these two committees) to meet with him to discuss this matter.


The motion was approved.  


C. Phased Retirement Policy: It was decided that the three Senators who met to discuss retirement policy three years ago attend the next Executive Committee meeting (February 2, 2009) to continue discussion with Provost Stearns.  (Two of the three Senators now serve on the Executive Committee).  Subsequent meetings with representatives from the Budget and Resources and Faculty Matters Committees may also be scheduled with the Provost and a representative from Human Resources.


D.  President-elect Obama's recent address at GMU:  A Senator raised the issue of why the Senate had not been invited to send representatives to President-elect Obama’s recent address at the Center of the Arts, noting that administrators were invited.  The Senate Chair reported, as she was told by the President's Office, that the size of the venue was limited by the Secret Service, and included an array of national dignitaries invited by the President-elect's staff, thus further limiting attendance.  A very limited number of tickets were available for the University to distribute.  The members of the Board of Visitors and President's Council were each given four tickets to distribute. 


VII.            Adjournment:  The meeting adjourned at 3:54 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

David Kuebrich