GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY

MINUTES OF THE FACULTY SENATE

FEBRUARY 11, 2009

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

 

Senators Present:  David Anderson, Heibatollah Baghi, Ernest Barreto, Sheryl Beach, Kristine Bell, James Bennett, Alok Berry, Doris Bitler, Deborah Boehm-Davis, Phillip Buchanan, Jose Cortina, Sharon deMonsabert, Yvonne Demory, Betsy DeMulder, Penelope Earley, Mark Houck, Allen Hughes, David Kuebrich, Linda Monson, Janette Muir, Star Muir, Peter Pober, Larry Rockwood, Pierre Rodgers, James Sanford, Joe Scimecca, Suzanne Scott, Suzanne Slayden, Peter Stearns, June Tangney, Susan Trencher, Iosif Vaisman, Nigel Waters, Harry Wechsler, Phil Wiest,  Michael Wolf-Branigin, John Zenelis, Stanley Zoltek.*

(*by teleconference phone)

 

Senators Absent: Rei Berroa, Jack Censer, Vikas Chandhoke, Claudia Cioffi-Revilla, Sara Cobb, Rick Coffinberger, Lloyd Cohen, Nada Dabbagh, Rutledge Dennis, Gary Galluzzo, Lloyd Griffiths, Frances Harbour, Kingsley Haynes, Allison Hayward, Richard Klimoski, Howard Kurtz, Alan Merten, Jean Moore, Daniel Polsby, Jane Razeghi, William Reeder, Ray Sommer, Tojo Thatchenkery, Shirley Travis, Peter Winant.

 

Visitors Present:  Shane Beers, University Libraries, Librarians' Council; Timothy Born, Chemistry and Biochemistry/QEP Planning Committee; Pat Donini, Employee Relations Director and Deputy Director, Human Resources; Kim Eby, Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Chair, QEP Planning Committee; Linda Harber, Associate Vice President, Human Resources and Payroll; Robin Herron, Editor, Daily Gazette, Office of Media & Public Relations; Corey Jackson, Director, Office of  Equity and Diversity Services; Susan Jones, University Registrar; Jennifer Korjus, Learning Support Services, DOIT; Tom Owens, Music/QEP Planning Committee; Sharon Pitt, Executive Director, DOIT, Karen Rosenblum Sociology & Anthropology/QEP Planning Committee.

 

I.   Call to Order:  The meeting was called to order at 3:00 p.m.

 

Provost Stearns was welcomed by Chair Suzanne Slayden.  At last week's Faculty Senate Executive Committee meeting, in response to the motion passed at the previous Senate meeting (January 21, 2009) in which 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, it was decided that the Provost will discuss issues and answer questions at Faculty Senate meetings at least once a semester.  While the Provost regularly attends Faculty Senate meetings and frequently answers questions, there has been no regular mechanism for him to do so.

 

The Provost addressed a list of seven questions received from Professor Bennett.

 

Question:  Are we seeking/will we soon seek a Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Mason?

Provost Stearns:  We have tried three times, each effort less successful than the past.  I am very troubled by this. We have many students who would be pleased to have a chapter.  Explorations are currently underway with Phi Beta Kappa, but as of now, there are no definitive results.  During the last evaluation, the PBK Committee was hostile. It seems to be biased in favor of programs more characteristic of small liberal arts colleges.

 

Question:  Have the consultants reported about the Medical School Feasibility /Advisability Study?  If not, when do you expect a report?

Provost Stearns:  We just had a final meeting with the consultants who performed the study.  The need for a medical school in Northern Virginia is well-justified, and the Mason effort well-founded. However, there is no currently not way to do it.  The consultants recommend that we explore partnership arrangements with an existing medical school, and initial negotiations are now in progress. We may soon have an agreement to discuss the possibility of such an arrangement.

 

Question:  Given the collapse of the local and national housing market, plunging real estate prices, and a huge surplus of units on the market, will the second stage of the subsidized faculty housing be put on hold?

Provost Stearns:  The construction of 150+ units (Phase I) will be completed.  There is absolutely no plan to begin Phase II. The plan has always been to see how Phase I worked, and then we will decide whether any further units are warranted. 

 

Question:  What additional or new positions are contemplated in the Provost's Office over the next calendar year, if any?

Provost Stearns:  There will be a new position of Associate Provost for Graduate Education which will combine some responsibilities of existing positions.  In addition an existing position will be converted to become Vice President for Global Affairs.  Neither of these would be a brand new position.

 

Question:  Are there any plans to start new academic programs locally or internationally?  If so, what do these new programs entail?

Provost Stearns:  There are ongoing discussions with Loudoun County to get a permanent site, but at present there is no concrete offer by the County.  There are no plans for another international campus, but there are ongoing discussions with a consortium in South Korea as an expression of interest. This is a very preliminary exploration, and at this point, I have no sense of what this arrangement might potentially entail. 

 

Question:  Are you willing to provide the Senate at the beginning of each academic year a tentative list of issues/concerns directly affecting Faculty that you expect to be dealing with over the coming academic year?

Provost Stearns:  Yes, I would be happy to do so.

 

Question:  What do you see as the primary impediment(s) to effective communication/cooperation between the Central Administration and the Senate/General Faculty, and do you have any ideas about remedies?

Provost Stearns expressed willingness to have administrators come before the Senate at its invitation.  Faculty might also raise their concerns with the Provost and other Administrators. This would help to quench rumors. We should strive for better communication on both sides.

 

The Provost then responded to questions from the floor.

 

Question:   Where are we in the process of hiring another RAK campus director?  

Provost Stearns:  There is still an open search. We are now experiencing budget issues with RAK. Another candidate will be coming to GMU soon.  I will report when more information is available.

 

Question:  Will Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) relocate to the west campus?

Provost Stearns:  The University is not interested in locating a high school on its campus. This would require 45 acres and intensify existing traffic issues.  Furthermore, there would be little benefit to us. The last thing a TJHSST graduate would want to do is to attend a college which is an extension of her/his high school campus.

 

Question:  There are rumors about cutbacks in faculty salaries.

Provost Stearns:  The only thing that could happen is that if the budget news becomes noticeably worse than currently described by the Governor/General Assembly, then it would perhaps become necessary to discuss furloughs. Hopefully such a discussion will be unnecessary. At this time, the issue has not been explored definitively.  Even if the budget worsens, no permanent reductions are contemplated.  Temporary reductions are possible, but no detailed plan has been developed for this.

 

Question:  Will there be more money for graduate student stipends?

Provost Stearns:  We have made a commitment toward health insurance for appropriate graduate students who are pursuing terminal degrees.  Some additional money is available for graduate student assistance in the amount of $500,000 for three years. This was to be matched by the local academic units. However,  in the current budget climate, we cannot expect units to match this. Increased graduate student assistance remains a priority, but there will not be a significant dollar increase for the foreseeable future. 

 

Question:  Under a new requirement, when we write grants, we must include graduate student health insurance.  What about present grants?

Linda Schwartzstein (Vice Provost for Academic Affairs):  If you have the ability to cover it, do so; the Administration will cover it if necessary.

 

II.        Approval of the Minutes of Jan. 21, 2009:  The minutes were approved as distributed.

 

III.             Announcements

Professor David Anderson, Chair of the Minority and Diversity Issues Committee (MDIC), introduced Mr. Corey Jackson, the new director of the Office of Equity and Diversity Services. Dr. Jackson, who most recently served as the director for diversity and inclusion in the NCAA; holds a J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law and a B.S. from Virginia Tech.  He has also served as legislative assistant and counsel to U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and he has worked at a DC law firm.  Dr. Anderson mentioned that the MDIC has already met twice with Dr. Anderson, and it is honored to welcome him to the University community.

 

Professor Anderson: “The Minority and Diversity Issues Committee of the Faculty Senate commends Mr. Corey Jackson, the director of Mason's Office of Equity and Diversity Services, for his leadership in developing a Vision Statement for the Office.  In particular, the perspectives offered on diversity, equity and cultural competence demonstrate a valuable proactive stance.   The MDIC encourages the university's academic units and entities to review this vision statement as a model for a review of their mission statements, policies, procedures and initiatives”.  

 

OEDS Vision Statement

 

George Mason University is a dynamic environment characterized by shared leadership that fosters learning and human development. In order to educate such leaders, the University is committed to promoting diversity and creating a community that cultivates a wealth of viewpoints. While a breadth of perspectives is important, we are especially concerned with having the most difficult conversations, hearing the voices least heard and sustaining an accessible inclusive environment that empowers all members of the campus community to achieve their highest potential without fear of discrimination. We seek to challenge the status quo, perceptions, and stereotypes that interfere with achieving access, equity and cultural competency. 

 

We encourage every member of our university community to embrace the underlying values of this vision, and to demonstrate a strong commitment to supporting, retaining, and attracting students, faculty, and staff who reflect the diversity of our larger society.  Finally, we recognize that the attainment of this vision is not only possible, but critical to our viability, to meeting our potential as a university and most importantly, to the success of our students.

 

IV.       New Business - Committee Reports

 

A.  Senate Standing Committees

 

Executive Committee – Suzanne Slayden, Chair

We need to devise an evaluation instrument to implement the Annual Evaluation of the President and Provost (motion passed at our previous meeting (January 21, 2009) before the end of the semester.

 

The Provost and Faculty representatives to the phased retirement discussions (2005-06) all attended our previous Executive Committee meeting (February 3, 2009) and discussed differences between the proposed plans. Professor Jim Sanford will confer with Human Resources and report back before the end of the semester.

 

An update on Faculty Staff Housing Project from Tom Calhoun (Vice President of Facilities) is posted on the Faculty Senate website at   http://www.gmu.edu/facstaff/senate/QA/housing-info.html .  More information, including maps, is available at: http://www.gmu.edu/mlfacstaff/facultyAndStaffHousing.pdf and from the Facilities Management website at: http://facilities.gmu.edu/ .

 

Academic Policies – no report.

                                                                                                                                                                                          

Budget & Resources – Phil Buchanan

We recently received salary information from Human Resources and expect to post the data soon.

 

Faculty Matters – Larry Rockwood, Chair

The next round of the Faculty Evaluation of Administrators AY 2008-09 will be conducted on-line, right after spring break. 

 

Nominations – no report.

                                                                                                                                                                                          

Organization & Operations – no report.

 

B. Other Committees

 

Report from the Committee on External Academic Relations (CEAR) – January 2009

Debbie Boehm-Davis, Chair

 

The University recently hired a State Government Relations Director (Betty Jolly). Ms. Jolly reports to Senior Vice President Maurice Scherrens. Ms. Jolly has already met with representatives of SCHEV and the Legislature to get a sense of the issues with which her office should be concerned. She has also met with members of the Committee on External Academic Relations (CEAR) to share her vision of how we can improve the University’s relations with SCHEV and our legislators to gain increased support for the University.

 

Ms. Jolly believes there is a lack of awareness of GMU and its assets in Richmond, which she would like to rectify. Therefore, she would like to become better acquainted with our capabilities and strengths, especially regarding areas targeted by SCHEV/legislative interests and bills pending in Richmond. She has asked that the CEAR serve as a conduit for getting feedback and information to her as it is needed. She needs faculty members to provide information to or through her on topics as needed, which will require a quick turn-around and responsiveness on the part of faculty. The current plan is for Ms. Jolly to contact members of CEAR for needed information. CEAR members will then coordinate a response from appropriate faculty or staff offices and ensure that information is communicated in a timely fashion. Thus, faculty members, whether part of the Faculty Senate or not, can be of most help by responding quickly when asked to provide information.

 

One key feature of this approach to Richmond is the partnership between Faculty, the Faculty Senate, and the State Government Relations Director. Members of CEAR and the State Government Relations Director hope that this will lead to a unified message and voice coming from the university. To ensure that those speaking to representatives of SCHEV or the Legislature are staying within the University’s message and priorities, we would ask that faculty members inform Ms. Jolly’s office should they decide to talk with legislators, either locally or in Richmond. There is no desire to prevent any faculty member from talking with anyone outside of the University. However, there is a desire that we make it clear when we are speaking to policy-makers as a professional in our field versus when we are speaking as a representative of the collective position of the University. The University’s official position on any issue is determined by the State Government Relations Committee, which is headed by President Merten. We need to make the most of our interactions with policy makers and leverage those opportunities to further the general University message in addition to the individual’s specific issue as a professional.

 

Discussion:  A Senator was dissatisfied with the report as it does not (include) the possibility that the Faculty Senate may wish to relate to the legislature about positions on which the Faculty and Administration disagree.  Professor Boehm-Davis will discuss this with CEAR.

 

Minority and Diversity Issues Committee – David Anderson, Chair

Professor Anderson provided a brief update.  Prior to Dr. Jackson’s arrival, we have had discussions with Dennis Webster, Associate Dean for University Life, to centralize diversity resources and concerns across the university.   The Quality of Work Life Survey (distributed every 2-3 years) will come out next month, and will include 9-10 new questions developed by MDIC. 

 

The MDIC also approved the new Office of Equity and Diversity Services Vision Statement, as noted above (See III.  Announcements). We appreciate Dr. Jackson’s leadership in drafting the statement. 

 

V.                 Other New Business

 

Update on the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) – Kim Eby, Chair, QEP Planning Committee

Along with QEP Planning Committee members Professors Tim Born (Chemistry) and Tom Owens (CVPA), Associate Provost Kim Eby provided a spring term update and offered to answer questions.

 

Professor Eby: First, we wish to thank everyone who has contributed to the QEP at this time. An extraordinary amount of helpful information and suggestions has been received by email, blogs, and through our website. We were delighted to receive eight additional proposals from faculty, staff, and students; and we hope the Faculty will continue with this level of enthusiasm for the project.  The QEP Committee has worked very hard, and I wish to recognize the incredible work they are doing.  Committee members represent each academic unit and those units which support student learning (University Life, Libraries, DOIT, etc.)   At a large meeting in January, we used the rubric on our website to analyze the proposals for the QEP, narrowing down the proposals to three finalists: Cultivating Global Perspectives, Fostering a Culture of Student Scholarship, and Social Entrepreneurship:  21st Century Leaders of Change.  Subcommittees are now forming around each of these topics to develop more extended proposals by spring break.  Surveys will be conducted on-line and on paper, and also will be distributed by the Alumni Office.  Feedback received will be examined by the Committee by mid-late April.  Our goal is to have the final QEP topic selected with input from the entire campus.  Once the final topic is selected, it will take about 18 months to develop plans.  As noted on the QEP website, “The five-year plan must be based on the scholarship of best educational practices, with clear outcomes for student learning and assessment. The plan will include resources for implementation; implementation of our QEP will begin fall 2010. ... [F]or our 2011 reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) ….we must document that Mason meets compliance standards. Additionally, and new to the re-accreditation process, we must create a Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, a five-year plan for enhancing student learning.”  The final plan must be submitted to the SACS review committee six weeks prior to its Spring 2011 visit. 

Question:  Would distribution of “Social Entrepreneurship” be distributed to every student university-wide? 

Response:  SACS wants an instrument which is transformative for the institution, with clear impact and evidence of impact.  There are different ways to do this. For instance, the QEP might be infused into our existing curriculum; or, if there were more funding, some aspects of the QEP might be directed toward individual students. A key consideration is how can we reach the greatest number of students within our resource constraints?   

Question:  Is this a self-funded grant proposal?  What is the range of financial commitment?

Kim Eby:  On December 1, I attended a SACS meeting, which had focus sessions, one of which went through 2005-07 budgets on-line for QEPs, broken down by 2-year and 4-year institutions, public and private, and by size.  For public institutions with more than 10,000 undergraduate students, there was an average financial commitment of $560,000/year for each of the five years of the QEP.  However, this data was compiled prior to the current financial downturn. It is hoped that SACS will be flexible about what is possible in view of recent budget cuts.  At GMU we hope to have a “Track A” plan in 2011 and also have a “Track B”--a more modest effort that is consistent with our budget constraints.

           

Resolution to Promote Effective and Collegial Relations between the Faculty Senate and the Central Administration – Dave Kuebrich and Jim Bennett

 

Resolution:  The Faculty Senate proposes the creation of an ad hoc task force to discuss actual and potential sources of misunderstanding and conflict between the Senate and the Central Administration and to propose guidelines for harmonious and effective collaboration.  The Task Force shall consist of three Senate appointees elected by the Senate, three Administration appointees, and a non-voting chair who is agreed upon by the other six members of the Task Force.   The Task Force shall report to the Senate and receive its advice at the end of the Spring, 2009 semester and make a final report no later that October, 2009.  The Senate will then decide whether to adopt all, some, or none, of the recommendations. The resulting document will then be sent to the Central administration for its consideration and, hopefully, endorsement.

 

The Task Force is encouraged to consult with appropriate University (for instance, ICAR faculty) or outside resource people. 

 

Explanation:  The purpose of the Task Force is not to re-visit any past grievances or disagreements but to develop guidelines for the future use of the Senate and Central Administration in order to promote collegiality and effective shared governance. The Task Force is made up of an even number of representatives from the Senate and Central Administration in order to establish a sense of fairness for the deliberations and to encourage the Task Force members to develop consensus.  The suggested size of the Task Force is somewhat arbitrary, but the idea is to benefit from several administrative and faculty perspectives. The motion itself complements the recent Senate resolution providing for  an annual Senate evaluation of the President and Provost in that it will establish clear and mutually agreed-upon “best practices” for interactions between the Administration and Senate. It is assumed the charge of the Task Force will not be a major burden: perhaps only two or three meetings.         

 

The motion passed.   

 

VI.              Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty

 

A  Senator asked about the status of the Principal Investigators policy.  When will it be

submitted to the Faculty Senate for approval?  The Chair responded that this is an example of a

policy that was pieced together from existing policies, and as such there was no policy

committee and no formal faculty representation.  The draft policy had been sent to several

Senators and other faculty for opinions and responses during the Winter Break.  These had been

sent back to Barry Stevens (Director, Policy Development, Provost's Office) and Roger Stough

(Vice President for Research and Economic Development) who then incorporated them into a

revised policy.  The revised policy is now being reviewed by Deans and Directors.  This policy,

and all others that materially affect faculty interests, should be formally approved by the Faculty

Senate.

 

A Senator expressed concern about the need for posting emergency procedures in each classroom. Emergency procedures are posted widely in Innovation Hall, but not in the Robinson classrooms. Is there a faculty committee which addresses this important issue?

 

Chair Suzanne Slayden noted that the State of Virginia now has a new requirement that all state agencies must conduct unannounced fire drills.  Should they be scheduled between classes; laboratory classes would be disrupted, creating potentially dangerous situations.  Please contact Larry Czarda, VP for Facilities, with your suggestions. 

 

Professor Stanley Zoltek, Chair of the Writing Across the Curriculum Committee, expressed concern about the impact upon writing-intensive classes, should class sizes grow too big. 

 

A general discussion took place about network problems yesterday and today.  There was a lack of coordination and communication – perhaps text and phone message alerts could be sent in situations in which the email system is not working.  Some faculty were not ready to teach classes because they lacked on-line access.  Sharon Pitt, Executive Director of DOIT, will discuss these issues with Joy Hughes (Vice President and Chief Information Officer, ITU) and Walt Sevon (Executive Director, Technology Systems Division).  The Technology Policy Committee will also address these concerns. 

 

A range of problems with the bookstore were reported.  These concerns will be relayed to Larry Czarda.  The Provost will ask for a report/updates on the situation. 

 

After some discussion, a motion was made to send a special email to all faculty and students regarding President Merten's deferred compensation and lack of response to the Faculty Senate's motion regarding Shared Sacrifice (November 19, 2008).   Discussion points included the need to communicate results of Senate actions in a more timely manner than by the publication of the Faculty Senate Minutes.  Arguments against the motion noted that the Mason Gazette regularly publishes articles about Faculty Senate meetings the day following the meeting.  Nor was it clear what constituted such urgency/importance; and who would decide this.  Nor can the Senate distribute emails to all students; but only to the student government.  The motion failed for lack of a majority vote.

 

A Senator reported on a recent letter to AAUP (membership) from the National Secretary.  The letter points to the growing gap between presidential pay and faculty salaries. Faculty salaries are not the reason for increases in tuition because they are not keeping up with the rate of inflation.  There are important differences between the (US) House and Senate stimulus bills; the House version has more support for education.  Faculty are encouraged to contact their congressional representatives.  The Chair of the Senate declined to send an email about this to all faculty using our Senate list because the issue is not specific Faculty Senate business. This is in keeping with the policy previously approved by the Executive Committee. 

 

VII.  Adjournment:  The meeting was adjourned at 4:15 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

David Kuebrich

Secretary