GEORGE MASON UNIVERISTY

MINUTES OF THE FACULTY SENATE
APRIL 1, 2009

ROBINSON HALL B113, 3:00 – 4:20 p.m.

 

Senators Present:  David Anderson, Heibatollah Baghi, Ernest Barreto, Sheryl Beach, Kristine Bell, Jim Bennett, Doris Bitler, Deborah Boehm-Davis, Phillip Buchanan, Rick Coffinberger, Lloyd Cohen, Nada Dabbagh, Yvonne Demory, Betsy DeMulder, David Kuebrich, Alan Merten, Linda Monson, Janette Muir, Star Muir, Larry Rockwood, Pierre Rodgers, Jim Sanford, Joe Scimecca, Suzanne Scott, Suzanne Slayden, Peter Stearns, June Tangney, Tojo Thatchenkery, Susan Trencher, Iosif Vaisman, Nigel Waters, Phil Wiest, Michael Wolf-Branigin, John Zenelis.

 

Senators Absent:  Rei Berroa, Alok Berry, Jack Censer, Vikas Chandhoke, Claudio Cioffi-Revilla, Sara Cobb, Jose Cortina, Sharon deMonsabert, Rutledge Dennis, Penelope Earley, Gary Galluzzo, Lloyd Griffiths, Frances Harbour, Kingsley Haynes, Allison Hayward, Mark Houck, Allen Hughes, Richard Klimoski, Howard Kurtz, Jean Moore, Peter Pober, Daniel Polsby, Jane Razeghi, William Reeder, Ray Sommer, Shirley Travis, Harry Wechsler, Peter Winant, Stanley Zoltek.

 

Visitors Present:  Rizna Ahmed, Assistant Director, Benefits and Absence Management, Human Resources; Cyndy Beck, Assistant Director, Molecular and Microbiology; Michelle Carr, Chair, Staff Senate; Dolores Gomez-Moran, University Ombudsman; Karen Hallows, EMBA Executive Director, School of Management, and Chair, Effective Teaching Committee; Linda Harber, Associate Vice President, Human Resources and Payroll; Robin Herron, Editor, Daily Gazette, Office of Media & Public Relations; Betty Jolly, Director, State Government Relations; Susan Jones, University Registrar; Carol Mattusch, Professor of History & Art History; Clifton Sutton, Professor of Statistics and Chair, Task Force to Revise the Course Evaluation Form.

 

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

 

Chair Suzanne Slayden welcomed President Merten to the Faculty Senate.  President Merten addressed two topics (1) Events in Richmond and their impact over the next (two) years and (2) Facilities, particularly construction of the Conference Center, anticipated completion in about fifteen months (July, 2010).

 

The University Budget for FY 2010 (beginning July 1, 2009) is $950 million; $700 million for operations, and $250 million for construction.  The General Fund allocation for FY 2010 is roughly equivalent to FY 2009.  It won't go up or down due to $11 million federal stimulus funding allocated to Virginia.  The General Fund Allocation to GMU was $128 million this year, and it will be about $128 million for next year.  We expect the BOV to increase tuition to cover the maintenance expenses (formerly paid by the state) of new buildings coming on-line.  In the 2008 General Fund, the State paid for about 42% of the cost of educating a student, the student about 58%.  If not for federal stimulus funding, this year the State would have paid 33% and students 67%.  There is a general trend of decreasing state support. In the 1980s, the State paid 67%, students 33% of costs.  For a while, university leaders spoke too much about the monetary gains that a college education brought to young people. As a result, state governments decided that it would be fair for students to pay more.

 

President Merten expressed special concern about funding for GMU in FY 2011 and 2012, once federal stimulus monies are gone—a problem not just for GMU but for all public colleges and universities.  Without the $11 million stimulus funding, GMU would have experienced very painful cuts this year.

 

President Merten also emphasized that key elections will take place in November.  There are now three Democratic and one Republican candidate vying for election as the next governor of Virginia.  GMU administrators and faculty need to spend time with all of them.  The President noted that Terry McAuliffe is at GMU today, talking about the need for the film industry to grow in Northern Virginia. Faculty are encouraged to contact the candidates, and also to encourage them to visit campus. 

 

All members of the Virginia House of Delegate are up for re-election.  There is a close balance between Democrats and Republicans in the House, presently under Republican control.  All members of the General Assembly are important to the welfare of GMU, but especially those who serve on the Appropriations Committee. 

 

Facilities:  President Merten invited faculty to a 90-minute presentation on Friday, April 3  in Mason Hall D3A&B, 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. Tom Calhoun, Vice President of Facilities, will present a summary of all of the active building projects and highlight what they bring to Mason. Deans, Directors, and other principal users of the facilities will briefly comment on the importance of each project to their programs. Senators (and their guests) are also invited to a continental breakfast preceding the meeting.

 

Hotel and Conference Center:  It is important that new buildings get used right away in order to turn them from cost to income centers.  The target opening date for the Mason Inn is July 15, 2010.  The Inn is located on campus, and if its rooms and conference center are marketed properly and aggressively, it will change academic life on campus. The Inn is of 4-star quality, and it will have 150 nicely-appointed hotel rooms with historical touches. The rates for rooms will be flexible. The management of it has been outsourced to Aramark.  The conference center will have 23,000 square feet (roughly the size of one floor in Innovation Hall) as well as a restaurant seating 175-225 guests, serving three meals/day, as well as a 60-90 seat bar and lounge.  Patrons will have access to the (adjacent) Fitness and Exercise Center.  Conferences at the Inn may also utilize the Johnson Center, given its proximity.  It is estimated that 60-70% of the Inn’s use and revenues will come from GMU-related events, and the rest from outsiders.  

 

Question:  Will faculty who want to run a conference at the center be charged? Unlike the current free use of facilities in SUBII and elsewhere…

President Merten:  We will have to look at it. There may be marginal cost charges to cover such things as setting up the room.  A director will be hired in less than two months.  In the interim, if faculty are interested in scheduling events, they should contact Barbara Lubar (Executive Director, Events Management). 

 

Question: Graduate students are not getting a raise. What about administrators? 

President Merten stated that the only raises that would be given would be to retain personnel who had had received other offers. There will be no raises for the Central Administration. There is no raise pool for anyone. 

Question: Are some raises being deferred, as reported in the front-page Broadside article?

President Merten:  As far as I know, absolutely not. If Broadside used the word “deferred,” this was misleading.

Question: Will administrators who are assigned new job titles be given raises?

President Merten: Right now, our plans are to only give raises for competitive faculty bids—not for newly defined administrative positions.

 

Question: The amount of money required to pay for units in the new Faculty/Staff Housing complex is not below market value in this area.  The monthly cost for a two-bedroom unit is 40% of the average SOAN faculty salary and 50% of new faculty salaries. Could these prices be reviewed?

President Merten responded that he would look into this matter.

 

Question (Jim Bennett):  The Adverse Economy Assistance Fund ($150,000) [“established to assist students whose family’s economic situation has been dramatically weakened by job loss or other catastrophic incidents as a result of the economic crisis] is financed by private donations.  What role would private contributions play in supporting instructional mission especially given the current short-term stimulus funding?

President Merten:  We are in the early phases of the capital campaign, some contributions would go to financial aid.  Private money is spent every year on tuition, facilities, etc.

 

II.  Approval of the Minutes of March 4, 2009:  The minutes were approved as distributed.

 

III.  Unfinished Business

 

A.  Organization and Operations Committee – Susan Trencher, Chair

Motion:  Changes to the Charge of General Education Committee Recommended by Faculty Senate Committee on Operations and Organization (0&0)

Original Charge

B. For all foundation, core, and synthesis general education requirements, the Committee will approve courses to fulfill these requirements.  The Committee will develop procedures for the measurement of “satisfactory skills in oral and written presentations” for the synthesis requirement, and work with the Office of the Provost to develop procedures for the demonstration of these skills before a faculty panel.

0 & 0 recommendation: delete “before a faculty panel.”

Rationale: Such panels are rarely convened.

New Charge:

B. For all foundation, core, and synthesis general education requirements, the Committee will approve courses to fulfill these requirements. The Committee will develop procedures for the measurement of “satisfactory skills in oral and written presentations” for the synthesis requirement, and work with the Office of the Provost to develop procedures for the demonstration of these skills.

Change in Charge:

E. becomes F.

Original Charge

   F. The Committee will provide an annual report to the Faculty Senate. The report shall include:

      a. The number of students taking and passing proficiency examinations

      b. Changes in the criteria for general education

      c. The process and timetable of implementation of the general education requirements.

   More frequent reports to the Faculty Senate might take place as adjustments to the general education program may warrant.

Change in Charge under F

delete (c) The process and timetable of implementation of the general education requirements.

Rationale: This charge was put in place when the formation of the current general education program was still in process.

New Charge

E.  The Committee will confer with the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Policies when changes to General Education requirements impact the entire university and/or would be a change to the University Catalog.

Rationale:  Consistent with the role of  the Faculty in matters of curriculum as set out in the Faculty Handbook , it is important for the General Education Committee to work in tandem with the Faculty Senate Committee on Academic Policies when major changes, for example, a change in university wide general education requirements, are proposed for implementation.

The motion was approved.

B.  Organization and Operations Committee – Star Muir

Motion for a University Standing Committee to Review Curriculum and Faculty Matters in Current and Future Campuses, Academic Programs and Activities of George Mason University

Whereas George Mason University is continuing to support and expand learning centers and academic programs and activities beyond the Commonwealth of Virginia campuses in Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington; and

Whereas the Faculty Handbook of the University specifies that control over curriculum matters resides with the faculty of the University; and

Whereas the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities (SACS) requires a thorough evaluation of all branch campuses within the first six months of operation, yet there exists no internal process for ongoing faculty review of the curriculum, faculty hiring, progress or effectiveness of these campuses, academic programs or activities;

Be it resolved that the Faculty Senate should establish a Standing Committee to review critical aspects of the development and ongoing operations of George Mason University learning centers and academic programs and services beyond the primary campuses of Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington.

Charge:

A. To fulfill faculty responsibilities for curriculum oversight within the University:

1) Gather accurate information from the Provost’s Office to review

            a) Initial, current and projected course and program enrollment;

b) Any Memorandum of Understanding or similar governing document or contract specifying arrangements between George Mason University and the host government, state, or responsible organization;

c) Reports presented to any created governance structure such as a Board of Governors between George Mason University and any host government, state, or responsible organization;

d) Vetting and approval processes for faculty hiring and course offerings through Schools, Colleges and Departments and other local academic units, including negotiated “rights of refusal” and other practices directly affecting the curriculum offered on campuses beyond Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William;

e) Information about resources, pay scales and other financial information relevant to faculty support, faculty and staff hiring, and curriculum development.

2) Provide a regular report to the Faculty Senate every semester; should the above access not be granted, such resistance will be documented and included in the Committee’s regular report.

B. Function as a liaison on related issues with global education academic programs and activities.

C. Engage in the creation of any new campuses, academic programs and activities, and any processes for developing additional Memorandums of Understanding or similar governing documents or contracts, including access to information specified above in A-1.

D. Create sub-committees as necessary within the Committee to ensure adequate attention is paid to the variety of satellite campus locations and opportunities.

E. Committee representation of elected faculty from no less than five different academic units to serve staggered two-year terms.

Discussion:  Professor Star Muir provided historical background and commented on the rationale for the proposed new committee.  The Task Force for Satellite Operations (formed in Fall 2006) issued an interim report in 2007.  One of the first issues encountered was the lack of a clear definition of a satellite campus. Despite GMU’s recent termination of its agreement with the UAE, other international initiatives continue to expand.  According to the Faculty Handbook, authority over curriculum matters resides with the GMU faculty. The charge of the new committee would apply to all campuses and major educational undertakings outside the Fairfax area. There is a clear need for the Faculty to have a strong formal voice about these matters. The Task Force did not receive some information it requested from the Provost.

Professor Slayden commented that contractual documents for the UAE campus are available upon request from the University Counsel's Office. 

Provost Stearns observed that the proposed charge, as framed, seemed unnecessarily antagonistic. He saw the need for an oversight committee and suggested one be formed to help monitor (new initiatives), but he is now concerned that a number of GMU’s global educational activities will not be embraced by the present charge of the proposed committee because of its focus on actual campuses.  He suggests that the Committee’s charge also include other GMU (non-campus) educational activities such as the recent Moscow State initiative.

Professor Trencher responded that she was sorry the Provost sees the Committee’s charge as antagonistic. She explained that the Task Force began work last fall by reviewing the charge of the old ad hoc “satellite-campus” committee.  It was not the intention of the O&O Committee to limit the focus of the new committee to campuses, quite the opposite.   Professor Muir added that where “campus” appeared, the committee added “academic programs and activities” and felt the charge would still have oversight over initiatives that did not involve actual GMU campuses. 

Question:  Is this a curricular oversight committee or a curriculum development committee?

Professor Muir:  Oversight. Our intent is to make sure that the Faculty are in the loop when a curricular initiative (is proposed). The proposed committee would allow for a Faculty oversight role that would be in dialogue with the Central Administration and pertinent academic units.

Question (Sheryl Beach):  How do you define global?  Would this committee examine department-level initiatives or only larger undertakings?

Professor Muir:  Larger ones. Not curriculum developments within individual departments but initiatives proposed by the Central Administration.

 

A motion was made to refer the motion back to committee for further discussion.  The motion was defeated.

 

A motion was made to vote on the main motion.  In a division of the house, the motion passed, 15 in favor, 10 opposed. 

 

C.  Report on Campus Bookstore – Betsy DeMulder, Faculty Liaison to Bookstore Committee

 

Professor DeMulder explained that at the February Senate meeting several senators reported that the Bookstore had failed to order textbooks for a number of courses. Subsequent to the meeting, she was appointed to be the Senate’s liaison with the Bookstore, and she raised this issue with Larry Czarda (VP for Administration) and Benn Crandell (Director of Auxiliary Enterprises). Benn responded in a letter (posted on the Senate website at http://www.gmu.edu/facstaff/senate/Bookstore-report-4-1-09.pdf ), stating that a whole page of book orders (for 43 courses) were overlooked. However, Betsy pointed out that there were other courses that also didn’t receive their books. Betsy said she will take the concerns that faculty have raised and discuss these with the Bookstore.  

Question:  Since the Bookstore seems to make so many errors in ordering books, then perhaps faculty should refer students to amazon.com. 

Answer: This would seem to be a logical step, but University policy forbids this.

 

A Senator pointed out that the University receives a percentage of Bookstore profits.

 

IV.  New Business – Committee Reports

 

A.  Senate Standing Committees

Executive Committee – Suzanne Slayden, Chair

Roger Stough, Vice President for Research and Economic Development, responded to our concerns about approval of the proposed Principal Investigator Policy.  Please send comments to the Chair.

 

Academic Policies – no report.

 

Budget and ResourcesRick Coffinberger, Chair

The Committee met today and is almost in a position to post salary data. A sizable number of people in different categories got raises this year.  In response to a question raised about the University Salary Review Committee, Linda Harber (Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Payroll) responded that the Committee is in a “holding pattern” right now. Out-of-cycle raises are on hold.  The Committee reviews proposed increases greater than 10% or $10,000, and it approves 90% of these.

 

Faculty Matters –Larry Rockwood, Chair

Review of the Faculty Information Guide:  The Guide was reviewed by Professors Suzanne Scott and Doris Bitler, and they report that the document is mainly links to other websites and contains many broken links. All the information that is supposed to be covered in the Guide is now available on-line at other sites. This may not have been the case when the Faculty Information Guide was created.  They recommend the Guide be discontinued.

 

Phased Retirement Motion:  Professor Jim Sanford recounted that several meetings ago, a proposal for transitional retirement leave was presented to the Faculty Senate.  The Faculty Matters Committee, in discussion with the Provost, came up with an agreed-upon document.  Then University lawyers reported that a new IRS ruling requires retiring faculty to continue to do at least 20% of their normal workload during their last semester of employment; otherwise benefits would not be available. Linda Harber explained this provision; and in a subsequent email, she had provided additional information she received from the (non-GMU) benefits attorney relating to the Faculty Retirement Transition Leave Program, as well as the impact of a new IRS provision upon deferred pay for those 9-month faculty who are paid over a 12-month period, which appears below in italics.  Faculty are encouraged to contact Linda with any questions. 

 

“The outside benefit attorney's noted that several of the phased retirement options allowed faculty members to front load their service obligations to the University in a semester and forgo providing the University with any services in the semester prior to retirement semester. "Despite the lack of a service obligation in the semester (prior to retirement), the transition program would continue to provide faculty with compensation during that period. In general, any option whereby a faculty member completes their service obligation and is not obligated to provide continuing services to the University in the spring semester could be viewed as a separation from service. If an employee is deemed to have separated from service they should not be permitted to continue participation in the University’s employee benefit plans (403(b), ORP plans, etc.)


The second concern they noted revolved around section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code (“409A”), which regulates deferred compensation. "A compensation arrangement whereby a faculty member (1) completes their service obligation to the University and does not provide additional/continuing services to the University during the spring semester, yet (2) continues to receive pay from the University, could be viewed as disguised severance pay. In such a situation where the University is not paying these amounts as a result of an involuntary termination, the pay would be subject to 409A and potentially the penalties provided thereunder. In addition, there would be an obligation to report the amounts paid during the spring semester as deferred compensation. To avoid the possibility of triggering 409A, the University should require that the faculty members participating in the Program continue to provide actual services to the University during the semester prior to retirement. Those activities may include teaching a course, serving as a faculty advisor, continuing research, providing committee service, or some combination of the foregoing. However, at a minimum these activities must amount to 20% of the service they would normally provide to the University."  

 

Professor Sanford thanked Linda and Rizna Ahmed (Assistant Director, Benefits) for their efforts.  The Faculty Matters Committee will continue to work on the faculty retirement policy and present it to the Senate in the future.

 

V.  Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty

 

The Chair apologized to Karen Hallows, Chair of the Effective Teaching Committee, and Cliff Sutton, Chair of the Task Force to Revise the Course Evaluation Form, as there was not time today to discuss their reports.  Senators are encouraged to re-read them before presentation at our meeting on April 29th.

 

A Special Meeting of the Faculty Senate will take place Wednesday, April 15, 2009.  Virginia legislators Chap Petersen (State Senate) and David Bulova (House of Delegates) will be here to make brief presentations and answer questions.  An email will be distributed to all faculty requesting questions be sent to the Committee on External Academic Relations in advance of the meeting.  The Committee will categorize and compile these and send them on to the legislators.

 

Professor Deborah Boehm-Davis, Chair of the External Academic Relations Committee, introduced Ms. Betty Jolly, who serves as Senior Vice President of Administration and Director of State Government Relations at GMU (since November, 2008). 

 

Betty thanked the Committee on External Academic Relations, adding it has been wonderful to work with them.  She then presented an overview of the composition of the General Assembly’s 140 members (100 Delegates plus 40 Senators).  Membership in the House of Delegates is 45 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 53 Republicans.  In the Senate, there is a one-person Republican majority.  The views and constituencies of the legislators are quite diverse.  There are 35 members in the Northern Virginia delegation, which meets every Monday night.  In odd years, the General Assembly meets for a “short” session (48 days) January 14 -February 28, 2009.  Next year they will meet for a longer 60-day session beginning January 13, 2010 and may (as tends to be the rule) meet longer.

 

When the session began this year, there was a projected revenue reduction of $821 million. No increases in higher education funding were anticipated.  Given the pressing need to limit cutbacks in such areas as support for disabled children, mental health, etc, it was hard to make a case for higher education. The most compelling argument was that colleges and universities must be adequately funded to protect Virginia’s future economic well-being.

 

Betsy also called attention to the key role of financial subcommittees, noting that few of them are chaired by Northern Virginians.  She said that unlike some state university systems (e.g. Univ. of CA), Virginia is blessed to have separate Boards of Visitors for each state institution.   She concluded with the promise to continue to work with the External Relations Committee and plan ahead for next year's session. 

 

VI:  Adjournment:  The meeting adjourned at 4:20 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

David Kuebrich

Secretary