GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY

MINUTES OF THE FACULTY SENATE

APRIL 29, 2009

 

Senators Present:  David Anderson, Heibatollah Baghi, Ernest Barreto, Sheryl Beach, Kristine Bell, Jim Bennett, Rei Berroa, Alok Berry, Doris Bitler, Phil Buchanan, Rick Coffinberger, Jose Cortina, Nada Dabbagh, Betsy DeMulder, Penny Earley, Mark Houck, Allen Hughes, David Kuebrich, Linda Monson, Jean Moore, Janette Muir, Star Muir, Larry Rockwood, Pierre Rodgers, Jim Sanford, Suzanne Scott, Suzanne Slayden, Peter Stearns, June Tangney, Susan Trencher, Iosif Vaisman, Nigel Waters, Harry Wechsler, Phil Wiest, Peter Winant, Michael Wolf-Branigin, Stanley Zoltek.

 

Senators Absent:  Rei Berroa, Deborah Boehm-Davis, Jack Censer, Vikas Chandhoke, Claudio Cioffi-Revilla, Sara Cobb, Lloyd Cohen, Sharon deMonsabert, Yvonne Demory, Rutledge Dennis, Martin Ford, Lloyd Griffiths, Frances Harbour, Kingsley Haynes, Allison Hayward, Richard Klimoski, Howard Kurtz, Alan Merten, Peter Pober, Daniel Polsby, Jane Razeghi, William Reeder, Joe Scimecca, Ray Sommer, Tojo Thatchenkery, Shirley Travis, John Zenelis.

 

Visitors Present:  Rizna Ahmed, Assistant Director Benefits, Human Resources and Payroll; Rick Davis, Associate Provost for Education Programs/Chair, General Education Committee; Professor Robert Ehrlich,  Chair, Physics and Astronomy; Esther Elstun, Professor Emerita, Modern and Classical Languages; Robin Herron, Associate Director, Media and Public Relations; Susan Jones, University Registrar; Sharon Pitt, Executive Director, ITU; Kris Smith, Associate Provost , Institutional Research and Reporting; Professor Clifton Sutton, Chair, Task Force to Revise the Teacher/Course Evaluation Form;  Sue Tinsman, Director, Payroll and HRIS, Human Resources and Payroll; Susan Tomasovic, Term Instructor, Communications.

 

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

 

II.        Approval of the Minutes of April 1, 2009:  The minutes were approved as distributed. 

 

III.       Announcements – None.

 

IV.       Unfinished Business and General Orders

 

A.  Effective Teaching Committee – Suzanne Scott

 

The Effective Teaching Committee has been working for the past year on a Classroom Environment Survey and results from that survey conducted in the fall of 2009. Survey results are available on the Faculty Senate website at http://www.gmu.edu/facstaff/senate/Classroom-Environment-Survey.pdf.

Executive Summary

During the 2007-2008 year, the Effective Teaching Committee determined that a survey of faculty was needed to provide a broad and deep understanding of the classroom-environment issues from the perspectives of those who routinely use the classrooms, meet with students, and plan their instructional environments. In the fall of 2008 the survey instrument was complete and all full-time faculty members were surveyed.

In all, 174 individuals responded to the survey. In general the committee sought to gather information on space, rooms, equipment, and general environment. The Effective Teaching Committee analyzed the results and summarized them in this report. Based on these results, the Effective Teaching Committee makes the following overall recommendations:

1.      The Provost’s Office should ensure that faculty members are offered the opportunity to be involved directly in decisions regarding the design of new classrooms, and faculty should be a part of the process that analyzes future space planning.

 

2. The Faculty Senate should charge the Learning Environments Group with investigating and making specific recommendations in the following areas:

a. Flexible classroom seating design

b. Consistent classroom quality throughout the campus(es)

c. More fully-equipped electronic classrooms for the future

d. Diverse classroom structures for ultimate flexibility for instruction

e. Adequate response to other recommendations based on results found in this survey.

f. Another survey of faculty in Academic Year 09-10, including development of an effective way to survey adjunct faculty and GTAs as well.

 

3.      The Faculty Senate should ask for better communication from the Academic Support Offices at Mason and ask that they provide specific training for faculty and students on how to access and effectively use these services.

 

4.      The Faculty senate should share these results with the GMU faculty by posting the results on the Faculty Senate website.

 

The summary of the results from the survey are included in pages 2-14 of this report. The appendix provides a brief overview of the results of the report on pages 14-15.

 

Professor Slayden thanked the Task Force for its extensive work, adding that the Faculty Senate has already sent the report to the faculty and that the Learning Environments Group is now working on the recommendations outlined in #2 above.  Chair Suzanne Scott added that the Effective Teaching Committee worked on this report for the whole year and that the survey will be distributed in the fall.

 

B.  Task Force to Revise the Teacher/Course Evaluation Form – Cliff Sutton, Chair         

 

Report of the Task Force to Revise the Teacher/Course Evaluation Form & Recommended Changes For The Current Evaluation Form

Several years ago, when the current evaluation form was adopted, many of the faculty in quantitative fields, and faculty who often taught large lecture sections, thought that some of the items on the course evaluation form weren't appropriate for the types of courses they taught. (They thought the wording of some of the items was better suited for classes in which students typically submitted papers and were expected to participate in class discussions, as opposed to classes where the vast majority of the class time is used for formal lectures and class participation does not play a big role, and assignments are typically problem sets.)

The changes indicated below were developed by the Task Force in order to make the items on the form, in a sense, more general. Short of developing different versions of the assessment form for different types of classes and making radical changes to the current form, the Task Force thinks that these suggested changes may be the best way to improve upon the current form.

The Task Force met with a student focus group and also solicited opinions from other members of the faculty in order to determine what the appropriate changes to the evaluation form should be. The TF considered many different ideas, but in the end concluded that for now some simple changes would be best.

The Task Force recommends that a new, perhaps larger, task force be formed to deal with the University's conversion to online course/teaching evaluations and to investigate having different evaluation forms for different types of classes, which is what some other universities have moved to. This would be possible at GMU with the conversion to online evaluations. (Note: The conversion to online evaluation is being seriously considered due to budget concerns, and because online evaluations will allow for department heads and instructors to get feedback about teaching more quickly.)

MOTION: To approve the proposed changes to the Current Evaluation Form for implementation in AY 2009-10.

The recommended changes are shown in bold, below and are also available at the following link:http://mason.gmu.edu/~csutton/TFNewChanges.html

Item 1 on the current form is: Course requirements were clearly stated in the syllabus

Recommended change:

Course requirements and expectations were clear.

Comments:

Some students may not have easy access to the syllabus when they complete their evaluation, but they may remember a discussion of the requirements and expectations since many faculty routinely spend time on these things during the first class meeting. Plus, as the semester progresses, and more details are added, it's important that requirements and expectations remain clear.

The recommended change was approved.

Item 2 on the current form is: The course was well organized

No change suggested

Item 3 on the current form is: The instructor explained the material clearly

Recommended change:

The instructor helped me to better understand the course material

Comments:

The proposed item is more general, reflecting the fact that there are many ways to help students better understand the course material.

The recommended change was approved.

Item 4 on the current form is: Comments and suggestions on returned material were helpful

Recommended change:

Feedback (comments and suggestions written on papers, solutions provided, class discussion, etc.) was helpful

Comments:

With some types of assignments it's not efficient to write a lot of individual comments on student papers. In some classes, instructors supply the students with detailed solutions to problem sets or routinely discuss typical mistakes in class. There are other ways to supply feedback than to write "comments and suggestions on returned materials."

  The recommended change was approved.

Item 5 on the current form is: The instructor showed respect for the students

No change suggested

Item 6 on the current form is: The instructor was accessible either in person or electronically

No change suggested

Item 7 on the current form is: The instructor followed the stated course grading policy

Recommended change:

The course grading policy was clear

Comments:

Students aren't in a position to know whether or not the stated grading policy was actually followed, especially since the course evaluations should be turned in prior to final grades being given. What is important is that students have information, in advance, as to how grades will be assigned.

The recommended change was approved.

Item 8 on the current form is: The exams reflected what was covered in the course

Recommended change:

Graded work reflected what was covered in the course

Comments:

Replacing "exams" with graded work makes the item much more general. Some classes don't have exams, or only have a final exam which wouldn't have been seen at the time students complete the evaluations.

The recommended change was approved.

Item 9 on the current form is:

The assignments (projects, papers, presentations, etc.) helped me learn the material

No change suggested

Item 10 on the current form is: Readings helped me understand the course topic

Recommended change:

The textbook and/or assigned readings helped me understand the material

Comments:

In a lot of quantitative courses, there are no assigned readings other than the textbook.

The recommended change was approved.

Item 11 on the current form is: Assignments and exams were returned promptly

Recommended change:

Assignments and exams were returned in a reasonable amount of time

Comments:

Some students may take promptly to mean the next class meeting, but in some cases it may be unreasonable for students to expect their work to be graded and returned so quickly (e.g., if the class is very large, or if it typically takes the instructor a long time to grade a student's paper).

The recommended change was approved.

Item 12 on the current form is:

The instructor covered the important aspects of the course as outlined in the syllabus

No change suggested

Item 13 on the current form is: The instructor made the class intellectually stimulating

No change suggested

Item 14 on the current form is:

The instructor encouraged the students to be actively involved in the material through discussion and other activities.

Recommended change:

The instructor encouraged the students to be actively involved in the material through discussion, assignments, and other activities.

Comments:

With some classes (e.g., those which cover rather technical material), many students would much rather listen to the instructor teach them how to work with the complicated material than listen to other students discuss it, and the way students get involved with the material is to go home and work on carefully-designed assignments.

The recommended change was approved.

Item 15 on the current form is: My overall rating of the teaching

No change suggested

Item 16 on the current form is: My overall rating of this course

No change suggested

The motion was approved. 

 

Senators commented upon the present form’s use of 14 behavioral and 2 opinion questions.  Several expressed the concern that the scores given on the concluding opinion questions sometimes do not match well with those given to the behavioral questions; the opinion responses are always lower.  In response, Professor Sutton stated that, while the behavioral and opinion questions do not correlate highly, the main problem is in the overuse of opinion questions and the underuse of behavioral questions in faculty evaluation.

 

C.  Election of Faculty Senate Chair 2009-2010

Peter Pober and June Tangney were nominated.  The nominations were seconded.  Brief statements were made by Professor Tangney and on behalf of Professor Pober, who was in Rome.  Paper ballots were distributed, collected, and tabulated by the Sergeant-at-Arms with the assistance of another Senator.  Peter Pober was elected chair of the Faculty Senate by a vote of 19 to 16. 

 

 

V.        New Business - Committee Reports

 

A.           Senate Standing Committees

 

Executive Committee – Suzanne Slayden, Chair

                                                                                                                                                          

Evaluation of President and Provost Interaction with Faculty Senate

In January 2009, the Faculty Senate approved a motion to conduct an annual evaluation of the President and Provost regarding how effectively they have interacted with the Faculty Senate in the preceding Academic Year. The Executive Committee was charged with summarizing and presenting the results to the Faculty Senate for its approval. The survey was sent to chairs of the Senate Standing Committees (5) and of the University Standing Committees and ad hoc committees of the Faculty Senate (15). There were 19 responses. Members of the Executive Committee drafted the summary to Questions 1-4, below.

 

The motion from the Executive Committee is that the Faculty Senate approve the summary to Questions 1 to 4.

 

 Question 1. During the past calendar year has the President or Provost announced initiatives or goals or acted upon issues that fall under the charge of your committee? If so, was your committee consulted in a timely manner? If not, do you believe your committee should have been consulted? Would it have been helpful if your committee had input?

Generally, committees are satisfied with the amount of consultation with the Central Administration. There are times when new initiatives are developed without prior consultation. For example, new initiatives such as the creation of the Honors College and BAS program should have been presented to the Academic Policies Committee prior to being approved by the Central Administration. On the other hand, the Registrar has consistently worked closely with the Academic Policies Committee.

Progress has been made in including faculty in budgetary decisions, but more input at earlier stages would be helpful.

Most of the other committees either had no complaints or felt that they had been adequately consulted.

 

Question 2. Did your committee seek information or input from the President or Provost or members of their staffs? If so, did they respond adequately and in a timely manner?

Many of the Senate and University Committee chairs reported they did not seek information or input. Generally, Senate committee chairs had complimentary things to say about staff members. Singled out for praise were Susan Jones, Rick Davis, Rawa Abdalla, Karen Gentemann, Chris LaPaille, Kim Eby, Kris Smith, Martin Ford and Corey Jackson.

There were several complaints regarding President Merten:

1. The Faculty Matters Committee noted that the President failed to post his annual report on the Web Site (https://docushare.gmu.edu/dsweb/View/Collection-5004), so that faculty would have access to adequate information about his performance in order to fill out the Faculty Evaluation of Administrators form.

2. The Task Force on Compensation reported that it was denied access to requested information in the annual report of the College and University Professional Association (CUPA) that would have allowed it to compare the salaries of GMU administrators to their peers at other public doctoral-granting institutions. The Task Force initially requested this information from Linda Harber, Associate VP of Human Resources, and she cited an administrative policy forbidding the sharing of this information with the Faculty. The Task Force then turned to President Merten, and he refused to override the policy. (The Administration did share the “Summary” of the CUPA report, but it is largely irrelevant to the needs of the Task Force.)

3. The Faculty Senate passed a resolution, in response to the freeze on Faculty and Staff salaries, calling upon President Merten to forego his scheduled salary increase and bonus by donating these monies to Student Financial Aid. The President acknowledged receipt of the resolution but refused to discuss the matter with the Senate, leaving the impression that he was dismissive of Senate concerns and had squandered an opportunity to promote good will and provide exemplary leadership.  

The Task Force on Research Productivity did not feel that they received adequate support from the prior Associate Provost for Research.

 

Question 3. Please suggest how the President/Provost might interact with the Senate and its committees more effectively in the future.

Several committee chairs mentioned that sometimes the Administration brought issues to their committees that had already been decided, so that meaningful consultation was not possible.

Responses from Committee Chairs also indicate that President Merten is not involved in a meaningful way with Faculty committees -- with one exception. The Chair of the Athletic Council noted that President Merten attended the first meeting of the Council and that “his support for the work of the Athletic Council was evident.” This direct involvement of the President in issues affecting athletics might well serve as a useful prototype on the academic side: i.e., the President should be encouraged to meet with committees dealing with academic issues to facilitate the exchange of information between Faculty and Central Administration and to show his involvement with and concern about academic matters. Moreover, the President has a unique perspective on matters affecting the entire University, allowing him to bring informed views on matters of a macro nature to Senate and University committees.

 

Committee chairs also reported several recurring issues affecting classroom teaching that should be addressed in the future. These include problems with the maintenance of classroom-teaching technologies, and the University Bookstore’s policy of ordering an inadequate number of required course texts. There appears to be no organizational structure that permits faculty and department chairs to easily address classroom problems and concerns. The President and the Provost are asked to take positive action to provide an organizational response.

 

It was also pointed out that the Provost meets regularly with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, providing an opportunity for exchange of information and Faculty input, and he also attends the meetings of the entire Senate. In addition, he has agreed to a new practice in which he will inform the Senate at the beginning of the Fall Semester of all upcoming initiatives that will impact the faculty and the teaching and research missions of the University. (The details of this new arrangement are still to be worked out.)

It was also observed that shared governance and transparency require that Faculty be consulted in a timely manner. In the future, both the President and the Provost could serve the Faculty better by bringing issues forward at an early stage for meaningful Faculty input and by promptly providing data or access to information (e.g., the CUPA data on the compensation of administrators).

 

Question 4: Please relate any additional information you may have regarding interactions between your Committee and the President or Provost or their staffs.

The general response to this question was that interaction tends to be minimal, mostly driven by committee requests for information. When the Central Administration is asked about specific issues, responses are mostly forthcoming.  Information requests are handled generally by those who work for the President and Provost (e.g., Registrar, Budget Office, Diversity Affairs), and these administrators have been interested and engaged in committee activities.

 

Some committees observe that it seems the Central Administration is responsive when it is in the best interest of the Administration to reply to a particular request. The general perception is that if a request for information (e.g., about the budget or salaries) appears to be not in the Administration’s best interest, then information is very slow to be received and sometimes requests are completely ignored. There is a similar perception of the Administration’s compliance with the Faculty Handbook: that is, when it supports the purposes of the Central Administration, the Handbook is quoted and followed; if it impedes Administrative plans, it is generally ignored.

 

There is also the sense that committee work is undervalued: For example, one committee noted that it found the Provost serious in discussions, but somewhat dismissive of concerns raised by a large-scale faculty survey. In general, various committees report having productive deliberations with the Provost and President, but they feel such interactions are usually initiated by the committees, rather than the Administration taking the lead to draw upon committee expertise.

 

In addition, the Chair of the Faculty Senate, who is also the Chair of the Executive Committee, provided an overview of her interactions with the President, the Provost, and their staffs following the report of the President/Provost survey results.  The Chair stated that time constraints precluded its circulation to the rest of the Executive Committee prior to the deadline for posting the meeting agenda.

 

The Chair asked if there were any objections to including it with the Committee report..   Some members of the Executive Committee strongly objected to its inclusion as part of the Executive Committee’s report. They noted 1) that the Resolution calling for the evaluation did not call for a separate report from the Chair and 2) that the Chair had participated in the executive Committee’s discussion of the draft report that was prepared for the full Senate.  One Senator suggested the report be included elsewhere in the minutes.

 

The motion to approve the “Report from the Executive Committee” passed. The summary from the Chair of the Faculty Senate appears in Appendix A.

 

 Academic Policies – no report.

 

Budget & Resources – Rick Coffinberger, Chair

Professor Coffinberger reported that the Committee and Clerk were very close to posting the salary data.  Based on limited analysis of the data, it seems that several items need more scrutiny.  The widely circulated view was that there would be no raises awarded for AY2007-08. However, in fact, over 200 administrators and instructional faculty got raises.  Of course many of the instructional faculty raises were in the $1500 to $2,000 range and were the result of promotions and or the gaining of tenure. Professor Coffinberger noted that members of the Committee expressed concern about the large number of administrative faculty raises and in some cases the size of those raises.  In addition, the Committee was concerned that some deans received raises. 

 

Faculty Matters – Larry Rockwood, Chair

 

Professor Rockwood presented the motion to approve Faculty Retirement Transition Leave Policy. 

Faculty Retirement Transition Leave

Purpose

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 and by faculty in their retirement planning. 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 at least a total of either

(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 the approval of both 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

Impact

One year, at full pay, teaching a total of two courses, with no expected service activities. The faculty member may select to teach both courses during fall or spring or teach one course each semester. If the transitional leave is scheduled for spring-fall and with approval of the dean/director, one course may be taught during summer of the transitional year. If taught in the summer, the faculty member will not be paid the additional 10% summer salary. If one course is not taught during the semester immediately prior to retirement, the faculty member must work at least 20% of normal work duties during that semester. This work may involve research, internal or professional external committee work, advising, or a special project approved by the faculty member’s supervisor.

Faculty will receive full benefits.

Tier 2: 25 Years of service:

Transition Option

Impact

Two years, at full pay, teaching a total of two courses each year, plus a reduction of expected service activities by 50% in the first year and no expected service activities in the second. The faculty member may choose to teach a 2:0, 1:1, or 0:2 load each year. With approval of the dean/director, one of the courses may be taught in summer(s) of the transitional years. If taught in the summer, the faculty member will not be paid the additional 10% summer salary. If one course is not taught during the semester immediately prior to retirement, the faculty member must work at least 20% of normal work duties during that semester. This work may involve, research, internal or professional external committee work, advising, or a special project approved by the faculty member’s supervisor.

Faculty will receive full benefits.

OR

One year at full pay ,teaching a total of one course during the year with no expected service activities. If the course is not taught during the semester immediately prior to retirement, the faculty member must work at least 20% of normal duties during that semester. This work may involve research, internal or professional external committee work, advising, or a special project approved by the faculty member’s supervisor.

Faculty will receive full 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, not approved, or delayed up to a year) 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. It is understood that occasionally conditions may require the Provost to delay the implementation of a transitional leave for a semester or even a year. However, every effort will be made to accommodate transitional leave requests in timely fashion, and a delay of more than a year will occur only under extraordinary circumstances. In all cases, the faculty member must agree in writing to any delay to the requested implementation date. An election form must be received byNovember1in any given year for participation in the Faculty Retirement Transition Leave Program during the following year.

Notes:

1.      Faculty members in transitional retirement leave may still participate in tax shelter annuities (TSAs).

2.      Faculty members in the 2-year transitional retirement leave option remain eligible for salary increases in the second year.

3.      Unless scheduling needs and finances preclude it, faculty with the greatest number of years teaching at George Mason University will have priority in having their transitional retirement leave applications approved.

4.      Acceptance into one of the retirement options constitutes a binding contract between the faculty member and the University. Exceptions will be made only for personal or family health reasons or for death.

5.      During transitional retirement leave, faculty under contract for nine months should elect to be paid over nine months rather than twelve with a normal retirement date of June 1.

Discussion:  Professor Rockwood explained that a recent IRS ruling requires that at least 20% work must be done (each academic year); it is now no longer possible to front-load work.  The earlier proposal for light teaching was not approved by the Faculty Senate. There is a need to find a common ground.  The proposed policy contains the same teaching requirements as before but adds 20% for last semester.  If you teach in the last semester, the 20% (requirement) is satisfied.  The Faculty Matters Committee is divided about this new proposal. 

Committee member Jim Sanford explained that some members of the Committee are concerned that the proposed policy is less generous to the faculty than what most faculty received when they when they worked out retirement arrangements on an ad hoc basis. The committee agreed upon an earlier proposal, but then it was informed of the new IRS 20% requirement.   It was also noted that, in general, faculty at Virginia’s public universities do not do very well in terms of retirement agreements; there are better plans elsewhere, particularly where faculty unions exist. 

Question about taxes:  What would be the consequences if a professor is not officially working  in her/his last semester?  Answer:  the retiring professor’s salary would then be treated as a severance payment and taxed at a higher rate.

Several senators noted that faculty work consists of many types of activities, such as research and service, other than teaching. It was suggested that these could fulfill the IRS requirement. Some senators expressed concern that some faculty might be required by their chairs/deans to teach, others not. If so, once again, retiring faculty would not have a standard policy, and some would get better deals than others. 

Another Senator proposed the policy be sent back to Committee.

It was asked if this document was acceptable to the administration?  Provost Stearns replied that it was. 

 

The motion was approved  (with two negative votes).

                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Nominations – Jim Bennett, Chair

Tom Arciszewski (VITE), Jim Bennett (CHSS), Elizabeth Chong (CHHS), Bob Ehrlich (COS), Bob Johnston (SOM), and Terry Zawacki (CHSS) are nominated to serve on the Academic Initiatives Committee.  Term lengths will be staggered. 

 

Jim Bennett (CHSS) and David Kuebrich (CHSS) are nominated to serve on the Collegial Relations Committee.

 

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

 

Organization & Operations – no report. 

 

B.  Other Committees - none

 

C.  Other Committees: Annual Reports

A motion was approved to accept all the following reports from the Senate Standing Committees, University Standing Committees, and Senate Ad Hoc Committees.

 

FACULTY SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ANNUAL REPORTS 2008-09

1. ACADEMIC  POLICIES - Janette Muir (CHSS), Chair

Committee Members: Jose Cortina (CHSS), Frances Harbour (CHSS), Harry Wechsler (VITE), and Michael Wolf-Branigin (CHHS)

 

1. Motions presented and approved by Faculty Senate:

Approval of 3-Year Academic Calendar Fall 2010-Spring 2013 –October 22,2008

 

Forbearance in Academic Standing (Probation) for New Undergraduates - –October 22,2008

 

Statement of Academic Termination of the Major for Undergraduates at George Mason University –March4, 2009

Proposal for a section following “GPA Retention levels” in college catalogue. This proposal was, in large part, a response to the excessive number of course repeats in certain academic units.

 

2. Other issues under discussion during the year

1.    Clarification of relationship of responsibilities involving the University General Education Committee and the Academic Policies Committee.

1.    As noted by the O&O Committee, there was a need to clarify the relationship between the two committees mentioned above. The agreement made (per discussions between the AP Chair and Associate Provost for Educational Programs) was that any major change that impacts university students and requires changes to the Catalog needs to go through the AP Committee approval process and then on to the Faculty Senate as a whole.

2.    In the interest of collegiality and information sharing, the General Education Committee will report periodically to the AP Committee about various initiatives.

 

2.     Changes in course grading structure beyond ENGL 100&101 (currently under review)

A request has been made to consider allowing local academic units to give only grades of A, B, C, NC for classes beyond the currently specified English classes.

 

3.     Evaluation of non-credit classes for academic credit (currently under review)

Working with the Central Administration, the Committee wants to provide some consistency across campus as to how the ROTC courses and other types of training are brought into the University for college academic credit.

 

2. BUDGET AND RESOURCES - Rick Coffinberger (SOM), Chair – Spring 2009, Phil Buchanan (SOM), Chair – Fall 2008. Committee Members: Yvonne Demory (SOM), June Tangney (CHSS), and Tojo Thatchenkerry (SPP).

The Budget and Resources Committee met monthly during the 2008/09 academic year. At its first meeting Phil Buchanan was elected Chair for the fall semester and Rick Coffinberger was elected to Chair for the spring semester. The Committee completed the following projects during the year:

·      Presented a motion requesting the President 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 the pain in the current economic downturn. The motion was adopted.

·      Conducted a study of the allocation of indirect expenditures within the University.

·      Brought to the attention of the administration concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability of the Salary Review Committee.

·      Worked with the administration to secure data regarding the current salaries of faculty at GMU; this data is to be posted to the Senate website.

·      On a monthly basis, the Chair attended meetings of the Budget & Planning Group; in the spring semester the Chair also met bi-monthly with the Provost and Senior Vice-President for budget updates.

 

3. FACULTY MATTERS –Larry Rockwood (COS), Chair

Committee Members: Doris Bitler (CHSS), Frieda Butler (CHHS –Fall 2008), Jim Sanford (CHSS), Joe Scimecca (CHSS –Spring 2009), and Suzanne Scott (CHSS).

 

The committee met 9 times during the academic year. Issues considered were:

 

1) A Motion for the Senate to Conduct an Annual Evaluation of the President and Provost. This was adopted by the Senate and carried out by the Executive Committee.

2) A plan for phased retirement, which is still pending.

3) Free speech on campus. This issue has been considered at several meetings. We have met with Jim Kozlowski, who teaches two different law courses for the College of Education and Human Development; with Gregg Toney, who is Executive Director of Auxiliary Enterprises; with Tom Moncure, Chief Legal Counsel for the University; and with Morrie Scherrens, Senior Vice President. Also participating in these discussions were Dave Kuebrich and Vicki Rader. Vicki and members of the Faculty Matters Committee have developed a proposal, which was discussed with Dr. Scherrens on April 29. We hope to have a proposal for discussion by the full senate early in the next academic year.

4) The committee, as usual, is administering the annual Faculty Evaluation of Administrators. This year we again decided to ask the faculty to fill out the evaluation form on line, instead of by paper. Although we are still gathering data, the return rate appears to be comparable to those of past years, at about 35%.

 

4. NOMINATIONS –Jim Bennett (CHSS), Chair

Committee Members: Rutledge Dennis (CHSS), Linda Monson (CVPA), Pierre Rodgers (CEHD),and Peter Winant (CVPA).

The Nominations Committee faithfully filled every vacancy during Academic Year 2008-09.

 

5. ORGANIZATIONAND OPERATIONS – Susan Trencher (CHSS), Chair

Committee Members: Ernest Barreto (COS), Mark Houck (VITE), Jean Moore (CHHS), and Star Muir (CHSS).

 

During the academic year 2008/2009, the Organization and Operations Committee referred items requiring study and action to the appropriate standing committees. The Committee met to discuss changes to the charge of the University General Education Committee and to form and charge a new university committee, Academic Initiatives. Committee. These initiatives have both been passed by the Faculty Senate. The Committee investigated and provided information concerning faculty/student dining services from the University Food Committee. Ernest Barreto presented the apportionment of seats in the Faculty Senate for the coming academic year and that material was disseminated to appropriate academic units.

 

 

UNIVERSITY STANDING COMMITTEE ANNUAL REPORTS AY2008-09

 

 

1. ACADEMIC APPEALS – Kristine Bell (VITE), Chair

Committee Members: Flavia Colonna (COS), Michael Hurley (CHSS),Walter Morris (COS), Michael Naor(SOM), and Bob Pasnak (CHSS).


Our Committee had no cases during the 2008-2009 academic year (as of April 8, 2009).The only item of business conducted was to elect a chair.

 

2. ADMISSIONS –Peter Pober (CHSS), Chair

Committee Members: Frieda Butler (CHHS), James Carroll (CVPA), Marion Deshmukh (CHSS), Bob Ehrlich (COS), and Eddie Tallent (Associate Dean of Admissions).

Under the guidance of Eddie Tallent, Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions, this year the Committee discussed ways to increase communication between the Admissions Office and the faculty and among departments and their individual faculty. Director Tallent released statistics to the committee on Nov. 17, 2008 that articulated the following:

 

1) As of that day, admissions had received 3280 freshman applications compared to 2827 on the same day the previous year.

2) 759 had been admitted compared with 25 the same day the previous year.

3) 168 Honors letters had been mailed.

4) 5000 students attended the Open House on Sat. Nov. 15, 2008 in the Patriot Center.

Exactly five months later, on Apr. 17,2009, Director Tallent reported the following statistics to the committee:

1) A total of slightly less than 13,754 freshman applications were submitted this year, up from 12,920 last year (marking the largest pool ever for GMU).

2) 8400 were admitted; up from 8100 last year.

3) The class target is 2550; Eddie confirmed a healthy waitlist to make sure that number is attained.

4) There were 456 more out-of-state applicants this year.

5) Honors caliber admits are up by 300 students compared to last year; 140 submitted deposits last year as of this date compared to 172 this year on the same date.

6) 1600 students have RSVP’d for the Open House Sunday Apr. 19, up from 1200 last year. Of those, only 400 have submitted deposits confirming Fall 2009 attendance. Director Tallent sees more students “shopping” because of the economy.

Director Tallent addressed 2 additional issues:

1) The Pearson Test: an alternative to the TOEFL that is less expensive. The committee encouraged him to bring the matter to the Academic Policies Committee of the Faculty Senate for their feedback after referring the matter to the English Dept. and English Language Institute for examination of the test.

2) GMU TOEFL Scores: GMU requires a 570 on the TOEFL for undergraduates while all other VA schools and many others nationally only require a 550. Director Tallent asked for our thoughts on possibly reducing the requirement to 550 to put us in line with other institutions. The committee encouraged him to contact the Faculty Senate Chair to address the matter and see about placing it as an agenda item in the fall of 2009.

Prof. Ehrlich asked Director Tallent to explain the admissions review process. Director Tallent noted that students submit test scores, transcripts, writing samples, etc., and then the group of 8 readers on the admissions staff divides the files geographically and by high school as well. Director Tallent noted this encourages consistent decisions within a given geographic area or specific high school. The 8 members are given a set of written guidelines from which they form the basis of their decisions, but Director Tallent implements a quality control check each week. Approximately 80% of the files receive a clear up or down decision while the remaining 20% are considered “gray files” and are then brought to the full admissions committee to review. Director Tallent noted that class ranking has been eliminated by Fairfax County and others and as such has reduced influence over previous years. Prof. Carroll asked about opportunities to track students within specific areas during the admissions process. Director Tallent indicated he was working on that and would report back to the committee in September.

 

Chair Pober will send out a final set of statistics from admissions once all the deposits are received the first week of May and Director Tallent is able to cull the complete set. The report will be sent to all department chairs to disseminate by the end of May.

 

3. ATHLETIC COUNCIL – Linda Miller (CVPA), Chair

Committee Members: Robert E. Baker (CEHD), Sheryl Beach (COS), Alok Berry (VITE), and Sharon deMonsabert (VITE).

2009 Report to the Faculty Senate by the Faculty Athletic Representative

The Athletic Council met in October, February and April this year to provide information to members about NCAA issues, academic support services and the academic performance of our student-athletes. At the February meeting, the Council approved the re-alignment of the subcommittee structure to more closely reflect the upcoming third cycle of NCAA Certification areas:
Governance and Commitment to Rules Compliance
Academic Integrity
Gender Diversity and Student Well-Being
The Subcommittee charges were also changed to reflect the new areas for oversight. The
Subcommittees met separately to conduct business relative to the council’s work and to begin preparation for the next NCAA Certification.

Governance and Commitment to Rules Compliance Subcommittee (Chair, Jevita deFreitas)

The committee reviewed the principles within the NCAA self-study and discussed the major areas of responsibility. The committee recommended that a brief overview of the offices external to the Mason Athletic Department that provide a “check and balance” of the Compliance areas be given at the final meeting of the full council in April 2009.

At the April meeting, the Office of the Registrar presented an overview of the Certification Process, the timeline, and the NCAA Compliance Assistant Internet (CAi) used to determine student-athlete eligibility. The Office of Financial Aid submitted a timeline for Mason student-athletes and verification that communication between the Office of Financial Aid and the Department of Athletics ensures student-athlete scholarship issues and concerns are handled in a timely fashion.  The subcommittee also recommended that a process be created to include the Equity Office in future reviews of the EADA (Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act). (Governance and Commitment to Rules Compliance Subcommittee 2009 Report)

Academic Integrity Subcommittee (Chair, Bob Baker)
The committee engaged in the preparation of a report evaluating Academic Support Services for student-athletes using the recommended evaluation guide provided by the NCAA. The purpose of the evaluation is to provide recommendations that can improve the overall effectiveness of the institution’s academic support services for student-athletes. The required eight areas for review included:

1.        Academic counseling and/or advising resources and services;

2.        Tutoring

3.        Academic progress monitoring and reporting;

4.        Assistance for student-athletes with special academic needs;

5.        Assistance for at-risk student-athletes;

6.        Academic support services facilities;

7.        Academic evaluation of prospective student-athletes; and

8.        Student-athlete degree selection.

An evaluation committee of faculty, students and staff external to the athletics department was selected to conduct this evaluation and to provide a written summary of its findings and recommendations to the Director of Athletics and the Athletic Council. The report is in draft form and will be finalized for presentation to and review by the Athletic Council at its first meeting in Fall 2009. The committee also reviewed the NCAA Division I Academic Progress Rate(APR) 2007-08 cohort results .Three Mason teams fell below the NCAA 925 cut-point: Women’s Track (Indoor and Outdoor), and Men's Volleyball. Of these three teams only Men's Volleyball received a Contemporaneous Penalty.(Academic Integrity 2009 Report).

On April 22, 2009, the NCAA announced that three Mason teams received public recognition for their academic performance rate: Men’s Basketball, Women’s Tennis and Women’s Softball. Public recognition is given to the member institutions whose APR falls within the top 10% in each sport.

Gender Diversity and Student Well-Being Subcommittee (Chair, Sandy Hubler)
The committee focused its efforts on enhancing its relationship and communication with the Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and increasing the number of Exit Surveys completed by student-athletes .The committee revised the existing survey instrument to incorporate NCAA required questions and refined the instrument to facilitate ease of completion. To date more than 50% of exiting student-athletes have submitted their survey. In-person interviews with graduating students from each team are being conducted by the Faculty Athletic Representative and the Senior Associate Athletic Director.(Gender Diversity and Student Well-Being Subcommittee 2009 Report)

In the 2007-2008 academic year student- athletes were compared with the general student body with the following results:

                                                Student Athletes          Students Generally

            Males                                2.89                                    2.82                                               

            Females                           3.09                                     3.03         

            Combined                        2.99                                     2.93                            

 

* All GPA statistics computed by the Office of the Registrar

 

I would like to thank each member of the Athletic Council for their commitment to excellence and invaluable guidance and support.

Linda Miller
Faculty Athletic Representative
April 23, 2009

Cc:  President Alan Merten
Senior Vice-President Maurice Scherrens
Assistant Vice President/Director, Athletics Tom O’Connor
Senior Associate Athletics Director Sue Collins

4. EFFECTIVE TEACHING – Karen Hallows (SOM), Chair

Committee Members:  Giuseppina Kysar (COS),  Ramon Planas (CHSS), Lynne Schrum (CEHD), Suzanne Scott (CHSS), and Melanie Szulczewski (CHSS).

 

The Effective Teaching Committee Report: The Classroom Environment is posted at http://www.gmu.edu/facstaff/senate/Classroom-Environment-Survey.pdf.

 

5. EXTERNAL ACADEMIC RELATIONS – Deborah Boehm-Davis (CHSS), Chair

Committee Members: Nada Dabbagh (CEHD), Penny Earley (CEHD), Michelle Marks (SOM), Peter Pober (CHSS),and John Riskind(CHSS).

 

State Government Relations. The Committee on External Academic Relations (CEAR) met on five occasions during this academic year. On several occasions, the committee met with the newly-hired State Government Relations Director (Betty Jolly), who reports to the Senior Vice President Maurice Scherrens. Ms. Jolly is working to become better acquainted with the university’s capabilities and strengths and she has been working with the committee to identify the best ways in which to get faculty involved in activities that can support our efforts in Richmond. One mechanism that was agreed to was a plan for Ms. Jolly to notify members of CEAR when she needs information on specified topics. CEAR members will then coordinate a response from appropriate faculty or staff offices and ensure that information is received 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. The committee has been working to find additional ways of developing this partnership between faculty, the Faculty Senate, and the State Government Relations Director. The committee seeks to ensure that faculty members recognize that they are always welcome to speak with members of the legislature, but that they need to differentiate occasions when they are speaking for themselves, for their professional societies, and for the university. On those occasions when they are speaking for the university, they need to work with the university personnel responsible for these activities. That is, the University’s official position on any issue is determined by the State Government Relations Committee, which is headed by President Merten.

 

Faculty Senate of Virginia. One member of this committee serves as the official Mason representative to the Faculty Senate of Virginia. Ms. Earley, who is that representative, has kept informed of the activities sponsored by this organization, both through attendance at their meetings and information sent out by the organization. There is no information of note to report from that organization in this academic year.

 

Other Activities. The committee reviewed its charter and composition and made recommendations for changes based on the ways in which the committee has been conducting business over the past few years. Specifically, it recommends that the Faculty Senate identify its representative to the Faculty Senate of Virginia and that this individual serve, by position, on the CEAR (rather than electing this representative from among the standing members of the committee). Further, the committee recognized that its charter has expired. Changes to the charter to correct that issue have been proposed. This information was sent to the Senate and has been referred to the O&O committee. Finally, the committee worked with the chair of the Senate on structuring the special meeting of the Senate with local legislators, with the goal of making the meeting as productive as possible.

 

6. GENERAL EDUCATION – Rick Davis (Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education), Chair.  Committee Members: Don Boileau (CHSS), Kim Eby ( Associate Provost for Education Programs), Douglas Eyman( CHSS), John Kulesza( COS),Kamaljeet Sanghera (VITE),R. Claire Snyder (CHSS), Hugh Sockett (CHSS), Karen Studd (CVPA), Cliff Sutton (VITE), Carol Urban (CHHS), and Peter Winant (CVPA).

The University General Education Committee has had an exceptionally productive and intellectually engaging year, focused primarily on:

•meeting the challenges of SACS reaffirmation of accreditation as applicable to general education
•considering new course proposals for inclusion in the general education inventory
•strategic thinking about the future of general education, both at Mason and in a national context of comparable universities.

What follows will expand a bit on each of the bullets above, but first there are a couple of reporting points included in our committee’s charge from the Senate.

1. Proficiency exams for IT 103,eight students have so far taken the CLEP exam and presented a score of 60 or better in AY 08-09, receiving credit for that course. Numbers for ENGL 101 and 302 will not be available until after the spring semester. We will compile and send a follow-up to this report.

The committee joined in an ongoing discussion of the suitability of the Math Placement Exam as a diagnostic tool for STAT 250.Prof. Rosenberger, chair of Statistics, presented a detailed analysis showing a lack of predictive correlation between the exam and student success in STAT 250.The catalog has long suggested a requirement that all entering students take the Math Placement Exam, but in practice this has never been enforced for students taking STAT 250 to fulfill their Quantitative Reasoning requirement(or for any other reason, of course).In fact the catalog also states in at least two other places that the exam is specifically not required for STAT 250 placement. The committee does not believe that this is entirely within its jurisdiction, but did vote to recommend (as a sort of amicus curiae )to the Senate that the currently unenforced requirement for students seeking to enroll in STAT 250 to take the math placement exam be formally dropped. A vigorous discussion of the merits of various placement, proficiency, and assessment-related exams forms the background for this action, and will be continued next year.

2. Changes in the criteria for general education. Though there were no substantive changes in overall criteria, the committee did act on two specific and limited proposals from academic units.

•In VSITE, the CEIE department requested the restoration of a previously granted 3 credit waiver, due to a mandate from ABET, their accrediting agency, for an additional science course. CEIE proposed an innovative approach to an individualized waiver from among global understanding, world history, and arts, and the committee voted unanimously to grant this waiver for a provisional three-year period effective Fall 2009.
•In NCC, the faculty has voted to reduce their 32 credit First Year Experience to a 24 credit program called Mason Cornerstones. NCC sought approval from the committee for this change as it relates to the fulfillment of general education courses under the slightly revised and reduced rubric of equivalencies. The committee voted unanimously to grant this for a one-year provisional period, and will review syllabi in Fall 2009 to determine whether this will be a permanent approval.

SACS

In view of the more rigorous SACS standards for general education that we must meet for this cycle, the committee has been working intensively with the Office of Institutional Assessment (OIA) to devise a method of direct assessment of student learning that can be applied to those areas of Mason’s general education program that are not already assessed under the SCHEV competency areas. A course portfolio approach has been adopted. Faculty teams from several disciplines (including members of the committee) conducted workshops under OIA’s direction to refine and articulate learning outcomes for Arts, Western Civilization/World History, and Literature. The committee then considered these outcomes and made suggestions for revision; faculty in the units had another chance to comment, and then the committee approved the resulting outcomes for inclusion in the next edition of the catalog. A random sample of courses this spring in these three areas will submit course portfolios, and all students taking general education courses in these three areas will be asked to respond to a very short survey about their experience. Analysis of data from this assessment will be communicated to the units in fall, 2009.

Currently, workshops are being planned for the remaining areas (global, social/behavioral sciences, and synthesis) in an effort to permit assessment of these areas in Fall 2009, with data analysis and feedback occurring in early Spring, 2010.If all goes according to plan, by the time we submit our SACS report for “off-site” review in Fall 2010,we will have excellent direct assessment data on these six areas, and will be able to show that we have implemented (or are in the process of implementing)any improvements suggested by the analysis. The areas that fall under SCHEV criteria already have a substantial assessment trail, but the committee is interested in exploring the extension of the course portfolio process to those areas as well once the SACS pressure is alleviated.

This process has been labor-and-thought-intensive for the general education committee (as well as for the chairs and faculty in the affected units and the Provost’s Office), and we owe them a special word of thanks. The results should be very useful to us as we go about the essential work of ensuring a sound liberal education for our undergraduates.

Course Proposals

The committee considered eight and approved five new courses for the general education inventory, with the others being sent back for revision or clarification. This is intentionally down from last year’s 30/16 proposal load; because the next couple of years of the committee’s work are so intensively engaged with assessment and strategic planning, the units (primarily through their associate deans) have responded very effectively to a call last spring to slow down the pace of new course proposals. It may be further observed, parenthetically, that the general education inventory does not lack for quantity or variety.

The committee also considered a proposal from Prof. Robert Ehrlich regarding a change in the nature of the synthesis requirement. This stimulated a useful discussion about the definition of the requirement and its application in various units, and the committee agreed that, while the specific proposal was not actionable at the present time, it merited continued consideration as the redefinition of learning outcomes associated with the new assessment protocol proceeds. The committee thanks Prof. Ehrlich for taking the time to articulate his thoughts about the synthesis requirement.

Strategic Thinking about General Education

The committee continued, from last year’s work, its lively discussion of the aims and purposes of general and liberal education, and the committee’s role in advancing Mason’s program. A subset of the committee spent a day in January at VCU (thanks to the generosity of colleagues there who gave several hours of their time) investigating that institution’s new approach to the first-year experience, called Focused Inquiry, under the banner of a new University College instituted about three years ago. The program has achieved significant increases in student retention from first to second year, and according to one source has “paid for itself” through that mechanism alone, despite requiring substantial new faculty and administrative resources to implement. The committee is continuing to study this and other innovative programs, but will probably defer any fundamental recommendations for structural changes in Mason’s general education until the results of the current assessment cycle begin to be assimilated.

The findings of AAC&U’s Project LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) have also been discussed in committee and at open forums on April 6 and April 29, in an effort to place Mason’s work in a context of national research and effective practices.

A point raised from the floor at the April 6th LEAP forum regarding the proper locus for an Ethics requirement in the general education program, was also discussed at two meetings of the committee. The discussion centers around the question of the IT Ethics requirement and its various manifestations (embedded in 3 credit courses such as IT 103 vs. an existing series of 1-credit courses, which some feel is awkward to communicate and administer). There is an emerging body of opinion among the faculty that, without lessening the importance of IT Ethics specifically, examples of ethical practice are varied by field and might be usefully embedded in the major (loosely modeled on WAC-WI practice). The committee will study this question from a general education perspective next year and invites anyone with an interest in the issue to contribute.

7. GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE – Howard Kurtz (CVPA), Chair

Committee Members: Robert Johnston (SOM), James Maddux (CHSS), Walter Morris (COS), and Elavie Ndura (CEHD).

No Grievances were filled in 2008-2009.Hence the committee was not called upon to assemble. I thank the committee for their willingness to serve this past academic year.

8. MINORITY AND DIVERSITY ISSUES – David Anderson (CEHD), Chair

Committee Members: Heibatollah Baghi (CHHS), Michael Naor (SOM), Raja Parasuraman (CHSS), and Halaevalu Vakalahi (CHHS).

The charge of the MDIC is “to work in concert with the Equity Office, Minority Students Services Office, other pertinent administrators, and campus organizations in developing and implementing means to ensure nondiscrimination, tolerance, and protection of the rights of all persons affiliated with the University; and to facilitate dialogue among those connected with the University and those in the broader community on matters concerning minority populations and diversity issues.”

The MDIC had a very productive year, with active participation from each of the five  committee members. Committee members focused on several major considerations for the year, beginning with active engagement of university administrators in the committee’s activities. Another was to follow-through on the 2007-2008 MDIC activities with the Quality of Work Life Committee’s survey. A third was to identify ways of promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion at Mason.

The first major accomplishment of, the MDIC was being represented on the Search Committee for the university’s Chief Diversity and Equity Office; Dr. David Anderson represented the committee in this role, and the search process resulted in the hiring of Mr. Corey Jackson.

The second major accomplishment was the detailed discussion of items to be included in the employee-based Quality of Work Life (QWL) survey. The MDIC discussed specific issues to be incorporated; members identified 13 potential items for inclusion in the 2009 QWL survey, and 8 were identified for inclusion. The QWL survey was distributed in Spring, 2009, and results will be helpful for future planning by the MDIC.

The third significant activity of the MDIC was the initial discussions about ways of identifying, codifying and sharing the wide variety of resources associated with diversity issues at Mason. The MDIC initiated conversations with Mr. Dennis Webster, Associate Dean for University Life. In collaboration with Mr. Corey Jackson, discussion focused on the work conducted in the past few years by the Diversity Research Group, and the materials and resources posted on the web. The discussions identified a variety of ways of sharing these resources, and Mr. Jackson has initiated activity in this regard.

Finally, the MDIC prepared two documents for encouraging greater conversation and action on diversity issues. One was an endorsement of the vision statement prepared by Mr. Jackson for the Office of Equity and Diversity Services; this was read at the February 11, 2009 meeting of the Faculty Senate. The other is a Diversity  Statement, prepared by the MDIC; this is appended to this report, and will be shared at the final meeting of the Faculty Senate in April, 2009.The intent of this statement is to help move the university community toward greater dialog on diversity issues. The MDIC will seek the endorsement of key constituencies on campus [Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, and Student Government].



DIVERSITY STATEMENT
Prepared by Minority and Diversity Issues Committee
University Standing Committee - George Mason University

George Mason University promotes a living and learning environment for outstanding growth and productivity among its students, faculty and staff. Through its curriculum, programs, policies, procedures, services and resources, Mason strives to maintain a quality environment for work, study and personal growth.

An emphasis upon diversity and inclusion throughout the campus community is essential to achieve these goals Diversity is broadly defined to include such characteristics as, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, and sexual orientation. Diversity also entails different viewpoints, philosophies, and perspectives. Attention to these aspects of diversity will help promote a culture of inclusion and belonging, and an environment where diverse opinions, backgrounds and practices have the opportunity to be voiced, heard and respected.

The reflection of Mason’s commitment to diversity and inclusion goes beyond policies and procedures to focus on behavior at the individual, group and organizational level. The implementation of this commitment to diversity and inclusion is found in all settings, including individual work units and groups, student organizations and groups, and classroom settings; it is also found with the delivery of services and activities, including, but not limited to, curriculum, teaching, events, advising, research, service, and community outreach.

Acknowledging that the attainment of diversity and inclusion are dynamic and continuous processes, and that the larger societal setting has an evolving socio-cultural understanding of diversity and inclusion, Mason seeks to continuously improve its environment. To this end, the University promotes continuous monitoring and self-assessment regarding diversity. The aim is to incorporate diversity and inclusion within the philosophies and actions of the individual, group and organization, and to make  improvements as needed.

Endorsed by MDIC Members - April 17, 2009

David S. Anderson    College of Education and Human Development
School of Recreation, Health and Tourism
Heibatollah Baghi      College of Health and Human Services
Department of Global and Community Health
Michael Naor              School of Management
Information Systems and Operations Management Department
Raja Parasuraman       College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Department of Psychology
Halaevalu Vakalahi     College of Health and Human Services
School of Social Work

9.  NON-TRADITIONAL, INTERDISCIPLINARY, AND ADULT LEARNING

Committee Members: Penelope Earley(CEHD), Prosenjit Mazumdar (SOM), Steve Ruth (SPP), and Linda Samuels (SOM).

No business was brought to the committee during AY 08-09.

 

10.  SALARY EQUITY STUDY – Carol Urban (CHHS), Chair

Committee Members: Alok Berry (VITE), John Crockett (SOM), Susan Denham (CHSS), and Karen Hallows (SOM).

The committee has submitted a request to Human Resources and Payroll to obtain current data on salaries by rank, academic unit, gender, and ethnicity as per the charge of the committee. In addition, Dr. Berry has contacted Dr. Richard Coffinberger in regards to the salary data posted on the Faculty Senate website and possible assistance the committee could offer in those efforts.

Results from HR/Payroll are still pending at this time. It is hoped that the data will be available for the committee in the 2009 – 2010 academic year.

 

11. TECHNOLOGY POLICY COMMITTEE – Stanley Zoltek(COS), Chair

Committee Members: Melissa Martin (SOM), Goodlet McDaniel (CHSS), Star Muir (CHSS), Paula Petrik (CHSS), Kamaljeet Sanghera (VITE), and Lynne Schrum (CEHD).

The Faculty Senate Technology Policy Committee has met five times this academic year. Its last meeting of the academic year will be on April 27.

Committee activities included

·        Reviewed and approved the recommendation that Turnitin be replaced by SafefAssign at universities plagiarism detection software.

·        Reviewed and approved the suggested transition process for assisting faculty in transitioning from EndNote to Zotero.

·        Reviewed the circumstances that caused the learning management system, Blackboard, to be unavailable to students and faculty for an extended time period after the Thanksgiving break.  

·        Drafted a letter to the faculty detailing the problems that had occurred and how they had been resolved. (The committee found that the procedures taken by the ITU to inform faculty and students were appropriate. However, the committee considered the response by Blackboard engineers to be too slow and insensitive to the University calendar. Our concerns were conveyed to Blackboard through Jennifer Korjus, Director of Learning Support Services.)

·        Received an update on downtime in student campus labs due to a possible software incompatibility with the Deep Freeze software and restore process employed to maintain uniform system configurations in the labs.

·        Advised ITU on issues surrounding the planned discontinuation of the Laptop Loaner Program.

·        Due to budget cuts upgrading electronic classrooms creation of new electronic classrooms has been put on hold. Reviewed and approved contingency plans for the affected classrooms--both the notification of faculty teaching in these rooms and the provision of temporary equipment upgrades.

·        Received an update on the state’s security regulations regarding computers and the difficulty we have complying due to budget constraints. Plan for training and “deputizing” departmental personnel was discussed.

§         Received an update on the Portal Project

o       One portal for students, faculty, and staff

o       Limited pilot going on now

o       Targeted for May 2009 production launch

o       Built on Blackboard Community platform

o       May release includes

§         Courses (Blackboard)

§         Alerts

§         Mason news and info

§         General info (maps, weather, area news)

§         Mason Money

§         Patriotweb

§         Academic information (libraries, colleges, schools)

§         Campus organizations

§         Brainstormed with ITU directors on improved lines of communication among various IT departments and faculty, staff and students. Suggestions include expanding opt in e-mail and pager notifications.

 

12.  WRITING ACROSS THE CURRICULUM – Stanley Zoltek (COS),Chair

Committee Members: Sarah Baker (ex-officio Assistant Director, WAC Program),Benedict Carton (CHSS), Susan Durham (CHHS), Aimee Flannery (ITE), Anne Magro (SOM), Tom Owens (CVPA), Ellen Rodgers (CEHD), Terry Zawacki ex-officio(Director, WAC Program)

Consultants to the Committee: Melissa Allen, Tamara Maddox, Shelley Reid, Sia Rose, Nicola Scott, Scott Watkins

The committee has met six times during the 2008-2009 academic year. The committee’s charge includes: advising the director of “Writing Across the Curriculum,” regular review of writing intensive (WI) syllabi, and assisting with activities and events related to Writing Across the Curriculum.

This year’s activities include:

-          The committee reviewed and approved new or modified courses designated to meet the Senate mandated WI requirement, two for Modern and Classical Languages (SPAN 370, FREN 309), Film and Video Studies (THR 482), Medical Technology (BIOL 453), and Global and Environmental Change (EOS 304).

-          Each semester checked enrollments in WI courses to assess compliance to the 35-seat requirement.

-          The WAC Committee hired Sarah Baker in a jointly funded position as WAC/OIA liaison: part-time WAC Assistant Director funded by the Office of the Provost and part-time writing assessment specialist funded by the Office of Institutional Assessment. Sarah’s WAC duties include managing the writing awards, taking over the set-up and design of the print and online Writing@Center newsletter, maintaining and updating the WAC website, reviewing WI syllabi, and all other related duties.

-          The new WAC website (http://wac.gmu.edu)was launched in October 2008. Members have been discussing and offering ongoing recommendations as appropriate, such as suggesting the creation of a “Resources for your students” page.

-          The committee’s central initiative for the year is the creation and promotion of writing-infused programs, curricula, and courses or “WIN(ning)” programs (coined by Tamara Maddox). Members are developing guidelines and materials.

-          The committee has approved and posted on the website (http://wac.gmu.edu/program/culture_of_writing/profiles.php)the writing profile for the College of Science. The committee is reviewing and finalizing profiles for the College of Health and Human Services, School of Management, New Century College, the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and the College of Education and Human Development.

-          The committee is developing for Fall 2009 a “getting-started on teaching WI courses” instruction pamphlet in both a print and online version. The print version will be available at the Innovations 2009event and the online version with be added as a link to the reminder email sent each semester to all WI-course instructors.

-          The WAC committee will fund a stipend by the end of this fiscal year for a faculty member working on developing a writing guide for the Administration of Justice program (they must be paid by the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2009).

-          The committee reviewed the appropriateness of the current WI course in Mathematics.

-          The committee discussed but hasn't formalized a proposal to the Senate for guidelines for the transfer of WI-equivalent courses and the viability and procedure to bring such a guideline for approval before the Faculty Senate.

-          The committee made a particular effort this year to encourage departments to institute writing awards and currently co-sponsors27 awards in 16 departments, with several more possible additions to come by the end of May.

-          TheWriting@Center newsletter was offered in both print and online formats at http://wac.gmu.edu/program/newsletter/and the print spring Newsletter will be out the week of April 27, 2009.

-          For the seventh year in a row, the Mason WACp program has made the U.S. News &World Report list of top exemplary writing in the disciplines programs.

 

AD HOC COMMITTEES ANNUAL REPORTS AY 2008-09

1. FACULTY HANDBOOK REVISION COMMITTEE – Rick Coffinberger, Chair

Committee Members: Kevin Avruch (ICAR), Lorraine Brown (CHSS), Martin Ford (Senior Associate Dean –CEHD), David Harr (Senior Associate Dean - SOM), Suzanne Slayden (COS).

 

The Committee to Revise the Faculty Handbook met throughout the summer and fall of 2008. During July a draft was presented to the President, Provost and the University’s General Counsel for comment. Following this review and comment period, the Committee met to consider those inputs and additional revisions to its draft. Subsequently, a revised draft was distributed to the GMU Faculty and the Faculty Senate followed by three open forums (one at each campus) for faculty discussion followed by another round of revisions. A final draft of the proposed revisions submitted to Faculty Senate at a Special Meeting on October 15th  was approved. The Board of Visitors approved the proposed revisions at its meeting on December 3rdof 2008 and the revisions became effective on January 1stof this year.

 

2. TASK FORCE ON COMPENSATION ISSUES – Rick Coffinberger (SOM), Chair

Committee Members: Rutledge Dennis (CHSS), Dave Kuebrich (CHSS), June Tangney( CHSS), and Phil Wiest (CHSS).

 

The Task Force continued to seek access to critical data on Administrative Faculty benchmarks (i.e. the annual CUPA report) from the central administration and made some progress but is still being denied access to the most relevant portions of the CUPA database. We continue to “brainstorm” about ways to address faculty-wide compensation concerns and are supporting the Virginia AAUP’s Resolution on Administrative Pay.

 

3. TASK FORCE TO EVALUATE THE COURSE EVALUTION FORM – Cliff Sutton (VITE), Chair

Committee Members: Cynthia Beck (COS), Lawrence Butler (CHSS), Kim Eby (Associate Provost for Education Programs), Kris Smith (Associate Provost for Institutional Research and Reporting), and Mary Williams (CEHD).

 

Several years ago, when the current evaluation form was adopted, many of the faculty in quantitative fields, and faculty who often taught large lecture sections, thought that some of the items on the course evaluation form weren't appropriate for the types of courses they taught. (They thought the wording of some of the items was better suited for classes in which students typically submitted papers and were expected to participate in class discussions, as opposed to classes where the vast majority of the class time is used for formal lectures and class participation does not play a big role, and assignments are typically problem sets (if anything).)

(Suggested revisions and a motion to approve suggested changes appear in the Faculty Senate Meeting Agenda April 29, 2009 under III. Old Business, Attachment B)

VI. Other New Business  - none.

 

VII.  Remarks for the Good of the General Faculty

Faculty are reminded to check the ITU website at the end of the summer for announcements regarding changes/new products coming out in the coming year.

 

VIII. Adjournment:  The meeting adjourned at 4:21 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

David Kuebrich

Secretary

Faculty Senate

 

 

APPENDIX A

 

Summary from the Chair of the Faculty Senate

The Chair of the Faculty Senate is uniquely positioned as a bridge to the central administration when representing the interests and concerns of the faculty and the Faculty Senate. In that office, and as Chair of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, I am presenting a summary of my interactions with the President and Provost and their staffs for this academic year.

The Faculty Handbook makes two statements regarding the Faculty Senate’s interaction with the President and the Provost (other than the overarching purpose of acting in its advisory capacity to the President): “… To ensure timely consultation about these and other matters, the Provost meets regularly with the Senate’s executive committee. Meetings with the President and/or other members of the central administration occur as needed.”

As the chief executive of a large institution, it is not practical for the President to meet regularly with all of the Faculty Senate committees. However, the President, to whom all others in the organizational hierarchy report, should expect his administrators to meet and consult when necessary or requested. (Specific details of some of these interactions appear later in the summary. I’ve included an abbreviated organizational chart for the central administration.) The chair of the Faculty Senate is a member of the President’s Council, which meets monthly. The President’s Council also meets for two days in August for the annual Planning Meeting before the first BOV meeting. Most of the administrators in the organizational chart are also members. The meetings are an opportunity for members to learn of administrative initiatives and to relate goals and achievements and to generally “network” both formally and informally. I have used these meetings to speak of faculty concerns directly to the President and usually he has been receptive to these. The President meets each semester with the Faculty Senate; after addressing the Senate, he answers questions. He has routinely sought to meet with me beforehand to discuss possible topics. He has never refused a request from me to meet with him.

The Provost attends nearly every meeting of the FS executive committee and the Faculty Senate. He has been more active this year than in the past in bringing to the committee issues he wishes to discuss or items of business he would like to have considered. He spends several minutes answering general questions from the committee members regarding other topics that potentially concern faculty. In response to a suggestion (stemming from a discussion in executive committee), he and Morrie Scherrens mounted a web page that allows faculty to submit ideas that “address financial and educational challenges”. In response to the Bookstore snafu this semester, the Provost volunteered to contact the Vice President in charge of auxiliary services to ask for a report, which he did. And again, in response to a complaint of slowness on the Bookstore’s part of providing the report, the Provost followed up. The Provost occasionally asks to meet with me. I have asked to meet with him several times and have been readily accommodated.

Roger Stough (VP Research and Economic Development) has continued the practice of involving the Faculty Senate in the development of university policies on research. For the latest one, he asked me to solicit comments from senators and others who might have an interest in a Principal Investigators policy. He, or his legal assistant, answered every comment and follow-up question and incorporated the suggestions into the final policy document. [Although Roger declined to ask for FS approval of the policy (in a letter you have seen), he has promised that the FS will be asked for comment on all policies that concern faculty. We should continue to press for approval of policies.]

The Learning Environments Group (LEG) was established last year in response to FS and on-going faculty concerns regarding technology and other issues in classrooms. Joy Hughes (VP Information Technology) was directly responsible for helping to establish the principles on which this group is based and for persuading the Provost to assist, primarily by designating Assoc. Provost Rick Davis to lead the group. LEG includes faculty as well as staff representatives from all areas of the administration. The University Committee on Effective Teaching surveyed the general faculty and reported to the Faculty Senate on specific issues affecting the classroom environment. LEG will be acting on their recommendations. With initiative from Sharon Pitt (Director, DoIT), we have prepared a web form that faculty can use to submit requests for improvements to their classrooms. It should be ready for distribution next week – timed to coincide with the end of the semester. There remains the complex problem of coordinating effective responses when “ownership” of classrooms is divided between several administrative areas. I have been told that discussions to remedy this problem are beginning in President Merten’s Executive Council.

Although Morrie Scherrens (Senior VP) is less directly involved in Faculty Senate affairs, as faculty we are very interested in his work. Morrie has asked twice this year to address the Faculty Senate regarding the budget and faculty salaries. He invited me to participate in the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) working group (a coalition of Virginia colleges and universities who are responding to SCHEV’s assertion that there is no cost-of-living differential between Richmond and Northern Virginia). We have met several times since January in lengthy and complex meetings with an outside consultant. The entire focus is to persuade SCHEV that faculty salaries are too low compared to our peer institutions and the first remedy is a COLA. The final report is due in June. In addition, Morrie was very receptive to the executive committee’s request that a senator be included in the weekly Budget and Planning Team meetings, an increase from the standing practice of meeting only monthly. [After internal discussions, the B&PT did not agree to weekly involvement, but did agree to supply meeting agendas and minutes to the Faculty Senate.]

Linda Harber has continued to consult with me as IRS changes have affected the university’s “9-pay-12” plans for some faculty. She also helped to negotiate the faculty retirement transition leave plan. Linda attends almost all FS meetings and answers questions and sends information upon request.

Tom Calhoun (VP of Facilities) promptly answered a question from the executive committee about the “phased” development of faculty housing. His point paper can be read from the Q&A link on the FS webpage.

Marc Broderick (VP of Development and Alumni Affairs) has also asked to meet with the Faculty Senate at any time and has repeatedly asked us to engage him in any way we can. In response to an executive committee question regarding private sector funding, he and his staff answered fully and rapidly. The content may be seen in the Q&A link to the FS webpage.

I would like to mention also the contributions of Betty Jolly, Dave Farris, Keith Bushey, Kathy Gillette and Walt Sevon who answered Faculty Senate questions or volunteered to meet with the FS in their areas of administration: State Government Relations, Environmental Health and Safety, Ass’t VP for Special Projects, DoIT, and Technology Systems, respectively.