Faculty Senate Meeting

December 3, 2003

 

Attendees:  Christoph Steinbruchel, Gary Gabriele, G.P. Peterson, Bob Block, Tamar Gordon, Patricia Search, Mark Goldberg, Jun Abrajano, Bruce Nauman, Cheryl, Geisler, Peter Persans, Deborah Kaminski, Achille Messac, Sharon Anderson-Gold, Joel Plawsky, Jim Stodder, Jeff Durgee, Terry Blanchet, Ash Kapila, Ron Gutmann

 

Agenda

Change in Agenda

Approval of the Minutes of the 11/12 Faculty Senate Meeting

Comment on Compensation – Provost Bud Peterson

Report by Curriculum Committee on +/- Grading System – Christoph Steinbruchel

            Main Arguments for the +/- Grading system

            The Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee Resolution

            Impact of +/- Grading System

            Discussion of +/- Grading System with Students

            Student Input and Concern

            Poly Article Regarding Grading Proposal

            The Voting Process

            Graduate Student Grading

Report on the Handbook Revisions – Ron Gutmann

            Background and Purpose

            Handbook Committee Membership

            Timeline of Activities To-Date

            Status of Key Issues To-Date

            Tentative Schedule

            Emeriti Faculty

            Clinical Faculty Issues in Handbook

            Privacy Issue

            Review by Faculty Senate

New Business

            Department of Chemistry Name Change

            Events Planned During Exam Week

Meeting adjourned to Working Groups

 

Change in Agenda

President Cheryl Geisler announced a change in the Agenda for the meeting.  The Faculty Advisory Committee presentation on Compensation has been rescheduled.

 

Approval of the Minutes of the 11/12 Faculty Senate Meeting

At 2:00 PM, President Geisler opened the Faculty Senate meeting.  She asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the 11/12 Faculty Senate Meeting.  After a brief discussion regarding the privacy issues associated with the parking transponders, the Minutes were passed:  11 in favor, one abstention.

 

Comment on Compensation by Provost Bud Peterson

The Faculty Advisory Committee has sent the initiative forward to the Provost and he has been working with the Deans and HR.  The Provost said the Deans have been working diligently with the faculty in the various schools to identify the process and the criteria.  He has received 3 of the 5 reports and expects to have two remaining reports by the end of the week.  The process will be that it will then go back to the Faculty Advisory Committee for their input to try to finalize things.  When asked when the info would go back to the faculty advisory group, Provost Peterson said that he is working to try to use the normal annual review process including base compensation and merit increase so that they can be done at the same time this March.  President Geisler asked whether these criteria will be used for this year’s evaluation and the Provost responded that he would like them used in this year’s January-February timeframe.  Due to the tight scheduling, President Geisler also asked whether the Provost was suggesting that the annual evaluations might be delayed and he responded no.

 

Report by Curriculum Committee on +/- Grading System – Christoph Steinbruchel

The Faculty Senate had asked the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee to produce a specific proposal regarding +/- grading system at RPI.  Christoph, Chair of the Curriculum Committee reported on what the committee has been doing and presented the resolution that was passed.  He stated that there have been extensive discussions throughout the semester and that the support among people on the curriculum committee has been overwhelming.  He briefly discussed the Memorandum (see attached) that summarizes the main argument of the report as prepared by June Deery of the Curriculum Committee regarding pros and cons. (Click here for Preliminary Report)

 

Main Arguments for the +/- Grading System

Christoph presented the main arguments for the +/- Grading System:

  1. The +/- grading will allow for more accurate grading.  Many faculty have agonized over where to draw the line between As and Bs, Bs and Cs, etc.  The difference between the lowest A and highest B is much smaller than all the grades summarized by the letter B.  Instituting a +/- System would allow the faculty to be more accurate in their grading.
  2. It would also provide a more reliable indication of student performance because the difference in an A- and a B+ is smaller than the difference between an A and a B-.  In our present system both of those would turn out the same.
  3. It will provide an incentive for students to continue making an effort until the end of the semester.  There is no strong evidence for this but it is reasonable to suppose that students in the latter part of semester may ask “what will it take for me to get an A?”  Once you tell them what it will take, the student may say an A is too difficult to achieve so they just put in 75-type work and still get a B.  It would be much easier for a student to improve from a B to a B+ than from a B to an A.
  4. There will be minimal impact on overall course or student GPA.  The result is always the same in most reports from other universities where this change had been made.  The only people who would feel somewhat of an impact are those who have straight As. 

 

The Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee Resolution

Christoph stated that all the points were discussed extensively in the FSCC. 

 

  1. The grade scale adopted is A, A-. B+, B, B- etc.  There would be no A+ or D-. 
  2. It was unanimous that the highest grade available should be a 4.0.  Those on the committee who would have liked to have included an A+ agreed that it should also be reflected as a 4.0 on the transcript.  The FSCC then discussed what would be the point of having an A+ if both A and A+ give a 4.0.  The committee argued that most people concerned with GPA will probably not look at the transcript to figure out the distribution of  A or A+.  The FSCC felt that it was more important and of more use to students if faculty made an effort to give academic citations to truly outstanding performances. 
  3. The FSCC discussed including D-, but decided to leave it at D and then finally an F so that there is a clear distinction on what a passing grade is and what a failing grade is. 
  4. There is no change in probation policy required.
  5. Graduation requirements would be the same as before.
  6. The FSCC recommends that the new system start for the Fall 2004 semester with a note in the transcript so that if someone does look at the transcript, the system change is noted.
  7. The FSCC recommends that the system applies to all students including old, new, undergraduate and graduate students.
  8. The way this resolution will be communicated is first, through this presentation to the Faculty Senate, and second, by a presentation to the Student Senate on Friday, December 5.

 

Impact of +/- Grading System

Christoph stated that other universities have found that the impact of this +/- system is negligible.  During the process, Christoph asked members of the curriculum committee to re-grade one of their courses using the +/- system.  (results in attachments)  By and large, the difference is very small.  Due to a small class size, there was one course that had a fairly large difference.  These were course averages but Christoph believed that student GPAs will show the same thing.

 

President Geisler stated that this system appears to narrow the range in which a student could get an A or A-.  In the new system, 3.67 or higher is an A, but in the current system, 3.5 and above be an A.  Christoph responded that this is just how the registrar will compute the GPA.  How the faculty allocates A and A- is up to each faculty member.  The faculty member must record the students’ grades to the Registrar as A, B+, etc.  Additionally, whether a B+ is 82 or 84 is up to the faculty member. President Geisler added that she regularly grades an A+ as a 4.3 GPA.  She grades how she feels necessary and then translates for the registrar.

 

Debbie Kaminski, Faculty Senate Recording Secretary, returned the discussion to what Christoph had said about the one way to truly reward an exceptional student through a citation.  She inquired about how often that is used.  Gary Gabriele, Vice Provost said that his department receives about 20-30 per semester.  Provost Peterson added that since there are 5,000 undergraduate students each taking 4 courses, there are 20,000 grades assigned, so with 20 citations out of 20,000, he is not concerned with proliferation.  Debbie added that she understands the point that instead of giving an A+, a student can be given a citation, but it seems as if it is still a very restricted category.

 

It was mentioned by a member of the Senate that students may be concerned whether they will be graded more harshly or not under the proposed grading system.  Christoph responded that there is no reason that when a professor assigns a B+ or B- that more B-s or B+s would be assigned compared to everything being Bs in the previous system.  He said, to be fair, we have to adopt a system that allows for the highest GPA.  Christoph added that the proposed grading system is fair and it is fairer for a much larger group of students than the previous system.  The Curriculum Committee will put together a document that outlines the pros and cons to be distributed next semester. 

 

Discussion of +/- Grading System with Students

Ash Kapila asked if the FSCC had any input from students during deliberation.  Christoph noted that the FSCC has 3 student members.  This semester, only 2 students were appointed by the student senate.  Neither of the two students showed up to any meetings.  Achille Messac, Senator-at-Large said that he would like to get a sense of how students would view this so that the faculty would know how this system will be perceived by the students.  Jun Abrajano, Secretary of the Senate asked whether the Curriculum Committee has made an attempt to disperse Minutes to student members of the committee and actively pursue their input.  He would not like this +/- grading system to come out as a faculty initiative without student input.  The students will feel as if the administration is rolling this out without student input.  He would like the faculty to search out input of the students before faculty gives out its recommendation.

 

Christoph added that now is the time for faculty to ask students during their classes what their opinions are on the proposed grading system change.   The Curriculum Committee did not feel that it was important to make a big public announcement prior to this because things were still being sorted out. 

 

Sharon Anderson-Gold, Senator-at-Large, thinks that it is important to discuss this issue in our classrooms.  She felt that to just take a cold poll and not discuss it is a bad idea.  She added that students do have certain kinds of apprehensions and they are counting on putting in that little extra effort to push their grade up at the end of the semester.  There should be a thorough discussion that that might not always happen with their grades.  Achille Messac suggested that the process must move forward carefully because if this becomes official without their input, there could be a student rebellion.  They might feel that the Faculty Senate was insensitive on this issue.

 

Tamar Gordon, Senator-at-Large, suggested discussion may be best done through the Student Senate.  Gary Gabriele stated that it might not be best to solely depend on the Student Senate for getting the student view and in getting it out to the student body.  In June Deery’s report to the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee there are a lot of pro’s and con’s that are presented in more detail with their data. This would form a good basis for what the Senate might want to put together in terms of a discussion document for faculty to use in their class to highlight the issues with students in their class.  Then the students can get a better idea of how professors will handle grading and the faculty will get an idea of how the students feel.  After that, the decision can be made as to whether it’s a faculty vote or a senate vote.

 

Student Input and Concern

The Provost suggested that this be posted to the web and made available for students.  He asked the Senate whether they would be interested in have open meetings where this topic can be discussed between faculty and students.  One important point is that during this process, the Senate makes sure that the students have input.  Although there are three student representatives on the committee and the only two appointed never showed up for the meetings, an effort should be made to solicit input and have an open forum.  Although the Student Senate meeting is on Friday, where valuable input will be captured, this may not be sufficient input.

 

 Jim Stodder, Senator from Hartford, stated that he believes there will be strong student opposition.  He stated that when there is a question of giving a student a B or an A, he tends to give the benefit of the doubt and move towards the A.  He felt that the students are probably correct in thinking that if there is a bias, it will be upward.  This is not the first time this issue has been raised on the RPI campus and students have expressed strong opposition.  He added that the Faculty Senate needs to be mindful of the student’s concerns.  Ash Kapila, Secretary of the Faculty, disagreed with the bias generally moving upwards.

 

Poly Article Regarding Grading Proposal

Christoph added that he was interviewed by a reporter for the Poly and that there should be an article in the recent edition.  It was confirmed that there was an editorial in the Poly regarding the grading proposal.  Gary Gabriele commented that it is the Poly’s article, not the students, and that that is an important distinction.  In the end they are appealing this to the Faculty Senate to get student input before making a decision.  Ultimately it’s up to the Senate to determine how much information they want and what they want to do with it.  The conversation with the students will start this Friday with a meeting with the Student Senate.  He believed the meeting was open to the faculty, but the website would have to be reviewed to find out for sure and also to find out the location and time of the meeting.

 

Achille asked for comments on the Poly’s article since students do read the publication.  Tamar Gordon, Senator-at-Large, had read the article and she stated that the article recommended that the students have input.  They also did their own informal poll and the students were opposed to it.  The editorial stated that “tripling the number of possible grades would also increase the number of students stressing over grades.  While some may not care about their marks, many students spend a great deal of time at the end of the semester trying to push their grade up a few points, even a few tenths of a point so that they may make the next higher grade.  On the faculty end of things, the Poly feels that the new grading system would make the jobs of the professors more difficult at the end of the semester.”  The article then stated that it seems that the majority of faculty members draw their own scales for grading.  The article concluded by saying that the proposed changes would have an extreme impact on the entire RPI community and as such requires input from all members and that the Poly would like to encourage input.

 

The Voting Process

President Cheryl Geisler stated that the Constitution is somewhat ambiguous on the correct process to follow, but it seems that the Constitution would call for a Senate vote.  Provost Peterson stated that ultimately the Faculty Senate would submit a recommendation to the Provost Office.  It is the Faculty Senate’s decision whether it is a Faculty vote.  The Provost cautioned that unless the Faculty Senate is willing to significantly incorporate the results of a student vote that a vote not be asked for.

 

There was a brief discussion on whether the student body should have a say or not.  Students are graded in high school with a +/- Grading System.  Achille Messac stated that they may or may not agree with the proposed grading system, but if they perceive it as unfair, it is.  It could create unrest among the student body.  To some extent, it would be a complaint against change.

 

Graduate Student Grading

Sharon Anderson-Gold, Senator-at-Large, asked whether it would apply to graduate courses as well.  Christoph said it was discussed by the Committee that it would apply to graduate students and that the graduate policy will remain the same.  In his opinion, the +/- grading system is a significant advantage to a graduate student since a C is effectively a failing grade.  There was a brief discussion regarding the ability of professors to give graduate students a D grade or whether the graduate student grading scale would end with a C being the lowest grade.  Debbie Kaminski asked the Curriculum Committee to explicitly state what an acceptable grade would be for a graduate student.  She added that if a D- is not acceptable for an undergraduate student, then a C- is not acceptable for a graduate student.  Bruce Nauman pointed out that the proposal, as currently formulated applies equally to undergraduate and graduate students.

 

Report on the Handbook Revisions – Ron Gutmann

The Handbook Committee is a committee that is appointed by the Faculty Senate.  Ron Gutmann’s presentation is to report on the key issues and what has been discussed in the committee thus far as well as the schedule for future activities.

 

Background and Purpose

The background and purpose section of the handbook discusses the purpose of the Handbook and what the process is for changes in the Handbook. The Handbook details all the rights, privileges, regulations and procedures that affect faculty as faculty.  The last major addition or substantial change to the handbook occurred in 1995.  Last year the Provost initiated contact with the Faculty Senate on a committee to help with revision of the Handbook.

 

Handbook Committee Membership

The Provost has been meeting with the Handbook Committee.  The committee includes Sibel Adali, David Hess, Ash Kapila, Al Wallace, the Provost and Tammy Cousins.  Tammy provides administrative support, looks at what other universities do, interacts with the legal office and works with the Provost in proposing changes to the document.  The Provost offered her support and she has been very useful to the process for changes that need to be made as well as being a good communication channel between the Committee and the Provost.

 

Timeline of Activities To-Date

Ron reviewed the process by using a timeline of activities.    In May 2003 Ron was asked to Chair the committee.  In August 2003, the membership of the committee was finalized and the Fall semester meeting schedule was determined.  In September, the committee spent a great deal of time on Part II of the document which covers appointments, promotions and tenure policy.  In November 2003, the editing of Parts 1, 3 and 8 were done.  David Hess agreed to chair the committee starting with the Spring semester since Ron Gutmann will be off-campus from January-March 2004.  Ron added that there has been good progress on the document.  He felt there are some good things in the old document but that they are somewhat out of date and some restructuring needs to be done.  The committee has been very interactive with the Provost and it has been an effective process.

 

Status of Key Issues To-Date

Ron stated that the focus of the handbook is on faculty, including tenure-track and tenured, research and clinical.  The Promotion and Tenure procedures were clarified in certain areas but are unchanged in terms of the current Handbook.   The Appeal Process, which was an issue discussed previously in the Senate, was discussed and the present procedures will be maintained.  The section on Chaired Professorships will be expanded to correspond to the practice with Institute Professors and there will be descriptions of Constellation Professors. There is an early draft of material on an entrepreneurial-type of description and intellectual property tech transfers which is still under discussion.  Clinical and Research Faculty appointments and promotion issues, of which there is quite little in the present Handbook, will be handled at the Department and School level and general faculty input will be required in this process.  The Committee also raised the issue of increasing the benefit for the long-term Research and Clinical faculty, perhaps those who have been at RPI longer than 6 years.  These staff members are usually on a one-year contract.  Possibly a benefit to having long-term Clinical and Research Faculty is to give them better benefits than they have now.  Although it should be addressed, it is not a Handbook Committee issue.  Ron wanted to bring this issue to the Faculty Senate and the Administration. 

 

There is a lot of restructuring of the document outside of Part 2, Promotion and Tenure.  The Committee feels that the new material is an improvement but some people will want to see where certain parts of the new document were in the old document or whether certain parts are new.  Because of this, along with a final recommended version, there will also be a version that takes the present handbook and denotes where things are in new handbook, shows whether it is a revision or has been deleted.  In the new Handbook there will be a version that cross-references the old Handbook.  The Committee tried to keep as much as possible unchanged, however, there is a need to make a number of changes.

 

Tentative Schedule

Ron hopes that the revised Handbook will be 90% complete by the end of the semester.  The committee continues to meet on Thursdays and a Saturday in order to stay on schedule.  The Committee may have a reasonable first cut by the end of the December 18 meeting.  The Committee hopes to have revised handbook “complete” by 2/1/2004.  Then the Committee submits the official report to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee for their consideration while the Provost proceeds with the legal review of the Handbook.  It is not a legal document; it is more of a covenant between Faculty and Administration.   But there are legal issues that are potentially encompassed.  If the above is done in a timely fashion, by the middle of March, the legal review comments will be available as well as the comments from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.  This can be followed by comments solicited from faculty at large.  This Handbook needs to last for a while and needs to serve the faculty well.  The Provost would like a document ready to go by the end of the spring semester.  The Committee suggested 3 feedback processes: the Faculty Senate Executive Committee can review it themselves, the present Handbook Committee can look at it after getting the feedback, or a new Faculty Senate Committee can look at it and report to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.

 

David Hess, Handbook Committee member stated that the Committee has some recommendations to the Senate on policy areas that need to be discussed including the Privacy Policy and the Intellectual Property issue.  The Property issue is only touched on in the old handbook and needs work, however a new policy is beyond the scope of the Handbook Committee.  The Committee is trying to update the handbook and not legislate new policies. 

 

Ron Gutmann added that it is important to put everything in the document that applies to faculty as faculty instead of faculty as “employees.”  If there is something that relates to all employees, then it would be a reference document in the Handbook.  But anything that is different for faculty such as privacy in computer files should be in the handbook.  That type of thing is not a Handbook Committee responsibility because it is a much larger issue.  President Geisler stated that that would have to be dealt with separately.

 

Emeriti Faculty

Bob Block, Senator-at-Large asked Ron what the Handbook says about Emeriti Faculty and whether the Handbook Committee addressed that or not.  Ron replied that the committee has not actively discussed it.  Provost Peterson added that the effort undertaken is to clarify the classification of faculty into three categories: tenure faculty (tenured and tenure-track faculty), non-tenure faculty, and special faculty appointments such as emeriti.  The reason there are multiple appointments, which will be clarified in the version that is currently being worked on, is that in many cases, when faculty retires they may or may not be Emeriti Faculty.  Then once retired, the Institution may reappoint that person with approval by the Board of Trustees.  Then one would have a temporary appointment as a Research Professor that has been approved by the Board as well as Emeriti status.  Steps have been taken to clarify this.

 

Clinical Faculty Issues in Handbook

Jim Stodder, Hartford Senator, stated that as a representative of many clinical faculty, he is disappointed because it is not clear to him what the status of clinical faculty is.  He asked whether they are faculty, as currently not recognized in the Handbook.  Ron replied that clinical faculty is discussed in the Handbook.  The Committee has gone over that and raised the issue of whether clinical and research faculty should be on more than a year by year appointment.  But it is an institute policy, not a handbook issue.  If the inquiry comes from the Faculty Senate, the senate can address it as a group.  Jim also voiced concern on the language pertaining to promotion being “left to the individual school”.  In the current handbook, the only issue left to the individual school is their placement on promotion committees, not tenure committees.  Ron replied that as far as appointments, even tenure-track assistant professors are done through the department and school level.  It’s not done any higher on the academic chain.  Provost Peterson responded by explaining that the statement “at the school level” means that clinical appointments do not have to go to the Faculty Senate Committee on Promotion and Tenure and that it goes through the regular process for promotion.  But for Clinical appointments, once they go to the Provost for approval they do not get distributed to the Committee of Deans and the Faculty Senate Committee on Promotion and Tenure; it stops at that level.  It is really no change as to how things are done now.

 

Jim Stodder added he hopes that if the goal of the Committee is to work through the document and to get rid of ambiguity and contradictions as a preview to the faculty senate, that major and substantive issues be addressed.  He stated concern over the issue regarding the ad hoc committee for Hartford, that had both Troy and Hartford people on it, recommend for promotion issues, not tenure issues, that instead of allowing clinical faculty to be represented in departments that have substantial clinical faculty, clinical faculty be considered to be part of the process.  This is the issue that Jim is concerned with leaving it up to the discretion of department.  The more fundamental issues are the issue of firing and notice of leaves.  This is of extreme concern to Hartford.   Currently multi-year clinical faculty is entitled to one semesters notice for their leave which has not happened.  He is troubled that leaving it up to the school, rather than having it in a document, makes their rights less clear. 

 

Jim Stodder stated that he is not suggesting the Committee go beyond the issues of the current handbook but he suggests that there be more clarity and different definitions of the policy as it is currently in the Handbook.   For example, there needs to be more info on sabbaticals since tenure and tenure-track faculty are entitled to pay or ½ pay sabbaticals depending on length of service and clinical faculty is entitled to unpaid sabbaticals.  The Provost explained that the current Handbook Committee’s job is to put the Handbook in a presentation format that makes sense with minimal changes.  The committee cannot address issues such as whether clinical faculty should have sabbaticals, what the notification of clinical faculty should be or what the intellectual property process should be.  The Handbook Committee is trying not to get into those issues because the Faculty Senate should address those individually.  The Committee is preparing a list that the Faculty Senate should look at in the future.  The committee isn’t necessarily changing everything the Handbook has, except when it does not make sense.  The committee is not making policy changes, only clarifying the document to make it a better document. 

 

The Provost stated that the way the Faculty Senate defines faculty and the way the handbook defines faculty is different.  The Faculty Handbook as it currently exists and as it is being developed defines Clinical faculty as faculty that the Faculty Senate Constitution does not.  There are two definitions of faculty that exist today that are being carried forward.  Sharon Anderson-Gold stated that this is part of the difficulty of trying to mesh two systems, both of which include groups that are called faculty, but operate on two different premises in the Handbook.  Clinical faculty is working on a short-term contract which is a different kind of relationship to an Institute than tenure-track faculty have to an Institute.  It makes it hard to mesh. 

 

Jim Stodder went on record to say that there are some fundamental issues about the status of Clinical Faculty that he thought would be included during the discussion of the Handbook.  He wants to make sure that further discussion will still take place within the Faculty Senate.   President Geisler stated that these issues will have to be taken up by the Senate. 

 

Ron said that his opinion is that the appointment of clinical and research faculty on a year by year basis seems fine.  The question is whether the University sees them as being long term in those ranks.  If they are here for a longer period of time, perhaps something should be available to them other than the normal staff benefit and more than one year by one year contract.  But it will still probably be significantly different than the benefits for tenure and tenure-track faculty. 

 

Achille Messac, Senator-at-Large asked about some of the changes within the Handbook that are policy issues that may have been addressed during the Committee discussions.  David Hess gave the example of the appointment process being ambiguous especially for Chairs, Deans and higher level administrators in terms of what the role of faculty is in that process.  He stated that there are different pieces of the Handbook that are in contradiction to each other.  They brought the pieces together into one place in the Handbook and clarified it.  This was not a significant enough policy change to bring to the Faculty Senate.  Complex issues such as privacy, property and clinical faculty will need to go to the Senate.

 

Privacy Issue

Bruce Nauman, Vice President of the Faculty Senate, asked the Provost whether there is a policy on privacy for faculty.  The Provost responded that he is not aware of one.  In terms of the computer files and who owns the information and what the faculty’s rights are, he is not aware of an existing privacy policy.  However, it does not mean that one does not exist.  One of the things being discussed by the Committee is what are the privileges, expectations and responsibilities of faculty.  The Privacy Issue has come up but the document cannot get held up by things that need to be discussed individually.  The Handbook Committee cannot rewrite every policy.

 

Review by Faculty Senate

President Geisler added that the Faculty Senate Executive Committee intends to review the entire handbook revision once and then bring it to the Senate to review.     

 

New Business

Department of Chemistry Name Change

The Provost office received a request for approval to change the Department of Chemistry to Department of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry.  The process followed before was that it was sent to each of the Deans to discuss with each Chair, then returned to Bud and then sent back to all of the Deans of all the schools, the Registrar and President of the Faculty Senate.  Bud had asked if there are any issues that needed to be discussed and thus far has not had any opposition to the name change.  There will be no change in the degree name.  The Chemical and Biological Engineering Departments are either supportive or have not voiced any objections.  The Faculty Senate does not have a formal role in this process, but it can be discussed if the Faculty Senate wants to formally respond on this issue.

 

Events Planned During Exam Week

Ash Kapila, Secretary of the Faculty, stated that there were three students who asked to take a final exam at a different time due to an athletic event.  Although special exams have to be frequently planned, Ash is questioning why there is an athletic event planned during final exam week.

 

Gary Gabriele, Vice Provost said that there is policy that a student can ask for permission to take an exam at a different time.  When the opportunity arose for this prestigious tournament, the coach asked Gary whether they could commit to the tournament or not.  The students were to warn faculty early in the semester about the conflict.  In this particular case, the students were told at the start of the semester and had told students more than once to tell faculty that this tournament was planned.  Unfortunately, this student waited until late in the semester.  The policy is well stated and the athletic coaches know this.  However, these coaches are often frustrated because they try not to schedule events during exam week and then hear that a class final is given the week before exam week.  This has been a constant complaint from the athletic coaches because they purposely avoid events during exam week only to find out that an exam was the week before.  In this case, the coach took a chance that most students did not have finals during the tournament, and most of them do not except for this case. 

 

The Provost added that the policy does not just apply to athletics but to all University-excused absences and how they are handled in regard to tests.  Achille Messac asked whether the faculty is required to make special arrangements.  The faculty is not required to make special arrangements.  The students have to ask for permission, not inform the faculty member. 

 

Ash Kapila’s concern is that when it is left up to each individual faculty member to decide whether they will allow the special accommodation or not, in some ways it is unfair to the student.  Some faculty may allow it and some may not.  He asked Gary whether he thinks this type of activity is appropriate and if there are lots of tournaments that take place during finals week.  Gary believes that there are not many during finals week since all schools are going through finals, too.  Many coaches find that their athletes are not busy during finals week.

 

Debbie Kaminski, Faculty Senate recording Secretary, stated that the faculty member might be unfairly burdened by being asked to take the extra step to accommodate the student.  Gary stated that the coaches are willing to work with the faculty.  In this case, the coach offered to monitor the exam for the student while they were away and FedEx it back.  The student however could be at a disadvantage since some questions on exams cannot be answered by the coach. He added that he felt it is OK to ask the student to not expose anything about the exam.  That since they are asking for a special favor and accommodation, the faculty member can ask for the favor of exam details.  This will not be a regular occurrence. 

 

Sharon Anderson-Gold asked to what extent the faculty gets to choose their exam date and time.  Gary Gabriele stated that final exams are based on the day of the week and the time the class meets and it is rotated from semester to semester to limit conflicts in the student’s final exam schedule.  The Provost stated that a problem at Rensselaer is that faculty moves the final exam to the week before final exam week.  There are rules in place where students should not have to take more than two final exams per day, but then students can have multiple exams the week prior to final exam week.  In the memo that is distributed, it states very clearly that final exams need to be administered during final exam week.  There are a lot of classes that give final comprehensive last exams during the last week of classes.  These students are short-changed by one week.   From an academic perspective, final exams need to be given during final exam week as scheduled.  This is not a student vote even though students would not complain about having their exam early.  The Provost ended by asking the faculty to encourage their colleagues to have exams during finals week.

 

Meeting Adjourned to Working Groups

Meeting adjourned to working groups 3:41