President Cheryl Geisler announced a change in the Agenda for the meeting. The Faculty Advisory Committee presentation on Compensation has been rescheduled.
At , 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.
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.
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)
Christoph presented the main arguments for the +/- Grading System:
Christoph stated that all the points were discussed extensively in the FSCC.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
Meeting adjourned to working groups 3:41