Transcript Senate Meeting
August 23, 2016
Start of meeting had several techincal difficulties, such as projection and new software.
Meeting started about 15 minutes late.
James Goldstein, chair: Welcome to the first meeting of the University Senate for 2016–17. I now call the meeting to belated order. For those of you who don’t know me I’m James Goldstein. I am the Senate Chair this year.
I you are a senator or a substitute for a senator please be sure you sign in onto the sheet at the top of the room and if you haven’t already picked up a clicker, you will need one because we have some votes today. For new senators and guests let me explain the Senate rules about speaking. If you’d like to speak about an issue or ask a question please go to the microphone (I guess there’s only one microphone, what happened to the other? Oh, you are going to put it up.) on either side and when it is your turn, state your name and whether or not you are a senator and the unit you represent. The rules of the Senate require that senators or substitute senators be allowed to speak first and then after they are done guests are welcome to speak as well.
The agenda today was set by the Senate Steering Committee and posted on the Web site in advance, it’s now up on the screen.
First we need to establish a quorum, so please turn on your clickers. (oh you can’t turn them on yet, technical difficulty) [2:08] We could get the sign in sheet and see how many people have signed in. If you are a senator or a substitute senator could you please raise your hand. We have 86 members of the Senate we need 44 for a quorum. Let the record record that we have 60 present so a quorum is established. When it comes time to vote for the Constitutional Amendment we will have enough people if nobody leaves to be able to do that. [4:03]
The first order of business is to approve the minutes for the meeting of June 14, those minutes have been posted on the Web site. Were there any additions, changes, or corrections to the minutes? Hearing none do I have a motion to approve the minutes? Do I have a second? Second. All in favor of approving the minutes say aye please. Opposed? The minutes are approved. Thank you.
Now, the next item of business is comments from President Gogue, Dr. Gogue.
Dr. Gogue, President: Thank you James. I appreciate you all being here. If you were away all summer, welcome back, delighted to have you. We started the new year last week, things went pretty smooth except for Bliss and the printing areas on campus, Bliss, I could tell you’ve been working with technology up here also. We did get a lot of complaints about printing. Don’t know the details, but apparently there’s a new system in place and over time will be a much better system. Thank you for what you are doing in that area. Also last week the students had a very strong priority to bring Uber back to Auburn. My understanding at least has been reasonably positive in the first week or so. The only complaints we hear is it takes a long time for people to get their vehicles. Hopefully more vehicles will come as a part of that. We think it does add a dimension of safety to the campus. We are excited to see our students do that.
The legislature is in session. This is a special session that they call. The call was to do 2 things; one was to try to deal with the Medicaid issue. Our understanding is they are going to take funds out of the BP settlement funds and actually fund it out of that for a one year. That’s their creative plan for that for the coming year. Second item has to do with the lottery. You may have seen in the paper, it’s passed the Senate and there will be some modifications, it’s gone to the House. We don’t know the outcome but it has to be approved by both the House and the Senate by Wednesday, tomorrow, for it to be on the ballots in the fall for a Constitutional amendment change. So don’t know right now funding would be 90% to go to the General Fund and about 10% to the Educational Trust Fund. On the surface you’d say that’s not very good because most states have used lotteries to put into the educational areas. Alabama did not, but it probably protects the Educational Trust Fund so it’s one, if they decide to do it, it’s probably in our best interest long term.
Board of Trustees meets in September, I don’t recall the exact date. We start working on the agenda for that meeting tomorrow so I don’t have the items that will actually be on the agenda to share with you.
The final thing I would mention is that there was an announcement by the Southeast Conference today in which the 14 deans of the Libraries in the Conference have gotten together and they now have something they refer to as an extended or expanded loan program between the various Libraries. So something like 60 million volumes are now available. More details will follow and I am sure somebody here from the Library could explain it better then I, just saw the present announcement on it today. Something, hopefully that will be beneficial, a number of the Conferences have done things similar to that; Atlantic Coast Conference did that 10 or 15 years ago in which at any institution you really had very good access to all the documents within the ACC schools. Thank you. [8:20]
James Goldstein, chair: Thank you Dr. Gogue. Now a few announcements from the Senate Chair to bring you up to date on a few matters. The Senate Leadership with help from the Steering and Rules Committees have continued our work over the summer. As you may recall last year the Academic Affairs Committee, chaired by Lisa Kensler presented a report on competency based education. After the initial study of the topic it was suggested that an ad hoc committee be formed to investigate the matter further. So we called for volunteers and created an ad hoc committee. Their charge to make specific recommendations about whether and how Auburn should proceed with competency based education. The committee is chaired by Constance Relihan, associate provost for undergraduate studies, and she is joined by 12 additional members who were approved by the Rules Committee. Their final report is due to be presented to the Steering Committee on March 9, 2017 and we look forward to the results of their work.
Two other ad hoc committees were also formed during the summer. One is an ad hoc committee on annual leave banking for catastrophic leave. It is chaired by immediate past chair, Larry Teeter, and includes 8 other members approved by the Rules Committee. Many other universities have arrangements so that employees who have not used all their leave time can donate it to a common pool so that others that use up their available time for things like medical crisis can have some additional resources. This policy would not affect most faculty but it would be open to administrators, A&P, staff, and other employees who have annual leave time.
Finally, in the June meeting a motion passed to create an ad hoc committee on fringe benefit charges on summer salaries paid from extramural grants. The committee is chaired by David Held from entomology and plant pathology. It is a small committee initially with 3 other members and an additional member is in the process of being approved by Rules.
Another topic that may be of interest to this body are ongoing efforts to reform the Retirement System of Alabama. An interesting opinion piece was circulating online a few weeks ago that had been published on AL.com. we will include a link to that op ed in the minutes to this meeting. We’ve also been made aware of Facebook group dedicated to the topic called “Save our RSA” which may be of interest to some of you.
That concludes my remarks. I am looking forward to an active year for the Senate. Please let me or any of the other officers know if you would like the Senate to take up any business. I also should introduce folks. Let me introduce the other officers and other relevant people. Larry Teeter is the immediate past chair, Dan Svyantek is the chair-elect, Xing Ping Hu is the secretary this year, Don Mulvaney is the secretary-elect, and this year our parliamentarian is Mitchel Brown, from the department of political science, and our administrative assistant is Laura Kloberg, who almost had a heart attack when nothing was working at the start of the meeting. She very ably maintained her cool and got things running, we are all grateful to her, she not only helps during the meeting but she also works behind the scenes in between meetings making sure that everything is running smoothly and the Web site is up to date, so thanks to Laura.
The first action item we are voting replacements for a number of Senate committees. After the year is about to begin we get last minute notifications of people leaving or otherwise needing to be replaced. So I turn the floor over to our secretary, Xing Ping Hu, who will present the list of nominees and preside over the vote. Hopefully the clickers are working at that point.
Xing Ping Hu, secretary: When we have vacancies the Senate Constitution asks that Rules Committee find and nominate members for the Senate Committees. The nominations need to be approved by the Senate. This year the Rules Committee has worked hard to nominate members to fulfill these committee slots. The Rules Committee and the Senate Leadership want to thank all of those that volunteered but were not selected because of the limited slots.
What you have before you is a list of Committees, their nominees, and nominees rotation date. This is a motion coming from a standing committee of the Senate and does not require a second. With that said I am willing to take any comments or questions. This list has been posted on the Senate Web site, hopefully you have had a chance to review it. Now I will take any comments or questions regarding the list of volunteers, if there are any. I hear none. Okay, now get your clicker ready, I am now asking you if you approve press A, or B if you don’t. A bit of technology issues, we are going to do it again. A= 59, B=2. Thank you very much.
James Goldstein, chair: The next action item is the proposed change to the Senate Constitution to add a designee from the Office of Assessment as an ex-officio member of the Teaching Effectiveness Committee. I turn the floor over to the presenter, Todd Sturey, chair of this Committee, who will review the resolution that was presented at our last meeting. I will mention that this is a Constitutional amendment so we need 57 votes in favor, a two-thirds majority in order for this change to take place. So nobody leave.
Todd Sturey, chair of the Teaching Effectiveness Committee: Thank you, I’m Todd Sturey, I’m in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and I’m the incoming chair of the Teaching Effectiveness Committee for the university. The resolution has been available to you, so hopefully you’ve all had a chance to look at it, but in a nut shell, with the recently established office of Assessment which has as its goal basically evaluating the ways that the various units assess their programs of instruction, the Teaching Effectiveness Committee has felt that it makes sense to have a designee from the Office of Assessment on the Teaching Effectiveness Committee. That is what the resolution basically establishes is a designee on the Teaching Effectiveness Committee from the Office of Assessment.
You will have to forgive me because this is my first Senate Meeting ever, so I am not quite sure what comes next.
James Goldstein, chair: We can take questions, if there are any questions. (none) I think your job is done.
As I said we need to get 57 in favor of this for it to be a constitutional amendment. Since this does come from a standing committee of the Senate there is no need to second the motion. Just to be clear, the motion is to change the language of the constitution, so that’s why we scrolled down to the bottom part that would show you the new language. Once again we resort to clickers. If you are in favor of the constitutional change to incorporate someone from the Office of Assessment into the Teaching Effectiveness Committee, please press A, and if you are opposed please press B. A= 57, B=4. The chair rules that that the motion is approved by a two-thirds majority, so that will be the Senate’s recommendation. [20:23] Thank you very much. Living life on the edge.
We have one information item today concerning ADA compliance in Canvas. Our presenter is Trace Donald, Director of the Office of Accessibility, who has a PowerPoint.
Trace Donald, Director of the Office of Accessibility: I appreciate the opportunity to come and give a brief overview of Canvas, well, not really Canvas but tips to help make your courses a little more accessible.
Some of the topics we were talking about when we talk about accessibility is students that have visual impairments and students that are deaf, those are the ones who are most impacted by how we design our Web sites, how we design our Word documents, pdfs, and things along those lines. These 6 topics sort of transcend the Web in how we do our documents (PowerPoints and such). So I want to talk about these in Canvas. These are just little things and our office is available, IMG is available to help, Video Center is available to help, so we’ve got personnel in place to kind of help you through some of these processes.
First thing when you design for Canvas is think about your headers. A lot of times when we want to give text emphasis, we blow up the text, make it bold, but if you are blind and navigating a page when we look at headers, if there are no headers on a page you are not able to get a glimpse of what is happening on the page. Think if you are sighted and you are looking through a soda straw and you are reading a Web site, that’s pretty much how a blind person navigates a page. They are going to hear one word at a time, from left to right, so for them to get a synopsis of your page one of the first things they do is to bring up headers. Headers are structured where H1 is the main title of the page, H2 would be another more important topic on the page and underneath H3 and H4. This is subjective in how you do this but typically H1 is going to be the title, then you will have H2s and down from there.
For example in this document here, the title is H1, then we have main categories of H2, and underneath “Office of Civil Rights” H3 and H3. So when a blind student gets to a page they are going to bring up a list of headers. These headers don’t match what was on the previous document, but you get an idea, Header 1, headers 2 listed, headers 3; and they listen to the titles and once they highlight that text on this dialogue box it takes them directly to that point on the page. So they can start listening. It provides a good synopsis to help with navigation and speed up time. This is a video that show how to do it in Canvas. It took a paragraph tag , this is your edit box within Canvas, highlight the text and go to the right corner where it says paragraph and choose the proper heading that you need.
Another thing to do is to have better links. A lot of times with Web pages and Word documents and Canvas we like to put “Click Here”, “Read More”. Another technique that blind students and employees that use screen readers to read their text is to bring up a list of links, just like when you are looking at a Web site you might look at the left column to see links to directly go to where you need to go. So your links should make sense out of context. They are going to bring up a list of links and navigate down, find the link they need and then travel to that spot.
Another thing to avoid is using long URLs within a document. Because when they read the page or links it is read out exactly as it is typed, “http:// sport/… etc.”, it reads through the entire link. So it’s really better to create a descriptive link. [25:17] I’ll show you how to do that.
These are just some examples of links that need a little improvement. Any time we use “read more” if you have multiple read more’s in the document all those come up as links on a page and they don’t know where they are navigating to. Same thing with “click here” or the one on the right “find it here”, those things don’t provide a lot of navigation help for a student using a screen reader. Down at the bottom, kind of small, but their button says learn more about Charles Nowak. It kind of gives a more descriptive link in the button of the link and where it’s going. Over here are some news articles with a link that says “more”, then put “more news” that makes it easier for them to find out where they are going. If you don’t this is what they see when they navigate; click here, click here, click here, click here, click here, so if we can provide better links and descriptions it makes their navigation much easier.
Another process is describing images. In Canvas if you import an image and that image is important to conveying your information to the student, they give you an opportunity to use an ‘alt tag’. The is where you write a brief description of the image, so when the student is blind, listening to your page, when they get to this image it will give them a brief description of what that image is. Usually descriptions are less than 125 characters. If you describe the image within the document, then you don’t have to use the ‘alt tag’, if not described in the document you can use double quotes and the actual image gets ignored. If you are using images that are just decoration, we usually use double quotes. This shows you how to do that. You select your image and it will bring up a box at the bottom that says: alt text, then you type in a little description of the image. When a student visits your page and you have used ‘alt tags’ they can hear that description.
Another thing we are working on is caption in videos, this is probably the most time consuming part if you import videos into your classes, is to have a caption. We have a server on campus where we can do this and we work with each professor individually to make this happen. This would help students who are deaf, but you see other benefits too if you have student’s who have English as their second language. If people sit in the back of the room they may have a difficult time understanding the instructor, so you see a lot of benefits with a captions. This is where you contact our office and can work through this with you to find good solutions. Another thing is to look at color contrast. A lot of this is common sense, but make sure reading the text is fairly easy.
These are things that tend to get uploaded into Canvas the most; Microsoft Word Documents, pdf documents, and PowerPoints. Much like the Canvas pages that we create, in Word documents it is good to use headers and to describe any images that we import into the document. If we are inserting tables then identify the top row as the header for the table, so if someone is navigating through your table they are able to know what column (the cell data) they are actually referring to, and describe any charts that you include into your documents. We have material that can help you through that and have some personnel that can assist with this.
PDFs, a lot of times we create pdfs by scanning in a document and post it to the Web site. That is not very accessible because it is an image and not text. The best way to create a pdf if it is a document that you create is to start out in Word, add your headers, then save it as a pdf. That makes the navigation much easier. [30:20] This is basic accessibility here. If you could highlight the text there is a good chance that your document is fairly accessible. It’s the beginning point. If you cannot highlight the text it is not accessible and we have to do something to make it more accessible.
PowerPoints, when you are designing these, if you can use the layouts that are already available, the themes that are available, it makes it much easier for a person that’s blind to navigate. It also creates an outline for the PowerPoint, that outline is what a blind student will be reading through. If you have images, describe those images. We work with a lot of classes from mathematics to engineering and we know they can be very complex and we do have other ways to do this to create faculty images, ? images, it’s really kind of dependent on the student. Give each slide a unique title, so that the student can navigate to a particular slide. If you use URLs then use descriptive URLs.
Microsoft has done a pretty good job of putting in inspectors into the document so once you create a document in word, there is function in Word to check your accessibility. There is prompt to ask you to enter in all tags and do other things, same thing with PowerPoint, and pdfs in Adobe Acrobat will also do the same thing. So you can run a test to find where your accessibility problems may be.
This is our Help Desk; Dr. Renner oversees that (734-2722) Office of Accessibility (844-2096). We have people dedicated to meet with you everyday, call in advance. The bottom 2 links are for faculty if you are really interested in this to learn more of the technical side of things. Just know that Scott’s available to work with you, he’ll come your office or you may come to his and he has student workers to help with the captioning and document conversion and such.
Ed Youngblood, senator, Communication and Journalism: How ling to you think it will be before we have to worry about video descriptions? Video descriptions are if you’ve got a video player that describes what is going on on the screen for someone who is blind.
Trace Donald, Director of the Office of Accessibility: I suspect that’s going to be in the next cycle. FCC is already requiring it for companies like Netflix and Hulu and all these other companies to provide captioning, but some of the companies have also been adding these audio descriptions. I think it’s down the road but there is a lot of technical things that need to happen to make it more common place, especially in the classroom. I think it’s down the road but eventually it will be a request. Thank you.
James Goldstein, chair: Thank you Trace. That concludes our formal agenda for today.
Is there any unfinished business? Hearing none, is there any new business? Hearing none, I now adjourn the meeting. [34:39]