Minutes of the University Senate
February 14, 2006
Broun Hall Auditorium
Submitted by Patricia Duffy
Present: Conner Bailey, Richard Penaskovic, Patricia Duffy, Don Large, Paul Bobrowski, Dick Brinker, John Heilman, Michael Moriarty, Harriette Huggins, Roger Garrison, Garnetta Lovett, Robert Locy, David Cicci, Diane Hite, Mario Lightfoote, Charles Mitchell, Barry Fleming, Charlene LeBleu, Anthony Moss, Timothy McDonlad, Anoop Sattineni, Sridhar Krishnamurti, Rik Blumenthal, Larry Crowley, Debra Worthington, Alvin Sek See Lim, Ann Beth Presley, Suhyun Suh, Gary Martin, Randy Beard, Judith Lechner, Charles Gross, John Bolton, Sadik Tuzun, Claire Crutchley, Michel Raby, Larry Teeter, Jim Saunders, Saeed Maghsoodloo, Chris Arnold, Andrew Wohrley, Roger Wolters, Hugh Guffey, Darrel Hankerson, Daniel Mackowski, John Rowe, Robin Fellers, Joe Sumners, Cindy Brunner, Forrest Smith, Salisa Westrick, Bernie Olin, James Shelley, Francis Robicheaux, Anthony Gadzey, Robert Norton, Virginia O'Leary, Vivian Larkin, Carole Zugazaga, Howard Thomas Scott Phillips, Saralyn Smith-Carr, Bonnie MacEwan, Cate Giustino
Absent, sending a substitute: Debbie Shaw, David Wilson Barbara Kemppainen, Alice Buchanan, Ken Tilt, Tom Williams
Absent, no substitute: June Henton, Dan Bennett, Stewart Schneller, John Tatum, Jennie Swaim, , Zachary Bryant, Jack DeRuiter, Ronald Clark, Werner Bergen, Raymond Hamilton, Robert Chambers, Allen Davis, Richard Good, Kathryn Flynn, Willie Larkin, Randy Tillery, William Shaw
Conner Bailey called the meeting to order at 3:00 p.m. and reminded Senators to please sign in at the back. He said that he would continue the practice of allowing anyone present from a represented group to ask questions or take part in discussions from the floor. He asked that Senators have precedence if many people want to speak and reminded speakers to go to the microphones and state their name, whether or not they are a Senator, and what unit they represent.
Conner Bailey then called for approval of the January 17 Senate minutes. Rik Blumenthal moved that the minutes be approved. They were approved by voice vote without opposition.
Announcements from President's Office, Interim President Ed Richardson
President Richardson said he wanted to talk
about the Fisher Report and three other items.
He said that at the legislative session, the substitute budget
introduced last Wednesday was a budget Auburn University and the
For his second point, he said he wanted to remind everyone that we are trying to establish an environment in which the next president will have an excellent chance of success, so that the new president is in a position to execute presidential authority and stay for an extended period of time, meaning five to ten years. He said he wants to make sure the next person has a high possibility of success and that it may not be easy to do so.
He said when he came on as interim president, he saw a three year process: The first year to remove SACS probation, the second year to establish institutional control, and the third to conduct the search. He said the second task, establishing institutional control, is the most difficult, but that he believes progress is being made and he is optimistic.
He pointed out that Bob McGinnis was at the Senate meeting and mentioned the capital campaign, with its goal of $500 million dollars. He said over $332 million has already been pledged, showing a tremendous commitment to the university. He said the kick-off event (on February 3) was well appointed and well choreographed, compatible with accomplishing this goal. He said Sam Ginn and Buddy Weaver are chairpersons for the capital campaign.
He said the third thing he would talk about is the Fisher report, but that he is not here to talk specifics. He cautioned those present not to form opinions about specific aspects of the report too quickly. He said that forming opinions before the (Board of Trustees) committee meets might be polarizing. Further, he said some of the recommendations won't even be discussed until a new president is on board. He said that faculty representatives will have an opportunity to participate at the appropriate time. He said the first discussion of the Fisher Report by the Trustees will be during the April meeting, and that it would also be discussed at the June meeting. He said it was appropriate (for the University Senate) to discuss it, but that he would advise us to wait before making specific suggestions. He said the Fisher Report is a template and that there will be choices. He said some things in the Report are for the Board of Trustees to do, some for the interim president, and some things for the next president. He said he anticipates the Board committee will meet in the next week or so and that the Board will complete its work by June 30. He said he believes we can stay on track with the search for a new president, to have a new president by the year's end.
He said the final item he would talk about
is student assessment and where the Board of Trustees is going in that
regard. He said it may sound as if a few
of the board members are being critical of what is going on at
Questions and Answers for President Richardson
Ruth Crocker said that last year President Richardson told this body that diversity was not a priority. In view of what the Fisher Report had to say about diversity, she asked if he is prepared to say that diversity is a priority, and if, for example, he is prepared to move Affirmative Action out of HR.
President Richardson replied that if he said that diversity was not a priority, he was wrong. He said he thinks we have moved forward in that regard. The Fisher report discussed diversity and he said he expects us to continue to move forward. He said he thinks it is an issue that affects us in many ways. He said we will look carefully at those Fisher Report recommendations.
Bob Locy asked about President Richardson's comments concerning the Fisher Report, in terms of outlining what is Board of Trustees responsibility and what is the president's responsibility. He said it is not clear to him what the faculty role will be in instituting outcomes of the Fisher Report.
President Richardson said the Board committee consists of four people. Earlon McWhorter and Sam Ginn are co-chairs, with Sarah Newton and Charles McCrary as the other members. He said he anticipates there will be an organizational meeting, and he will give advice to the Board of Trustees on what issues are germane to the Board, which are germane to the Interim President, and which for the new president. He said he can't yet answer the faculty involvement question. He said the Board committee will operate under open meeting rules and that the Board committee knows faculty involvement is critical for success.
Rich Penaskovic asked about the time line of the search for a permanent president. He noted that it is getting late in the year. He said that the April Board meeting will be devoted to the Fisher report, and thus the Board may not discuss the presidential search. He said he realizes that the decision on when to start the search is the Board's but he said he would like President Richardson's opinion on the issue.
President Richardson responded that Earlon McWhorter said that he would form a search committee later this spring and that Dr. Kuhnle has said his efforts are on-going. He said he is optimistic that the search is on target for getting a decision by the end of the calendar year. He said he thinks it would be a mistake to start earlier. He said that some of issues in the Fisher report need to be addressed. He said that he believes that will happen in April and June and that by the fall an intense process will be started. He said that applicants would look at the current Board of Trustees and would look at the tenure of the current president and that they will need to see some stability. He said we need the Board to look at the recommendations and confirm that the president is in charge, and then a search can be productive. He said a person would need to feel there was enough stability to come here.
Rik Blumenthal complemented President Richardson on his success with the legislative agenda. Then he asked about assessment in terms of SACS. He said that in his department, they instituted testing of students, so we may have already addressed this issue.
President Richardson said he hopes that is the case. He said that the short-coming is that we have not presented the data in a consistent way to confirm that it is being done. If there are accrediting requirements, he said we will look at that first. He said that we don't have to go to the outside, but we do have to confirm. He said another question is whether we have assessed what we want to assess, such as the overall success of the core. He said the Board is not aware of such an assessment.
Rik Blumenthal said his department's data is in the SACS report.
Announcement from Senate Chair Conner Bailey
Conner Bailey said the Fisher Report
recommended that we not move forward rapidly on some items, one of which is
post-tenure review. He said we don't
know how the university will respond to these recommendations. He said that this body has discussed
post-tenure review at great length as well as Academic Program Review and the Initiative
He said that as previously announced, the Nominations Committee chaired by Professor Howard Thomas has brought forward a strong slate of candidates for election next month as Chair-elect and Secretary-elect. He announced that Cindy Brunner and David Cicci are candidates for Chair-elect, and Ann Beth Presley and David Sutton are the candidates for Secretary-elect.
He said that the call for volunteers to
serve on Senate and University committees has been issued. He said that if there is one thing that has
impressed him as chair-elect and as the current chair, it is the central role
many of these committees play in governance of
He said that earlier this month
There were no questions for Conner Bailey.
Rules Committee Nominations
The first action item was nominations for Rules Committee.
Conner Bailey put up the Handbook description of the rules committee.
"Rules Committee: The Rules Committee shall consist of the chair of the Senate as chair, the chair-elect, the immediate past-chair, the secretary, the secretary-elect, and six members elected by the Senate. Elected members shall serve two-year staggered terms. Election of members to two-year terms shall be held by secret ballot at each March meeting of the Senate. Candidates who receive a majority vote shall be elected, and their appointment shall become effective the following August. Nominations shall be made from the floor at the Senate's February meeting. Information about the candidates shall be distributed to all Senators with the agenda for the March meeting. All members of the committee must be members of the Senate at the time of their election…. The committee shall serve as the Committee on Committees. All questions concerning Senate procedures shall be referred to this committee …."
He noted that the Rules Committee is one of three key faculty committees. Subject to Senate approval, Rules appoints faculty to Senate committees and nominates faculty to such important University committees as the Promotion & Tenure Committee.
Charline LeBlue nominated Claire Crutchley from Finance,
Larry Teeter nominated Andrew Wohrley, Libraries.
Diane Hite nominated Bernie Olin,
The three nominees are current Senators.
Resolution Concerning Administrator Evaluation Committee
The second action item was a resolution for a change in constituency of the administrator evaluation committee to include a faculty member designated by the provost.
Rich Penaskovic read the resolution, which came from the Steering Committee, and moved for its adoption.
Rik Blumenthal asked for the motivation for the change. He said that the committee was originally set up to have no administrators on it to avoid letting an administrator see the raw data, which might be identifiable by respondent.
Rich Penaskovic said the Provost is the person with the ultimate responsibility to evaluate administrators.
Conner Bailey added that the request came out of the Steering Committee. He said that we want the provost's office, which is responsible for evaluations, to feel confident in the process. He said a high degree of coordination or cooperation can be achieved and complemented Drew Clark for his assistance this year. As for identifying faculty, he said that the identity of individual evaluators is never available to the committee in any form, anyway, so he doesn't see it as an issue.
Conner Bailey called for the vote. The motion carried.
He invited Don Large to come forward to speak about the tobacco user surcharge program.
Don Large began by providing background.
Don Large noted that we are self-insured on health insurance, and that Blue Cross administers the program. Each year, he said, costs have gone up because we use more and more services and buy more and more pharmaceuticals and there is rapid inflationary pricing of health care. He said employees pay 20, 30, or 40 percent of the costs of the coverage, depending on their income level. In aggregate, he said, employees pay 35 percent of the costs, and the university pays 65 percent. He said that each year the University Insurance and Benefits Committee, which has representatives from all covered groups, brings forward recommendations on how to increase premiums to meet costs for the next year. In recent years, he said, we have tried to mirror the PEEHIP plan of the state, which covers our retirees. PEEHIP instituted a tobacco surcharge a year ago. He noted that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death, and the recommendation was designed for cost containment. He further noted that the state employees and PEEHIP had gone to this plan.
Don Large said he recommended that the surcharge go into effect. He then discussed why the surcharge targeted tobacco when there are many bad habits that affect health care costs. He said that the committee noted that tobacco use is the leading preventable cause.
He then apologized for the questions and
concerns relative to the form sent out.
He said he told the administrative group to use the PEEHP form, but in
hindsight he wishes he had studied the form more. He said the language of the form is not
consistent with the intent of
He said he intends to ask the Insurance and Benefits Committee to review the form that was sent out and to make recommendations for better wording that is consistent with the intent. He then said we will use the current forms this year. He said there would be no kind of testing except in extreme cases and for cause. He said that in the next few months, there will be a new form and that there would be another chance next year to sign off on the new form.
Conner Bailey thanked Don Large for his presentation.
Questions and Answers for Don Large
(Secretary's note: The tobacco surcharge discussion was extended and these notes are a condensed version to get across the most important points. The transcript for this meeting will contain exact wording and all the details of everyone's questions.)
Rik Blumenthal said he fears many colleagues have tossed their forms in the trash, not knowing what it was. He asked if there is a place online to get the form.
Don Large said he didn't know the answer, but that he will cover it.
Anthony Gadzey noted that it should not be difficult to find out who is cheating, and that there should be a policy that smokes out those who are cheating and levies heavy penalties on them.
Don Large said he'd like the Insurance and Benefits committee to advise him about penalties.
Cindy Brunner asked about the date of implementation of the plan, which appeared to be in error on the form.
Don Large said the date of implementation was July 1.
Cindy Brunner suggested that the Insurance and Benefits office send out a note about the date. She then asked what kind of testing would be done. She said that even though this is an honor system, employees might have to demonstrate that they don't smoke and they may be exposed to second-hand smoke or to nicotine in research and would thus test positive.
Don Large asked if there was any test that would prove conclusively that someone smokes.
Lee Armstrong said that there is a breath test, which detects near-term use. He said a urine test that can discern long-term use.
Dan Szechi said he is deeply troubled that we will start investigating private lives. He said he concedes that there are plenty of deaths from smoking related cancers, but there are many deaths related to other causes that could be surcharged. He said he doesn't believe we should be doing this.
Don Large doesn't disagree that this is a concern.
Dan Szechi said the surcharge undermines the idea of insurance, which spreads risks across all the population. He said he does not feel comfortable signing something that says that they can go through medical records or authorizes private testing. He asked if he could score out terms he doesn't like.
Don Large said he doesn't have a problem with people marking things out so long as the terms are consistent with what he has discussed today.
Dan Szechi asked him to look again into the PEEHIP form. He said he was told that the PEEHIP form was entirely about an honor system.
Lee Armstrong said he had personally looked
at the PEEHIP form and it is word for word what was sent out at
Larry Crowley asked about the additional revenue that would be generated from the surcharge.
Don Large said it would be about $400,000 a year.
Larry Crowley said he is not a smoker, but that a colleague is a smoker. He said the colleague fears that this surcharge is not driven by economics, but is instead part of an anti-smoking agenda and suggested that we have a surcharge for being overweight.
Don Large noted that the 16 person Insurance and Benefits Committee has five faculty members. He said there is not a good solution to problem of increasing rates. He said the smoking surcharge is a policy the committee felt was beneficial.
Conner Bailey noted that the chair of the Insurance and Benefit Committee could possibly talk to Senate.
Carole Zugazaga asked if there was any reassurance that other things won't be next.
Don Large said he will not pioneer any new initiatives, but that he can't guarantee it will never happen. He noted that if PEEHIP adopts another cost-containment policy, it could be recommended here.
Carole Zugazaga asked if PEEHIP is the gold standard.
Don Large said that we don't want to be way out of line with them, but it is not for him to make such decisions.
Gary Martin noted that even non-smokers feel ill at ease. He said that to avoid being surcharged, you have to waive some rights and that there are some non-smokers who will not sign the form to avoid intrusion into their personal lives.
Don Large agreed that we would penalize non-smokers if we actually did the kind of testing that the form suggested. But he said that if someone reported a person, the first step would be to talk to the individual. He said that in such a case we might have to go to the testing, but that the system is not set up for random testing.
Teresa Hawkins asked about the 12-month rule (for being tobacco free). She asked if the time limit could be changed for an incentive to give up smoking.
Don Large said that the surcharge follows PEEHIP. He said it would be possible to look at a change.
Teresa Hawkins asked if the second-hand smoke issue had been considered.
Don Large said that further policy developments would depend on where society goes.
Sadik Tuzun noted that
Don Large said he will look into it.
Robin Fellers said she is disappointed Don Large isn't willing to revise the form this year. She asked if a corrected form could be put up on the web.
Don Large said he will discuss with payroll and benefits the consequences of a revision given that 2000 forms have already been received.
Scott Phillips asked if an employee has a smoking spouse, but that spouse is on another insurance plan, does the $20 fee still apply.
Don Large said the fee is only for those on our plan.
Tony Moss asked about people who work around fumes, such as welders. He said he wants to know if he test discriminates sufficiently.
Don Large said for them to be tested, someone would have to report them as misrepresenting their situation to the university.
Lee Armstrong said that test would be one part of the analysis. He said there would be an opportunity to talk to the person who could then say he is a welder.
Conner Bailey noted that it was 4:40 and asked if we should proceed with discussion of the Fisher Report. Noting nods of yes, he said he would proceed.
Discussion of Fisher Report
Conner Bailey noted that the Board of Trustees commissioned an institutional assessment by a team led by Dr Larry Fisher and that the Fisher report, as it is has come to be known, was accepted but not discussed by the Board at its February meeting. He said the administration has been conspicuously silent, not wanting to get out ahead of the Board, which, after all, commissioned the Fisher report.
He said that few of the 142 recommendations and observations contained in the Fisher report are directed exclusively at the Board. He said that the University Senate seemed an appropriate place to begin an open discussion of the Fisher Report, as it is through this body that all campus constituencies – faculty, students, staff, A&P, and central administration – are represented.
He said he wanted to draw special attention to a few matters which relate to the Senate and the state of shared governance on this campus.
He said it should come as no surprise that the central focus
of the Fisher report was what a new President could mean to
He also noted that the Fisher report contains many positive features, and that among the many recommendations which resonate positively are calls for greater emphasis on diversity, limiting the growth of undergraduate enrollment, becoming more selective in admissions, and expanding both research and graduate education. He said there are a number of interesting curricular comments, including inclusion of diversity training and foreign language requirements. He suggested that the comments of the Fisher team related to academic and curricular matters should be compared to those made during our recent SACS review.
He said that one of the strongest set of recommendations contained in the Fisher report related to certain of Dr Richardson’s initiatives, including the strategic plan, restructuring of agriculture and related programs, and post-tenure review. He noted that in each case, the Fisher report recommended that no decisions be reached until the new President has had opportunity to review them.
Conner Bailey said he commended the Board, both as individuals and collectively, for not acting defensively at the strong criticisms contained in the Fisher report. Similarly, he said he thinks it appropriate that the Senate refrain from acting defensively to comments critical of the Senate and its leaders. He said that the Rules Committee has recommended that a short survey of faculty be conducted to assess whether the Senate and its leadership represent faculty views. He said that the comments in the Fisher report make it clear that the concerns extend well beyond the current leadership.
He noted that a recommendation came his way that the Senate express support for the report as a whole.
He opened the floor for discussion.
Gary Martin said he likes idea of a voice of support from the Senate for the overall report.
Cindy Brunner asked about the process relative to two
specific recommendations: 1) that this
body be renamed Faculty Senate with changes in composition, and 2) that
Conner Bailey said he can't answer at this time. He said the Executive Committee will meet with Ed Richardson and John Heilman soon.
John Heilman said he has asked for departmental input on the Fisher Report, via deans to department heads. He also suggested we make use of standing committees. He mentioned that service on these committees is tremendously important.
Conner Bailey said he is aware that deans are gathering information. He asked John Heilman how he plans to integrate the information from deans and departments and from the faculty leadership with that of the Board of Trustees committee.
John Heilman said the process is to be determined.
Conner Bailey noted that this is uncharted territory and that the Fisher Report is an important report with many recommendations, many of which are specific to faculty or to faculty-administrator relations. He said that we heard President Richardson say we don't want to get ahead of the Board. He said he is sure there will be opportunity for faculty, staff, and student involvement.
Bob Locy said he was struck by the
breadth of the document, but in some areas, it was lacking in depth. He said the faculty could be informing
administration of where we need more depth of information and that using
standing committees to do that is a beginning approach. He noted that the processes used in the
Saraylyn Smith-Carr asked whether there would be another forum where more faculty could come and speak, such as March faculty meeting.
Conner Bailey said that the Steering Committee meets this Thursday. He said he will recommend we continue this discussion.
Tom Smith (Human Development and Family Studies) requested that given the exodus of the discussion and the short time left, that we move this discussion to another meeting. He said he would be more prepared in March for a serious discussion, after his department has met to discuss the report and suggested that we adjourn.
Conner Bailey noted that there were people still at the microphones.
Virginia O'Leary aid that the AAUP met to discuss the Fisher Report and that the spring newsletter will contain a discussion. She said the AAUP reached consensus that they broadly supported the Fisher Report and wished to join the Senate and Interim President Richardson in changing the climate. She said she believes we are at a critical juncture.
Rich Penaskovic said he finds our students are insular and he would like them to be world citizens. Thus he said he likes the Fisher Report recommendation on foreign languages. He said he would like us to have overseas campuses as well.
Conner Bailey called the meeting to an end at 5 p.m.