Minutes of the Senate Meeting
July 8, 2008
Present: Robert Locy, Sue Barry, Kathryn Flynn, David Cicci, Don Large, Deborah Shaw, Dan Bennett, Drew Clark, John Heilman, Bonnie MacEwan, Lindsey Stevenson, Todd Storey, Ron Clark, Winfred Foster, Norbert Wilson, Charles Mitchell, Werner Bergen, Barbara Kemppainen, Christopher McNulty, Paul
Swamidass, Timothy McDonald, Larry Crowley, Brigitta Brunner, Laura Plexico, Carol Centrallo, Jim Witte, Claire Crutchley, Jim Saunders, David Carter, Raymond Kessler, Chris Arnold, Steve Stuckwisch, Bart Prorok, Jim Wright, Bernie Olin, James Shelley, Francis Robicheaux, Robert Voitle, Dan Svyantek, Jan Segars, Tom Williams, Carol Zugazaga, Gwen Thomas, Scott Phillips, R.D. Montgomery,
Absent sending a substitute: Overton Jenda (Donna Solie), Rik Blumenthal, (Evert Duin), Scotte Hodel (Michael Baginski), Constance Hindricks (Kim Raines), Don-Terry Veal (Marcia Folmar), Salisa Westrick (Jan Kavookijan),
Absent no substitute: Johnny Green, Stewart Schneller, Fran Kochan, Bonnie MacEwan, Lauren Hayes, Valerie Morns-Riggins, Robert Gross, John Hung, Gary Martin, Jim Bradley, Sondra Parmer, Charlene LeBleu, Anthony Moss, Anoop Satineni, Ronald Neuman, Alvin Sek See Lin, Suhyun Suh, John Saye, Dan Gropper, Jim Goldstein, Robin Huettel, Allen Davis, Michel Raby, Larry Teeter, Mark Fischman, Thomas Smith, Robert Bulfin, Andrew Wohrley, Csey Cegielski, Edith Davidson, Claire Zizza, Daniel Parson, Changhoon Jung, Peggy Shippen, Randy Tillery,
Bob Locy called the meeting to order at 3:00 p.m.
Approval of Minutes: The minutes of the June 6th, Senate meeting were approved by voice vote without opposition.
Remarks/Announcements from the President
Speaking for the President’s office, John Heilman went over the presentation he had given to the Board of Trustees concerning the Strategic planning process. The plan is based on six strategic priorities based on input from both campuses and from external constituents. The Board’s approval was specific to these six points; however, there is more detail available on the University web site. Dr. Gogue presented a draft of the Strategic Plan to the Board at their February 2008 meeting. That presentation focused on the 62 specific ideas for action steps culled from the original input. Dr. Heilman divided the six mission areas into two sections 1) the mission areas and 2) organizational capacity building, and he emphasized that measureable result to be reported to the Board would have a very high priority.
The three mission areas:
The three organizational capacity building areas
Dr. Heilman chose to expand upon the first initiative, increased selectivity, with specific action steps. They were 1) to implement the requirement of the ACT writing exam and 2) to develop a new model for the Honors College. There will also be yearly reports with suggested revisions carried out by a Strategy Review Council, chaired by the provost that will include representatives of faculty, students, and administrators from both campuses.
The remainder of the presentation focused on Action Goals for year one.
There were no comments after Dr. Heilman’s remarks.
Remarks/Announcements from Senate Chair
Bob Locy (Chair) had those senators stand to be recognized who were finishing their third year of service and rotating off the Senate membership. A round of applause was given to these senators.
Bob also reported that the Ombusperson Search Committee had received six applications for this position and that they were currently selecting three candidates to participate in a forum on July 23rd at 3:00 pm in Room 110 of the Lowder Business Building. The goal is to have an Ombudsperson in place by the 15th of August.
Bob continued his remarks with references to the two new items brought forward at our June meeting. One concerned user IDs in OIT which Bliss Bailey would address later in the meeting, and the other issue concerned transferring of calls by the University operator. This second issue was sent to the administration. There are privacy concerns with giving out phone numbers, and at the present time there is no resolution on this, but the leadership is working on this.
Dr. Locy encouraged everyone to be engaged in the process of moving the strategic plan forward by contributing our best ideas. He reminded us that Mr. McGuiness had challenged us to come up with $25,000,000 ideas to present to donors.
As there were no comments, Dr. Locy introduced Sue Barry, Secretary of the Senate to present the first action item.
Additions to list of Senate Committee Nominees 2008-2009 – Sue Barry, Secretary
Sue indicated that there were some issues with the Faculty Grievance Committee; therefore, we would not be voting on that committee at this time. She then made a motion to accept the remainder of the list which included Academic Program Review, Graduate Council and Retention committees.
The motion carried with no discussion.
Policy on Retroactive Withdrawals/Resignations and Withdrawals/Resignations after Midterm – Sharon Gabor (Associate Provost and V.P. of Academic Affairs)
Sharon presented the new Policy on Withdrawals/Resignations and explained that this policy was an attempt to bring clarity and consistency to the policy. It was divided into two parts, medical and non-medical withdrawals/resignations. Due to the fact that there was no clear policy departments were making their own rules. Therefore, a decision was made to centralize and funnel medical documentation through the Program for Students with Disabilities. On the other hand, the non-medical withdrawals/resignations will be funneled through the Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies or the Graduate Dean, after students receive the recommendation of their professor and their Associate Dean. There is a two-year time limit on retroactive dating for either of the above reasons.
Questions and Remarks
David Carter (History) remarked that he had a problem with a withdrawal where he had failed a student because the student had just disappeared. He had inquired about the situation in an e-mail to the Registrar, but he never received a reply. Therefore, he asked for clarification of the policy that was in effect during the spring term.
Sharon (Associate Provost) responded that previously faculty did not have to be notified. This policy is an attempt to correct that situation. Now faculty will be a part of the conversation with opportunities to give specific feedback concerning the extenuating circumstances. However, in a medical withdrawal situation, faculty will get notification, but they probably won’t have a chance to give feedback.
Raymond Kessler (Horticulture) wanted to know if it was immediately apparent in the Banner System when someone was withdrawn from a class or resigned from school. The second part to his question was about the correct procedure for withdrawing from school. Does the student just drop all classes or does the student have to go to Mary Martin and drop the classes in person? Raymond wanted to know because sometimes he has students who simply disappear and he doesn’t know why.
Sharon replied that there is a form for resigning or withdrawing.
Raymond didn’t realize that.
Sharon added that the student would typically go and have the form signed in the Dean’s Office. However, if it is prior to midterm they can drop on their own. This is the reason for a policy that only applies to dropping after midterm.
Herb Rotfeld (Marketing) asked if they were condoning retroactive dating of withdrawal forms because if that is what they were doing the word for this would be fraud.
Sharon replied with the example of a student who the day after midterm discovered that he or she had cancer and had to drop all classes. However, the cancer existed prior to midterm; therefore, the doctor could say that this person needed to drop out of classes because they had a pre-existing condition. We are not encouraging faculty or deans to backdate just so that students can get their money back.
Herb felt that this would be a valid case for withdrawal without penalty, but not for backdating. He just could not condone putting a false date on the document. He felt that it would be better to say that we will consider you out of the class retroactively without backdating the document. There would be a valid reason for dropping the student, but not for making a false document.
Sharon understood Herb’s point. However, she believed that this could be a Financial Aid problem. The dating of a document could affect how much had to be paid back to the Federal Government and how much tuition would be paid back to the student. She did remark that Herb’s point was well taken.
Herb described this example as being fraud against the Federal Government. Herb was also concerned with students withdrawing from only one class because he has had instances where students only withdrew from his class and kept all the rest of their classes. This has happened after the final exam.
Sharon reaffirms that Herb’s example is exactly why the new review process is in place – to bring consistency to the process. If someone resigns from only one class with this policy, it will be for a valid reason such as the one she previously explained.
Herb wanted confirmation that signatures would have to be actual signatures and not stamped signatures since this was another abuse that he had seen in the past.
Sharon was in agreement.
Tom Williams (Navy) asked if there were a mechanism to prevent someone from medically withdrawing retroactively, and in the process expunging an F that was given because of academic dishonesty.
Sharon didn’t think this would happen because an F for academic dishonesty would have a notation. She didn’t think this had ever occurred, but she did know of cases where students wanted to gap an F for academic dishonesty and that was not allowed. However, there is nothing written about this specific problem in the policy.
Norbert Wilson (Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology) wanted to know what kind of documentation a faculty would be expected to present if a student wanted to resign for a non-medical reason. For example, if attendance were not taken in a class, what kind of documentation would be expected.
Sharon responded that she couldn’t comment on expectations beyond what is currently in the policy. This would probably only be a problem for financial aid since we have to comply with Federal guidelines in these cases.
The Policy on Retroactive Withdrawals/Resignations and Withdrawals/Resignations after Midterm was passed by a voice vote.
Budget Advisory Committee Report – Don Large (Executive Vice President)
Don Large reported on the budget that was presented to the Board of Trustees a couple of weeks ago. First the Board had to agree to the 12% increase in tuition, then, they could return with a detailed budget to be presented at the August Board meeting.
We are being cut $40,000,000 from the State which is the largest cut in our history. At the same time costs are increasing, such as PHIP and increased square footage. So this is really a $60,000,000 challenge. Lauren Hayes presented the case for the tuition increase to the Board. However, the tuition increase would cover only one-third of this challenge. To further convince the Board they had to show that we were at 94.5% regional mean for in-state tuition and 90% regional mean for out-of-state tuition. Also if you look at state appropriations in dollars per student we were in the middle range. Ultimately, they did pass the tuition increase.
Don discussed in detail the breakdown of the budget and pointed out that with whatever cuts had to be made that the promotion increases for faculty and staff had to be honored. However, cuts would be made in the deferred maintenance budget, and each college would have to give back 2% which doesn’t sound like much as a per cent but when converted into dollars it would be a challenge. Some current allocations will not be honored.
Don also mentioned that we had had some good years recently and that we had been responsible in our allocations. Therefore, we were positioned well if the cuts had been in the 5% range. We could even have given salary raises with such a cut, but no one had anticipated a 12% reduction.
Questions and Remarks
Werner Bergen (Animal Science) mentioned the centers and non-academic add-ons that we have and that others don’t have. He wanted to know to what degree in the budget considerations they looked at those.
Don replied that information for all academic areas went through the Provost’s office and that when working on the budget they had tried to accommodate the Provost’s requests. He felt that John could better answer the question than he could.
John Heilman(Provost) felt that Auburn had been thin on centers and institutes over the years. He mentioned that other institutions, such as Georgia Tech, had many more. He went on to explain that all centers and institutes are created on the recommendation of a Dean and their creation is supported by and approved by the Provost and the President. John felt that we have consistently acted responsibly as Don Large had indicated, and therefore, we are in a much better situation than some of our peer institutions.
Don had a final thought to contribute. In 1996 Auburn got a 7 1/2 % cut and had to balance the budget in two months and we went to incentives for retirement. In 1999 we started a process of reallocating 2% back to the general fund to reprioritize and address salaries which was a priority of the 21St century plan. Then in 2005 we asked deans to give back money from vacant salary positions. We have constantly tried to be efficient.
Gwenedd Thomas (Polymer and Fiber Engineering) asked about charging people that parked their RVs and tailgated on our property?
Don replied that Gwen was referring to something that was in the athletic area’s budget and something he knew little about. However, he did know that they charged for coliseum parking. In terms, of the hayfield and other areas, the University doesn’t charge for parking. To do so would present another major culture challenge.
Bob Locy (Chair) wanted everyone to know that 13 of the 14 board members felt that it was important to maintain faculty salaries in order to keep the progress we have made so far.
Barbara Kamppainen (Anatomy, Physiology, and Pharmacology) mentioned that charging for parking might decrease the contributions to our campaigns since it might leave a bad taste in their mouths.
Academic Program Review Committee Report - John Heilman (Provost)
John updated the Senate on the number of programs being reviewed and the results from the most recent past reviews. He explained the review process which involves a self study, a site visit and a dean’s plan depending on the report. He also reported on the results for the following programs:
Finally, John stated that he felt the process had been especially helpful to those areas that didn’t have a national accrediting process.
2008-2009 PTR Policy– John Heilman (Provost)
John told the Senate that the purpose of his report was to give an overview of what has been done over the past few years and to give a brief explanation of the 2008-2009 policy. First, he reminded the Senate that the PTR policy is not a dismissal policy, but rather a faculty development policy. In the past, 1/6 of eligible faculty were reviewed. This review required a CV, a letter describing accomplishments and agenda, and a letter from the department head. A committee appointed by the Senate reviewed these papers and decided if the faculty member’s performance had been exemplary, satisfactory or needed improvement. Out of 71 faculty reviewed last year, eight were exceptional and six were recommended for a development plan.
The new approach will rely on a triggered process. Only tenured faculty who receive two unsatisfactory annual reviews within a six year period will undergo PTR. In the new process, if a faculty member receives two unsatisfactory reviews within five years, it will trigger PTR. Reviews from 2007 will count as one year, and a second review in the next five years will trigger a post tenure review. John pointed out that it will be essential to review faculty on their assigned workload. From personal experience he knew that assignments evolve over the years, and the changes are never documented. The documentation for the new process will remain the same. Anyone receiving an unsatisfactory review will be required to prepare and undertake a development plan. This plan will only contain goals that can reasonably be completed within twelve months. Failure to complete the plan will lead to sanctions, including withholding merit increases, loss of privileges, and possible reassignment.
Questions and Remarks
Bart Prorok (Mechanical Engineering) noted that the new policy didn’t seem to have a system to find the top performers.
John noted that Bart had been the recipient of the Courageous Researcher’s Award, therefore, he could appreciate the question. He reminded us that when identifying faculty who need to revisit their scholarly agenda you ask one category of questions, but when you are looking for your top performers, you ask another set of questions. However, we do have many recognition programs both internal and external to the University that are designed to recognize and reward high performance.
Claire Crutchley (Finance) asked if the unsatisfactory reports could be pretenure and then after someone got tenure that person got another unsatisfactory report, would that be counted within the five years?
John noted that what she referred to was conceivable, but that it would be unlikely that a faculty receiving an unsatisfactory pretenure report would get tenure.
Claire rephrased her question because she felt that John had misinterpreted what she said. What if somebody got an unsatisfactory review early in his/her career and got a big grant three years before getting tenure, would that count in the five years?
John thought that it would count. However, he felt that the process would be refined and improved in a dynamic process.
Francis Robicheaux (Physics) asked who or at what level is the decision made that the review was unsatisfactory?
John reiterated that it was the department head who wrote the annual reviews and that dean’s are precluded from seeing them by handbook policy.
Enrollment Management Report – Sharon Gabor (Associate Provost, Academic Affairs)
Sharon said that originally she was asked to give some numbers for freshman and transfers, but also she wanted to give the Senate some information on enrollment management. The Enrollment Management Council was developed to give input into enrollment goals and related fiscal planning. Freshmen enrollment numbers have been going up for the last few years, but so have the average ACT scores of each freshman class. This year’s freshmen of about 3900 have an average ACT score of slightly over 25. Without the Council, there may have been 5000. These are the result of enrollment management. The Council also looks at scholarships and the total cost to attend Auburn. They set guideline so that no one receives more than the total cost. They also looked at the numbers of in-state and out-of-state numbers to see what they had to have to make the budget work. They also have to balance the numbers taken in the fall and how many transfer students we can take to offset the number of freshman that we will lose. Also the Council looks at diversity and retention. This year our projection is that the number of students of color will be down, but the ACT scores will be up. So we are expecting fewer, but better prepared students. Also we have doubled our enrollment in the Honor’s College over the past two years. Therefore, looking at a better model for the Honor’s College is a priority in our Strategic Plan.
Questions and Remarks
Werner Bergen (Animal Sciences) pointed out that there is a perception within the Auburn University community that the College of Agriculture is a small underdeveloped college, but one that is well funded. A few years ago the trend was to downsize the Agriculture program, but there has been a major reversal of that due to recent events in foods and other products. He pointed out that food gathering was truly the first profession of humankind and that there wouldn’t be much need for cardiovascular care of the aged if one starved or died very young. Also AU was founded as an agriculture school which is one of only 50. His point was that as food prices rise as they will continue to do, it is time to reinvest in agriculture and reload their depleted technology base for food production, harvesting, processing, and distribution. So arguably the College of Agriculture has one of the most engaged faculty in the educational experience of our students. So to address emerging needs in the collective food procuring industry which we call agriculture there may be increasing pressure from highly motivated interested students in Alabama to enroll in agriculture here at AU. In animal science, for example, in the last five years they have grown from about 200 to 400 undergraduate students. They should be able to adjust their enrollment policy to address this emerging national need and to support resident instruction.
OIT Report – Bliss Bailey (Director, Information Technology)
Bliss Bailey reported on changes in their policy concerning user names. Because changing user names was so labor intensive, they had preferred not to do so except in very unusual circumstances. However, this has led to a disconnect between policy and practice, and this was the situation that created the problems that Dr. Thomas raised as new business at our June meeting. Therefore, they are updating the policy to take into consideration the needs of the user community.
He also gave us some information about the organization of OIT and its interaction with the University community. They have 110 people who work with the IT units in every college, school and administrative unit. Therefore, it is important that we understand how to make our voices heard. The first unit to inform when we have concerns should be the Academic Computing Committee whose function is to forward these concerns to the Senate leadership. In addition, there are two additional committees 1) the Educational Technology Advisory committee, formed by the Provost, to advise the Provost and OIT regarding the direction of educational technology in the University and 2) an IT Management Council made up of IT managers and directors from every college, school and administrative unit. Faculty and staff should feel free to send input to this second group through their local IT provider. Bliss also gave out rosters of the IT Council membership and their related units. He invited the faculty to contact him with any input they deem important.
Questions and Remarks
Gwynedd Thomas (Polymer and Fiber Engineering) thanked Bliss and his department for making the name change that she requested.
Raymond Kessler (Horticulture) stated that one of his graduate students had a problem getting a username changed when she married. They told her it couldn’t be done. He wanted to know why it is so much harder to change a username than a password. He felt it was important to be able to make those changes.
Bliss responded that he would answer the question off line, but agreed that it was important.
The meeting was adjourned at 4:55 pm.