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UNL ACADEMIC SENATE MEETING MINUTES

Campus Union,

September 12, 2006

Presidents Ali Moeller, Steve Bradford, and Mary Beck Presiding

 

1.0      Call to Order

            President Moeller called the meeting to order at 2:32 p.m.

 

2.0      Announcements

President Moeller welcomed back the Senators and introduced the members of the Executive Committee.  She noted that among the members of the Executive Committee there are four endowed professors, and other members have garnered many outside grants.  She pointed out that the Executive Committee spent the entire summer meeting every other week to address various issues and conducted a retreat to develop the goals of the Senate.

 

2.1  Senate Goals

President Moeller noted that a copy of the goals of the Senate for this year were included in the Senator’s packet.  She asked people to contact her or any member of the Executive Committee if other goals should be included.  She noted that the Committee plans on focusing on goal number two, streamlining academic procedures and enhancing the undergraduate experience at UNL. 

 

3.0    Chancellor Perlman

Chancellor Perlman stated that he hoped the faculty attended his State of the University address last week because he had many good things to say about the campus.  He stated that he will highlight today the topics that he discussed in his address last week. 

 

Chancellor Perlman stated that first he needed to address the more serious matter that has occurred with Professor Belot of the Chemistry department.  Chancellor Perlman stated that on Sunday it became clear that the allegations indicated that dangerous explosives were brought into the classroom by Professor Belot.  Chancellor Perlman stated that it was clear to him, that for the safety of the students, Professor Belot should be suspended until a full investigation takes place.  Chancellor Perlman noted that the allegations are serious and constitute a felony. 

 

Chancellor Perlman noted that he followed the rules of the Academic Rights and Responsibilities Committee for suspension.  He pointed out that there is no intention of dismissal at this point and the Academic Rights and Responsibilities procedures will be followed.  He stated that the chair of the Academic Rights and Responsibilities Committee was notified and he also spoke with President-Elect Bradford to alert the Senate Executive Committee.  He noted that a special resource committee has been convened and he has reviewed with them the basis for his thinking on suspending Professor Belot.  He pointed out that the committee will determine if the Chancellor acted arbitrarily.  Chancellor Perlman noted that the special resource committee will not report to him.   The obligation of the resource committee is to counsel Professor Belot.  Chancellor Perlman pointed out that no proceedings have been initiated at this point. 

 

Chancellor Perlman stated that Professor Belot has been suspended from his institutional duties with pay and he has been asked not to come back on campus until the matter is resolved.  Chancellor Perlman stated that as soon as a report is made, appropriate action will be taken. 

 

Professor Ledder, Mathematics, asked if Professor Belot’s work area has been searched for other devices.  Chancellor Perlman stated that Professor Belot’s office and laboratory have been searched.

 

Professor Nickerson, School of Biological Sciences, asked who is carrying out the investigation.  Chancellor Perlman stated that various law enforcement agencies are involved.  He stated that the UNL campus police are coordinating the investigation but the FBI and U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are also involved because the incident occurred when U.S. Ambassador Bolton was on campus. 

 

Chancellor Perlman stated that the campus is trying to the best of its ability to be fair to Professor Belot and the campus.  He noted that the rules that are prescribed will be followed and when he knows more he will report to the Senate.

 

Chancellor Perlman stated that his State of the University address focused on the upcoming accreditation visit.  He noted that the accreditation team will be on campus November 6th through the 8th and they will be free to wander around the campus to inspect all our skeletons.  He stated that it is not unusual for the team to call members of the campus to talk to them or the team could appear at someone’s office.  He stated that he hopes that most people will be on campus during the time of the accreditation team’s visit. 

 

Chancellor Perlman noted that the self-study report is available on the web (http://www.unl.edu/svcaa/accreditation/self_study.shtml).  He stated that it is a good document that was created by a lot of people on campus. 

 

Chancellor Perlman reported that the strategic planning process is on-going and is the focus of the accreditation visit.  He noted that there is some frustration from the Deans on the strategic plans because they are continuing to receive comments from the Senior Administrative Team on questions that need to be addressed with the plans.  He stated that he hopes the comments are being conveyed to the departments so they can improve their strategic plans.

 

Chancellor Perlman stated that he believes that the process for conducting academic program reviews is greatly improved.  He noted that the process involves a report being issued to the department.  The department and the Dean then responds back on the report.  He stated that there are times when there are disagreements with the priorities but the conversations that ensue will be productive. 

 

Chancellor Perlman stated that the committee and team working on revising the general education program have done a good job of articulating the common denominators for our students.  He noted that establishing the institutional objectives is probably the easiest part of the job.  He pointed out that the general education revisions need to be done in a way that is not threatening to departments or faculty members.  He stated that the general education program needs to allow students to get through the university without barriers. 

 

Chancellor Perlman reported that enrollment is a real high point for the year.  He stated that the faculty members of the campus should be commended for their efforts to increase enrollment.  He noted that he is aware that faculty members have responded to our requests to be more involved in recruiting.  He stated that he has received numerous messages from parents who have stated that their on campus visit to UNL was the most warm and friendly visit they had from the other campuses they visited.   He stated that he applauds the work of the faculty for doing this. 

 

Chancellor Perlman reported that the incoming freshmen class is up 8.1% and is the most diverse freshmen class.  He noted that numbers for international students are up and the average ACT score remains the highest for the university.  He pointed out that the number of non-resident students is up as well and these students have an average ACT score that is higher by approximately 6 points. 

 

Chancellor Perlman stated that the graduation retention figures are odd.  He noted that retention rates are up and we have seen the fastest growth in retention rates of any of our peers.  He stated that when the retention rates were analyzed it showed that students who take at least 12 credit hours every fall semester have a graduation rate of 91% in five years of school.  However, of those students who do not take 12 credit hours, 40% wind up dropping out or becoming part-time students and the graduation rate drops to 48-49%.  He stated the question is why this is happening.  He stated that he thinks it may be due to financial reasons.  He stated that we need to determine why this is happening because it is not beneficial for these students to prolong their time to complete their degree. 

 

Chancellor Perlman reported that he has asked for a unified strategic plan for the life sciences.  He noted that he is not asking for a unified college but there should be a unified plan for these areas.  He stated that the plan should allow the life sciences to knowingly coordinate hires to avoid duplication.  He stated that the plan is moving forward.

 

Chancellor Perlman reported that the construction of a new Culture Center looks promising.  He noted that the students voted overwhelmingly to have student fees cover half of the cost of construction and there are now two major donations that will help with the cost.  He stated that the next step will be to get a program statement written.  He stated that he is confident that the Culture Center building will succeed. 

 

Chancellor Perlman stated that the web has increasingly become the way we communicate with people.  As a result, an effort has been underway to make UNL web pages identifiable to UNL.  He stated that each web page should have the look and feel of the UNL home page but the content would be developed by the departments.  He noted that UNL templates are available for departments to use.  He reported that the new UNL templates were developed with the help of approximately 160 web developers from across the campus.  He pointed out that hopefully every unit web page will be using the UNL template. 

 

Professor Ledder asked if any of the web developers who participated in the web development were blind or visually impaired.  Chancellor Perlman stated that he knows that the web templates are in compliance with the American Disability Act.  He stated that this is another reason why he is insisting that the new templates be used.  Professor Ledder stated that his daughter is visually impaired and she does not think much of the ADA compliance because the web pages can still be difficult to read even if they are in compliance.  Chancellor Perlman stated that he cannot speak to this issue but he does want the UNL web pages to attain the standards set by the ADA. 

 

Chancellor Perlman wanted to describe the vision of the Antelope Valley project corridor.  He stated that the hope is that the Whittier building can be used as the first installment for a research corridor.  He stated that the vision is to have private companies involved in the research corridor as well.  He noted that people should not be surprised if some good progress is made in the near future on this corridor. 

 

4.0    Approval of 4/26/06 Minutes

Professor Flowers, Psychology, moved and Professor Scholz, College of Architecture, seconded approval of the minutes.  Motion approved.

 

5.0    Committee Reports

          5.1  Teaching Council

President Moeller stated that Professor King was unable to attend the meeting but a copy of the Council’s report was included in the Senator’s packet.  She stated that anyone with concerns should address them to Professor King at jking1@unl.edu.

 

5.2    Faculty Compensation Advisory Committee (Past President Beck)

Past President Beck stated that she would be happy to address any questions people may have on the report.   Professor Archer, Anthropology & Geography, noted that the report indicates that there is a change in the faculty salaries relative to peer institutions over a five year period.  He asked if there is any long term information available.  Past President Beck stated that she will ask if this information is available. 

 

5.3    Executive Committee Summer Report

President Moeller noted that the report is a summary of what was accomplished during the summer by the Executive Committee.  She asked is there were any questions on the report.

 

6.0    Election of Committee on Committees Members

Elections were held to elect two Senators to the Committee on Committees.  President Moeller stated that the results of the election will be announced at the next Senate meeting.

 

7.0    Unfinished Business

          7.1    Motion to Combine the Commencement, Honors Convocations Committee, and Honorary Degrees

                    Committee

President Moeller stated that the members of the committees did not have a chance to review the changes and would like to see them before the committees are merged.  She asked for a postponement of the motion to merge the committees.  Professor Flowers moved and Professor Lawson, Geosciences, seconded approval of the motion to postpone the decision on the resolution.  Motion approved. 

 

8.0    New Business

          8.1    Faculty Involvement in Revising the General Education Program

President Moeller gave a PowerPoint presentation on the efforts to revise the general education program.  She noted that the curriculum is the most pivotal thing for the faculty to get involved in because the curriculum is the last purview of the faculty.  She noted that the comprehensive program has not been revised in over ten years.  The current program now includes 2300 courses and it has changed to the point that most faculty members, never mind students, do not understand the comprehensive education program.  She stated that the current program presents huge obstacles for transfer students and interferes with students attaining a degree in a timely manner. 

 

President Moeller stated that the faculty needs to collectively determine what constitutes the objectives and design ways to achieve these objectives.  She stated that the faculty needs to come to an agreement about what the educational goals of the institution should be.  She noted that reaching this agreement will be challenging since the faculty come from many different perspectives. 

 

President Moeller reported that two committees comprised mainly of faculty members have been working on revising the general education program.  She stated that the General Education Planning Team (GEPT) and the General Education Advisory Committee (GEAC) have developed a list of four objectives. 

 

President Moeller stated that to insure the entire faculty has had a chance to provide input into the institutional objectives the Executive Committee designed a brief survey.  She noted that she has received some complaints about the survey.  She pointed out that the survey is not a scientific study and the results will not be published.  She pointed out that the survey is a mechanism to provide faculty input on this issue. 

 

President Moeller stated that the next phase for the GEPT and the GEAC is to develop the outcomes for the general education program.  She noted that the committees are working on developing the outcomes and these will be presented to the faculty in the near future.

 

The Senate then broke into groups to discuss the impacts of the institutional objectives.  Comments from the groups included:

 

There is a lack of clarity with the institutional objectives.  Are they to apply across the undergraduate curriculum or all courses?

 

How do you measure whether students met these objectives and who will do the measuring?

 

Students may have experiences outside of the classroom that might meet the objectives.  How is this measured?

 

There needs to be some flexibility with the general education program. 

 

Potential roadblocks could come from faculty members resisting being required to articulate in their curriculum how the objectives will fit. 

 

Discussion about the colleges engaging in a “turf war” over the courses that will be in the general education program and how this can be managed.  Discussed ways of how a student’s experience can be recognized as fulfilling the objectives. 

 

Faculty resources could be a constraint for some departments.  Some programs already meet the objectives while others may not. 

 

Acknowledged that not every course can or should be involved in the general education program and can meet the objectives.   Classroom work alone will not fulfill all of the objectives and experiential learning also needs to be included. 

 

In majors where students have to pass a certification exam, there may have to be a more restrictive program. 

 

Students graduating need to be hirable.  The general education program should not be weakened but there needs to be flexibility in the program so students can get what they need for their courses. 

 

There is concern with the implementation of a new program.  Hopefully the implementation will be done in a manner that will eliminate the political dealings of the current program.  Large sections might have difficulties in meeting these objectives and resources could be a limiting factor. 

 

Lifelong learning is not included in the objectives. 

 

The objectives are pretty broad and can be applied overall but how should they be applied to the courses?  Which courses would meet the objectives and which would not?  Will there be any opportunity to change the course descriptions so the course will meet the institutional objectives?  Some courses that are not being taught anymore should be eliminated. 

 

President Moeller thanked the groups for their input and discussions.  She noted that next month there will be discussion on the proposed outcomes.    She urged the Senate to respond to the survey.  She noted once again that it is not a scientific survey but a mechanism to hear from the faculty.  She stated that the outcome of the survey will be posted on the Academic Senate website. 

 

8.2    Motion on Institutional Objectives

Professor Ledder introduced a motion to endorse the institutional objectives.  He stated that although the Senate does not have an official role in the approval of the revised general education program, the Senate has chosen to become involved because each of the members of the Senate are faculty members who may be affected by the new program.  He noted that the colleges will vote independently on the program but they do not meet on a regular basis like the Senate does and the Senate has representation from each college.  He stated that some people feel that the objectives are not exhaustive but if an objective is not on the list this does not mean it is not important.  He stated that he believes there needs to be consensus on the objectives.  He noted that the faculty will benefit from these objectives because it will help students to see that there is more to an education other than the commercial aspect of it.

 

Professor Fuller, Art & Art History, seconded the motion.  President Moeller stated that the motion will be discussed and voted on at the next meeting.

         

The meeting was adjourned at 4:19 p.m.  The next meeting of the Academic Senate will be held on Tuesday, October3rd, 2:30 p.m. in the East Campus Union, Great Plains Room.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator, and Richard Alloway, Secretary.