Executive Committee Minutes - April 28, 2004




Present:          Beck, Bolin, Bradford, Buck, Fech, Flowers, Peteson, Scholz, Shea, Signal, Stock, Wunder


Absent:           Alexander


Date:               Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Location:        Academic Senate Office, 420 University Terrace


1.0       Call to Order

            Peterson called the meeting to order at 2:55 p.m.


2.0       Announcements

            2.1       Chronicle of Higher Education Report on Libraries

Peterson noted that the Chronicle reports that the UNL Libraries system has fallen from 64th place to 77th place in a recent survey.


3.0       ASUN Officers – Katie Weichman, Matt Mahr, Omad Abig, Frank Opal

            Peterson stated that the Committee was glad to have the opportunity to meet with the new ASUN officers.  He noted that Past President Wunder initiated meetings last year with the officers of ASUN, UNOPA, and UAAD to work on common interests.  Peterson stated that he wants to continue having meetings with these organizations.  He noted that the dead week proposal was defeated by the Senate but he believed that there are still problems with the current policy and that faculty and students should continue to work on developing a proposal to revise the policy.


3.1       Pickaprof.com

Peterson reported that pickaprof.com was discussed at a recent deans and directors meeting.  He noted that during the meeting it was clarified that UNL would only be providing grade information on multiple section courses taught by a number of different instructors so that grades could not be identified with a specific professor.  Weichman stated that each university sets up its own student review system with pickaprof.  She noted that the UNL system includes a schedule planner which allows students to get a better view of how their schedule is working out


Peterson asked if pickaprof is a private organization.  Weichman stated that it is.  She noted that there is an initial start up fee that the university pays but that most of the income for the company comes from outside advertisers.  Peterson asked if there is a contract between UNL and pickaprof.  Weichman stated that there is a contract but she is unsure of the details since the previous ASUN President was involved in the writing of the contract.  She noted that the students worked with VC Griesen when developing the contract. 


Weichman pointed out that pickaprof.com also provides services to the faculty.  She stated that the company has a team of people who review all evaluations that are sent in.  She noted that no profanity or personal attacks are posted.  She stated that if an evaluation is controversial the instructor can contact the student to discuss the evaluation.  She pointed out that pickaprof is similar to Blackboard.  She stated that people must register in order to use the website. 


Weichman stated that the amount of information that is gathered can be increased.  She noted that one advantage to the review system is that it allows students to write teaching evaluations outside of class time. 


Fech asked what the benefit is to having pickaprof.com.  He stated that it does not sound like much information is gathered about specific instructors.  Weichman noted that the student evaluations on instructors are specific.   Signal asked what the difference is between blackboard and pickaprof.com.  Weichman stated that pickaprof provides student reviews which blackboard does not. 


Scholz asked if the evaluations are open-ended.  Weichman stated that they are open- ended.  Signal asked if professors would be able to respond to the evaluations.  Weichman stated that professors can respond and that only UNL students have access to information about UNL professors.  Peterson asked when the site will be up and running.  Weichman stated that it is now in operation.


Wunder noted that faculty members reacted strongly to the Daily Nebraskan article, particularly the comment made about using the site to find easy courses.  Weichman stated that an email message has been sent out to student organizations telling them about the site.  She pointed out that the site should be used to match a student’s learning style with the teaching style of the instructor.  She stated that it is not designed to be able to help students find easy classes.


Wunder stated that the concern about the release of grades seems to have been clarified.  He asked the ASUN officers what their reaction is to Princeton University’s plan to ration the number of A’s given in a course.  He pointed out that this will become a hot topic because there is a great deal of concern over grade inflation.  Weichman stated that ASUN has not discussed the issue yet.  She pointed out that rationing grades could have serious impacts, particularly on smaller honors courses.  Fech noted that the rationing could make it difficult for some students to maintain their scholarships.  Peterson stated that faculty members would probably object to having someone dictate what grades they can distribute in a class.  Buck pointed out that A’s could be a reflection of good teaching rather than an indication of grade inflation.  Stock stated that he teaches upper level courses and that many students deserve good grades.  Buck suggested that professors could post student outcomes rather than grades.


Wunder asked if the contract with pickaprof.com insures that ASUN members cannot be held legally liable.  Weichman stated that she was not involved in the writing of the contract so she is not familiar with the details of it.  Wunder suggested that ASUN should verify that they are not liable.  He pointed out that dealing with professional reputations is a serious issue and lawsuits could be filed if someone’s reputation is damaged. 


Signal stated that the number of evaluations that are posted could have an impact depending on the size of a course.  Peterson noted that the information posted needs to make sense.  He pointed out that if only one evaluation is posted and it is negative, it could create a problem and provide misinformation.  Weichman stated that she believes students will be skeptical if only one opinion is posted on a course. 


Bolin asked if student evaluations at UNL are made available to the public.  Peterson stated they are not.  He noted that they are included in promotion and tenure files.  Bradford stated that the Law College releases grade distributions.


3.2       Dead Week Proposal

Peterson reported that the dead week proposal was defeated by the Senate.  He stated that a number of faculty members were opposed to shortening the length of time when classes meet.  He noted that many faculty members felt the proposal was sensible because it alleviated some problems caused by dead week and the final exam schedule.  He stated that the faculty members and the students should continue working on trying to resolve the problems. 


Peterson stated that Interim Associate VC Latta suggested that some faculty members from UNL should discuss the issue with Central Administration to see if changes could be made in the class schedule.  Peterson pointed out that the Executive Committee was informed that they could change anything within in the stop and start dates of the semester but these two dates were fixed. 


Stock stated that he sees the problems with the present system but that there seems to be less and less time available for course times.  He noted that he is undecided on the proposal.  Flowers reported that the faculty members in his department overwhelmingly were in favor of the proposal.  He stated that it is important that the problems with the exam schedule get resolved.  He noted that he was dismayed and surprised to see the proposal defeated.  He stated that there needs to be compromises in order to resolve the problems created by the current system. 


Wunder noted that the argument put forward by the scientists was compelling enough to defeat the motion.  He stated that the message that was conveyed is that final exams could be moved into dead week as long as it is printed in the course syllabus.  He pointed out that this can create problems.  He stated that the issue should continue to be revisited.  He urged that another committee should be set up to look into the problem and suggested that some scientists should provide testimony regarding any proposed changes. 


Maher stated that the students wanted to prohibit any papers, exams, or other assignments from being due during dead week because it would not give the students the chance to prepare for upcoming finals.  Peterson noted that the current exam schedule does not give students time to study.  He stated that it would be nice to have a stop date that would allow students to prepare for exams. 


Flowers asked how other universities handle final exams.  Opal pointed out that UNL has one of the longest semesters of our peer institutions.  He noted that some universities have a study day.  Signal asked if these universities have a full week off for spring break.  Opal stated that they do. 


Bradford noted that the difference between the length of UNL’s semester and other universities’ semesters is just a few days.  He pointed out that many of the other universities do not give out diplomas at the graduation ceremony.  He asked if it was important for students to be handed the diplomas or whether they would be satisfied with them being mailed.  He noted that the cost of mailing the diplomas would probably not be much more than the cost of having to get them printed and ready to be distributed the day after exams end.  He noted that there is difficulty in getting grades submitted for graduating seniors who have final exams on Friday. 


Wunder pointed out that exams held on Friday afternoon conflicts for some professors with the hooding ceremony.  Signal suggested that exams be scheduled to the level of the course so that senior level courses have exams earlier in the week.  Flowers pointed out that no rule will fit everyone.  He stated that in some senior level courses projects or papers cannot be completed until the very end of the course. 


Scholz stated that shortening the final week of the semester is particularly difficult for classes that meet only once a week (such as evening classes meeting on Wednesday and Thursday).  Flowers noted that there is only a minority of courses that meet once a week. 


Fech questioned whether moving the graduation ceremony to Sunday would alleviate some of the problems.  Weichman stated that this would be difficult for students living on campus because they must be out of the dorms by Saturday afternoon. 


Peterson stated that he would constitute a new committee to continue working on the issue.


3.3       Other Issues

Peterson stated that the Committee would be interested in hearing the students’ reaction to the ES/IS proposal.  He noted that the Senate decided to have faculty members consult with the colleges on the proposal.  He stated that meetings have taken place with almost all of the colleges.  He stated that further meetings will take place in the fall.  He noted that the Dean of Undergraduate Studies has been working with the faculty members involved in the consulting. 


Peterson stated that another joint issue that is being worked on is child care.  Buck stated that there are student representatives on the child care committee.


Wunder stated that another joint issue that needs to be worked on is the committee to review and revise the Procedures for Reduction in Force.  He stated that this committee should be started early in the fall semester because the legislature will be dealing with the state budget in January and further budget cuts to the university are a real possibility. 


Wunder noted that in 1992 the Procedures were changed which resulted in less input from the faculty, staff, and students in dealing with budget cuts.  He pointed out that the students, as well as the faculty, will need to vote on revisions to the procedures.  Scholz asked if the rules for terminating faculty and staff were the same.  Wunder stated that they are not.  He noted that the pre-1992 procedures provided for an expanded board to review the budget cuts.  He pointed out that this board gave more representation to the different groups on campus. 


Peterson pointed out that the budget cuts do have a direct impact on the students.  He noted that 250 students lost their major in Health and Human Performance when that department was eliminated because of budget cuts.  Beck suggested that the review committee should begin this summer if possible.


4.0       Approval of 4/21/04 Minutes

            Shea moved and Beck seconded approval of the minutes as amended.  Motion approved.


5.0       Review of Senate Meeting

Peterson reported that he received a message from Professor James, chair of the Teaching Council, regarding not being able to give the Council’s report to the Senate even though he attended the meeting for two hours.  Peterson noted that both he and Griffin sent a message of apology.  Peterson stated that the report will be placed on the September agenda. 


Wunder suggested that no committee reports be given during the last Senate meeting.  He noted that the Senate has a lot of work to do with the elections and that there really isn’t time for committee reports.  The committee agreed that this was a good idea.   Peterson suggested that guests who come to the Senate meetings to give reports should be placed early on the agenda. 


Wunder stated that he has received email messages about his suggestion that the College of Arts & Sciences should be divided.  He noted that all of the messages have been positive.  He asked whether this is something that the Senate should look into.  He pointed out that instead of administration restructuring the campus, the faculty could take the initiative first.  He noted that some scientists from different disciplines have difficulty working together because of the structural set up of the colleges.  Fech asked for clarification of the split.  Wunder stated that he thought there could be a College of Liberal Arts.  Fech asked if this wasn’t creating more barriers for faculty members.  Wunder stated that he is seeing increasing evidence of a wider gulf occurring between the physical sciences and the humanities, particularly in dealing with promotion and tenure.  He suggested that there should be further discussions regarding his proposal. 


6.0       Unfinished Business

            No unfinished business was discussed.


7.0       New Business

            7.1       President Search Meetings & Interviews

Peterson stated that he received an email message from a professor who questions the legal terms of meeting versus interviews.  Shea stated that there is significant outrage both within and outside of the university regarding the meetings with Presidential candidates in Kansas City.  He stated whether or not this is considered legal, it is still not the right thing to do because it does not foster trust. 


Wunder reported that when he was on the Chancellor’s search committee the same issue was raised.  He noted that the search committee at that time was told by University Counsel that any meeting with a candidate would be considered an interview and the names of the candidates must be publicized.  He stated that as a result members of the committee only talked with candidates on the phone.  He noted that the current situation with the presidential search could be litigated by the press. 


            7.2       Bonds for Athletic Facilities Expansion

Peterson reported that he has received phone calls from faculty members who are upset about bonds being used to pay for the athletic facilities expansion.  He stated that faculty members want to know if the additional seats will generate enough money to pay off the bonds.  Wunder stated that 6,200 seats will be added to the stadium and the projected revenue should cover the bonds. 


            7.3       Report on Board of Regents Meeting

Wunder stated that a number of important issues were discussed at the April Board of Regents meeting.  He stated that a joint master’s program in writing between the English departments of UNK and UNO was approved.  He stated that he wondered why UNL was not included in this program.


Wunder reported that there was quite a debate on the scholarship program for low-income students.  He noted that President Smith had a good command of details concerning this issue.  Wunder stated that Regent Hawks’ amendment to raise the gpa for low-income students to 2.5 was approved.  Wunder reported that Pell grant accounts for students used to cover 89% of the cost of college but today it covers only 39% of the cost.  He stated that the scholarship was approved by a very narrow margin.


Wunder reported that there was discussion on the capital improvements to the athletics facility and the use of bonds to cover the cost of the improvements.  He stated that Chancellor Perlman strongly supported these improvements. 


Wunder questioned the amount of auxiliary services that the athletics department uses at the university.  He pointed out that staff members were used to evaluate the construction proposals yet the athletics department continually claims it is financially independent from the university.  Wunder questioned whether these staff members were paid for doing the evaluations. 


Wunder reported that a plan for students to help subsidize the cost of the athletic programs at UNO was approved. 


Wunder stated that a presentation was given to the Board regarding the next biennial budget.  He noted that this was a preliminary presentation and that no salary increases have been included into the budget at this time.  Peterson stated that it was reported to him that the next biennial budget included a 3.4% increase but this does not include salary increases.  Wunder pointed out that the salary increases were not included because they are related to tuition income which is an unknown factor at this time. 


7.4       Sexual Harassment Training

Peterson reported that the contract for the sexual harassment on-line training course is still being worked out with the company Bright Line Training.  He stated that supervisors will be taking the course this summer and information gathered on the course will be used to help train the faculty in the fall.


7.5       Amendments to Proposed Changes in Senate Rules

Peterson reported that he received an email message from Professor Jackson who recommends that amendments to the proposed changes in the Senate rules be shared with the Senate Rules and Bylaws Committee.  The Committee agreed that this would be a good thing to do this summer. 


7.6       Changing the Executive Committee Meeting Time

The Committee discussed possibly changing the meeting time for the fall semester.  Griffin stated that she would send an email message to the members of the Executive Committee to get information on their fall schedule to see if there is another time that would work well for meetings. 


The meeting was adjourned at 4:44 p.m.  The next meeting of the Executive Committee will be on Wednesday, May 5th at 2:30 pm.  The meeting will be held in 201 Canfield Administration Building.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator and Pat Shea, Secretary.