Executive Committee Minutes - December 15, 2004




Present:          Beck, Bolin, Bradford, Fech, Peterson, Scholz, Shea, Stock, Wunder


Absent:           Alexander, Hoffman, Signal


Date:               Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Location:        201 Canfield Administration Building


Note:   These are not verbatim minutes.  They are a summary of the discussions at the Executive Committee meeting as corrected by those participating.


1.0       Call to Order

            Peterson called the meeting to order at 3:05 p.m.


2.0       Chancellor Perlman, Vice Chancellor Owens, SVCAA Couture

Chancellor Perlman was unable to attend the meeting because he was called out of town.

Peterson reported that he and President-Elect Beck and Secretary Shea met with SVCAA Couture and VC Owens and discussed the strategic planning process.  Peterson stated that the discussion focused on how faculty can be more engaged not only in the strategic planning process but in other administrative processes that affect the faculty.  He pointed out that the Gallup survey indicates that both faculty members and staff members feel less included at the university than the administrators.  He noted that both VC Owens and SVCAA Couture indicated that they hope to get faculty more involved.


Beck asked what will happen next once the strategic planning process is developed.  VC Owens stated that there has not been any particular discussion on this subject but there will be meetings so that everyone can discuss the final plan. 


2.1       Draft Conflict of Interest Policy

Peterson noted that the Executive Committee has had preliminary discussion on the draft policy.  He stated that the Committee had concerns about the policy.  SVCAA Couture stated that VC Paul has distributed the policy as widely as possible so he could get feedback on it.  She noted that VC Paul is asking for feedback by January 15th.  VC Owens noted that the committee that has been formed to look at the policy will be meeting some time before the 15th.  He pointed out that Varner Hall is not requiring feedback from the campuses until mid-March. 


VC Owens stated that he distributed printed copies of the policy at the IANR Council and an electronic version has been distributed to unit administrators.  He noted that there has been no discussion on the policy yet.  He suggested that the Executive Committee might consider summarizing its concerns on the policy. 


Peterson reported that the Committee’s preliminary reaction to the document is that it is long and confusing.  Bradford stated that the document was unnecessarily long and complicated.  He pointed out that the language of the document could be interpreted in such a way that anyone could be found to be in violation of it.


Wunder noted that faculty members in the College of Engineering and Technology find the policy very problematic.  He noted that the policy restricts a faculty member from conducting any outside activity that would use university equipment.  He pointed out that this creates a serious problem for many professors in the hard sciences.  Beck stated that she has received numerous comments from faculty members who have concerns about the policy. 


Wunder pointed out that the policy allows the Athletic Department and faculty members associated with it to conduct youth camps during the summer using university equipment but professors are restricted from doing outside consulting using university equipment. 


SVCAA Couture suggested that the Committee and faculty members should direct their comments to VC Paul so he gets their input. 


Beck asked who wrote the document.  VC Owens stated that there has been discussion on writing the document for some time.  He noted that university attorneys from Varner Hall probably wrote it. 


2.2       Core Values Forum

Peterson reported that he attended the forum and asked SVCAA Couture and VC Owens for their comments on the forum.  SVCAA Couture stated that she thought the forum went well and she was pleased to see the turnout for it.  She stated that a strategic plan website will be created and comments made during the forum will be posted.  She noted that an email address will also be set up so people can send further comments on the strategic plan as it develops.  She stated that she hopes the website will answer questions for people.  She noted that she and VC Owens plan on writing periodic newsletters about the progress of the strategic plan. 


VC Owens stated that the forum went well but he was disappointed to learn that the satellite communications did not work to allow faculty and staff members from other parts of the state to participate in the discussion.  He noted that he hopes that this will not be a problem for the next forum.


SVCAA Couture stated that the comments made at the forum were very helpful.  She noted that there were important comments made about collaboration and climate issues.  She stated that this is an issue that will need to be looked at again.  She noted that comments have been made that the core values contain too much jargon and the administrative team might want to address that issue.


VC Owens stated that the comments regarding collegiality were very good and he expects to hear more on this subject.  Beck pointed out that making some changes to the core values based on comments made at the forums will increase the faculty’s confidence that they actually have input into the planning process. 


Peterson stated that there have been comments regarding whether the values are something for faculty members to aspire to or whether many of these values already exist.  He noted that some existing unit/department strategic plans already have these values.  He asked whether some of the core values are should be viewed as goals.  SVCAA Couture stated that if the values are to be meaningful they need to be worked on continuously.  She stated that we cannot just assume that they describe our present common beliefs; they will, for some, also express our future aspirations. 


2.3       Clarification on University Calendar

Peterson stated that the Dead Week Committee is trying to determine if the campus has the ability to adjust the semester schedule within the beginning and end dates determined by Varner Hall.  He noted that there appears to be some confusion because former President Smith at one time indicated that the campus has great flexibility within the semester but the University-Wide Calendar Committee guidelines state that classes must meet fifteen times each day the course is scheduled during the semester.  He noted that the University is already in violation of these guidelines with the observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday and the fall semester break.  He questioned whether the Board of Regents will need to approve changes to the UNL semester calendar. 


SVCAA Couture stated that a change in the semester schedule could affect administrative processes as well.  She noted that any changes that affect the whole campus could have many unforeseen impacts.  She stated that it will be important to know what other effects such a change could have.  She suggested that the idea be brought to the senior administrative team for their input. 


SVCAA Couture noted that distributing diplomas at graduation creates constraints for faculty and students although it does have public value.  Bradford stated that the students he has spoken to have stated that they do not really care whether they receive their diploma at graduation or have it mailed.  Shea stated that the issue should be discussed because not giving out the diplomas might ease some of the constraints and pressures placed on the faculty members and staff; at the same time, we need to recognize the value of this tradition. 


SVCAA Couture asked if the other campuses in the NU system distribute diplomas at the time of graduation.  VC Owens noted that they do not.  He pointed out that departmental offices and Registration and Records must work very hard to get everything processed in time for the diplomas to be handed out. 


Wunder stated that he does not think many faculty members are aware that the preliminary grade given for graduating seniors will remain the same if the student should receive a final grade that is lower than the preliminary grade.  Peterson noted that the final grade can be lowered from the grade recorded on the preliminary grade roster only if the instructor informs Registration and Records of the grade change before 4:00 p.m. on Friday of finals week. 


Peterson stated that ASUN has complained annually about dead week although he is unsure whether anything can be done to change things.  He pointed out that presentations and final reports are often due in dead week.  He noted that at some point in the semester there will be a heavy workload for students. 


Stock stated that he does not know how the problem of dead week can be resolved.   Peterson pointed out that other universities have fewer days in their semester.  He noted that the University of Texas and Texas A & M have shortened their semester by one or two days to provide study days for students. 


Wunder stated that the Chancellor had indicated in an earlier meeting that he believed the faculty members have the option of changing the semester schedule providing that the beginning and ending days remain the same as the other campuses.  Stock pointed out that he believed that many faculty members would be opposed to shortening the number of class meetings. 


SVCAA Couture stated that she has not seen the proposal made by ASUN on the dead week policy.  She stated that she will speak with VC Griesen and Dean Kean about the proposal and will look to see what effects the proposed changes would have. 


Peterson noted that a new committee has been formed to look into the dead week issue.  He stated that the committee has heavy faculty representation from the physical sciences as well as student representation.  Wunder noted that the current dead week policy allows lab exams to be held.  He wondered if these exams would be changed to be held during finals week if the dead week policy was changed.  Peterson pointed out that many graduate students teach labs and they have to take their own finals so they may not want to change the lab exams from dead week.  He stated that the proposal may have to go to the university wide calendar committee in order to be approved.  He noted that there is no incentive for the other campuses to change the semester schedule.  SVCAA Couture asked if the dead week policy is an issue on the other campuses.  Peterson stated that it is not because none of the other campuses distribute diplomas at graduation.  Stock noted that most students would probably not care if they didn’t get their diploma at commencement.  He pointed out that not distributing the diplomas might resolve the problem.  Peterson stated that the Chancellor is against eliminating the distribution of diplomas at commencement. 


Beck pointed out that there are really two issues.  She stated that the students’ issue is with dead week while the faculty’s issue is with finals week and being able to submit grades in time for graduating seniors.  Wunder noted that eliminating the distribution of diplomas would alleviate the pressure on getting grades submitted in time. 




2.4       Quality Indicators Report

Peterson stated that he received a copy of the Quality Indicators report.  He noted that there are some on-going problems with the report.  He pointed out that UNL does not always look good in comparison to other institutions because the report does not distinguish the difference in the size of institutions.  For instance, he stated that the segment of the report on the number of Fulbright winners makes UNL look bad in comparison to other institutions because the report does not clarify that the other institutions have more students than UNL.  SVCAA Couture stated that there has been some discussion on this but she pointed out that overall the information in the report is very helpful in getting a sense of where the institution is going.  She noted that the report can help identify whether the work done by our campus is expressing our core values. 


SVCAA Couture stated that the Quality Indicators Report may be helpful to departments when they discuss their priorities.  She noted that it is easier for some disciplines to use such indicators because their work can be more easily quantified.  She pointed out that measuring the qualitative value of work is much more difficult to do.  She noted that the quality indicators are not benchmarks.


Peterson stated that the quality indicators can identify trends to see if progress is being made.  SVCAA Couture noted that this will occur in time but right now the report has not been around long enough to see any significant trends. 


Bradford asked if the report is on the web.  SVCAA Couture stated that she was not sure but she would check on it.  She later supplied the following website (http://www.unl.edu/svcaa/pdfs/report2004.pdf)


VC Owens stated that his concern with the report is how to engage extension education.  He stated that some measurable impacts need to be developed but how to do this is difficult.


2.5       Workshop for Faculty Members on Cheating Practices of Students

Peterson stated that Dr. Hecker of Student Judicial Affairs spoke to the Senate last week and indicated that there has been an increase in academic dishonesty.  Peterson noted that the Daily Nebraskan published an article about cheating.  He stated that the Committee is planning on meeting with Dr. Hecker in January to discuss the issue.


Peterson stated that the Committee discussed academic dishonesty and it was suggested during the meeting that Academic Affairs might want to organize a workshop for faculty on how to deal with academic dishonesty.  Faculty members could also share experiences they have had with students cheating in their classes and ways in which students cheat.  He noted that a lot of professors probably do not report students when they are caught cheating.


VC Owens asked if members of the Committee have experienced an increase in academic dishonesty.  Peterson stated that his own personal experience is that there has not been an increase but it has been consistent over the years.  He stated that he believed plagiarism is often due to a student’s laziness rather than the desire to deceive a professor. 


Wunder stated that his sense, and the sense of his colleagues, is that academic dishonesty is increasing.  Stock noted that the opportunities to commit academic dishonesty have increased.  Wunder stated that he believed many faculty members are not aware of how to give writing assignments that inhibit plagiarism.  He pointed out that the Teaching Council might be able to help with this. 


VC Owens stated that one of the issues is how to convey to the students at large about academic dishonesty.  He questioned whether it is something that should be done at the class level or in other formats.  Shea pointed out that having workshops might not only be helpful to instructors but it might make students think more about doing it if they know faculty members are being informed about it.  Stock noted that he points out to students that he has a sense of the work they can do by other assignments and when they plagiarize it stands out. 


Peterson noted that there are other forms and means of academic dishonesty other than plagiarism.  Bradford pointed out that it was alarming to read that 80% of undergraduate students say they have cheated at least once.  Wunder stated that he requires students to submit their blue books to him in the beginning of the semester.  At each exam he hands out the blue book thereby eliminating the possibility of the student making notes in the blue book that they could look at during the exam.  Fech noted that some professors make up two different versions of an exam which are distributed in class without the students’ knowledge. 


Wunder pointed out that that the university’s policies on academic dishonesty are not severe enough.  He noted that at other universities students are expelled if caught cheating.  He suggested that the university needs to look at developing stronger penalties. 


SVCAA Couture reported that the Deans had an initial discussion on academic dishonesty after the DN article.  She stated that it was suggested that the increase in plagiarism might be the result of the internet environment which makes it easier for students to make a mistake.  She stated that students need to be taught about how to properly use written sources.  She suggested that providing a sheet of information on when and how to cite information could be included with a course syllabus.  She noted that any suggestions from the Senate on this issue would be helpful.  She stated that Professor David Wilson has been assigned to look at teaching issues on campus and he would welcome any comments people would have on academic dishonesty.


Peterson stated that academic dishonesty is an issue that the Senate should pursue.  He noted that Academic Affairs intends to launch a broader discussion of general education and suggested that plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty might be topics that should be included in a revised general education program.   He stated that plagiarism is really a deficiency in training rather than an effort to deceive the instructor. 


Bolin reported that the Libraries are developing a Blackboard page that deals with the issue.  She stated that the Library has a strong interest in plagiarism but she did not know whether the introductory Library courses cover the subject. 


Peterson stated that he has provided a handout with his syllabus on plagiarism but it does not seem to make a difference.  Wunder stated that the beginning English courses used to spend a lot of time regarding rules of writing but he did not know if this was being done anymore.  Stock stated that the English department requires a statement on each syllabus regarding plagiarism.  He noted that the comparative English literature courses are so diverse that it is difficult to determine what is being done in them. 


Peterson stated that there will be further discussion on the subject with the Senate and in the Executive Committee meetings.


2.6       Assessing Physical Space

SVCAA Couture stated that Institutional Research and Planning will be conducting a thorough assessment of the physical space on campus.  She noted that this will be the first step towards getting digital information on the physical space of the campus.   Information on the quality of the space will also be gathered. 


SVCAA Couture stated that it is her understanding that each college and department will be visited by a team to conduct an inventory of the space.  She stated that the plan is to get accurate information from each of the colleges.  She noted that there has been some preliminary discussion about hiring a professional consultant to come in to look and address the space needs of the campus. 


VC Owens stated that the space issue for various disciplines can be complicated.  He pointed out that the life sciences are an example because not all of their space is in Lincoln.  SVCAA Couture noted that there is not an effective description on what the physical space is of the campus.  VC Owens pointed out that there have been significant changes to the physical space as buildings have been repaired and renovated and updated information is needed.


Wunder stated that instructors often do not find out until shortly before the semester begins what classrooms they will be teaching in and whether it will meet the needs of their class.  He pointed out that there are local space issues as well as departments are moved and spaces are renovated.  SVCAA Couture noted that most campuses have space standards.  Beck pointed out that there are many discrepancies around campus regarding the size of office space.  Wunder stated that office space can have an impact on collegiality and productivity.


SVCAA Couture stated that part of the strategic plan is to assess the needs of the campus, including physical space and discussions will need to be held about the issues.




3.0       Announcements

            3.1       Last Meeting of Professor Wunder

Peterson noted that this was the last meeting for Professor Wunder on the Executive Committee and the Senate.  He pointed out that Professor Wunder is going on sabbatical during the spring semester.  Peterson thanked Professor Wunder for all of his hard work and commitment to faculty issues.


4.0       Approval of 12/8/04 Minutes

Wunder moved and Scholz seconded approval of the minutes as amended.  Motion approved.


6.0       Report on Board of Regents Meeting

Peterson reported that a presentation was made on the fiscal outlook for the state.  He noted that projections were made predicting a budget shortfall in the future.  He stated that the presentation was pessimistic about an increase in the university budget. 


Wunder asked if a report was given regarding the clean up of the Mead facility.  Beck pointed out that a lot of the waste at Mead is from UNMC.  Peterson stated that no report was given on the clean up.  He stated that this is an issue that the campus will need to keep a close eye on.


Peterson reported that the Board looked at a capital investment agreement which would require an additional $770,000 to the renovation of Behlen Laboratories.  Peterson stated that Chancellor Perlman explained that the increase was needed in order to accommodate a laser that will be used by a well known scientist who has recently been hired.  Peterson noted that the Board eventually approved the additional cost but there were objections made.  He stated that Regent Hawks wants a report submitted in a year to determine how much grant funding this newly hired scientist brings in.  Wunder asked where the additional $770,000 is coming from.  Peterson stated that he believed it was coming from the capital and construction funds.  Wunder pointed out that the pursuit of excellence is not cheap. 


Peterson stated that a report was given on tenure density.  He noted that the tenure density was reported as 81% which is slightly greater than last year.  This figure reflects the proportion of tenured faculty members. 


Peterson reported that UNK and UNO will begin contract negotiations on salaries with the administration.  He stated that the Senate Presidents of the four campuses plan on communicating with each other about the negotiations and on other matters.  Peterson noted that he provided the Senate Presidents with information on the retirement benefit cap that Professor Bryant has been working on.  Peterson stated that he gave the other Senate Presidents copies of the draft Conflict of Interest policy since they had not seen it yet.  Beck suggested that the Senate Presidents should have a discussion on the definition of an academic program and afterwards they should discuss it with President Milliken.



The meeting was adjourned at 4:47 p.m.  The next meeting of the Executive Committee will be on Wednesday, January 12th at 3:00 pm.  The meeting will be held in the Academic Senate Office, 420 University Terrace.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator and Pat Shea, Secretary.