Executive Committee Minutes - July 28, 2004




Present:          Alexander, Bradford, Fech, Flowers, Peterson, Scholz, Wunder


Absent:           Beck, Bolin, Buck, Shea, Signal, Stock


Date:               Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Location:        201 Canfield Administration Building


1.0       Call to Order

            Peterson called the meeting to order at 2:40 p.m.


2.0       Chancellor Perlman

            2.1       Domestic Partners Benefits Update

Chanceller Perlman reported that after doing some checking he found that many of the informal benefits suggested by the Executive Committee in March would require approval by the Board of Regents.  He noted that some requests for leaves, such as funeral leaves, are being allowed although this can vary depending on the supervisor.  He reminded the committee that at the last Academic Senate meeting he urged that areas of common courtesy, such as invitation to university or departmental events, be extended to any person who played an important role in the lives of faculty members. 


Chancellor Perlman reported that use of some of the University’s facilities can be used by domestic partners although others, such as the Campus Recreation Center, specifically state that only the employee and their immediate family can use the facility.  He stated that he will look at these issues further.


Chancellor Perlman stated that when the dual career program was operating no distinctions were made between spouses and domestic partners.  He noted that the administration is considering reinstituting the dual career program although he is unsure of how it would be structured.  He stated that it could be out sourced. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that he has discussed with the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Committee the definitions used by the University in equal opportunity and affirmative action tag lines.  He noted that the GLBT Committee is concerned that there is institutional recognition of their right to be free of discrimination.   Peterson asked if the language sexual orientation is used.  Chancellor Perlman stated that the language “individual characteristics” is used.  He noted that Richard Wood, General Counsel, interprets this term as including sexual orientation. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that he does not have the authority to give access to medical benefits to domestic partners.  Bradford asked if the Board of Regents must approve the health plan each time it is renewed.  Chancellor Perlman stated that the Board is the body that has authorization to give approval to the university health plan. 


2.2       Accreditation Issue – Assessment of ES/IS Courses

Peterson stated that he met with the Chancellor earlier and told him that the Executive Committee would be willing to help out in determining how the ES/IS courses can be assessed for the accreditation process.  Chancellor Perlman stated that some assessments of ES/IS courses are available from previous accreditations.  He stated that these will be reviewed to see if the same assessment process can be used for the upcoming accreditation.


Chancellor Perlman reported that there may be an alternate possibility to the accreditation process.  He stated that instead of doing accreditation once every 10 years, it may be possible to set up a self study process which would require an annual report.  He noted that this approach would be preferable to the 10 year accreditation process because it would not be as time consuming and would allow the campus to focus on continuous improvement.  He stated that one obstacle to using the new process is that an external review of the institution must have been completed in the last three years.  He pointed out that there have been some forms of external reviews but he is unsure whether they would qualify.


Chancellor Perlman stated that one of the negative aspects of participating in the this other model of accreditation is that a representative(s) from the campus must attend a strategy forum every four years.  He noted that none of our peers are presently members and no research institution is involved yet.  He stated that his concern with the strategy forum is that issues pertaining to research institutions will not be discussed.  He noted that negotiations are underway to see if the requirement of attending the strategy forum can be waived.  He stated that a decision will need to be made this fall regarding participating in the self-study process. 


2.3       Issues on the Horizon

State of the University Address

Chancellor Perlman asked the Committee to let him know if there are any issues that they would like him to address in his State of the University Address.  Peterson asked what the date is for the State of the University Address.  Chancellor Perlman stated that he will speak on Friday, September 10th.


Reception for New SVCAA Couture

Chancellor Perlman stated that he is considering holding a reception for the new SVCAA Barbara Couture to allow more faculty members to meet her.  He noted that she will start work on August 17th.   The Executive Committee agreed to co-host the reception.  Chancellor Perlman reported that SVCAA Couture came back for the administrator’s retreat and has an understanding of the university and campus but there will more than likely be a transition period.


Faculty Issues

Wunder stated that he was contacted by a faculty member who has been here a long time but who has just recently been informed that he will be going through a post tenure review.  Wunder stated that the manner in which the faculty member was informed was insensitive.  He suggested that it might be good to address with middle management the need to be sensitive when informing faculty members, particularly those close to retirement age that they will be going through post tenure review. 


Wunder reported that he had a different faculty member contact him about the quality indicators list of prestigious journals.  Wunder stated that the faculty member was told that he must publish in one of the journals on the list if the faculty member wanted to receive a good evaluation.  Wunder stated that his understanding of the list is that it was meant to be useful to enhance faculty members and not to be used as a way to punish them.  Chancellor Perlman stated that the intention of the list is to enhance the work of the faculty and therefore the campus.  He noted that he is still somewhat uneasy with the need for a list because he is fearful that in some disciplines it may be disadvantageous for unique research.  He pointed out that the lists were created because there were concerns with developing quality indicators for the arts and humanities since they are harder to assess.  He noted that the quality indicators for the hard sciences are easy because the number and types of grants can be used as an assessment tool. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that how the lists are being used in departments may be a problem.  He noted that the list of journals has not been published and he thinks there should be further discussion on it.  Wunder stated that there seems to be many interpretations of how the lists are to be used.  Peterson pointed out that he knows of a case where a professor has left the university because he was being told that he must publish in one of the journals on the list. 


Chancellor Perlman noted that some journals may not be rated very highly and therefore are not on a department’s list.  He stated that some departments might want to include certain journals on their list because they want to elevate the standing of the department.  He pointed out that the problem is in trying to find a way that would allow departments to set higher standards without having negative consequences. 


Alexander stated that interdisciplinary research causes real problems because journals relating to this kind of work might not be on any list.  Yet, faculty members are continually being encouraged to do more interdisciplinary research.  Flowers noted that using the lists may discourage departments and faculty members from getting involved in interdisciplinary research.  However, interdisciplinary research is where the grant money can be found.  He stated that nothing should be in place that would inhibit faculty members from wanting to conduct interdisciplinary research. 


Wunder stated that in the history department all publications are given credit.  Chancellor Perlman suggested that an index of citations could possibly be substituted for the list of publications.  He stated that another suggestion is to go to a faculty review system although there could be hazards involved with this.  He stated that he is open to ideas about how to assess progress but he doesn’t want the humanities and arts to be left out.


Flowers stated that the quality indicators should be used as a global evaluation of the university’s progress.  He stated that if they were not misused at the department level it would alleviate a lot of the concerns of faculty members.  He stated that they should not be used to evaluate individuals.  He stated that he has heard that faculty members are being evaluated based on the quality indicators list.  Vice Chancellor Owens agreed and stated that there has been previous discussion on this. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that he will discuss this with department chairs.  He reported that he is putting together a committee of current and former chairs to develop a program that will help chairs with some of their job responsibilities.  He noted that he is considering running four seminar sessions during the year to inform and train chairs.  He stated that Gallup has volunteered to have someone teach management skills in these seminar sessions. 


Bradford stated that the lists were supposed to be used to evaluate departments, not individuals.  However, he said there is an issue independent of whether the lists should be used to judge and evaluate faculty members—whether it is appropriate to trigger a post-tenure review of a faculty member merely because he or she is not publishing in reviews on the department’s list.  Bradford stated he believed post-tenure review was intended as a very extraordinary remedy, and its use for this purpose is inappropriate. 


3.0       Vice Chancellor Owens

            3.1       Update on IANR Administrative Hires

Vice Chancellor Owens reported that Professor Cassman, Chair of the Agronomy and Horticulture department, will be stepping down as chair and returning to the faculty.   Vice Chancellor Owens stated that a national search will be conducted to fill this position.


Vice Chancellor Owens reported that the Dean of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture will be leaving.  He reported that the Director of the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte has retired.  He stated that the is considering having a single Dean and an Associate Dean over West Central Research and Extension and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture since they are located in the same region.  He pointed out that this arrangement might allow for more co-mingling of the faculty.  He stated that he would like the two units to work more closely together. 


Vice Chancellor Owens stated that Professor Fritz, who is currently serving as department head for Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication, will be serving part-time as Associate Dean for CASNR.  He stated that he is willing to give .50 FTE back to the Ag Leadership department to compensate for Fritz serving as Associate Dean.  He noted that the .50 FTE might allow the department to hire someone in the discipline of Agricultural Journalism since that is an area that needs to be filled. 


Vice Chancellor Owens reported that Professor Schmitz, former head of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, has returned to teaching full-time.  Vice Chancellor Owens stated that a search is currently underway and that one candidate has been interviewed for the position.  He stated that two more candidates are scheduled to be interviewed. 


Vice Chancellor Owens stated that the U.S. Geological Service has a fishery and wildlife program that will be hiring.  He noted that this is a federal unit that will be housed on campus and that the scientists will teach graduate courses but will be paid by the federal government.  He reported that the Nebraska Games and Park Commission will be contributing $100,000 to help operate the program. 


Vice Chancellor Owens reported that there is a new head for Biological Systems and Engineering.  He noted that the new faculty member specializes in water which will be helpful with the water initiative project. 


Vice Chancellor Owens stated that the Agricultural Economic department is still seeking a new head.  He noted that three candidates were interviewed but a hire was not made.  He stated that another search will be conducted. 


Vice Chancellor Owens reported that Professor Hergenrader, Director of the Nebraska Forest Service, is retiring.  Vice Chancellor Owens stated that a national search will be conducted to fill this position. 


Vice Chancellor Owens stated that Textiles, Clothing, and Design is seeking a new chair and a search will be conducted.


Vice Chancellor Owens stated that he is looking into making some reassignments in association with the Agricultural Research Division (ARD).  He stated that Dr. Banquet will assume the Associate Director position for ARD at .45 FTE and that Dan Duncan, Director of the Agricultural Research and Development Center at Mead, will serve as Assistant Director of ARD at .25 FTE. 


Vice Chancellor Owens stated that while there is a lot of shuffling of people going on in the Institute, there is no increase in the number of administrators.  He noted that the Institute is still less one full-time administrator. 


Peterson stated that he shared the Recruitment and Retention of Women report with Vice Chancellor Owens who stated that there was a minority fellowship program in New Mexico that UNL might want to review.  Vice Chancellor Owens stated that he will check into the fellowship program to see if it is still operating.  He stated that the idea of the program is to develop diversity at the administrative level by identifying minority graduate students.  The program then supports these graduate students in a doctoral program at a different institution.  The agreement is that once the student has obtained their doctorate, they would return to the university to work there for at least three years.  He noted that the process is slow but it does change the faculty composition over time.  He stated that he would get Peterson further information on the program.



4.0       Transition Report – Dean Kean

Dean Kean stated that the purpose of the task force was to review what UNL is doing to help students make the transition from high school to the university.  She noted that former SVCAA Edwards appointed the Blue Sky committee as the task force.  She stated that the committee used the 20/20 Report and the National Student Engagement Survey as a foundation to deliberate what UNL could do to improve the transition period for students.


Dean Kean stated that one of the findings of the committee is that undergraduate students need to have access to more advising.  She pointed out that the retention rate for UNL undergraduate students is the lowest among our peer institutions.  She noted that this is one of the reasons why the Office of Undergraduate Studies was developed.  She noted that this office deals with learning communities, undergraduate students, fellowships, and transfer students.  She reported that as of July 1st programs dealing with minorities are no longer with the Office of Student Affairs.  She stated that they have been moved to the Office of Undergraduate Studies. 


Dean Kean stated that most of the information obtained about the undergraduate experience came from the student focus groups.  She stated that the focus groups identified problems in five areas:  orientation, advising, student expectations and academic engagement, academic interests, and communication. 


Dean Kean reported that based upon their findings, the committee made a number of recommendations.  These include a first year core course which would be available to all incoming students.  This course would introduce students to a discipline.  She noted that this course could be developed from existing courses and it would have learning objectives and engage students intellectually.


Secondly, there should be clearer communication and explanation of the comprehensive education program.  Dean Kean reported that currently students do not understand the comprehensive education program.


Third, students need to make a connection with someone through advising.  Dean Kean stated that the committee found that students who receive peer advising from a number of different people are often confused as compared to those students who have one faculty advisor.


Fourth, students housed in General Studies need to declare a major by the time they have taken 60 credit hours.  Dean Kean stated that currently there is no compelling reason for students to declare a major.  Wunder noted that General Studies seems to be more nurturing and that there is not enough emphasis on getting the students to declare a major.  He suggested that requiring sophomore students to consult with a career counselor might help these students discover what discipline they wish to major in.  Dean Kean stated that a contract could be created where the student must agree to declare a major after a certain period of time. 


Dean Kean stated that another idea for incoming students is to have a requirement making them participate in some kind of UNL activity. 


Dean Kean reported that changes have been made in the new student enrollment process.  She stated that the theme for incoming students is to engage, connect, and balance.  She noted that table tents have been printed identifying these three goals. 


Dean Kean stated that there will be a mid-semester checkpoint for new students.  She stated that New Student Enrollment leaders will contact new students by Blackboard.  The students will meet at the Union where assessments will be made as to where they are now and what they are trying to do academically.  She stated that other academic organizations will be involved during the check points.  She noted that many of our peer institutions have a program in place to check the progress of their students.


Dean Kean stated that having parents involved is also crucial for new students.  She pointed out that hearing positive messages and encouragement from their parents is very helpful to new students. 


Dean Kean stated that the groups of students who need to be reached are the average grade students.  She noted that this is where the largest drop out rates can be found.  Wunder suggested targeting students from particular schools since these students have a higher drop out rate. 


Dean Kean stated that her office will be assessing the learning communities.  She stated that they have been very successful but they might need to move the communities up a level.  She noted that the students involved in learning communities have a much higher retention rate. 


Dean Kean reported that some of the recommendations are being implemented while others need to have faculty involvement. 


Alexander asked if there was any assessment of the new student orientation program.  He asked if the campus tours are working.  Dean Kean stated that a follow up is conducted after the campus tours.  She noted that having students spend more time with advisors might be more beneficial than taking a long campus tour.  She pointed out that there are currently no faculty members involved with the new student enrollment team.  She stated that she will suggest having a team of faculty members provide feedback and input on the new student enrollment program. 


6.0       Announcements

            6.1       Meeting with Chancellor Perlman

Peterson reported that he met with the Chancellor and discussed concerns about the Academic Rights and Responsibilities grievance cases and administration’s response to the findings. 


Peterson stated that the Chancellor is still interested in the recommendations of the Wasted Time Committee and whether they have been implemented.  Peterson stated that the Chancellor believes there are still procedures and processes that can either be eliminated on reduced.  Alexander noted that a lot of time is wasted in trying to get requests for research budgets signed.  The Committee suggested discussing this with Vice Chancellor Paul. 


7.0       Approval of 7/14/04 Minutes

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


8.0       Unfinished Business

            8.1       Further Update on ES Courses

            Agenda item postponed.


            8.2       Executive Committee Retreat

Griffin reported that the Executive Committee Retreat will be held on Friday, September 3rd at the Embassy Suites.


9.0       New Business

Alexander noted that a survey is being conducted among the managerial/professional and support staff employees.  He thought that the survey might have something to do with job responsibilities.  Fech stated that it could have something to do with new federal laws in regards to paying people for working overtime.  The Committee agreed that Peterson should ask the officers of UNOPA and UAAD about the survey and the reason for it.


The meeting was adjourned at 4:53 p.m.  The next meeting of the Executive Committee will be on Wednesday, August 11th at 2:30 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.