UNL Academic Senate Minutes - April 4, 2006


East Campus Union,

April 4, 2006

Presidents Mary Beck, Ali Moeller, and Wes Peterson Presiding


1.0      Call to Order

            President Beck called the meeting to order at 2:35 p.m.


2.0      Announcements

            2.1  NCAA Recertification

President Beck reminded the Senate to get their responses in about the NCAA recertification.  She noted that the response deadline is April 7th and input can be provided by going to the website. 


2.2  Next Senate Meeting

President Beck reported that the final meeting of the Academic Senate will be held on April 25th in the City Campus Union. 


2.3  AAUP Meeting

Professor Bryant, Educational Administration, stated that the local chapter of the AAUP is having a meeting of April 21st  beginning at 6:30 in the East Campus Union.  He stated that Professor Ron Lee, Communication Studies, is the current President of the chapter.  Professor Bryant stated that the topic of discussion at the meeting will be the impact of IRB review boards on faculty research and the new director of IRB will be a panel member.  He stated that topics to be discussed in the fall will be threats to academic freedom. 


Professor Bryant stated that the recent case of Professor Ari’s delay in getting a visa reminded him of past history when academic rights were challenged.  He pointed out that AAUP protected faculty rights back then and lobbied on behalf of academic freedom.  He wanted to let the Senate know that the AAUP does exist in Nebraska.  He noted that the State Conference is composed of UNL, UNO, Creighton, Wesleyan, and Hastings.  He pointed out that the AAUP in the state is a professional organization, not a collective bargaining organization.


Professor Byrant stated that if anyone is interested in getting more information on the AAUP they should contact him (mbryant1@unl.edu) or Professor Bob Haller, English, at (rhaller1@unl.edu) .


2.4  Donation to the Academic Senate from the Nebraska Cooperative Extension Association

Professor Germer, Southeast Research & Extension Center, presented a check for $1,000 from the Nebraska Cooperative Extension Association to help support the Academic Senate.  President Beck thanked Professor Germer and the Association for their continued support.


3.0    President Milliken

President Milliken noted that last year when he spoke to the Senate he discussed in length the development of the strategic framework for the University.  He reported that since then a great deal of progress on the framework has been made.  He advised and asked the faculty to look at the framework (http://www.nebraska.edu/news/strategicframework2005.pdf) and if they have any thoughts on it, especially if there are any concerns, they should email him (PRESIDENT@NEBRASKA.EDU).


President Milliken stated that the strategic framework has six major goals.  He noted that last year the Board of Regents chose six to ten strategies and developed accountability measures.  He stated that the Board will keep revisiting these measures.  He noted that accountability measures that have been set related to tuition, enrollment, graduation and retention rates, faculty compensation, research funding and deferred maintenance.  He reported that some of these are completed while others are still being worked on. 


President Milliken stated that another accountability measure that will take time to develop is the notion of assessment of student learning.  He pointed out that the Board is very interested in this.  He stated that the idea of assessment of student learning is most notably reflected in the Spellings Commission which is being chaired by Charles Miller of Texas.  He noted that previously a goal of standardized tests for all college students was discussed, but now it is shifting towards accreditation. 


President Milliken reported that the Board is going to be looking at a new round of accountability measures as well as state funding and tuition rates.  He noted that the Board assumes a certain level of funding in order to determine tuition rates.  He pointed out that it is a logical time to discuss state funding because the budget requests will be determined in the next few months. 


President Milliken stated that the Board is very interested in entrepreneurship.  He stated that there has been discussion on need-based aid and merit scholarships, and discussions are beginning about preparing students for the workforce.  He noted that questions being considered are what kinds of opportunities will be available in Nebraska in the future and what degrees will be needed to fill these requirements.  Also being asked is whether the University is organized to meet the demands of the workforce.  He stated that these decisions cannot be reached without faculty input. 


Professor Stick, Educational Administration, asked if the workforce preparation competes with the community colleges.  President Milliken stated that it does sound a lot like community colleges but what the Board is concerned with is the employment opportunities that require a four year degree or greater.  He noted that one of these areas that has received media attention is space law.  He stated that US Space Command is now headquartered in Nebraska, and that because of the Command and commercial needs, this might be an area where the University of Nebraska could and should be a leader.  He pointed out that community colleges cannot prepare students for this kind of workforce. 


President Milliken reported that the Legislature passed the budget and the Governor has announced his vetoes.  President Milliken stated that there is both good and bad news in regards to the budget—but mainly good.  He stated that the request to help pay for utilities was approved for the first year of the biennium but the Governor vetoed the funding for the second year.  He noted that $4 million was appropriated but this does not meet the entire deficit.  He pointed out that UNMC and UNL have the highest utilities deficit.  He stated that the University does have the opportunity to seek the additional utilities funding next year.


President Milliken reported that the legislation dealing with the clean up of Mead was passed.  He noted that this year the Legislation is providing the funding and next year partial funding will come from the Environmental Trust Fund. 


President Milliken stated that the University’s top priority, LB 605 passed in general file.  This legislation provides funding for construction, maintenance, and upkeep of the buildings on campus.  He noted that the Governor has stated that he will support this if he is able to. 


President Milliken reported that one veto that is unfortunate is the one for $1.2 million in need-based aid.  He stated that he is unsure whether this will be subject to an override.  He stated that he believes the state should provide this kind of aid and should not expect the institution to provide it.  He pointed out that Nebraska does not do well in supporting need based aid. 


President Milliken stated that it was encouraging that the Nebraska Dream act which provides in-state tuition rates for immigrants who graduate from a Nebraska high school and who demonstrate that they will pursue legal residency, passed 30 – 5 on general file.  He noted that two of the three candidates running for Governor have said they would support this.  He pointed out that this legislation affects the University and employment opportunities in the state. 


President Milliken stated that last year a bill was introduced by Senator Landis to develop a distinguished professorship program.  He noted that this bill did not advance last session. 


President Milliken stated that Central Administration is preparing for the biennial budget request to the Board of Regents.  He noted that the Board will approve the budget in June.  He stated that one of the highest priorities is to make sure faculty salaries reach the Board’s goal of exceeding the mid-point of our peer institutions.  He noted that faculty members should not become use to receiving the kind of increase that we received during the current biennium. 


President Milliken stated that one thing that has been done this year is the adoption of a tuition differential policy.  He stated that he believes this is working as expected and he is waiting to hear whether the tuition differential rate for summer courses at UNL is successful. 


President Milliken stated that he is interested in getting feedback on the creation of an award for outstanding work in outreach and engagement with people outside of the institution.  He noted that for some time the ORCA and ORTICA awards have been given for outstanding research and teaching and he believes there should be one for outreach and engagement.  He stated that he is interested in developing the criteria for the award and he would like the input of the faculty on this. 


President Milliken stated that he noted that at the last Senate meeting there was discussion on the President’s Health Care Advisory Committee.  He pointed out that one thing the Advisory Committee did not address are wellness issues.  He stated that he has identified approximately six people to serve on a wellness commission that will look at a university-wide wellness program.  He noted that consideration will be given to wellness activities which could result in possible cost savings. 


President Milliken invited and encouraged faculty members to contact them with their thoughts, questions, or advice on any issues they would like to discuss with him.


4.0    Chancellor Perlman

Chancellor Perlman stated that we should recognize the extraordinary success that the University has had with the Legislature this year.  He noted that President Milliken has worked hard and intelligently on behalf of the University and we should all be aware and applaud his efforts.


Chancellor Perlman wanted to thank the outgoing senators for their work.  He stated that he has enjoyed working with them for these past three years. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that the recent announcement of the partnership between UNL and the Nebraska Public Power District to form the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research is an extraordinary and unique opportunity.  He noted that this is a major grant from the state and it shows respect and confidence in the University to make contributions to alternative energy. 


Chancellor Perlman noted that April is a time of year for recognitions and he has the opportunity to attend many award banquets.  He stated that he recently attended a reception for those people who received ITLE grants.  He noted there is a great deal of excitement on campus.  He stated that this morning he recognized those faculty members who received grants or published books and he was thrilled to see the amount of faculty success and accomplishments.  He reported that the ORCA and ORTICA awards will be recognized at the end of the month.  He stated that everyone should take great pride in the accomplishments of the faculty but he pointed out that there is still more work to do. 


5.0    Recognition of Outgoing Senators

President Beck read the list of names of outgoing Senators and thanked them for their work and asked them to accept congratulations on a job well done.


6.0    Approval of 3/7/06 Minutes

Professor Hoffman, Industrial & Systems Engineering, moved and Professor Stick seconded approval of the minutes.  Motion approved.


7.0    Committee Reports

7.1    Graduate Council (Executive Associate Dean Weissinger)

Executive Associate Dean Weissinger reported that graduate applications are up significantly this year.  She noted that there are currently 820 more applications this year than there were last year at this same time.  She reported that this is a 17% increase overall and in graduate applications from international students there is a 43% increase.  She pointed out that the hard work being done in departments and colleges are paying off.  Professor Stick asked which area is getting the most applications.  Executive Associate Dean Weissinger stated that she did not have this information yet but she has heard that the applications were fairly uniform across the campus.  She pointed out that the quality of the applicants is up as well. 


Professor Hoffman asked for clarification on the graduate scholarships available for non-resident students who have not received funding.  Executive Associate Dean Weissinger stated that the Edgren Fellowship provides some tuition remission for graduate students saving them approximately $300 a semester.  She noted that in turn this helps bring in tuition from graduate students who otherwise might not come to UNL. 


7.2    Faculty Compensation Advisory Committee (Past President Peterson)

Past President Peterson stated that the committee will be meeting on April 14th to discuss how the increases for faculty salaries should be broken down between the Chancellor, Deans, and departments.  He stated that he


will give a report of the April 14th meeting.  He noted that there is a recommendation to have the committee report to the Senate in the fall rather than the spring when the committee still has to meet. 


Past President Peterson noted that last month the Senate approved changes to the syllabus of the committee.  He reported that Chancellor Perlman has accepted the changes and they will be implemented.  Past President Peterson pointed out that President Beck will be chairing the FCAC next year. 


7.3    Computational Services & Facilities Committee (Professor Carrell)

Professor Carrell noted that it is the job of the committee to assess the needs and recommend policies on networking and computing at UNL.  He reported that one of the major concerns is security.  He noted that security issues have gotten worse this past year because people are now being paid to break into computers.  He pointed out that Information Services has done a good job of protecting the University without constraining people.  He stated that some institutions are handcuffed because of the security problems.  The committee wants to express appreciation to Information Services for doing such a good job of keeping the campus secure. 


Professor Carrell noted that two main areas of complaint are with Blackboard and with the email system.  He stated that there are problems with each and Blackboard is constantly being worked on.  He pointed out that at the beginning and end of each semester things get slowed down on Blackboard which causes a serious problem. 


Professor Carrell stated that Information Services is working on new communications models as indicated by President Milliken when he spoke of podcasting his State of the University address.  Professor Carrell stated that the means of communicating are changing and the University is on top of this.  He noted that networking has been increasing in terms of commercial networking and the use of Internet II. 


Professor Stick asked about the open source concept.  Professor Carell stated that the University is looking at alternative programs, such as Sakai and Moodle, to Blackboard.  He noted that these other programs could allow UNL to modify the program to our own needs, particularly if there are problems with it.  He pointed out that they do not have all of the capabilities of Blackboard.  He stated that Information Services wants to make one of these programs available if they become better, and one of them might eventually replace Blackboard.  He noted that Blackboard recently doubled its price.  Professor Stick asked if the system would be secure.  Professor Carrell stated that it is, sometimes even more secure than other means of communicating. 


7.4    Executive Committee Report

President Beck asked if there were any questions on the report.  She noted that the recommendations call for further work on restructuring committees and the Reduction in Force Procedures.  She noted that the Executive Committee wants to clarify the relationship between the University-wide Benefits Committee and the UNL Employee Benefits Committee. 


8.0    Academic Freedom Award Ballot

President Beck reported that a nomination for the Academic Freedom Award has been made by the Academic Freedom Award Committee.  The Senate voted on the nomination.


9.0    Unfinished Business

          9.1    ASUN Resolution on Student Absence for Religious Observances

President Beck stated that the motion was introduced last month.  Professor Stick stated that the language “requesting permission” is problematic for him.  He noted that he has no problems with a student informing him that they want to miss class for a religious holiday but he feels that requesting permission is wrong and discriminatory.


Past President Peterson stated that his inclination is to vote against the resolution.  He noted that this is not a huge problem on campus as indicated at the last meeting by Vice Chancellor Griesen.  More importantly, Past President Peterson stated, he sees this as wrong because there are many reasons why students need to miss a class and he asked why one reason should be privileged over another.  He noted that there are other legitimate reasons to miss a class such as work, a job interview, or military service and these happen far more frequently than religious observances.  He pointed out that the current attendance policy covers the need to be excused from a class.  He noted that students are responsible for the attendance policy set by an instructor and should clear the absence with the instructor.  He stated that it is his own personal policy to make arrangements with the student if they cannot attend class when an exam is scheduled.



Vice Chancellor Griesen stated that he did not think that having the policy will make a lot of difference one way or another.  He pointed out that the students worked hard on the resolution and that it parallels statement three in the class attendance policy.  He noted that there are some students who devoutly follow their religion and the policy would simply give them advance notice that they can ask for an excused absence.  He stated that this policy would give students one more statement saying that the students are encouraged to contact their instructors. 


A student stated that the policy would show that the University is sensitive to the issue of religious observances.  She noted that allowance is made for university sponsored events. 


Secretary Shea stated that the current policy does cover this already as pointed out by Past President Peterson.  Secretary Shea questioned why another separate statement is needed.  A student stated that the Freshman Campus Leadership Associates of ASUN were approached by a student who could not be excused from a class for religious observances. 


Professor Nickerson, School of Biological Sciences, stated that he has concerns with the term “religious observances.”  He noted that he recently had a student request permission to miss a number of classes to participate in a dental program in Central America.  Afterwards he found out that the student was doing this as part of a religious mission.  He stated that the term religious holiday would bother him less.  The student stated that the original policy brought to the Senate Executive Committee listed holiday but the Executive Committee thought the observance would encompass most religious holidays better.


Professor Stock, English, proposed alternative text.  He stated that it would be less specific but would still reflect the spirit of the motion.  He offered as an amendment the following language “It is the policy of the UNL faculty to honor the religious observances of our students and to work with our students to accommodate such needs.”  Professor Whitt, Sociology, seconded the amendment. 


A student asked if this amendment would be more constraining.  Professor Wristen, Music, stated that this is her concern and she does not want a policy that is constraining.  Professor Bradford, Law, stated that he encouraged the students not to accept the amendment because it sounds too mandatory.  Professor Haller, English, stated that he supports the original motion from the students.  He stated that the original motion is rightly phrased and noted that the academic year is based on Christian holidays while other religions have holidays that occur during the academic year.  The student stated that she is most comfortable with the original motion and does not feel that she can accept the amendment on behalf of the other students.  She stated that she would need to take the amendment back to the students for their approval. 


Amendment failed. 


Professor Bradford stated that he moved to amend the second sentence so that the first part of it states that it is the student’s responsibility to request, preferably in writing, that the instructor excuse the absence and to discuss how the absence will affect the student’s ability to meet the course requirements.  The motion was seconded by Professor Leiter, Law.  Professor Stick suggested replacing request with the student should inform the instructor.  Professor Bradford pointed out that the student cannot inform the instructor that they will be excused.  President Elect Moeller pointed out that the intent of the policy is to highlight that students can ask for permission to be excused for religious obligations.  Vice Chancellor Griesen stated that if the term informed is used it indicates the consent for the instructor to approve the absence. 


Professor Hodges, Agronomy & Horticulture, called the question. 


Professor Bradford’s amendment was approved with 32 votes in favor of it and 12 opposed. 


The motion to amend the class attendance policy was approved with 32 votes in favor of it and 15 votes against it. 


10.0  New Business

          10.1  Senate Restructuring

President Beck stated that the motion is to clarify the current practice of administrators being non-voting members of the Senate.  She stated that the motion would remove administrators from the membership of the Senate and would change the name from the Academic Senate to the Faculty Senate. 



Professor Whitt asked why the change to the Academic Senate was made in the first place.  Past President McShane stated that it was a complex decision.  He noted that the change was an attempt to give the Senate more clout by including administrators and having the administrators on the Senate might lead to greater participation in discussions between the faculty and the administration.  He stated that Chancellor Massengale stated that he would not stand for the administrators to have a vote because it might commit them to follow the policies set by the Senate.  It was believed that the administrators might have a unique perception on issues but the history and lack of participation on the part of the administrators makes McShane wonder whether the change was a good judgment decision. 


Professor Moxley, Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences, asked if the removal of the administrators includes department heads and chairs.  He noted that many of these people have split appointments between faculty and administration.  Associate to the Chancellor Howe stated that the campus-wide syllabus on committees makes it clear that for this purpose chairs and heads are considered faculty members. 


Associate to the Chancellor Howe noted that the change to become the Academic Senate was made to facilitate communication between the faculty and the administration.  He stated that the question was whether to have the Chancellor come before the Senate to review what has happened or whether to meet only with the Senate Executive Committee.  He pointed out that it has worked well for the Chancellor to meet with the Senate but having Vice Chancellors or Deans meet with the Senate doesn’t work. 


President Elect Moeller stated that in higher education the goal is to have discussion and she thought that we should think about this a bit more.  She noted that restructuring the Senate to remove the administrators will exclude one voice in discussions.  She pointed out that there are other implications beyond just changing the Bylaws.  She noted that changing the structure and name will involve some expense and a lot of time.  She asked if there were any concerns with just being a faculty senate.


Secretary Shea stated that he believes there is a fundamental difference between a name that says Faculty Senate and one that says Academic Senate.  He noted that there have been administrators who have told the Executive Committee that there are certain subjects that are not in the purview of the Academic Senate because our purview is just academics.  He pointed out that the University is an integrated community and everything that we do has an impact on academics.  He stated that the name Academic Senate implies a limit  to what we can do.  He noted that the Senate is considered the voice of the faculty and we should be participating in all decisions that are made.


10.2  Committee Revisions

President Beck stated that she had hoped to bring a proposal to merge the Commencement Committee, Honors Convocations Committee, and Honorary Degrees Committee.  She noted that revisions were not done quickly enough for the Committee on Committees to react on the proposed changes.  She stated that the proposed changes will have to wait until the fall at which time there may be other revisions to consider.  She pointed out that this is an effort to streamline committees.  She stated that she would like to consider bringing back the Budget and Human Rights Committees. 


Professor Hoffman, Chair of the Committee on Committees, stated that two members of the Senate are needed on the Committee on Committees to replace outgoing members.  He stated that if people are interested in serving they should contact him (rhoffman2@unl.edu). 


10.3  Syllabus Policy

President Beck stated that ASUN is not bringing a motion to the Senate at this time but wants to discuss a possible proposal to have a syllabus policy. 


President Schaefer of ASUN stated that they have been working on a possible policy for several months and would like to get feedback from the faculty about the policy.  He pointed out that there is no policy that requires faculty to distribute a syllabus for their course.  He noted that most instructors do provide a syllabus but there are some that do not.  Some instructors promise that a syllabus will be distributed later but oftentimes this does not happen and some syllabi lack needed information.  He stated that the goal is to create UNL wide policy. 


Professor Radcliffe, Mathematics, stated that he believed having a policy is a good thing and in most cases it will not make a difference because most professors distribute a syllabus.  He stated that one suggestion he has is in regards to the required listing of prerequisites for courses.  He noted that the listed prerequisites for some courses may be out of date and in some cases they may no longer apply to a course.  They also may not fall into the same category as the policies established by the instructor.  Professor Haller agreed with the comments made on the prerequisites.  He suggested that a list of desirable subjects studied before taking the course should be included on the syllabus.  He pointed out that this would warn students that if they did not have some of these courses, the class could be difficult for them. 


Professor Wristen stated that there are many applied sessions in the School of Music and she would suggest that the time and location of the final be eliminated because it does not apply to all courses.  She pointed out that large general education courses might not conform to the schedule of final exams.  Schaefer stated that he believes that providing information on the finals is one of the more important pieces of information that is needed.  He pointed out that final exams are one of the biggest issues for students.  He stated that he understands that if the location of the exam is in question it can be worked out later on.  He stated that the kind of final exam should be on the syllabus.  Professor Wristen asked if the students are asking for the content and/or scope of the exam to be spelled out on the syllabus.  Schaefer stated that ideally the content and scope would be explained but it would be helpful if it was clarified whether there will be a cumulative exam, a paper, or project. 


Professor Stock stated that in general he approves of the policy but he thinks there are some problems with the specification of prerequisites and final exams.  He pointed out that sometimes he is not sure in the beginning of the semester whether the final exam will be a take home exam or something else.  He noted that he provides the information later as the course progresses.  He stated that requiring an instructor to include information on the final exam is too binding for him. 


Professor Bradford asked if the students want to have the grading policy of the instructor included in the syllabus and if they want specifics included about the relative value of each paper, assignment, or exam.   Schaefer noted that some instructors have a different grading scale.


President Beck asked if ASUN will draft a proposal.  Schaefer stated that the information provided to the Senate is a rough draft and further work will be done on it but not until the fall. 


Professor Moxley noted that there are special topics that are taught that do not have a rigid schedule to follow because it can be difficult to determine what is going to be discussed in the class.  He pointed out that many times faculty members are doing things for the good of the students but if the policy is too binding it will not help anyone out.  Schaefer stated that the policy is meant for the average, standard course. 


Professor Alloway, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, pointed out that there is nothing in the draft about the timing of distribution of the syllabus or what form the syllabus should be in such as paper or electronic.  Schaefer stated that distribution within the first week of class seems logical and the syllabus could be done either electronically or on paper.  Professor Wristen noted that some colleges have prohibited faculty members from printing paper copies of a syllabus in an effort to save money.    Professor McKitrick, Philosophy, suggested that the syllabus for a course, as well as a policy, could be put on a website. 


President Elect Moeller pointed out that SVCAA Couture sent an email message before this semester reminding instructors to provide a syllabus and to include a statement on academic dishonesty.  Professor McKitrick pointed out that the University’s policy on academic dishonesty takes up a whole page.  President Elect Moeller stated that she summarizes the policy. 


Professor Haller suggested that a statement be included on the syllabus about academic freedom, it should include a student’s right to speak freely and the need to consider other students’ comments. 


President Beck stated that the Senate Executive Committee would be happy to meet with ASUN over the summer to discuss the proposal further. 


11.0  Open Forum

          11.1  Institutional Objectives

President Beck reported that Professor Ledder, who suggested the topic for discussion had a scheduling conflict with the meeting and could not attend.  She suggested that the subject be discussed at the September meeting. 


The meeting was adjourned at 4:28 p.m.  The next meeting of the Academic Senate will be held on Tuesday, April 25, 2:30 p.m. in the City Campus Union, Auditorium.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator, and Patrick Shea, Secretary.