UNL Academic Senate Meeting - April 6, 2004



City Campus Union, Auditorium

April 6, 2004

Presidents John Wunder, Wes Peterson, and Tice Miller


1.0      Call to Order

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


2.0      Announcements

2.1  Nominations for Executive Committee Officers and Members

President Wunder announced that nominations are being sought for the President-Elect, Secretary, Executive Committee members and Committee on Committee members.  He noted that nominations must be received by Friday, April 9th so that biographical information on each of the candidates can be prepared and sent to the Senate two weeks prior to the election.  He asked Senators to contact him or the Senate office if they are interested in running for election.


3.0      President Smith

President Smith stated that he was happy to meet with the UNL Academic Senate and noted that his resignation as President is to be effective July 1.  He reported that the search committee for the new president was currently meeting and that he hoped interviews would begin soon so he can step down as President.  He noted that as of today, there are no apparent successors. 


President Smith reported that he will be returning to the faculty as a Professor on .50 FTE in the School of Biological Sciences.  He stated that he hopes to teach a course on bioethics in Honors and noted that he has met with Professor Morris, Chancellor Perlman, VC Paul, and Professor Berger to work out the details.

President Smith stated that as a faculty member he plans on attending some of the Senate meetings and he is delighted to be going back to teaching.


President Smith stated that in 2003 the Board of Regents approved a 12% increase in tuition and the university was to receive approximately $400 million from the State but this amount was severely cut back due to the budget crisis.  He noted that Governor Johanns recommended this year that an additional 1% be cut from the university’s budget.  President Smith reported that the university now receives $392 million from the state.


President Smith stated that the Appropriations Committee recommended a ½% cut to the university budget.  He noted that his office argued hard for a 0% budget.  He stated that the bill to reduce the university’s budget is in final reading and if it passes the university will receive a ½% cut or approximately $2 million.


President Smith reported that the 2% depreciation assessment has been waived but the legislature deducted $2 million for appropriations resulting in a total reduction of $4 million to the university budget.  He noted that he believed some of the funding can be recovered.  He stated that enrollment is down and projections are that the university will have a $1.2 million loss in tuition income.    President Smith encouraged faculty members to involve themselves in recruiting new students.  He noted that it has never been more important than now to increase enrollment.  He stated that when all is said and done, the University will probably receive a $2.8 million budget cut.


President Smith stated that he wanted to compare the university today to 1994 when he first came to campus.  He noted that when he arrived, the Omaha World Herald listed the top high school students in the state and where they were planning to attend college.  He pointed out that only 5% of these students picked the University of Nebraska.  He stated that last year over 50% of the top students chose to enroll in the university.  He stated that he attributed this large gain to the strengthened efforts of the faculty to make the university better.  He pointed out that the quality of the programs is now exceptional.  He noted that at UNL four students enrolled with perfect ACT scores and just recently a UNL student, Jonathan Jones, received the Truman scholarship.  He pointed out that this is the third year in a row that a UNL student has received the Truman award. 




President Smith stated that the faculty has played a major role in changing and making improvements at the university.  He reported that a study conducted in the state indicates that 77% of the respondents believe that the university recruits good students and provides an excellent education.


President Smith reported that in 1994 UN received $66 million in peer reviewed grants.  He stated that this amount has more than doubled and that by July 1, UN will receive $175 million in peer reviewed grants.  He noted that this is almost three times more than in 1994.  He congratulated the faculty for working so aggressively to be successful.  He attributed the aggressive growth in funded research at UNL in part due to the 20/20 report.  He noted that the total external support for the entire university was approaching $400 million. 


President Smith stated that the legislature is talking about economic incentives for the state.  He noted that the external support of $400 million will help create numerous jobs in Nebraska.  He stated that people in the state do not realize what a gem they have with the University of Nebraska.


President Smith reported that private donations to the university have increased over the past ten years.  He noted that the foundation started a capital campaign fund when he came to campus.  He stated that the goal of this campaign was to raise $250 million.  He reported that by the time the campaign ended in December of 2000, the foundation had garnered $737 million.  He stated that the NU Foundation is 17th in public universities in the country in terms of raising funds and they provide $65-$70 million annually to the campuses.  He reported that from this capital campaign fund $75 million has gone for faculty support, $125 million has gone towards student support, $240 million has been raised for new and renovating facilities, and $245 million has gone to academic programs.  President Smith reported that 95 new endowed chairs have been created since 1994.


President Smith stated that since 1994 more than 5 million square feet of building space has been added to the campuses.  He pointed out that numerous buildings on campus have been renovated.  He reported that a second proposal is being worked on to continue renovations of other buildings on campus. 


President Smith pointed out that the university offers an outstanding educational experience for students.  He noted that diversity is of utmost importance because the young people of tomorrow will enter a global economy.  He stated that the campuses need a rich mixture of people to provide experience in dealing with a global economy.   He reported that the number of minority faculty members has doubled since 1994 and the diverse student population has grown as well.  He pointed out that there is still room for improvement and he encouraged faculty members to pursue the gender and diversity goals of the university.  He stated that there will be a new set of initiatives coming down from Central Administration that deals with diversity.


President Smith stated that he wanted to emphasize the important role the faculty has played in contributing to UN being a high quality institution.  He pointed out that the university is close to being one of  the top 30 public institutions in the country. 


Professor May, Economics, asked if the President could provide an update on the student information system and whether there have been any efforts to purchase a new system.  She noted that many faculty members have concern over a new system given the problems with SAP.  President Smith pointed out that four years ago the Board of Regents mandated that the four campuses have a student system that is compatible.  He stated that the administration has tried to add front end portals to the current systems being used so that the campuses could remain independent but would have access to each other’s system.  He noted that there has been no success in creating these front end portals.  He pointed out that each of the systems on the four campuses is having problems and is becoming antiquated.  He reported that he recently asked Kim Robak to take charge of the efforts.  He stated that she is meeting with people from each of the campuses to work on the problem.  He stated that there is a preliminary set of recommendations but that this will be a two or three phase approach.  He reported that Varner Hall hopes to be looking into possible vendors in the new future.  Professor May asked if there is a cost estimate for obtaining a new system.  President Smith stated that he does not know what the cost would be at this time for getting a new system but the present system is now costing $20-30 million a year for UNL alone.  He pointed out that a system that encompasses all four campuses should not be as costly. 


Professor Stick, Educational Administration, asked if the President would comment on distance education and the impacts it has for undergraduates and graduates both on campus and off campus.  President Smith stated that he is a strong supporter of distance education.  He stated that the evolving view is that higher education is a composite of on-line courses and face-to-face interaction with professors.  He noted that many professors are now actively using blackboard.  He stated that there is a continuous evolution of courses to supplement lectures.  He pointed out that the Regents mandated that the distance education program of the university be expanded and coordinated between the campuses.  He noted that the university is moving aggressively to wire the state and is working with the government to accomplish this goal.  He stated that fiber optic is being placed in western Nebraska and that he hopes to have broad band access throughout the state.


4.0      Approval of 3/2/04 Minutes (Secretary Fuller)

Professor Harbison, Chemistry, moved and Professor Leiter, Law, seconded approval of the minutes.  Motion approved. 


5.0      Recognition of Outgoing Senators

President Wunder recognized the outgoing Senators and thanked them for their service.   The outgoing Senators are:  Sucheta Nadkarni, Management; Curtis Weller, Biological Systems Engineering; Rhae Drijber, Agronomy & Horticulture; David Keith, Entomology; Tom Powers, Plant Pathology; Douglas Rogers, Vet & Biomedical Sciences; Sue Ann Gardner, Libraries; Jack Morris, School of Biological Sciences; Peter Revesz, Computer Science & Engineering; Steve Cohn, Mathematics; David Rapkin, Political Science; John Bender, News-Editorial; Sitaram Jaswal, Physics  Astronomy.  President Wunder also recognized Richard Buhman who will be retiring and who has served on the Senate for many years.


President Wunder presented plaques to outgoing Senators and Executive Committee Members Kay Logan-Peters, Libraries; Tom Spann, Broadcasting; and Tice Miller, Past President, Theatre Arts.  He thanked them for their support and dedicated service over the past three years. 


6.0    Academic Freedom Award Election

Ballots for the Academic Freedom Award were distributed at the meeting.  Senators were asked to vote and to keep the nominee’s name confidential until the results of the vote were determined.


7.0    Unfinished Business

7.1    Proposal to Extend Tuition Remission Benefits to Part-Time Employees

President Wunder noted that the motion was presented at the last Senate meeting and was open for discussion.  Professor Bradford, Law and Chair of the Employees Benefits Committee, stated that the proposal was presented by members of the Employees Benefits Committee.  He stated that the motion is to support providing tuition remission benefits to part-time employees who have a .50 FTE of greater.  He noted that the proportion of the tuition remission benefit would be equivalent to the employee’s FTE.  He noted that other universities provide this benefit. 


Professor Gardner, Libraries, asked when the benefit would go into effect if approved.  Professor Bradford stated that the benefit would have to be approved at Central administration and it would have to be a system-wide benefit. 


Motion approved unanimously.


8.0    Committee Reports

          8.1    Academic Freedom Award (Professor McShane)

Professor McShane noted that the report discusses the issues and history behind the award.  He noted that a number of applications were submitted for the committee to review.  He pointed out that all of the candidates were powerful with strong backgrounds.  He stated that the nominee put forward by the committee reflects the strength of that candidate. 


8.2    Intercollegiate Athletics Committee (Professor Gaussoin)

Professor Gaussoin reported that one of the major issues for the committee to address this year was the nation-wide effort for athletic reform at universities.  He stated that he attended the initial meeting at Indiana along with Professor Jo Potuto.  He reported that the IAC recommended UNL should join the coalition on athletic reform to keep abreast of what is occurring with the coalition.  He noted that many of the universities have different issues with athletics than UNL.  He stated that the IAC recommended that the representative to the coalition should be UNL’s representative to the NCAA but President Wunder decided to appoint a different faculty member.  Professor Gaussoin noted that this worked out for the best because now UNL has two representatives to the coalition.  He stated that the coalition is moving forward and developing a set of guidelines for universities to use. 



Professor Gaussoin reported that the IAC is working on selecting a student athlete of the year.  He noted that this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the committee and there are many applicants this year.  He pointed out that the winner of the award last year was a pre-med student and had a 4.0 GPA. 


Professor Gaussoin stated that the recent problems at the University of Colorado have resulted in the IAC setting up meetings to have discussions with the athletic recruiting groups to make sure that nothing like this happens here.    He thanked all of the members of the IAC for their service


Professor Weller asked what the two top priorities of the coalition are.  Professor Gaussoin stated that the coalition is reviewing similarities on what is being done at Division 1 schools.  He noted they are reviewing policies and Title IX.  He stated that another issue for the coalition deals with revenue sports.  He stated that there are some universities that are trying to get access to the revenue generated from sports.  Professor Gaussoin stated that he realized after attending the meeting and listening to other university representatives that UNL deals a lot better with athletics than some schools.  He stated that there is not the blatant disregard for academics here that there is at some universities.


Professor King, Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication, suggested that the IAC should encourage the athletics department to supply laptops to student athletes when traveling.  He noted that many professors are using blackboard and giving the student athletes access to the course information would be helpful.  He pointed out that the laptops should be monitored to ensure that they are being used for academic purposes.  Professor Gaussoin stated that this is being looked into but he will mention it to the IAC.  He encouraged faculty members to provide feedback to the IAC if they have any issues or concerns that they would like to address.


President Wunder noted that Professor Sidnie Crawford would be giving a report to the Executive Committee regarding the Big 12 Athletic Coalition Reform meeting held in January in Kansas City.


8.3    Graduate Council (Executive Associate Dean Weissinger)

Executive Associate Dean Weissinger stated that the information on graduate studies recruitment initiatives from 2002-2004 shows a three year trend on applications and enrollment of graduate students at UNL.  She pointed out that the report indicates that the number of graduate applications is down 21.6% over a two year period.  She noted that there has been a steep decline in the number of applications from international students.  She reported that there has been a small decline in the number of domestic applications with a greater percent of the decline in master students.  She stated that UNL’s decline is at the national level, particularly with our peer institutions. 


Executive Associate Dean Weissinger stated that the decline is a cause for significant concern.  She noted that the reasons for the declining enrollments can be attributed to several things.  She reported that international students are encountering problems when trying to obtain a student visa and when entering the U.S. since 9/11.  The second reason is that there is increased competition from European and Commonwealth universities.  A third reason is the improving U.S. economy.  Oftentimes when economic times improve the interest in attending graduate school is reduced for many people.   She noted that UNL has raised the graduate application fee twice in the last 15 months.  She stated that these combined reasons have produced a perfect storm effect.


Executive Associate Dean Weissinger stated that two years ago Graduate Studies began initiatives to try to offset the predicted decrease in enrollment.  She reported that Graduate Studies has changed how fellowships are provided for students and developed an institutional grants program.  She stated that Graduate Studies has intentionally left two positions vacant in their office so that the money from these lines could be used to help get more graduate students. 


President-Elect Peterson stated that his department had difficulty in getting an international graduate student into the country and they called Senator Hagel for assistance.  He reported that Senator Hagel tried to help as much as possible.  President-Elect Peterson suggested that the information on declining enrollments should be given to Senators and the Legislature.  Executive Associate Dean Weissinger stated that Central Administration is paying attention to the problem and getting the word out about it. 


Professor Morris, School of Biological Sciences, noted that the decline in the number of applications submitted and the number of graduate enrollments is not close.  He asked if Graduate Studies is anticipating falling graduate student enrollment.  Executive Associate Dean Weissinger stated that the situation is complicated.  She reported that while the number of applications has declined there has been an increase in enrollment.  She


stated that a wild guess is that there may be a 5 – 7% decline in fall enrollment.  She pointed out that graduate student enrollment does not effect the amount of tuition income as much as undergraduate enrollment. 


Past President Miller asked which of the colleges has been hit the hardest by the decline.  Executive Associate Dean Weissinger stated that the database does not easily provide this kind of information so it is difficult to determine.  She noted that it is probably graduate programs with a strong international population that are being the hardest hit. 


          8.4    Computational Services and Facilities Committee (Professor Jackson)

Professor Jackson reported that the committee continues to work with Information Services on security issues.  He noted that Information Services has to deal with 3,000 email viruses per hour.  He pointed out that at our peer institutions, there are eight people working full-time on security issues while UNL does not have one person who is totally assigned to deal with security. 


Professor Jackson reported that there continues to be increased usage of Blackboard.  He noted that Blackboard requires a licensing contract which continues to increase in cost.  He stated that the Committee is encouraging Information Services to evaluate other systems which could help negotiate the price of Blackboard. 


Professor Jackson reported that the Committee is beginning a process that would evaluate the current computing support structure and how it compares to the services offered by other institutions.  He noted that the evaluation process is being supported by Interim SVCAA Brinkerhoff, VC Jackson, and VC Owens. 


Professor Harbison, Chemistry, stated that the campus needs wireless hubs.  He noted that the University charges departments by the number of wall jacks, even though they may not all be in use.  He suggested that having a single hub, rather than individual wall jacks would be more economically efficient.  Professor Jackson stated that the committee is looking into this and is in the progress of studying various ways to cover the costs associated with internet use.  He noted that one way is to charge based on absolute usage of the internet.  Professor Harbison pointed out that the email system operates at a slug-like pace but the university has forbidden departments to use wireless notes.  Professor Jackson agreed and stated that the Committee is frustrated by the situation and part of the evaluation of the computing support structure will focus on this issue. 


Professor King noted that there needs to be a better plan to deal with distance education.  He stated that communicating with distance education can occur 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and when the computer system goes down it interferes with the ability for professors to communicate with their students.  Professor Jackson agreed that this needs to be looked into.


9.0      New Business

            9.1  Committee on Committees Motion to Discontinue Human Rights Committee

Professor Fowler, Chair of the Committee on Committees, stated that the decline in the number of faculty willing to serve on committees has been an issue that the Committee has discussed throughout the year.  He noted that the Human Rights Committee has not been meeting on any kind of regular basis for several years.  He stated that the Committee on Committees believes that other groups, agencies, and commissions on campus now address human rights issues.  He stated that the Committee is concerned that some people may object to the discontinuance of the Human Rights Committee because of the name.  He noted that the motion states that an ad hoc committee can be formed by the Senate Executive Committee if an issue arises that needs to be dealt with. 


Professor McShane, English, stated that the Senate once before discontinued the Human Rights Committee but later reinstated it.  He noted that Professor Olson, English, reinvigorated the Committee and that they were active and looked at human rights issues on campus today.  He pointed out that some students on campus feel they are facing human rights problems on campus.  He stated that the Senate should charge the Human Rights Committee with work to do.  He pointed out that not all past Chancellors have seen human rights as an issue.  He stated that if the faculty members do not become actively involved in working on committees and supporting faculty governance they have no grounds to complain about the working environment.


President Wunder stated that the motion will be voted on at the April 27th meeting.



9.2  Motion on Dead Week Reform

Professor Spann, Broadcasting, moved changes to the dead week and exam week policies, as identified in the handout, be accepted.  Professor Stick, Educational Administration, seconded the motion.  Professor Harbison asked if the changes would shorten the semester by three days.  Professor Spann stated that this is correct. 


Professor Weller stated that he had concerns with number five of the proposed changes.  He noted that courses taught later in the day are continually subjected to having to create a separate exam time for students who have three of more exams in one day.  He noted that this creates a hierarchy of courses and that students should be given the option of which exam they would like to take on another day.  He suggested that another way to handle this problem would be to have three days of exams by including Saturday as an exam day and have Sunday off as a study day.  President Wunder suggested that Professor Weller should work on an amendment to the motion to deal with this issue.   Professor Spann pointed out that the policy in the proposed motion is the policy that is currently in use. 


Professor Harbison asked if there was any urgency in voting on this motion.  He stated that departments need more time to reflect on the changes and the implications they may have.  He asked that the proposal be placed on the Academic Senate web site so that other faculty members can review it.


9.3  Motion from Senate Rules Committee on Senate Bylaws

Professor Bender, News-Editorial, reported that the Committee looked at the current Rules of the Senate and the Committee is recommending the changes proposed in the draft be adopted.  He noted that there are two major changes to the rules.  One clarifies the procedures for introducing motions to the Senate.  The other major change in the Rules deals with the initial responsibility of nominating officers for election to the Executive Committee. 


Professor Bender stated that the Committee also looked at the proposal from Professor Reichenbach, Computer Science and Engineering, which suggested incorporating into the Senate Rules procedures to remove a member from the Executive Committee or a person as Senator from a department.  Professor Bender stated that the Committee felt there were several problems with the proposal.  The first is that there is a very low threshold for initiating removal of a Senator.  He noted that the Rules currently provide mechanisms for removing Senators.  If a Senator is absent from more than three meetings they can be removed and Roberts Rules of Order has processes that can be used.  Professor Bender stated that the Committee also feels that the proposal violates academic freedom and could be used to intimidate professors from speaking freely on issues.


President Wunder thanked the Committee for their careful consideration of the Rules and stated that the motion would be voted on at the April 27th meeting.


The meeting was adjourned at 4:05 p.m.  The next meeting of the Academic Senate will be held on Tuesday, April 27th, at 2:30 p.m. in the East Campus Union, Great Plains Room.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator, and Shelley Fuller, Secretary.