UNL Academic Senate Meeting - October 5, 2004


East Campus Union, Great Plains Room

October 5, 2004

Presidents Wes Peterson, Mary Beck, and John Wunder Presiding


1.0      Call to Order

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


2.0      Announcements

2.1  Executive Committee Member for Fall Semester

President Peterson stated that he is still seeking to fill Professor Flowers’ spot on the Executive Committee for this semester since Dr. Flowers is on leave.  He stated that anyone interested in serving on the Committee should contact him.


3.0      SVCAA Couture

President Peterson welcomed SVCAA Couture and stated that she would be speaking in place of Chancellor Perlman who is attending a higher education conference in Washington, D.C.


SVCAA Couture stated that she is happy to be on campus and that she has already had many meetings with faculty members and administrators and is busy getting to know the campus.  She noted that she is very impressed with the focus on teaching that she sees on campus.  She stated that she is working with the Chancellor to create opportunities for instructors and departments to get grants that would focus on excellence in teaching. 


SVCAA Couture stated that she has been invited to attend some of the college retreats.  She noted that she recently attended the retreat for the College of Education and Human Sciences.


SVCAA Couture stated that one of the upcoming activities on campus will be the NCA accreditation visit.  She stated that information on the accreditation process will be sent out this fall.  She noted that the administration is gearing up to gather information that will be needed for the accreditation team.  She pointed out that reports on assessment of learning will be of significant interest for the accreditation team. 


SVCAA Couture stated that another upcoming activity on campus will be developing UNL’s strategic plan.  She stated that the strategic plan will look at what the campus is currently doing and where it plans to go in the future.  She stated that she hopes the campus plan will be a link to the departments’ strategic plans.  She noted that information on the process will be distributed sometime in late October or early November.  She stated that there was considerable discussion at the Deans retreat on strategic planning. 


SVCAA Couture stated that the UNL administration wants to develop a set of core values in association with the strategic plan.  She noted that the faculty members need to be involved at every level in developing these core values.  She reported that the college strategic plans will be due March 15th. 


SVCAA Couture stated that other on-going issues include enrollment.  She noted that there has been an overall decline of 3-4% in enrollment but more disturbing is the 10% decrease in first year students.    She pointed out that the campus will need to address the enrollment problem.


SVCAA Couture reported that the Gallup survey has had great resonance and the results have shown some good and bad things.  She noted that the survey revealed some aspects of campus life.  In particular, the survey results indicated that the campus climate for some employees needs to improve. 


SVCAA Couture reported that the administration hopes to announce in a few weeks a granting process that will focus on grants that will improve teaching.  She noted that foundation funds and discretionary funds will be used to support the grants. 


SVCAA Couture stated that she is happy to be here and she looks forward to meeting the faculty.  She asked that faculty members take the opportunity to contact her (bcouture2@unl.edu).


Secretary Shea asked how faculty members can be more engaged and what the role is for the faculty in shared governance.  SVCAA Couture noted that at any research institution the faculty is the core of the campus.  She pointed out that faculty members design the curriculum and determine the research agenda.  She stated that faculty members are engaged in shared governance at various levels of the university.  In particular, faculty members need to be engaged at the department level.    She stated that it is the role of administrators to listen to the Senate and the Executive Committee when they bring issues forward.  She pointed out that a university is strong when the faculty remains engaged.    She stated that she hopes faculty members will actively participate in all opportunities of shared governance. 


Professor Hoffman, Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, noted that the administration eliminated the Teaching and Learning Center, which supported teaching efforts on campus.  He asked if there is a plan to support teaching or if the funding of grants is just random.  SVCAA Couture stated that the administration is looking at several areas regarding undergraduate education.  She noted that Professor Wilson, Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education, has recently been appointed to assist Academic Affairs with issues dealing with undergraduate education.  She stated that her office is working with the Distinguished Teaching Academy to determine what their role is in regards to teaching. 


SVCAA Couture noted that at some campuses a teaching and learning center plays a central role while at others it does not.  She stated that she is not certain what will work best for UNL.  She pointed out that there needs to be more discussion on how faculty members engage technology in their teaching and how this can best be supported. 


Professor Ramsay, Finance, asked the SVCAA what her views are on diversity.  SVCAA Couture stated that diversity on campus for both faculty members and students is very important.  She noted that diversity will be a separate component of the strategic plan.  She stated that her experience with diversity at Wayne State and at Washington State were very different.  She noted that Wayne State was a culturally and economically diverse university.  She stated that at Washington State she dealt with different issues on diversity.  She stated that at Washington State she worked closely with multi-cultural student groups and with departments. 


4.0    Election of Executive Committee Member

Professor Hoffman was elected to a two year term on the Executive Committee.


5.0    Approval of 9/14/04 Minutes

Professor Moeller, Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education, moved that the minutes be approved.  Motion seconded by Professor Schild, Panhandle Research & Extension Center.  Motion approved.


6.0    Committee Reports

          6.1    Academic Rights & Responsibilities Committee (Professor McShane)

Professor McShane noted that the report was provided in the Senate packet.  He pointed out that the issues addressed in the report were very important.  Professor Harbison, Chemistry, asked why the grievance case dealing with procedural violations during a tenure review did not go back for a second review.  Professor McShane stated that the administration did not feel that the special investigative committee recommendations were persuasive enough to call for another review of the tenure file.  He noted that the special investigative committee did not recommend reconsideration.   It recommended that the faculty member be given tenure.  He stated that the ARRC informed the President of the Academic Senate that the Chancellor rejected the recommendations of the special investigative committee.  According to ARRC procedures “the President shall put the matter on the agenda of the next Senate Executive Committee meeting.”  McShane stated that he believes the Senate will need to take action on the case.


Professor McShane pointed out that revisions to all of the Academic Rights and Responsibilities procedures will be coming to the Senate in November and will hopefully be on the web.  He noted that these are very important documents and he urged the faculty members to review them carefully.  He stated that the committee that revised the procedures is willing to meet with faculty members if they have questions or concerns over the proposed changes to the procedures.  He pointed out that the Senate and the Board of Regents will need to approve the changes. 


President Peterson stated that the Executive Committee has looked at the revisions to the ARRC procedures.  He noted that the revised documents remove some of the ambiguity of the original procedures.  President Peterson pointed out that the case discussed above is still pending with the Executive Committee. 


6.2    Academic Standards Committee (Professor Gregory)

Professor Gregory stated that there were some slight changes in the report.  He asked for questions. 


6.3    Grading & Examinations Committee (Professor Woodward)

Professor Woodward reported that the inclusion of minus grades in the grading system initially made some changes in the overall gpa of students.  He pointed out that the average gpa before the change was 3.11 (2000-01) but it has been rising steadily to 3.09 for 2003-04.  He noted that a 3.5 gpa was a critical gpa for students because this is often the gpa that must be maintained in order for the student to retain his/her scholarship. 


Professor Woodward noted that with the new grading system there was a significant drop in the number of A and A+’s given but an increase in the number of B+ and A- grades.  He noted that while gpa’s are increasing again, there has been a drop in the number of students with a 3.5 or higher gpa.  He noted that this has an impact on students’ ability to maintain scholarships. 


Professor Woodward noted that most students withdraw from their classes on time.  He pointed out that health problems were the major factor in late withdrawals. 


Professor Woodward stated that the Committee still needed to look at the dead week issue.  He noted that shortening dead week would take away teaching time from the hard science courses.  He stated that the Committee will review the dead week issue. 


Professor Woodward reminded the faculty members that there is a new incomplete policy.  He noted that an I Form is no longer required for submission but it is optional.  He pointed out that the incomplete will expire after one year if no form is submitted and the grade will become an F.  He noted that this can cause some slight problems if the instructor is a visiting faculty member because they are here for only a short period of time. 


Professor Hope, Psychology, stated that her department is very interested in getting the dead week issue resolved.  She noted that the department supported the dead week resolution presented to the Senate last spring.  She pointed out that the dead week/finals week issues are serious issues that need to be addressed.  President Peterson stated that he will be establishing an ad hoc committee to looking into the dead week issue.  He noted that he has met with ASUN and discussed setting up a committee to look into the matter.


7.0    Unfinished Business

No unfinished business was discussed.


8.0  New Business

          8.1    Report on Recruitment and Retention of People of Color (Professor Willis-Esqueda)

Professor Willis-Esqueda stated that she wanted to express her appreciation for being able to speak to the Senate on the topic of recruiting and retaining faculty of color at UNL.  She noted that all of the members had information that was deemed worthy to the report. 


Professor Willis-Esqueda pointed out that the findings of the report state that retaining faculty of color is critical to the recruitment issue.  She stated that UNL has not done enough to retain faculty of color and that greater efforts need to be made in retention.  She pointed out that retaining faculty of color alleviates isolation that many faculty and students of color feel. 


Professor Willis-Esqueda stated that one of the goals to retain faculty of color is to develop and advertise networks of faculty with common interests.  She stated that this will assist in integrating faculty of color into campus life and will allow them to meet with other faculty members who share their interests and perspectives.  She noted that this network can also provide faculty members with mentors who could assist other faculty members with various aspects of their professional careers. 


Professor Willis-Esqueda stated that the committee felt that there should be one entity on campus to provide access to diversity information.  She noted that the committee was unable to determine the scope of the problem on campus of retaining faculty of color and they were unable to obtain a copy of UNL’s diversity plan.  She stated that the report uses the University of Kansas’ website that is devoted to recruiting and retaining faculty of color as an example of how a university can provide more information to deans and chairs which is essential to recruiting and retaining faculty of color.  She noted that the deans and department heads at UNL often do not get enough information to assist them with this issue.  She stated that faculty of color need to feel that they are worthwhile and valued in their departments and in the campus community. 




Professor Willis-Esqueda stated that UNL needs to be more public and supportive on the issue of diversity.  She noted that developing a website similar to that of the University of Kansas would be a step towards being supportive of diversity. 


Secretary Shea noted that many suggestions were made in the report.  He asked what the first steps should be to address the issue.  Professor Willis-Esqueda stated that in conversations with colleagues across the country one of the same beliefs that came forward is that everyone wants to be successful in their work both at their university and nationally in their field.  She stated that a public commitment to diversity needs to be broadcast loudly by the university.  She noted that this would make faculty of color feel welcomed and valued. 


Professor Ramsay stated that while there has been some discussion of diversity on campus, he feels that the university does not believe that diversity is really that important.  He noted that faculty of color are often made to feel that they were hired because they are a qualified minority, not necessarily one of the top candidates for the position.  Professor Willis-Esqueda stated that she came to UNL in 1991 and feels that there have been few changes here that have improved the environment for faculty of color.  She stated that she does not remember the university coming together as a whole to deal with diversity.  She stated that she does not think that chairs and heads of department are getting the information that is needed to help retain and recruit faculty of color.  Professor Ramsay stated that when serving on search committees he has heard that the committees need to determine the top candidates and minorities as if a minority person could not be one of the top candidates.  Professor Willis-Esqueda stated that new faculty members do not have connections to the university and this is an important aspect to retaining faculty of color.  She noted that when a faculty member leaves the university they spread the word about the atmosphere here towards faculty of color.  She pointed out that if UNL truly had a warm atmosphere for faculty of color then they would want to come here. 


Professor Moeller stated that there are parallels between women and faculty of color.  She noted that the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women is interviewing faculty members who left the university to try to determine their reasons for leaving.  She pointed out that it is important to find out why people have left in order to be able to make changes that will help retain women and faculty of color.  Professor Willis-Esqueda stated that faculty of color and women who are here can tell the Commissions what the problems are. 


Professor Signal, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, noted that the Executive Committee discussed the reports with the Chancellor.  She pointed out that Professor Colleen Jones has been assigned by the Chancellor to provide information to deans and chairs on recruiting faculty of color.  She stated that she believes a report will probably be issued from the Chancellor’s office on the work of Professor Jones. 


President Peterson thanked Professor Willis-Esqueda.  He noted that the reports from the ad hoc committees present challenges to the Senate.  He stated that the Executive Committee wants to continue working on the issue.  Professor Moeller asked what the next step will be now that the reports have been presented.  President Peterson stated that the Executive Committee will need to determine the next step.  He pointed out that the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women is developing a list of best practices that can be used to retain and recruit women and faculty of color. 


Professor Radcliffe, Mathematics, stated that he recently spoke with Professor Poser, Law, who was on leave at the University of California-Berkeley for a semester and while there she looked at their practices for retaining and recruiting women.  He suggested that the Senate should ask her to speak about her findings. 


Past President Wunder stated that the reports were given to the Chancellor.  He suggested that the Chancellor should present his plans for retaining and recruiting women and faculty of color to the Senate.  Professor Shea stated that the faculty should also develop specific proposals and present them to the administration.   


8.2    Open Forum Discussion – Retaining and Recruiting Students

President Peterson reported that the Chancellor stated during an Executive Committee meeting that faculty members do not have an incentive to recruit students.  The Chancellor noted that he is considering creating an incentive for faculty members by providing resources to those departments that are successful in recruiting students. 


A faculty member reported that the number of students in her college is now so high that they do not have the resources available to accommodate the current students.  She stated that the faculty members in her college do not need to recruit at this time because of the current student demands.  She did not think the university should run on a supply and demand basis and reward departments based on their ability to recruit. 


The future demographics of Nebraska were discussed and the impacts it will have on higher education.  It was noted that economic development is a key issue for the state since most of the future students will be coming from metropolitan areas.  Currently, it is a 50/50 split between rural areas and metropolitan areas. 


Tuition and the raises in tuition in recent years were discussed.  It was noted that the Senate voted to approve an increase in tuition although ASUN indicated, and many faculty members outside of the Senate were against it.   It was suggested that the tuition needs to be lowered in order to attract more students.  More work-study should be provided and the student fees should be reviewed.  It was pointed out that the student fees are very high at UNL.  A suggestion was made to lock in tuition rates for students so that they know how much tuition will cost them each year that they are here. 


It was stated that there needs to be greater faculty participation in the community in order to help recruit students.  One suggestion was for faculty members to give presentations to high school students in the state.   It was suggested that the university should bring in high school counselors from within and without the state to meet the faculty members.  It was pointed out that when high school guidance counselors came to campus the number of students applying from those high schools increased. 


A faculty member stated that students need to be acclimated in their freshman year and faculty members need to assist the student if they see that the student is having difficulties.  It was noted that the campus would be more likely to recruit students if other students relay a positive experience at UNL. 


It was pointed out that UNL waits too long to recruit high school students.  One faculty member stated that his daughter in ninth grade started being recruited by other universities.  Students need to be contacted earlier.   UNL needs to work on recruiting those students who are not honors students but are hard workers.  Recruiting should also be done on students coming out of community colleges. 


I was suggested that the advantages of obtaining a four year degree need to be publicized.  It should be pointed out that a great deal of what a student learns is learned outside of the classroom.  It is important to promote the fact that UNL not only offers an academic education but a cultural education as well.  The arts and other activities that occur on campus should be promoted.


It was stated that other factors that could be detrimental in recruiting students are the difficulties students have with parking and over crowded classrooms. 


The meeting was adjourned at 4:47 p.m.  The next meeting of the Academic Senate will be held on Tuesday, November 2, at 2:30 p.m. in the City Campus Union, Auditorium.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator, and Patrick Shea, Secretary.