UNL Academic Senate Minutes - November 7, 2006





City Campus Union, Auditorium

November 7, 2006

Presidents Ali Moeller, Steve Bradford, and Mary Beck Presiding


1.0      Call to Order

            President Moeller called the meeting to order at 2:33 p.m.


2.0      Announcements

2.1  NCA Team Visit

President Moeller reported that members of the Executive Committee attended the welcome dinner for the accreditation team and met with the team on Monday afternoon.  She noted that the Committee members had a very positive interaction with the NCA team.  She stated that the general education changes were discussed with the team and members of the team provided useful information regarding their own experience with changes in their university’s general education program. 


2.2  Search Committee for Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

President Moeller reported that she recently met with SVCAA Couture to discuss the membership of the search committee.  President Moeller noted that she provided the SVCAA with a list of names of possible search committee members.  President Moeller stated that she will report to the Senate when she hears who has been selected to serve on the search committee. 


2.3  Board of Regents Meeting

President Moeller reported that President Milliken made a presentation to the Board of Regents on the university’s strategic plan.  President Moeller stated that timelines for the strategic plan were reviewed. 


3.0    Chancellor Perlman

Chancellor Perlman stated that he hopes that everyone will exercise their right to vote and will head to the voting polls today.  He pointed out that there are a number of issues on the ballot that are of great importance to the university.


Chancellor Perlman stated that the NCA accreditation visit is underway.  He stated that he appreciates everyone making themselves available to meet with the team.  He noted that the team feels they are getting strong interaction with the campus.  He pointed out that it is amazing how quickly a person can capture the feel of a place by talking to people and asking the right questions.  He stated that he appreciates everyone’s willingness to participate in the study.  He pointed out that a lot of people spent a great deal of time getting the self study report written.  He stated that the report is interesting reading and will be used as a resource in the future. 


Chancellor Perlman reported that the Board of Regents approved the Professor of Practice position but some things need to be done at the unit level before these positions can be used.  He noted that SVCAA Couture will be getting information out to the Deans about what the units will need to do in order to successfully implement the Bylaw on these positions.  He pointed out that units will need to establish the criteria for the position.  He stated that the position will not act as a substitute for regular tenure track appointments.  He noted that UNL will always be a research institution and faculty members who conduct both research and teaching will always be important.  He stated that the Professor of Practice position will be used for faculty members who are devoted strictly to teaching. 


Chancellor Perlman stated that 24 – 28 months ago he announced a mini campaign for private philanthropy to help build or renovate three critical buildings on campus.  These buildings are the north stadium, the virology center, and the computer resources center (the South Stadium building).  He reported that he is pleased to report that all three have received final approval from the Board of Regents.  He noted that the north stadium has already been completed.  He stated that the budget for the virology center had to be increased and the scope of the center had to be expanded in order to complete the building design.  He stated that everything is now ready to go in building the center.


Chancellor Perlman noted that with the building of the north stadium the south stadium, which was paid for through donations to the athletic department and used to house the athletic department offices, was vacated.  The athletic department donated the building to the computer resource center and with the help of the Schorr family’s donation the building can now be remodeled and reconfigured.  This will allow the computer resource center to move out of the Miller & Paine building and back onto campus.  He stated that he is very pleased with the success of this series of projects.


Chancellor Perlman stated that the diversity is plan is just a draft.   He confessed that the administration may have put out the draft in advance of carefully announcing or developing a plan to assure that there was broad faculty and staff and student input into the plan.  He stated that it was never his intention to get a few comments on the plan and then adopt it.  He noted that the administration did not have a well conceived plan on how to solicit information from across the campus on the plan.  He stated that the plan was written by five administrators and the initial thought was to get the plan out to get reactions on it.  The reactions and comments would then allow the administrators to develop a plan that was closer to what is needed and then permit a broader campus dialog.  He stated that he is happy to receive comments about the plan.  He stated that he will work with the Senate Executive Committee and others to develop a process to gather the comments that have been made and to then tweak the plan.  He noted that this will take place either at the end of this semester or next semester. 


Chancellor Perlman noted that the diversity plan addresses some difficult issues.  He stated that Professor Haller’s letter to the Lincoln Journal Star raised important issues.  He noted that other comments that were made privately raised concerns that the plan violated academic freedom and freedom of speech.  He stated that he is sensitive to this and stated that there needs to be rigorous debate on sensitive issues and people need to feel that they can voice their opinions. 


Professor Ledder, Mathematics, asked if the next draft of the plan will be written by the same group or by a group that has faculty members on it.  Chancellor Perlman stated that he will need to sit down and figure out how to deal with this.  He noted that it is better to have a draft to focus on rather than just throwing out some ideas.  He stated that there will clearly be a process where the faculty can be heard. 


4.0    Approval of 10/3/06 Minutes

Professor Stock, English, moved and Professor Peterson, Agricultural Economics, seconded approval of the minutes.  Motion approved.


5.0    Committee Reports

          5.1    Research Council (Professor Fritz)

Professor Fritz noted that a copy of the report was included in the Senators’ packet.  She pointed out that the Research Council wants to recommend to the Senate that there be an increase in the number of members on the Council.  She stated that the current membership is not representative of all of the research and creative scholarly work that is being done across the campus.  She stated that the Council would like to have greater representation from the arts and humanities since the current members are predominantly scientists. 


Professor Ledder asked how the members are being counted in each of the disciplines.  Professor Fritz stated that the President of the Academic Senate appoints the members to the Council.  She pointed out that the faculty members on the Council are overwhelmingly scientists.  Professor Nickerson, School of Biological Sciences, noted that at least one of the members of the Council is from political science.  Professor Fritz stated that political science is classified under the business and social sciences discipline.


President Moeller stated that the Executive Committee will review the policy on the membership of the Research Council.


5.2    Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of Women (Dea Mandery)

Ms. Mandery pointed out that the Commission is composed of three separate councils:  the Council of Faculty, the Council of Staff, and the Council of Students.  She stated that the Commission is working on family friendly policies.  She noted that the policies resonate differently for each of the three groups on campus.  She reported that the Council is working on developing a survey to assess the need for child care on campus.  She stated that the Commission is continuing to work with the Chancellor on the child care facility issue. 


Professor Ledder suggested that the report be amended to correct the language “the amount and range of sexual harassment training” to “the amount and range of anti-sexual harassment training.”  Ms. Mandery stated that it should be corrected to refer to the Bright Line training. 


6.0    Unfinished Business

6.1    Motion to Combine Commencement and Honors Convocation Committees

President Moeller noted that the Executive Committee wants to withdraw its original motion to combine the Commencement, Honors Convocation and Honorary Degrees Committee.  She reported that, after consulting with the committees, the Executive Committee did not feel it was good to combine all three of the committees.  She asked if there were any objections to the withdrawal of the original motion.  No objections were made.


President Moeller stated that the new motion combines the Commencement and Honors Convocation committees.  She pointed out that the two committees overlap in function.  She stated that the motion will be voted on at the December 5th meeting.


7.0    New Business

7.1    General Education Outcomes and Structural Criteria

President Moeller stated that a motion will be proposed on the outcomes and structural criteria, similar to the motion that the Senate recently approved on the institutional objectives.  She noted that recently there were two open forums on campus about the proposals.  She asked Professor Ledder to present information on the outcomes and criteria. 


Professor Ledder stated that the procedures for approving the general education program do not require a Senate vote but there is some discussion that the Senate should vote on the program because the Board of Regents Bylaw, section 2.12.1(c) states that the Senate “act on academic matters that affect more than one college.”  He pointed out that the colleges will need to decide whether the new program is to be adopted.  He stated that most of the information about the proposed program will be provided by the senators to their colleagues. 


Professor Ledder noted that proposal 1 is on the outcomes and proposal 2 is on the structural criteria.  He stated that an informational sheet providing an overview of the proposals is available.  He stated that the minimal information that is needed is that there are four key features to the proposals.  The first two deal with the outcomes and the second two are on the structural criteria. 


Professor Ledder stated that there are ten outcomes from different disciplines that need to be achieved by the students.  He stated that this can be accomplished by taking a course that is approved as meeting the requirements for an outcome.  He pointed out that the instructor will decide whether a student meets the outcome.  He pointed out that other ways to achieve the outcomes can be through outside experiences.  He noted that students could petition to have an outside experience qualify as meeting an outcome.  He pointed out that the details of the structural criteria have not been completed yet.  He reported that courses may be designed to meet as many as two different outcomes but students can only take a course to meet one outcome. 


Professor Ledder stated that at the city campus open forum three issues came up:  the college votes in December are not binding, but just approve a framework to use to develop the program.  The university-wide general education program is under discussion but the colleges will still have the ability to set their own requirements for graduation that go beyond the general education requirements. 


Professor Reichenbach, Computer Science and Engineering, stated that the structural criteria motives are different than the outcomes.  He stated that the criteria seem to be somewhat political rather than academic.  Professor Ledder pointed out that the purpose of the structural criteria is to provide some guidelines.  He noted that it is difficult to discuss revising a general education program without having some guidelines.  He stated that there will be greater elaboration on the criteria later on. 


Professor Reichenbach stated that he is glad that there is an effort to revise the program because anything would be better than the current program.  He noted that it is difficult to see the motivation behind the revision and he asked why rules need to be set up if the purpose is to demonstrate achievements.  Professor Ledder stated that there needs to be a framework in order to start the revision.  He pointed out that there needs to be a simple mechanism for a student to be able to achieve an outcome because we do not want to have a committee that has to look to see if each student is meeting the outcomes. 


Professor Reichenbach noted that there seems to be a lot of structure to the proposal.  Professor Ledder speculated that the amount of structure to the proposal is probably a result of the compromises that had to be made by the members of the GEAC.  Professor Peterson stated that he is a member of both general education committees and he reported that there has been a lot of sensitive discussion on this issue.  He noted that the charge to the committees is to develop a program that will do a number of things such as generating outcomes and having a university-wide program.  He agreed that there will need to be more introductory materials to justify some of the decisions that the committees have made.  Professor Ledder noted that the outcomes have been distributed over educational fields and are college independent. 


Professor Wristen, School of Music, asked how the program ensures that students take classes outside of their major to meet the outcomes.  Professor Ledder stated that only three courses in a student’s major can apply to the outcomes.  He pointed out that some majors are not amenable to some outcomes and students in these majors will have to go outside their major department in order to complete the outcomes. 


Professor Ledder stated that the issue of liberal education came up at one of the forums.  He stated that the idea is that we are going to view liberal education as the purview of the separate colleges.  He noted that colleges will need to make the decision as to what courses will be required in order for a student to graduate from that college.  He stated that there is a level of detail that goes beyond what is required for general education and this level of detail needs to be decided by each college. 


Professor Chouinard, Mathematics, asked how much latitude the colleges have in terms of approving the proposals.  He asked if the colleges will be able to modify the proposals.   Professor Ledder stated that this is unclear.  He stated that the effort is to try to establish a campus-wide program but legally each college decides its own curriculum.  He pointed out that the campus-wide program would be a general education program but colleges can add requirements if they think there is something missing. 


Professor Wristen noted that she is assuming that the reason for establishing the rule that a course can only meet two outcomes is to ensure that the courses are spread out across the colleges.  Professor Ledder stated that he is not sure if this is the reason.  He noted that the same question was asked at the open forum.  He stated that the idea of having different academic levels in the outcomes came out of discussions by the general education committees.  He pointed out that the first three outcomes are introductory level outcomes while outcomes 4-9 are middle level and the last outcome is at the upper academic level. 


Professor Thompson, Economics, asked if outcome 10 could be a senior thesis.  Professor Ledder stated that it could be a senior thesis.  Professor Nickerson asked what the monitoring process will be to ensure that students have fulfilled all 10 outcomes.  Professor Ledder stated that Registration and Records will be able to keep track of this. 


Professor Peterson stated that there will be a total of four proposals. The first two are the outcomes and structural criteria, the third will deal with the program itself and the fourth will deal with governance, oversight and assessment of the program.  He pointed out that nothing has been decided yet.  He stated that the idea is to get issues resolved first about the program before a complete program is presented to the colleges for a vote.  Professor Ledder noted that presenting the program in separate proposals will allow the committees to deal with individual problems rather than scrapping the whole program and having to start over. 


President Moeller stated that she likes this model of a general education program because the student becomes part of the process.  She noted that it represents a shift in the paradigm. 


Professor Ledder stated that in his motion, rationale number 2 suggests things that might occur with the program.  He noted that the program, if approved, could provide a method of assessment that would offer a simple “mechanism for program improvement and for communicating the quality of the UNL undergraduate program to the citizens of Nebraska.”  He noted that the program would also give students more flexibility.  He stated that currently it is difficult for transfer students coming into UNL.  He pointed out that it would be nice to have a program that provided some flexibility to students so they can document that they have met the outcomes without having to take ten courses.   He stated that there will be a checklist at the end of the program.  He noted that the question will be whether there is merely a checklist or whether there will be something else.  He stated that the program provides the opportunity to inform students why they are taking particular courses and the knowledge that they will gain from meeting each of the outcomes. 


President Moeller pointed out that the current IS program has no accountability measurement.  She stated that all universities across the country are being mandated to assess their programs.  She noted that it is good that this is being discussed here at UNL because it could be something that is mandated by the government.  She pointed out that as faculty, we need to provide input in order to create the optimal program. 


Professor Clark, Anthropology and Geography, noted that one of the objectives of the new general education program is to facilitate transfer students.  He asked how their credits will fit in if their transcripts do not follow the curriculum of UNL.  Professor Ledder stated that this is completely undetermined at this time.  He noted that it may be possible that a committee will need to evaluate whether the students’ previous courses meet the outcomes in other ways.  He pointed out that the program is about student achievement.  He stated that the students will have to document that each one of the outcomes has been achieved in some way. 


Professor King, Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication, pointed out that the students’ papers are the intellectual property of the students.  He noted that if a professor uses a student’s paper as evidence of the course meeting an outcome, permission will need to be obtained from that student to use the paper this way.  Professor Ledder stated that he did not think papers will be taken as evidence.  He noted that the program would be similar to the peer review project.  A copy of the lowest A paper and the lowest C paper would be looked at by the committee doing the evaluation of the courses and they would write a general evaluation. 


Professor Lee, Communication Studies, asked when the actual wording on the outcomes will be available.  Professor Peterson stated that the general education committees will have a few meetings and hope to nail down the language during these meetings.  He noted that once the proposals are sent to the colleges the wording should be final but it can still be modified based on the voting of the colleges.  Professor Lee asked if the proposals will be made available before December.  Professor Peterson stated that they should be out before December. 


Professor Ledder made the motion to endorse the achievement centered education proposals.  Motion seconded by Professor Flowers.   The motion will be voted on at the December 6th meeting. 


Professor Ledder stated that he hopes the senators will pass the information on to their departments.  President Moeller pointed out that the curriculum is the last bastion for the faculty.  She stated that the general education proposals need to be discussed in the departments. 


Professor Weiss, Textiles, Clothing and Design, asked that the overview of the proposals and the motion be placed on the Senate website. 


7.2    Draft Diversity Plan

President Moeller noted that the Chancellor stated that the diversity plan is a preliminary draft plan.  She stated that it caused a lot of reaction which is good.  She stated that she has invited Professor Moshman, Educational Psychology, to speak about his concerns about the plan. 


Professor Moshman stated that the critique he wrote was originally written for the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska (AFCON).  He pointed out that he teaches diversity issues and is very committed to them.  He noted that Professor Haller, English, wrote a statement about the plan that was published in the Lincoln Journal Star. 


Professor Moshman stated that there were two sets of issues with the plan.  The first issue deals with freedom of speech and this affects all employees.  He noted that everyone is protected under the constitutional amendment of free speech.  The other issue is academic freedom.  He pointed out that the curriculum should be determined by the faculty for the benefit of the students.  He stated that the general problem with the diversity plan is that it has clear implications for the curriculum.  He pointed out that the plan came from administrators, not the faculty. 


Professor Moshman stated that the set of principles in the beginning of the plan are not really principles but more a hodgepodge set of definitions that do not fit together.  He stated that the plan defines diversity as both similarities and differences.  He pointed out that it does not make sense to define diversity as similarities.  He noted that the dictionary defines diversity as differences. 


Professor Moshman stated that another problem with the plan is that it limits diversity to seven specific dimensions.  These dimensions are:  “race, national origin, ability, religion, sexual orientation, age and gender” yet there is no rationale given why these seven dimensions are listed while others are excluded.  He pointed out that gender is mentioned but not sex and there is nothing about political diversity.  He stated that universities are about a diversity of ideas and UNL’s core campus values list diversity of ideas as one of the values.  He stated that the plan excludes socio-economic status which is a major issue these days. 


Professor Moshman stated that the empirical claims made in the plan are problematic.  He noted that the plan claims “by its very nature, diversity fosters inclusiveness” but no evidence to support this statement is made.  He stated that actually there is evidence to the contrary.  He pointed out that terrible things can come about because of diversity. 


Professor Moshman stated that the final problem with the plan is with the principles.  He stated that the principles are not and cannot be justified.  He pointed out that adding diversity is not necessarily a good thing.  He gave an example of adding a few racists to a department.  He stated that it would provide diversity but would it be a good thing?  He pointed out that there are times when diversity is not something that should always be valued. 


Professor Moshman questioned the use of the word ability in the specific dimensions.  He asked if the plan means disability or if the plan calls for more low ability students to be admitted to the university.  


Professor Moshman stated that the goals of the plan are problematic as well.  He noted that the plan calls for all faculty to be evaluated on the basis of “contribution in creating a climate where respect and inclusiveness are modeled and expected.”  He noted that in a general sense he would be in agreement with this but the plan does not define respect or inclusiveness.  He pointed out that these definitions could be up to an administrator and the evaluation could be a very subjective and arbitrary thing.  He stated that the potential for violation of the first amendment is a huge issue here. 


Professor Moshman stated that goal two of the plan involves diversity issues in the curricula.  He stated that he believes that faculty members on campus are already pretty sensitive to this issue.  He pointed out that academic freedom protects a professor’s right to instruct what is relevant to their course and protects a faculty member’s rights to not have to talk about diversity if it does not apply to a course.  He stated that the faculty needs to make these kinds of determinations on the curriculum, not the administrators. 


Professor Moshman stated that the third goal sets quotas and narrows diversity even further by limiting it to just race and gender.  He asked if these are the only two kinds of diversity that we are really interested in.  He noted that the state legislation that stipulates that the university should have a diverse faculty could be the concern behind this goal but he pointed out that we should not limit diversity to just these two categories.  He stated that we need to have open equal opportunity.  He stated that there are searches being conducted that are not really searches because you can hire someone if it is an opportunity hire.  He pointed out that this goes against affirmative action.  He stated that setting restrictions on hiring can put administrators on notice that they can lose their jobs if they don’t hire the right kinds of people. 


Professor Ledder stated that he asked the Chancellor if the document will be revised because he does not see much likelihood that the issues raised by Professor Moshman will be addressed.  He stated that there needs to be a committee with significant faculty representation on it when the plan is revised. 


Professor Stock stated that the he hopes that the document will be more than tweaked as the Chancellor indicated.  He noted that the plan needs to be demolished.  He stated that he was disappointed with the Chancellor’s response when asked about getting adequate faculty representation on a committee to rewrite the plan.  He stated that he has a sense that there is wide dissatisfaction with the document from the people in his department. 


Professor Moshman stated that the members of AFCON were unanimously against the document.  He pointed out that the members of this organization are a very mixed group from very liberal to the very conservative.  All of them thought the document was problematic. 


President Elect Bradford stated that there are two sets of concerns.  One is with the procedures and the way the plan came about.  He noted that the Chancellor stated earlier in the meeting that he will come to the Senate Executive Committee to discuss the terms of the procedures.  President Elect Bradford stated that the Committee needs to press very strongly for broad representation of the faculty on the committee that will rewrite the document.  He noted that the document appeared out of nowhere.  He pointed out that there was a deadline for responses but it unclear what is going to happen next to the document after the deadline. 


President Moeller stated that she has sent the Chancellor an email message about the concerns the faculty members have on the plan.  She noted that the Chancellor responded that he would be happy to meet with the Executive Committee to take the next step on the plan.


7.0    Motion to Change the UNL Employees Benefits Committee

President Moeller stated that the Executive Committee is presenting the motion.  She stated that the intent is to reduce the workload of the faculty by combining the efforts of the Faculty Compensation Advisory Committee and the UNL Employee Benefits Committee.  She asked the Senate to review the proposed changes so it can vote on the motion at the December 5th meeting.




The meeting was adjourned at 3:47 p.m.  The next meeting of the Academic Senate will be held on Tuesday, December 5th, 2:30 p.m. in the City Campus Union, Auditorium.  The minutes are respectfully submitted by Karen Griffin, Coordinator, and Rick Alloway, Secretary.