University Commission and Committee Reports
Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 08 - October 13, 1994
(Editor's note: Spectrum will periodically publish the minutes of the university's commissions and committees. Minutes of commissions and committees covered regularly by Spectrum will not be included. Due to the nature of the material, departures from Spectrum style may be noted.)
Commission on Faculty Affairs, April 1
Reporter: Don G. Creamer. In old business, the Commission discussed the reduction in Force Policy and the College of Education. L. Shumsky announced that the proposed new policy will go to the University Council for first reading on Monday and requested that Williams represent him since he will be unable to attend. Discussion then turned to the question, "Which RIF policy will affect the College of Education--the current one or the proposed one?" Tom Sherman informed the Commission that the College of Education prefers to be able to make the judgment itself about which policy shall apply to its plan to reduce force size. Discussion then turned to perceived ambiguities in the language of the proposed RIF policy. Sherman maintained that the who, what, when questions were unclear in the proposed policy even to the point of not being clear about which plan is to be acted upon. Sherman then raised the question about whether the proposed policy is as explicit as the current one about how tenured faculty will be treated if RIFed. Several members expressed their belief that this issue is clear in the proposed policy; however, Shumsky asked Williams to bring up the wording of this section in the University Council meeting on Monday. Sherman further pointed to the language of the proposed policy regarding the membership of the Budget and Planning Committee when it is expanded to include "those commissions it considers relevant to the review" and wondered whether the commissions should be named in the policy. The Commission thought not. Finally, Riley moved and Creamer seconded a motion that the Commission note its intention to allow the College of Education to have a choice between the old and the new RIF policies if the proposed RIF policy is adopted by the University. The motion passed.
The Employee Benefits Committee structure was discussed. Shumsky invited Sumichrast, who attended the most recent meeting of EBC, to inform the Commission of EBC's preference for structure.
Sumichrast noted that the option of creating two benefits committees, one for faculty and one for classified staff, was rejected by L. Moore; thus, it became the position of EBC that it should report to two Commissions--CFA and CCSA. At the moment, Sumichrast noted, no students are on the EBC, but that they would consider a graduate student representative in the event that health benefits are opened up to graduate students. Shumsky wondered whether only one benefits committee might be problematic for faculty since there are differential benefits between faculty and staff. Sumichrast noted, and Norstedt reinforced, that this is exactly why EBC wants only one committee to guard against inequity between faculty and staff. The recommended new structure of EBC is as follows: three ex officio members, including the associate vice president for Personnel and Administrative Services, the University benefits program manager, and the assistant provost for administration; four faculty, including three appointed by the Faculty Senate and one CFA representative; four Staff Senate representatives; and one nominated by the A/P Association. Williams moved and Norstedt seconded a motion to accept the recommended structure of EBC. Motion passed.
In new business, Pat Hyer presented the revised policy on sexual harassment. She noted first the rationale for making the revisions, including (a) the need to make university policy consistent with federal law, (b) the desire to make it incumbent upon the administration to act immediately upon becoming aware of an incident of sexual harassment, and (c) to make clear that responsibility for sexual harassment does not only reside with the EO/AA Officer, but with each member of the university community, especially the administrators and supervisors. Many concerns were voiced and questions asked such as: "Is one expected to act on rumor?" "Is one expected to act on information that the third and fourth hand?" Most of these type questions were answered simply that the facts should be determined insofar as possible. Questions also were raised about the standard "... knows or should have known ..." Distinctions between conflict of interest and sexual harassment were discussed. Definitions in the proposed policy were criticized. Many concerns about consensual relations were raised. Hyer pointed out that the proposed changes were drafted to take a "narrow slice" perspective; that is, to make the policy conform as precisely as possible to the law. Questions about who is a supervisor were raised in the context of seeking clarity from the language used. Shumsky asked what happens to records of investigations about alleged sexual harassment and the accused is found blameless. Heidbreder was not sure. More discussions about language of the policy followed. Dewolf suggested that the entire policy should be rewritten by someone with excellent language skills. Holtzman presented a motion in writing to the effect that the entire policy proposal should be given wide distribution among members of the community and that efforts to approve it should be postponed until January 1995. The motion received no second. Williams moved and Holtzman seconded a motion to postponed further discussion of the proposed policy on sexual harassment until the next meeting of CFA and that the topic be placed as item number one on the agenda. Motion passed.
Commission on Faculty Affairs, April 15
Reporter: Don G. Creamer. L. Shumsky announced that he was elected president of the Faculty Senate and has resigned from CFA effective with commencement of those duties.
Shumsky introduced Don Williams and Don Drapeau from Virginia Tech Services who discussed a tentative plan to offer a subscription class note taking service to students. Drapeau explained how the University Bookstore might organize and control the sale of class notes. The initiative was couched in the context of establishing a quality program with certain built- in safeguards, such as prior faculty approval and the use of paid graduate student note takers, to possibly forestall other entrepreneurial ventures with fewer quality control measures. Such initiatives as this are not new in some sections of the country, though few currently exist in the Eastern United States.
Discussion by Commission members ranged from outright opposition to guarded endorsement. The issue of copyright privileges pertaining to professorial lectures was raised by Pierce. Shumsky asked Williams to seek an opinion from Kay Heidbreder on this matter. Heidbreder will be invited to the next meeting of CFA. Pierce also raised the issue of whether such a subscription service for students might work to contradict the desired effects of the recently approved student attendance policy. Discussion ended on whether the faculty might be polled on the proposal. D. Williams was asked to provide the Commission with a one- page bullet summary of the plan which may be used in such a survey of the faculty.
In old business, Hyer distributed an updated version of the Individual Transition Option Plan and pointed out changes in it since it was last presented to CFA for discussion. Hyer also noted that the plan still must be approved by the Attorney General. Williams moved that CFA endorse the Plan. Norstedt seconded. The motion passed.
Discussion of the university's proposed Sexual Harassment Policy continued from the last meeting of CFA. Hyer presented the Commission with Revision 5, dated April 6, 1994, in which several substantive changes from the proposal discussed on April 4 were noted in bold type. These revisions focused on two sections: Section 2.2 Consensual Relationships and Section 3.0 Responsibilities of Administrators and Supervisors. Several members of the Commission commented that the changes offered were significant improvements from the last draft; still, discussion centered on selected word choices to assist in making the proposal even more precise. Questions continued to be asked about what might occur under some specific circumstance. Responses to these questions by Hyer, Holford, and Short generally were well- received though some concerns lingered prompting Hyer to agree to further refinements of the policy proposal. The Commission agreed to continue discussion of other sections of the proposal at its next regular meeting.
Commission on Faculty Affairs, April 29
Reporter: Don G. Creamer. W. Williams announced that David Beagle and Bill Greenberg had been elected to CFA.
Susan Brooker- Gross was invited to describe the faculty rewards reform project. She distributed materials to describe the work of the committee that has brought the project to its current status and asked that the CFA place on its agenda the approval of the principles embodied in the rewards project. She indicated that the details of the project would be negotiated from the many anticipated meetings with faculty throughout the university. A sample of changes necessary to the Faculty Handbook also was distributed. Williams agreed to place the project on the CFA agenda for next year. Greenberg alerted the CFA to his impression that the research faculty likely would not agree with the major tenets of the reform initiative. He also pointed to a possible discrepancy between the mission statement of the project and the bulleted items on the materials distributed. Others on the Commission pointed to the need to clarify the language of the materials regarding service. It was indicated that service to the university, public service, and outreach generally mean different things yet may be interpreted to mean generally the same things in the materials distributed.
c. The class notes project was discussed. Williams indicated that he had agreed to pursue some legal matters specifically pertaining to copyright issues associated with the commercial distribution of class notes. He indicated that he had consulted further with Don Williams who sent him an article from the Washington Post describing the legal case at the University of Florida and with Kay Heidbreder who agreed to investigate the issues further. She did indicate to Williams an informal opinion that copyright laws pertain only to the words used and not to ideas used and suggested that the class notes project may not invade protected rights of ideas. CFA was reminded that the University Bookstore proposal does contain safeguards pertaining to these matters, e.g., professors must give their permission to be included in the note-taking enterprise. CFA also was reminded that Don Williams agreed to provide an outline of the Bookstore's proposal so that it might be used in a survey of the faculty. Hyer advised that the survey not be conducted by CFA, stating that the agenda is already overflowing. Williams agreed to find some other agent to conduct the survey.
d. Dean Worner of the College of Education presented an outline of the process used by the College to arrive at its preliminary plan submitted to the Provost on April 15. He detailed the entire process used including which programs are slated for elimination and his plans for restructuring the new College. He also stated no special preference for the old versus the new RIF policy arguing that the changes made mainly deal with University procedures for reviewing decisions. He indicated that he accepts the proposed revisions of CFA.
Discussion continued regarding the proposed revisions to the sexual harassment policy. The most contentious issues resided in the Consensual Relationships (section 2.2), the Responsibilities of Administrators and Supervisors (section 3.0), and the Informal Resolution (section 4.1) parts of the policy. Most of the discussion centered on word choices, not substance, of the policy; yet, considerable attention was given to these sections. Several calls were made for greater clarity of language use though few specific suggestions emerged from the exchanges. Arguments were made that the Consensual Relationship section should not even be in the sexual harassment policy; yet, in the end, it remained. Others wanted greater clarity about the reason for its inclusion--the creation of a hostile environment, for example. Other debates centered on protecting the rights of the accused. When should they be notified if a complaint is filed? What records would be kept, if any? Eventually, it was agreed to add a phrase to require notice be given under item (3), page 6 of revision 7. A motion to add an addition sentence requiring specific notification earlier in the process failed. Other word changes were considered. Some were agreed upon.
Discussion then moved to a proposed addition to the statement of professional ethics and responsibilities in the Faculty Handbook. Little discussion followed except to clarify some inconsistent language in items 5 and 6 of the policy. A motion was made my Norstedt and seconded by Creamer to approve the suggested changes. Motion passed.
Hyer moved to adopt the revisions to the sexual harassment policy. Williams argued that he would prefer to wait until more regular members of CFA who have been involved in these discussion for several weeks but who could not attend on this occasion are present. Williams' argument prevailed.
In new business, Hyer informed the Commission that the Board of Visitors agreed to the Individual Transition Option Plan submitted but asked for a study of the 5- year guarantee for tenured faculty who are RIFed under policy in the Faculty Handbook.
Commission on Undergraduate Studies, April 11
Reporter: Steven D. Wilson. Betty Heath- Camp, chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Curricula, presented the April 11, 1994 report.
Motion was made and seconded to approve the items under "First and Second Reading" of the April 11, 1994 report. Motion to approve the items under "First and Second Reading" carried.
Courses approved for Fall 1994:
FOR 3724 - Applied Forest Engineering (revised)
MSCI 3454 - Quantitative Methods for Quality Control and Improvement (revised)
Courses approved for Fall 1995:
FCD 4544- Community Based Long Term Care (new).
Courses to be deleted effective Fall 1995:
FCD 4104- Rural Gerontology, Issues in Planning and Delivering Service
Bob Hendricks presented the Materials Science Engineering Checksheet for the Graduating Class of 1995, asking that 15 day review be waived so it can be presented to the Committee on Undergraduate Curricula on April 18. Motion was made and seconded to waive 15 day review. The motion carried.
Bruce Obenhaus, library faculty, presented the minutes of the January 12 meeting of the University Library Committee. Motion was made and seconded to accept the minutes. The motion carried.
Bob Hendricks presented for first reading, Resolution 94- 95B as recommended by the Subcommittee on DOE/DOG. After discussion of the resolution, it was recommended that the time for checksheets to be submitted be changed from the "second week" of the spring semester to the "fourth week" of the spring semester, in areas 4, 7, and 8. It was also recommended that all departments be put on a cycle for submission of checksheets with notification from the university registrar for deadlines. Bob asked that any additional comments or recommendations be forwarded to him.
In other business, Dick Bambach, member of the Athletic Committee, stated the lawsuit pending against the university over gender equity in athletics is currently in negotiations. He also reported a new general purpose recreational facility will be built and will add approximately $100 per year to student fees.
Commission on Undergraduate Studies, April 25
Reporter: Steven D. Wilson. Betty Heath- Camp, Chair, presented the April 25, 1994 report of the Committee on Undergraduate Curricula. Motion was made and seconded to approve the items under "First and Second Reading" of the April 25, 1994 report. Motion to approve the items under "First and Second Reading" carried.
The following courses were approved for Fall 1994:
COMM 1014- Introduction to Communication Studies (revised) COMM 2054- Introduction to Film (revised)
CS 3064- Professionalism in Computing (revised)
ESM 1004- Statics and Particle Kinematics (revised)
ESM 2304- Dynamics of Particles and Rigid Bodies (revised) MSE 4574- Biomaterials (new)
Course approved for Spring 1995:
CS 4234- Parallel and Distributed Computation (new).
The following course is to be deleted effective Spring 1995:
CS 4714- Information Systems Project
Ron Daniel, chair, presented the minutes of the March 15th and 31st meetings of the Committee on Academic Policies. He stated the committee has meet with the Associate Deans and discussed issues relating to transfer students and the freshman rule. Motion was made and seconded to accept the minutes. The motion carried.
Marge Murray, chair, presented the minutes of the March 22nd meeting of the University Core Committee. She reported that a discussion took place at that meeting concerning a review of the core beginning in 1995. She also stated that Jack Dudley has met with the committee concerning an "Honors Core Curriculum" and will do so again. Marge noted that PSCI 1016 has been accepted into AREA VII of the core. She also distributed "Guidelines and Instructions for Proposals to the University Core," "Proposal on Date of Entry Policy for the University Core Committee" and the "Cover Sheet for Existing Courses for Inclusion in the University Core." Motion was made and seconded to accept the minutes. The motion carried.
Ezra Brown stated the membership of the Athletic Committee included two representatives from the faculty senate, with one designated as a senate collegiate representative. A request from the committee has been to reduce faculty representation to one without regard to faculty category. Brown noted this change in representation has the support of the Faculty Senate. Motion was made and seconded to approve the change in membership. The motion carried.
Bob Hendricks presented Resolution 94- 95B, Graduation Requirement Policy, for second reading. Motion was made and seconded to change "of the second week" to "of the fourth week" in Items 4, 7 and 8. Motion to amend was approved. Mary Ann Lewis noted that Item 9 should state Committee on Undergraduate Curricula in place of Core Curriculum Committee. Motion was made and seconded to amend Item 10 to state the University Academic Advising Center is to receive items for 15 day review for information only. Motion to amend was approved.
Discussion took place concerning notification of departments and deans offices when checksheets are due. Consensus of the commission was for the University Registrar's office to notify departments and deans at the end of September that checksheets are due at the end of the fourth week of the spring semester for the graduating class of the appropriate year. Marvin Foushee noted state guidelines call for requirements to be reported on an academic year basis, but the university has the prerogative to use a calendar year. He also noted this could change if reporting is linked with funding for the university in the future. Motion was made and seconded to approve the resolution as amended. The motion was carried.
Commission on University Support, April 5
Reported by the commission. Carl Polan began by reviewing the present membership rules of the four committees that report to the commission and specifically identified the requirement that all standing committees "should include undergraduate students, graduate students, classified staff, and faculty representatives as well as administrators. Faculty, classified staff, and student members will be elected by appropriate representative bodies. Each standing committee will have on it a commission member appointed to that committee by the commission it reports to."
Membership lists of the reporting committees were provided to the commission members for review. It was mentioned that the pending elimination of the position of associate vp for facilities as part of phase II would have implications for the present membership mix of the Building Committee. Polan pointed out that such adjustments to committee membership likely will needed periodically. Ray Smoot suggested that perhaps the director of physical plant might be a good substitute on the Building Committee. In addition, he mentioned that neither the provost nor the executive vice president have participated on the Building Committee for several years. They may wish to be asked about whether they should continue to be listed. The requirement that two "deans of an undergraduate college" serve on the Building Committee is problematic also and should be revisited.
It was recommended that Larry Moore be asked to take a look at the present membership and express an opinion about whether or not the commission is currently in compliance with the rules. Carl Polan indicated that he would follow up on that recommendation.
Presentation of a proposal to establish an Energy and Environment Advisory Committee: Drs. Hirsh and Hughes led a discussion of the possible need on campus for a committee to deal with energy and environmental matters. Citing the recent events surrounding the university's new coal boiler, Hirsh suggested that the proper use of such a committee comprised of selected, qualified, and interested faculty might have helped avoid some of the problems and criticisms that occurred. He said that some problems with the early plan required that the university submit a revised plan to the EPA. He felt that many of the issues could have been handled better ahead of time had there been a more formal mechanism to integrate public review earlier in the process. Furthermore, he suggested that much emphasis is placed on building new facilities while relatively little thought is given to maintaining or properly operating older ones. As an example, he pointed to the current Virginia Tech smoke stack that exists in the middle of town, can sometimes be seen emitting black smoke, and that affects all who live in the area.
The boiler issue is but one example of the large problems that Professor Hirsh perceives to be of concern. Changes in environmental protection regulations and rapidly evolving issues all need to be tracked and addressed. We have great expertise on campus in these areas and yet few of our own experts seem to be consulted in such matters.
Question for Hirsh: Is there any agreement from university decision makers that they would consult with the proposed committee? Would this committee be supportive of, or adversarial to, our decision makers?
In response, Hirsh presented letters from Bobby Criminger and Saifur Rahman saying that they would endorse the idea, and he hopes that the committee would not be adversarial.
Paul Metz asked about whether various other issues, such as noise pollution and trash, would be included in the scope of this committee. Pat Edwards echoed concerns about the scope of a committee concerning something as potentially broad as "energy and the environment," indicating the hope that it be constituted narrowly enough to be manageable.
Hirsh and Hughes responded that they view their proposal as a working document. Hughes opined that in the past we have made some mistakes that could have been avoided if a mechanism of this sort had been in place and functioning.
Ray Smoot indicated that he doesn't believe the university's approach to the boiler issue has been at all casual or clumsy, as might be inferred from some of the comments. He referred to the published ads and the three public meetings that were scheduled by the Department of Environmental Quality (who determined the timing in spite of university requests for meetings at times when more people might be present). He pointed out that Professor Mashburn in Mechanical Engineering has been working on the project for quite a while and expresses ongoing strong support. The university also has used a well-regarded engineering consulting firm to do the analyses, and mistakes concerning the smoke stacks were due to incorrect data that was supplied for the analysis.
Smoot went on to point out that in environment and energy, we walk a narrow path between good stewardship and expense, something that impacts us all since there is no pot of money, outside of that which supports us all, from which to fund these activities. We take as a given that we must meet all environmental standards required by government regulation, but it is very costly. We can certainly be more aggressive if we are willing to pay the price.
He closed his comments by saying that the idea of having a committee to discuss these issues is a good one, but that it certainly must be broad based to insure that it does not push any one particular point of view.
Other comments indicated that we must take into account our location in southwest Virginia and the importance of coal to local economies. These are certainly factors that will affect what the university will do.
Hughes mentioned that the issue is not so much coal, as it is the process by which we try to move these projects ahead. The purpose of the committee would be NOT to point fingers at the past but to help avoid problems in the future. Whether we burn coal or not is not the issue, but rather how we use our best resources to help the university make good decisions, particularly in light of all the new technologies that exist of which the university may not be aware.
The question was raised as to whether the Extension and Public Service divisions wouldn't be mechanisms for doing what is proposed. Hirsh countered that the concern was more with placing a formal mechanism within the university to address the issues.
Carl Polan agreed with Ray Smoot that the university has followed proper process and procedures, but that the issue may be more one of what can be accomplished through better use of our resources and how we take advantage of opportunities that might be present in a broader approach. Wyatt Sasser asked about what authority the committee would have. Polan recalled the advisory role cited in the proposal and Hughes added that a communications role also was important.
Polan suggested that this proposal be given further consideration at a future meeting. Hirsh indicated that he would be interested in helping to flesh out the idea with members of the commission, and that indeed the initial document was not ready for any kind of a vote.
Polan indicated that he would speak with the chairman and decide how best to proceed.