Meeting of February 13, 2007

Held in the Poole Board Room of the Wardlaw Center



Members Present: Akins (Prof. Prac.), Ballard (GTRI), Clough (President), Dagenhart (ARCH), First (Physics), Foley (CoC), Graab (U. Student), Hughes (Chair, ECE), Keller (G. Student), Price (IMTC), Schuster (Provost), Stein (VPSS), West (GTRI), Williams (ECE/GT-S), Wood (LCC), Yen (Biology), Bohlander (SoF)


Members Absent: Alexander (Staff), Barnhart (GTRI), Braga (Chemistry), Bras (ME), Gaimon (Mgt),


Visitors:  Allen (Pres. Office), Cabot (OIT), Donbaugh (OHR), Edson (Student Housing), Fetig (ICPA), Guzdial (CoC), McClellan (ECE, Chair of Student Computer Ownership Committee), White (CoC, representing Statutes Committee)


1.      Joe Hughes (Chair) opened the meeting at 3:03 P.M. 


2.      The Chair called for approval of minutes of the January 23, 2007 meeting of the Executive Board.  The minutes were approved without dissent. (See Attachment #1 below).


3.   The Chair called on Tom Akins (Chair of the Nominating Committee) for a report.  He furnished copies of a draft ballot for elections to the various faculty standing committees (and a few positions on the General Faculty Assembly).  He indicated that the work of the committee was nearing completion but there were opportunities still remaining for service.  He asked members of the Executive Board to pass on any suggestions for candidates to a member of the committee.  He indicated his plan was to wrap this up within two weeks and then the Secretary would seek the approval of the slate from the Executive Board via an electronic ballot.  The Executive Board Chair also pointed out that a number of the open slots were for committees that could be staffed by any member of the General Faculty so the opportunities extended to the widest population of faculty members.


The Chair then observed that other spring campus elections are held for members of the General Faculty Assembly and the Academic Senate.  A few are handled by the Nominating Committee if they are to represent faculty in central services and administration, but most are tapped in elections run by the various units across campus.  The Chair called on Ron Bohlander to present a table (Attachment #2) of the numbers of new representatives needed, taking into account changes in the numbers of faculty in the various units.  Dr. Bohlander led the Board through the columns of the table and then pointed out that some units were due to decrease their representation rather than elect new ones.  In some cases this comes about due to a small change in the number of faculty members in the unit.  In GTRI, several retrenchments are due to reorganizations of the units in question and representatives moving between units.  In general, there is support in the Faculty Handbook for having the Executive Board supervise how adjustments are handled.  In other similar situations, the Handbook allows presently serving representatives to complete their term.  Dr. Bohlander reminded the Board about the formulas that govern the numbers of representatives elected.  Dr. Hughes pointed out that all members of the Academic Senate (AS) are also members of the General Faculty Assembly (GFA) by design and so when the attached table says that a given unit is going to elect three members of the GFA and two of the AS, this only means that a total of three will be elected and two must be academic faculty so they can serve on the Academic Senate.  It does not mean that five people will be elected.  Dr. Bohlander then made a motion that persons who are serving in units that have too many representatives be allowed to continue serving until they complete their term or resign and that GTRI will not elect more new members across all of their units than the net new members needed to maintain GTRI’s aggregate representation.  The motion was seconded and passed without dissent. 

4.      The Chair called on President Clough to comment on matters of interest to the Georgia Tech community:

a.   The Georgia State Legislature is in session but it is progressing more slowly than usual because the legislators are waiting for a resolution of some health care budget issues that the federal government is addressing.  As a result state budgets are expected to be completed about a month later than usual this year.  The day before this Executive Board meeting, the legislature asked the four research university presidents and the head of the Georgia Research Alliance to brief members of the legislature on the needs of the university system.

b.   Georgia Tech is getting good visibility and feedback about its new GT Promise scholarship program.  President Clough reported that the Regents have acknowledged Tech as the first public university to address the problem of the needs of low income Georgia residents.  He told the Board that 400 students are attending Georgia Tech who come from families earning $30 thousand or less per year and these are thus especially vulnerable to financial upsets.  The GT Promise program offers a debt free ride to qualifying students, including the cost of books, computers, room and board, and other academic-related expenses.  This will cost about $2 million per year and the GT Foundation is helping to launch the program until the GT Capital Campaign can provide specific funding.  An additional benefit of the program is that about 40% of the students in the target demographic are minority students, and as Tech improves support, its ability to attract minority students also improves.

c.   Tech is being approached with many opportunities to inaugurate new international programs.  Institute leaders are proceeding very cautiously in examining the possibilities and working closely with the campus units mostly likely to participate if the opportunity comes to fruition.  For example, proposals for new or expanded programs have been received from Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, and Singapore.  When proposals get to a point where degree programs can be defined, then the advice of the Executive Board and the Academic Senate will be sought.

d.   Tech has now finalized its offers of undergraduate admissions.  The application pool is about 1% smaller this year than last.  Ivan Allen College, Management College, and College of Sciences are up in applications.  Colleges of Computing, Engineering, and Architecture are down slightly.  There has not been much time for analysis of these results.  National trends may be reflected in some of the outcomes.  Last year Tech had more people accept offers of admission than ever before in history, so this year a careful watch will be kept on acceptances.

e.   This week a student committed suicide, a very sad event.  Tech works very closely with all affected by such tragic circumstances in providing grief counseling and other support as required.  John Stein (Dean of Students) commented that his office is providing support to the family and also to faculty and students who were close to the student who died.  He mentioned the funeral arrangements that were planned and that many from the community would be participating. 

f.    Dr. Clough reported that the Board of Regents has been moving toward a requirement for background checks to look into any felony history for all new faculty and staff hires.  This has been routine for many years for certain categories of staff so the change would simply expand the coverage.  For example, those who hold DoD security clearances are used to this.  In addition, when people join the faculty they are required to sign a form saying they do not have felonies in their history, so the proposed policy would just verify that.  The Regents began to be interested in relation to the Medical College of Georgia where almost all the faculty members are involved in patient care and background checks would be particularly relevant.  As the Chancellor and Board of Regents looked at this they came to the conclusion that the fair thing to do was to apply background checks everywhere and to all faculty and staff.  This has created controversy at the University of Georgia but not much feedback has occurred so far at Georgia Tech.  While there are acknowledged privacy issues in this policy, the public generally seems to feel that background checks are appropriate for an enterprise that fundamentally takes care of young people.  So the policy is likely to be adopted by the Regents, though it may be possible to recommend improved features of the implementation. 

There was a question from the floor about whether background checks are made for high school teachers.  Someone commented that some states do indeed require background checks for high school teachers. 

A question was asked whether it is now Georgia Tech policy to have background checks made on all new faculty and staff.  Chuck Donbaugh, Associate Vice President for Human Relations, answered that all new hires of staff in any position are now given a background check, but not faculty so far.  That will not start until the Regents settle on a policy.  Background checks are performed under contract to Tech by an agency that specializes in this service. 

There was a question about whether the policy also applied to existing staff if they changes positions, and the answer was that the policy was only intended to apply to new hires. 

A comment was made that this policy needs to be quite visible, and the community needs to know a) who has access to the information collected in the background check, and b) what kinds of findings would have adverse consequences.  Mr. Donbaugh indicated that the checks are only intended to uncover felonies and that some may be considered moot if they occurred long enough ago, with an exemplary record since then.  A comment was made that other peer institutions like the University of Texas are very open in their position advertisements saying that background checks are required.  Mr. Donbaugh mentioned that there is also another part of the proposed Regents’ policy that would require any faculty or staff member to report to their supervisor if they have been charged or understand that another faculty or staff member has been charged with any criminal act (anything beyond a minor traffic violation, even if not yet adjudicated).  The draft policy does not say what happens after the report is made or what administrators are to do with this information.  It was noted again by Dr. Clough and Mr. Donbaugh that the Regent s’ policy is not fully set yet. 

A comment was made that it would be important for a faculty or staff member prospect to be able to review the information found by the agency that performs a check to verify that the information found is accurate.  Mr. Donbaugh confirmed that a prospect is first given the choice of submitting to a background check (though they must say yes to be considered) and then the opportunity to review the report.  Then the findings are provided to the hiring unit and copies of the report are destroyed.  So there is no subsequent access to this information. 

A question was asked if this policy was likely to apply to student employees.  The answer was, no, not at this time.  A question was raised about what would happen when a faculty candidate comes from another country.  The answer was that there is a possibility to waive the requirement when there are serious feasibility issues. 

A question was raised about whether to bring this up at an upcoming meeting of the faculty so further feedback could be obtained.  The Chair asked to defer that question until the later agenda item addressing future faculty meeting agendas.  There was also a concern expressed about whether Regents’ policies had matured enough to present to the faculty.

5.   The Chair asked the President to introduce Mr. Jim Fetig, Vice President for Institute Communications and Public Affairs, for the next topic.  President Clough explained that one of Mr. Fetig’s first assignments was to conduct a study of how well various constituencies know Georgia Tech.  This is particularly important given the changes to Georgia Tech over the past two decades, including broadening its offerings beyond the area of engineering where Tech is best known.  Georgia Tech has taken steps to get word out about all that is going on, but one needs to test how well the message is getting through for a number of different audiences.  This is important in building the reputation of the institution and to the recruitment of students, faculty and staff.  Tech conducted two of these studies previously, one before the Olympics and one after.  Mr. Fetig then provided the Executive Board with a comprehensive description of the most recent study of the Georgia Tech brand identity.  It was announced he would also do this for the faculty at its February 27, 2007 meeting.

6.   The Chair called on Dr. Jim McClellan (ECE) who is chair of the Student Computer Ownership Committee to present a proposal for changes in student computer ownership policies.  Dr. McClellan made his presentation and followed closely the slides contained in Attachment #3.  The purpose of this briefing was to describe the activities of the committee and enlist support for their recommendation that laptop computers be required of each incoming student starting in the fall of 2008.  He introduced the members of the committee (slide 2) pointing out particularly several present at the Board meeting.  The outline of the presentation covered the rationale for recommending a laptop requirement, data obtained through surveys of students and faculty and through benchmarking, discussions of how laptops would play a role in education, descriptions of the infrastructure and support required, and finally the recommendation itself to require all undergraduates entering in fall of 2008 to own a laptop of any kind as long as it supports the required software.  The rest of Dr. McClellan’s presentation follows closely the text of Attachment #3 and so will not be repeated here.  When he was finished he asked for questions which included the following:

  • A question was asked whether laptops will be the best technology by the time this is fully implemented across the 2008-2011 phase in period.  Dr. McClellan responded that the committee recognizes that Tech must continue to adapt and small personal communicators may be the preferred solution in five years.  Still there is a need to get moving and so the committee is confident that its recommendation is the right step for now.  The basic assumption is not so much around the particular instantiation called a laptop today but that students should be expected to bring their computing environment to class with them. 
  • A question was raised about whether merely requiring everyone to have a laptop would meet the educational goals, since there is still the freedom to have any one of a wide variety of models.  Operating systems and browsers may vary.  What other requirements may be needed to meet the objectives?  The Committee recognizes that this is an issue.  Some universities have solved this by requiring a particular laptop and software platform for all.  Dr. McClellan expressed the faith that there is sufficient interoperability for most things unless a very specialized task is involved.  Sometimes these specialized applications can be run on a server and accessed through a browser.  Still, computer diversity is an issue and it complicates helpdesk and repair support.
  • It was observed that in some labs, computers will not be needed any longer to the degree they once were, once this policy is in place.  Will that savings offset some of the added cost for supporting laptops?  Dr. McClellan observed that these same arguments were made when computer ownership (of any kind) became the rule.  It was thought that computer clusters would be in less demand.  But demand never slacked off.  The Committee, therefore, has never claimed that benefit, though it might materialize in this round.  Dr. Hughes observed that these policies may have prevented an even bigger development of computer clusters than would have been the case without the policies.
  • A comment was made that some of the goals do not necessarily need a laptop to be realized.  For example student project teams today often use computer labs as their forum for collaboration.  So the most persuasive argument seems to be the possibility of laptops being used in the classroom.  That said, not all majors are as apt to use laptops in the classroom.  Thus, is a universal policy justified?  Given that the faculty surveyed seem to be ambivalent about the importance of this, couldn’t the policy just encourage individual colleges to find their own paths in moving toward required laptops?  Dr. McClellan answered that the important reason for a universal policy is that many classes are taken by people from different colleges.  If laptop policies were different then few teachers could count on laptops as a resource in the classroom.  Mark Guzdial also answered that some introductory courses require software work that is difficult to support if the student’s computer cannot be brought to faculty or central support staff to directly observe problems experienced by the students. 
  • A follow up question concerned classroom support for laptops.  Will there be enough outlets for everyone to plug in and will the wireless network support a high concentration of users?  Linda Cabot answered that all planning for classroom renovations today tries to meet such requirements.  The proposed policy will focus efforts.  Dr. McClellan said the choice of fall 2008 was partly driven by making sure there would be enough time.  He reminded the Board that the data they collected (Attachment #3) show that nearly 90% of all freshman have laptops already so reaching 100% will not immediately make a big change in facility loading.
  • A final question was, if 10% today do not have laptops, do we know why?  Is it for financial reasons, and if so, will the new policy be a hardship?  Dr. McClellan answered that this may be what is driving these decisions but that was why the Committee looked into what people were actually spending and the data show that laptops are available that are right in the norm of what people usually spend; i.e. $1,000 - $1,500.  Less than 15% are spending less than $1,000.  Furthermore, one of the original reasons for requiring computers is that their cost could then be covered by financial aid.  So too, any increased cost of laptops could be offset by financial aid.  So financial concerns are not insurmountable. 

The chair then received a motion that the Executive Board recommend the academic faculty of the Institute approve the proposed policy of requiring laptop ownership for incoming students starting in the fall of 2008.  The motion was seconded and approved without dissent.

7.      The Chair reminded the Board that the faculty, at its February 6, 2007 meeting, adopted a policy of adding Athletic Affairs Professionals and Post Doctoral Fellows to the General Faculty.  With that was a stipulation that the Statutes Committee should prepare proposed amendments to the Statutes and other parts of the Faculty Handbook to implement that change.  So the Chair called on David White (CoC) from the Statutes Committee to present the proposed amendments.  His presentation was supported by the presentation included in Attachment #4a and the detailed wording of the amendments in Attachment #4b, both provided with the agenda.  Dr. White indicated that the approach taken, in Section 5.1.1 of the Statutes, was to add Post Doctoral Fellows to the corps of instruction and to add a new category of membership in the General Faculty called Athletic Affairs Professionals.  He also presented draft changes to Section 13.2 showing titles that would make up the Athletic Affairs Professionals.  The Chair recommended that only the changes to Section 5.1.1 be addressed at the February 27, 2007 meeting of the faculty because the changes in Section 13.2 are only available in draft form and are still being worked on to make sure that the titles to be added are right up to date.  This is anticipated to be completed and proposed to the faculty in late April or early May when the second reading of the Statutes would be heard.  So it was his recommendation that the material concerning Section 13.2 be provided now just as information.

Jim Foley asked a question about whether it would be possible to provide for a sunset to these additions to the General Faculty should it come to pass that the Regents and the Georgia Legislature would lift the requirement that the Optional Retirement Program (ORP) only be available to members of the General Faculty.  It was commented that many faculty members are not enthusiastic about the proposed additions to the General Faculty and acceptance might be better if sunset could be arranged.  He asked if wording to that effect could be included in the Statute amendment.  A second question was posed about how the University of Georgia managed to make the necessary adjustments without changing their statutes.  The Chair answered the second question first.  UGA was able to accommodate the necessary changes because their Statutes are not as specific as those at Georgia Tech concerning who has faculty status.  In answer to the first question, the Chair repeated a recommendation he made to the faculty on Feb. 6 that they not bind future faculty in prescribing how a sunset be carried out.  First of all there is a practical aspect of making a provision for how something will be done in the future when future faculties can change their minds anyway.  And then the precise form of the Regent’s and the Legislature’s actions (if any) is not known at this time.  Also the sunset might need to be applied more broadly than just to Athletic Affairs Professionals and Post Doctoral Fellows.  Professional Classified Staff might also need to be included in adjustments and this would broaden and complicate present debate.  Ron Bohlander suggested that instead of trying to put words about a sunset in the Statutes, that instead the faculty be given the opportunity to adopt a resolution.  This resolution would say that if the Regents and Legislature lift the requirement for General Faculty membership to participate in ORP, then the Executive Board would initiate a re-examination of General Faculty membership with a view to eliminating those categories which were only included to grant them access to ORP.  Several voiced support for this approach.  So a motion was made to recommend to the faculty the adoption of the proposed amendments to Section 5.1.1 (in the first reading); to provide draft changes to Section 13.2 for information; and to craft a resolution that would allow the faculty to be on record in support of sunset provisions for all cases of General Faculty membership that were adopted just for access to ORP or other benefits.  This motion was seconded. 

Then a question was raised whether there were likely to be any other groups who would logically need access to ORP that haven’t been brought up yet.  Chuck Donbaugh answered that he saw no other groups on the horizon.  He commented that the category of Professional Classified Staff was already pretty broad and there were just technical reasons why the two groups before the Board now did not completely fit in this category.  Mr. Donbaugh also asked if the sense of Jim Foley’s concern was just to address these additions to the faculty prompted by benefits considerations or whether it was to eliminate General Faculty status altogether.  Dr. Foley answered that it was the former.  Ron Bohlander commented on the importance of OHR supporting the Statutes Committee in the work to complete the revision of Section 13.2 by the April meeting of the Executive Board when it needs to come to the faculty, because there may be other updates in titles that are needed to be fair to all.  Then there was a further question: are there any other benefits besides retirement that are tied to membership in the General Faculty?  The Chair observed that membership in various faculty committees is tied to membership, if that could be considered a benefit.  Mr. Donbaugh indicated that people with General Faculty status start out with the maximum vacation rate whereas classified staff who are not members earn the maximum rate later in their employment.  A follow up question was whether the sunset actions contemplated would ever remove benefits from the persons who might lose General Faculty status and the answer was that such a thing should not happen.  Hearing no more questions, the Chair called for a vote on the motion and it passed without dissent.

8.   The Chair directed the Board’s attention to the proposed agenda for the faculty meeting on February 27, 2007 provided in Attachment #5.  It was suggested that the President address the issue of background checks in his introductory remarks, if he wants to, rather than make this a separate agenda item.  It was explained that the meeting was originally planned to be a meeting of the General Faculty and the General Faculty Assembly.  It is necessary to combine this with a called meeting of the Academic Senate in order to consider proposed curriculum changes from the Institute Graduate Curriculum Committee and in order to vote on the proposed changes in student computer ownership.  This plan and the agenda shown in the attachment were approved without dissent.

9.      The Chair asked for any new business.  Hearing none the meeting was adjourned at about 5:12 P.M.

Submitted by Ronald A Bohlander, Secretary

March 12, 2007

Attachments (to be included with the archival copy of the minutes)

1.      Minutes of the EB meeting of January 23, 2007.

2.      Tables of Representatives needed on the GFA and AS

a.   Table presented at the meeting

b.   Final revision made when further analysis showed that some representatives had left Tech and more needed to be elected.

3.   Presentation of proposed changes in student computer ownership policies

4.   Proposal to add Athletic Affairs Professionals and Post Doctoral Fellows to the General Faculty

a.   Presentation

b.   Proposed wording of Statute and Faculty Handbook amendments

5.   Proposed agenda for the February 27, 2007 faculty meeting.



Addendum #1

Electronic Ballot and Results

Initiated February 19, 2007 and closed at midnight February 22, 2007


Do you approve the attached resolution to be presented to the General Faculty for their adoption?

Yes 16             No 0



Addendum #2

Electronic Ballot and Results

Initiated March 5, 2007 and closed at midnight March 7, 2007


Our Nominating Committee has completed their work of preparing a slate of candidates for all the open positions on Standing Committees.  They also are responsible for a few seats on the General Faculty Assembly.  Now this slate comes before the Executive Board for approval by electronic ballot.  See the attached slate.


You will see that the Committee dealt with some problems:

  • In some races, there were an insufficient number of qualified candidates.
  • In others, there were simply too few volunteers, despite considerable persuasion applied by committee members.

Solutions involved:

  • In some cases where multiple positions on the same committee needed to be filled, all candidates were put in one race.  One will be elected directly from the slate and the remaining openings will be filled by appointment from the runners up.
  • In other cases there was little sensible choice but to have some candidates running unopposed.

The question to each of you is:  Do you accept and approve this slate as recommended by the Nominating Committee??

Yes 14             No 0



Note: subsequent to this, one more candidate was identified and the amended slate was accepted without objection.