GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

MEETING OF THE GENERAL FACULTY, GENERAL FACULTY ASSEMBLY, AND ACADEMIC SENATE

 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012, 3:00 pm

Student Center Theater

 

MINUTES

 

 

1.   President Bud Peterson called the meeting to order at 3:05 P.M. and provided some comments on matters of interest in the Institute:

a)      The President and Provost recently held five town hall meetings mostly with the faculty of the colleges.  These covered progress on the Georgia Tech Strategic Plan, campus safety issues, the capital campaign, and the reorganization of the Provost’s office.  Useful, consistent feedback was received.  Another town hall would be held with GTRI (also involving Executive Vice-President for Research Steve Cross) and also one or more with staff (involving Executive Vice-President for Administration and Finance, Steve Swant).

b)      The administration continued to work to improve campus safety.  An increase in public safety officers had led to a decrease in crimes on and around campus.  Recent perceptions have missed this progress because Georgia Tech has been diligently reporting every incident as it has occurred.  Crime statistics showed a decrease in on-campus crime from 176 incidents in CY 2008 to 84 in CY 2011.  The President encouraged everyone to sign up for Jacket Guardian, a new tool for more effective emergency smart phone connections to campus and other area police departments.

c)      The Capital Campaign raised $42 million in the month of December, the second beset month in history; last year was the second best year in history.  Overall the campaign had so far raised $1.1 billion and was on track to meet its goal of $1.5 billion.

d)     The Governor recently announced a new needs-based REACH Scholarship Program funded from private sources.  Students in 8th grade would be able to write a contract to make good grades and stay out of trouble; they would also be paired with a mentor.  If they fulfilled that contract they would qualify to be considered for a $2500/year scholarship for four-years of college.  Georgia Tech has committed to match the dollars from this program for qualified students attending Georgia Tech.

Dr. Peterson asked Provost Dr. Bras to comment on some additional topics:

a)      Members of the Council for Educational Technology had been appointed and had held their first meeting.  It was chaired by Dr. Rich DeMillo, would report to the Provost, and would investigate and recommend new tools for learning and education delivery.

b)      The Provost said he was forming a Council of the Arts, which would be mostly faculty-led.  It would coordinate all of the art activities at Georgia Tech and promote new ones.  Dr. Bras commended the students for their submissions to a recent “Art Crawl” held in the Clough Commons.

c)      Dr. Bras reported that a Family Friendly Task Force had been formed, had met, and was chaired by Vice-President for Institute Diversity, Archie Irvin.  The task force would inventory services in place to support faculty, staff, and student families, and would recommend potential improvements.

d)     Searches for two Vice-Provosts were underway to cover 1) undergraduate education and 2) graduate education & faculty affairs.

e)      Georgia Tech was successful in winning one of ten new first-tier National Transportation Institutes.  Georgia Tech was also part of a regional transportation institute that was announced at the same time.

f)       March and April 2012 were going to be busy months on campus.  For example, March 14 would be celebrated as a Day of Engineering (as part of President Obama’s initiative on STEM). On March 15, Ivan Allen College would have their Annual Founders meetings and Georgia Tech would bestow the $100 thousand Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage, this year to Dr. Bill Foege.  He was a pioneer in raising awareness about the HIV-AIDS epidemic, and was also a leader in the eradication of small pox.  The annual Nunn Forum would be held on April 16, 2012 and would focus on energy and security.

2.      Dr. Peterson asked for approval of the minutes of the meeting of November 17, 2011 [a meeting of the Academic Senate].  He indicated that the minutes were published and posted on the faculty governance web site and that there were no known additions or corrections. (See Attachment #1).   The minutes were approved without dissent.

3.   Dr. Peterson then called on Prof. Andrew Lyon, Vice-Chair of the Executive Board and Chair of the Nominations Committee, to request nominations for faculty governance positions in the upcoming spring elections. (See Attachment #2).  Prof. Lyon showed a list of positions to be filled and requested individuals interested in being a candidate to contact him or the nominations co-chair, Mr. David White.

4.   The President next called on Prof. Sue Ann Allen, Georgia Tech’s Faculty Athletic Representative, to provide her annual report to the faculty.  (See Attachment # 3)  Prof. Allen noted that the NCAA’s four-year average Graduation Success Rate (GSR) had been steadily increasing for student athletes over the past five years. She also noted that some sports teams did better than the average for the student body as a whole even under the conventional federal graduation rate formula.  She said that there was a significant difference between the GSR and the conventional federal rate in sports with a significant number of student athletes who turned professional before their cohort’s graduation.  Two sports, men’s basketball and football, had low graduation rates by any measure.  The academic support office was focused on helping these student athletes to improve their graduation success.  Prof. Allen used the attachment to explain another measure, the Academic Progress Rate, and she noted that two sports teams had perfect scores, men’s golf and women’s cross country.  The men’s basketball team had a four-year average score in 2009-10 low enough to incur a penalty; there also was one student athlete with zero points toward progress, so the team lost one scholarship for a year.  Single-year APRs had recently been trending up well over 925 so good news was expected going forward.  The new head basketball coach, Brian Gregory, was committed to quality academic performance.  With slides 12-13, Prof. Allen provided a summary of NCAA sanctions imposed on Georgia Tech in 2011 for alleged infractions in 2009.  Prof. Allen noted that Georgia Tech had appealed the sanctions and allegations of failure to cooperate and meet the standards of membership.  A decision on the appeal was expected very soon.  Prof. Allen also reported that Syracuse and University of Pittsburg would be joining the ACC but may not be active in the conference until 2014 when their obligation to the Big East would be completed. 

President Peterson commented on a situation in which the NCAA was considering a rule change.  As things now stood, a freshman with no established academic track record could compete in men’s basketball in the fall and still be allowed to compete in the spring even if his grade point average was very low.  In some cases it would be a long shot for this athlete to bring up his grade point average to the eligible level by the end of the spring.  So it was possible that rules might change concerning such spring eligibility.  The situation was exacerbated by NBA rules which allowed student athletes to turn professional after just one year in college.  This often led to APR problems.

Q.  How did the APR correlate with the GSR?  Ans. The NCAA set the threshold of acceptable APRs at 925 believing at the time that teams having such an APR would statistically tend to have a GSR of around 50%.  More recent data have led the NCAA to plan to raise the threshold to 930.  However, one should recognize that the GSR and APR are measuring two different things.

Q.  How did Georgia Tech’s student athletes compare in academic progress with other ACC schools?  Ans. In men’s basketball, Tech’s teams were low; otherwise, pretty competitive.  Georgia Tech was simply a challenging place at which to do well.

5.   The President then asked for approval of the minutes of recent meetings of Standing Committees of the General Faculty (as recorded in Attachment #4).  In particular:

a) Faculty Benefits Committee (Mr. Dave Millard, Executive Board Liaison) 10/31/11

b) Statutes Committee (Ms. Jeanne Balsam, Chair) 9/23/11, 10/6/11, 11/3/11, 1/25/12

There were no action items to approve.  A motion was made, seconded, and approved without dissent to approve the above minutes.

6.   Dr. Peterson called on representatives of Standing Committees of the Academic Faculty to present minutes of recent meetings and any action items requiring approval.  In most cases the representatives followed closely the reports in the committees’ files on the faculty governance website noted in Attachment #4 below and so that text was not repeated here.   The following outlined the material presented showing the representatives that appeared to present summaries of the committee’s recommendations. 

a)   Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (Prof. Jerry Seitzman, Chair): Minutes of 11/29/11, 12/13/11, 1/5/12, 1/17/12, 1/24/12, & 2/14/12
Action Items. From 1/17: HST – 6 new courses; Psychology – modification in the course requirements for the psychology minor; Management – change in the name of the major associated with the BS in Business Administration; Chemistry – 4 new courses and modification in the BS in Chemistry involving a change in courses offered and required. From 2/14: AE – modification of the BS degree in Aerospace Engineering, involving a change in course requirements in economics; Architecture – 2 new courses & 7 deactivations; LCC & CoC – minor modification in the BS degree in Computational Media, involving updates in course requirements and options; ECE – modification in the BS degree in Computer Engineering, involving changes in course requirements and options that further differentiate the BSCmpE degree from BSEE + modifications of similar scope to the BSEE degree + 25 new courses, with prerequisites noted, along with other prerequisites changes; CoC – modification to the Minor in Computer Science, involving seven new track options.

Prof. Seitzman urged faculty members to considering running as a candidate for this committee because it was very active and productive.  He also thanked the General Education Subcommittee for their hard work toward aligning Georgia Tech’s programs with Board of Regents requirements.

It was moved, seconded and passed without dissent to approve the above minutes and action items.

b)      Graduate Curriculum Committee (Prof. Jonathan Clarke, Chair): Minutes of 1/19/12 & 2/9/12
Action Items. From 1/19: Applied Physiology – modification in the MS in Prosthetics and Orthotics involving changes in pre-requisites for admission; Management – 2 new courses; CoC – addition of a distance learning option for MS in Computer Science; new policy for the approval and review of courses offered by non-academic units. From 2/9: modifications in the MS degree in History and Sociology of Technology and Science involving changes in the track options and course requirements + 2 new courses; Building Construction – 1 new course; CoA-City& Regional Planning – 7 new courses & 3 deactivations; Architecture – modification in the MS with Major in Architecture, involving new concentration options, and modifications to the PhD with a Major in Architecture, involving course requirements, research specialization options, requirements for a minor, and qualifying paper and thesis requirements + 20 new courses.

It was moved, seconded and passed without dissent to approve the above minutes and action items.

c)   Student Regulations Committee (Prof. Chuck Parsons, Chair): Minutes of 2/2/12
Action Items: Recommended changes in the "Georgia Tech Policy on Student Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Harassment, Stalking and Intimate Partner Violence (Approved April 27, 2010)" and in the Student Code of Conduct.  See minutes for details. 

Prof. Parsons explained that the Dean of Students had initially proposed these changes and the committee was recommending them with some minor modifications as documented in the minutes.  Prof. Parsons called on Mr. John Stein, Dean of Students, to explain further.  Mr. Stein said the salient changes in the Student Code of Conduct were:

·         Anyone submitting a case of academic misconduct must submit all supporting documentation within ten business days.  This would solve a problem that had been occurring with cases that were left open for long periods of time awaiting documentation.

·         Based on this, the Institute would commit to having a resolution of such a case within thirty business days.  This would resolve problems wherein a student’s academic standing was sometimes held in limbo for months. 

·         Students also now had a stated right to a written summary of any sanctions imposed and outcomes from the case.

·         Students had a stated right to continue as an active student while they exercised their right of appeal of any sanctions, unless there was a belief that to do so involved a risk to their safety or the safety of others. 

·         The Institute was bound by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) concerning any release of documentation about the resolution of a case to persons outside the Institute.  Such a release would only be made if the student signed a statement to such an outside person or organization giving them written permission to check on the resolution of a case.  Academic misconduct cases were reported out at any level with permission.  Non-academic cases were only reported for cases with sanctions of probation or higher (again with written permission).

On sexual misconduct, Mr. Stein stated that Georgia Tech, along with all other universities, had received a letter from the Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Health and Human Services asking for a thorough review of policies concerning sexual misconduct.  The Dean’s Office found that Georgia Tech’s policies met national expectations with one exception.  As a result, Georgia Tech needed to make the following significant changes:

·         To state clearly that both the complainant and the accused now would have the right of an appeal of any decision in a sexual misconduct case.

·         In addition, a complainant would have a stated right to have an informal inquiry instituted if they wished and could later decide to escalate this to a formal complaint. 

Prof. Parsons stated that the committee’s recommended improvements to the stated policies in the latter matter were intended to strengthen the concept of reciprocal rights for the complainant and the accused. 

It was moved, seconded and passed without dissent to approve the above minutes and action items.

d)   Student Academic and Financial Affairs Committee (SAFAC) (Prof. Craig Tovey, Chair): 1/10/12
Action Items:  1) Proposed revision in Procedures for Excused Absences for the Student Academic and Financial Affairs Committee, and 2) proposed revision in Georgia Tech Policy on Competitive Admission (Freshman Applicants).  See minutes for details.

Prof. Tovey explained that the committee proposed to change the committee’s procedure for considering requests for excused absences.  The committee would rule out approving excused absences during the week of final exams.  Prof. Tovey explained that the topic arose when the Georgia Tech band initially applied to perform in Italy during final exams.  Though the request was later withdrawn when the planned event was postponed, the committee felt the issue needed to be addressed with a clear statement about how this would be handled in the future.  

Q. President Peterson asked for clarification:  Did this mean that the Institute would not excuse such absences during exam week, but an individual faculty member had the right if he/she chose to do so?  Ans. Prof. Tovey said that was correct.

Q.  Would this include athletic events?  Ans. Yes.  The SAFAC would not force all the professors for all the students involved to set up separate exams for them. 

Q. What motivated this change?  A concern was expressed that there was a planned student competition during spring finals that would now be off-limits.  Ans.  The committee was not aware that any such excused absences had ever been approved before.  So the committee simply considered the logistical challenges as explained in answer to the previous question.  President Peterson reiterated that students would still have recourse to working out a plan with each of their professors.  The Institute would simply not mandate that a plan must be found.  Faculty members would have the power to say no. 

Comment:  Event planning was usually not something students controlled.  So the proposed policy would limit student opportunities.  The fall back policy of working things out professor by professor would put a considerable burden on a group of students who wanted to participate in an opportunity.  Response:  A coach or other event planner would not be able to require students to participate in an event in conflict with exams if it was the policy of the Institute not to have excused absences for events during exam week.  Prof. Tovey said it was a matter of priorities.  This was an academic institution and exams were a priority.  A few classes could be missed from time to time with minimal disruption, but the committee felt strongly that it was not right for extracurricular activities to take precedence over final exams. 

Q.  If a student tried to arrange an excused absence from an exam and was turned down by a professor, would the student have any recourse.  Ans. Mr. Stein stated that such questions sometimes came to the Dean of Students and the Dean or another member of the office would try to intercede with the faculty member.  At other times, the matter was brought to SAFAC for their review and recommendation.  Mr. Stein observed that many faculty members were reluctant to make decisions in these cases.  For example, if a student tried to arrange an excused absence that affected exams from five professors, then perhaps four of the five professors would agree.  The fifth faculty member could feel put on the spot.  Prof. Tovey noted that there was a flip side:  If SAFAC gave an excused absence for a group of students, potentially involving more than one day, a great many professors would face an imposed need to prepare separate exams for the affected students.  President Peterson stated that intercollegiate athletic teams should not be a problem because the administration has told the coaches not to schedule athletic events during exams, because to do otherwise was believed to have a negative impact on student athlete’s academic performance.  It was more an issue that affected club sports, the band, and the like. 

Comment:  Sometimes a student has a unique, high-quality opportunity for professional experience that happens to fall in exam week.  The faculty member with this concern stated his belief that it should be possible to provide an excused absence. 

Q:  Could the committee consider alternate language like “It would be the general policy for the committee not to grant excused absences during exam week?” That would open up an avenue for exceptions in worthy cases but make clear that the committee strongly discouraged excused absences during final exam week.  President Peterson stated that neither he nor Provost Bras would be likely to override the committee, so there would be no avenue for student appeal without the committee providing for such a possibility.

Prof. Tovey stated that it would be best for him to take this issue back to committee rather than ask for a vote at this time.  It was moved, seconded, and approved to postpone a decision on this matter and to refer it back to committee for consideration of some flexibility in the policy.

Prof. Tovey then turned to the second issue and stated that Dr. Paul Kohn, Vice-President of Enrollment Services, had recommended a new policy on competitive admission.  The committee had worked with Dr. Kohn to refine the policy statement and was now bringing it to the Academic Senate for their approval.  Dr. Tovey arranged for the proposed new policy and the existing policy to be projected on the screen for the faculty to review.  Salient proposed changes included:

·         The first three paragraphs of the existing policy were essentially omitted. 

·         Legacy applicants, that is, relatives of alumni, would not receive preference in admissions decisions.  The current policy allowed such preferences although it was not the practice to grant them. 

·         The proposed policy would provide more flexibility regarding the ratio of in-state to out-of-state students.

·         The proposed policy emphasized strongly criteria for admission based on the quality of the applicant’s scholarly experience, as well as his/her potential for broad contributions to Georgia Tech through other experiences. 

Q.  In the proposed policy, how would one meet the test of “provide substantial evidence of their potential to … embrace the diverse campus community?  How would one do that?  Ans. Actually this criterion had been softened and made to sound more broadly achievable.  An important thing to remember was that every successful applicant would not be expected to do all of the criteria equally well.

Q. Was Georgia Tech not legally required to keep the existing statement about its commitment not to discriminate in admission?  Ans.  Georgia Tech remained committed to non-discrimination and had instead a strong overarching statement in other policy documents about non-discrimination in all of its activities. 

President Peterson and Provost Bras stated their belief that the proposed new policy more accurately reflected current practice than the existing policy and they were confident the new policy statement would serve the Institute well. 

A suggestion was made by a member of the faculty that the words “The process is structured to build entering classes of students whose varied backgrounds and experiences provide substantial evidence of their potential to: …”  be amended to read instead “The process is structured to build entering classes of students whose varied backgrounds and experiences will …”  It was stated that this was more in line with a statement of goals.  The amendment was adopted without dissent. It was then moved and seconded that the proposed policy be adopted as amended. As part of the motion, it was understood that SAFAC would finish any necessary polishing of the words in the spirit of this amendment.  The motion passed without dissent.  Dr. Peterson asked that the committee transmit the new policy to Provost Bras for his review and implementation when the committee thought it was ready.

7.   Dr. Peterson asked the Vice-President of Institute Diversity, Archie Irvin, to comment on the Fisher v. University of Texas case recently accepted for consideration by the Supreme Court.  Mr. Irvin explained that the case could challenge understandings from previous court rulings on considering race in decisions about college admissions.  The University of Texas had in recent years attempted to achieve a goal of diversity using a dual system of admitting the top ten percent from the graduating classes of Texas high schools and otherwise following previous court guidelines on how to consider race in admissions decisions.  Mr. Irvin stated that he believed Georgia Tech was wisely steering a course that would allow it to achieve its goals within the law as it was today or might become.  Dr. Peterson affirmed the view in Georgia Tech’s Strategic Plan that has said “We as an institution believe that students can benefit from a diverse educational environment.”  That has provided a framework for Georgia Tech to establish policies and the changes just put in place have helped bring Tech’s admissions policy in better alignment with this principle. 

Dr. Peterson thanked the faculty for their dedication.  Hearing no further business, Dr. Peterson adjourned the meeting at about 5 PM.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Ronald A. Bohlander
Secretary of the Faculty

April 22, 2012

Special thanks to Ms. Jeanne Balsam for help with notes and records from this meeting!

 

Attachments to be included with archival copy of the minutes:

 

  1. Minutes of the Meeting of the Academic Senate November 17, 2011.
  2. Openings in the spring elections to faculty governance positions
  3. Report of the Faculty Athletic Representative
  4. Minutes of Standing Committees