University Senate

Meeting 547 Minutes

The University Senate
of Michigan Technological University

Minutes of Meeting 547
9 April 2014

The Senate

  • President Glenn Mroz discussed the potential impact of Michigan Senate Bill 768
  • Presentation: “University Finances” by Michael Mullins, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee
  • Proposal 23-14: “Proposal to Establish Michigan Technological University’s Copyright Policy Regarding Scholarly, Academic, and Artistic Works” passed
  • Proposal 27-14: “Proposal to Revise the General Education Program” passed
  • Proposal 28-14: “Academic Calendar 2015-16 and Provisional Calendar 2016-17” passed

1. Call to order and roll call. President Brian Barkdoll called the University Senate Meeting 547 to order at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, April 9, 2014. The Senate Secretary Marty Thompson called roll. Absent were Senators Caneba, Panian and Cadwell and representatives of Army/Air Force ROTC, Materials Science & Engineering, Academic Services A, Academic Services C, Advancement and Student Affairs.

2. Recognition of visitors. Guests included Max Seel (Provost’s Office), Glenn Mroz (President’s Office), Bonnie Gorman (Dean of Students), Christa Walck (Provost’s Office) and Theresa Jacques (Registrar’s Office).

3. Approval of agenda. Barkdoll requested President Mroz be added to the agenda. He asked for approval of the modified agenda. It passedunanimously on a voice vote.

4. Approval of minutes from Meeting 546. Barkdoll asked for approval of the minutes. It passed unanimously on a voice vote.

5. President Mroz
Mroz discussed the situation that led to the current $500,000 fine levied against Michigan State University (MSU) by the Michigan State Legislature. Specifically, the state legislature is going to penalize MSU $500,000 because it has taken over several educational courses from the AFL-CIO-related, National Labor College after that institution closed its campus. He continued to discuss the current language present in various education appropriation bills and the process that will take place en route to passage of the law. The governor can line item veto the clause in question because there is a dollar amount associated with it. Mroz said his sense was that there were many opportunities to alter or remove the language of concern. MSU has asked for forbearance from the other universities. He read a statement prepared for the legislatures discussing the mission of the Michigan public universities. He recommended personal letters written to Tom Casperson as this seems to have the most impact. Nooshabadi asked Mroz if he was writing anything on behalf of the university in regards to this bill. Waddell said what is at issue is not a specific program but academic freedom. The principle is what is at issue and this should not be taken lightly. Mroz said there are a lot of concerns, including academic freedom and micromanaging universities. The recommended course of action is to work in the background and not back anyone into corners. Scarlett also expressed his support that the president is taking action. He noted his apprehension at teaching aspects of his coursework because of this potential law.

6. Presentation: “University Finances” by Michael Mullins, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee slides 
Mullins presented the Michigan Tech financial overview for fiscal year 2013 based on publicly available information to develop a story about the finances of the university. State appropriations versus tuition over the past 25 years show a steep increase in tuition and a stagnant state appropriation. The shift of funds from room and board to tuition and fees is in part responsible for the current increase of $8 million in tuition. Administrators pay has increased 30% in the last five years. Mullins cited a 2011 article from the Detroit Free Press which stated faculty and administrators at Michigan universities are getting big pay raises. The article presented numbers that are probably not accurate as they didn’t take into consideration the change in the number of faculty or staff, but only the change in dollars spent. Full time in-state undergraduate tuition at Tech is being projected to double from current levels by 2024. MTU also has the highest tuition in the state once aid and discounting are factored in. Non-resident graduate tuition rates are among the lowest of all STEM Schools in the US.

The extent to which employees/faculty costs drive increases in tuition is not validated for several reasons, including the fact that benefits to employees have not risen consistent with tuition. In fact, benefits have decreased over this same period and more of the costs are taken on by employees. Retirement contributions from the university have decreased from almost $8 million to $5.5 million. Medical costs have decreased 6% when adjusted for inflation and is the only area of the university budget that has decreased. Beck said the retirement decreases were supposed to be transferred to salary. Mullins said the retirement cuts were made and if no raises were given that money is lost by employees. Beck said the reported 20% increase in salary growth comes from benefit cuts, especially cuts to retirement. Mullins said that is not true, but it is not as negative. He said there are no budgetary issues due to medical expenses. Brown asked about retirement fund changes. Mullins said the numbers shown are total contributions from the university into retirement funds of employees and includes Fidelity. Total benefits have dropped substantially. Overall, we are spending more dollars on faculty, but that can be attributed to the fact we have more faculty and not fewer highly compensated faculty. In fact, the average salary per instructor has decreased 10%. Wood said that by replacing older faculty with younger faculty we should expect to see that number go up over time as employees get promotions and raises. Mullins affirmed that expectation, but stressed that salary compression is a significant factor for senior employees and contradicts such assumptions.

Institutional costs are another place where the money is going. In the past ten years Michigan Tech has added to long term debt increasing from $17 million to over $85 million. Principle and interest for outstanding debt totals $135 million or $5 to 6 million per year up from approximately $1 million per year. In that same time Michigan Tech has added 907, 000 sq ft. Academic support has increased by almost $5 million in the past seven years. Another line of evidence faculty are not getting the money from tuition increases. Note the $32 to $16 million decrease in institutional support. The costs didn’t go away, but were spread around to other areas, such as student services and non-academic institutional support.

Research expenditures, when classified as external and internal, show increases from $22 million (external) and $7 million (internal) in 2002, to $38 million (external) and $33 million (internal) in 2013. Some of this increase can be attributed to part of our salaries being reclassified from instruction to research. Also, IRAD spending counts towards internal expenditure, which means the same money is being counted a second time. Internal expenditures do not represent new money coming from outside and consequently are not really helping with our overall budgetary issues.

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) indicates a composite financial index (CFI) for the university of 1.1 for FY2012. For reference, a CFI below 1.1 indicates significant financial challenges and a CFI below 0.9 triggers a review by the HLC. In FY2012, Michigan Tech was spending more that we were taking in. Vable asked what happened that caused Michigan Tech to go from a 1.1 to a 1.8 CFI. Mullins said big cuts in fringe benefits and undergraduate tuition increases. Seel said that 2012 was when the state cut 17% from their appropriations to Michigan Tech. The increase in our financial index rating is due to the fact there wasn’t a similar cut in state appropriations last year. Mullins said one path out of financial difficulty is endowments. Peer institutions are in $200 million range for their endowments. Waddell said data from Mullins’ first slide showed increases in the overall costs, respectively, of faculty and administration, not increases in the salaries of individual faculty and administrators. Mullins affirmed this, but the article was written in a fashion that made it appear as if faculty were getting raises. Waddell said that some have suggested that students graduating with higher debt is acceptable because of the higher starting salaries of Tech graduates; he noted, however, that mid-career salaries for Tech graduates are not as good and suggested that the university try to determine why this is the case. Mullins said we are in the top 10 for student debt. Waddell said that Mullins had noted a decline in spending for healthcare benefits and asked how much of that decline was attributable to the discount the university received when changing from Aetna to Blue Cross Blue Shield. Mullins said that after the discounts with Aetna lapsed, the university switched to BCBS, which has greater bargaining power with healthcare providers and, hence, was able to offer a significant discount. Waddell asked about Mullins’ slide on internal funding of research. He said that he has asked about this before and the response has consistently been a straw man argument, twisting the question into something that it was not. He said that his question was about a sustainable funding model for research, not an argument against research. He said that the vision 2035 proportionally reduces undergraduate programs while growing graduate programs and research. If internal funding of research is being paid, in part, by undergraduate tuition and fees, then this model might not be sustainable. Waddell cited an NSF study that indicated that, nationally, 1/5 of total research expenditures are funded internally, and that this has an impact on undergraduate tuition and fees. Mullins noted indirect subsidies to research also account for some of this money. He added that peers charge more per graduate tuition credit than us. Waddell said the NSF data shows a national average of 19% versus Michigan Tech, which is at 46% internal funding of research, which he said has been explained by Michigan Tech accounting for research expenditures differently than most other institutions. Mullins agreed and said that the Chronicle of Higher Education has commented on Tech’s unusually high reporting on Tech’s internal funding of research. Waddell said that the Chronicle article indicated that some universities are attempting to inflate their research status by increasing internal of research. Mullins agreed and said it is virtual money. Seel said internal funding in part comes from allocation of faculty time, which is comprised of 40% research, 40% teaching, 20% service, meaning that salary is reported as internal research support. Waddell asked Seel is he would agree that research costs more then it brings in and, based on the NSF report, if he would agree that at least part of the difference is coming from undergraduate tuition and fees. Seel said the cheapest way to educate would be at a community college and faculty would teach four classes. But a research university is more expensive. Waddell said that Seel had again turned his question into something that it was not: it was not an argument against research, but a question about whether the current model or funding research—including proportionally reducing undergraduate programs that might be helping to fund research—is sustainable.  

7. Old Business
a. Proposal 2-14: “Proposal to Modify Senate Procedures 506.1.1: Evaluation Procedures for Department Chairs and School Deans”
Vable, institutional policy committee, pointed out final language modifications and the rationale for each change. Scarlett moved; Woods seconded to add the language. Helsel asked to postpone the vote until next meeting. Barkdall said that can be raised after consideration of the current motion that has been seconded. Helsel asked to define the word ‘normally’. Seel said a dean or chair serves at the pleasure of the president and consequently the faculty cannot vote out a chair or dean. He agreed it would be exceptional circumstances to overrule a faculty vote, but it can happen and there needs to be a means to address even rare circumstances. Beck asked the number of incidents of a faculty vote for a chair not taken under consideration. Seel said he could not recall any cases. Nooshabadi said if the event in question is so infrequent why even change the language. Helsel said she understands the need to permit administration to deal with rare situations, but we need to ensure the faculty are empowered. Riehl expressed a similar concern about adding the word ‘normally’. Waddell asked if the administration would only support this if we made this change. Barkdoll suggested that was the case. Scarlett asked if this is a new policy or one is in place. Seel highlighted the distinction between the current and amended policy. Vable said this policy addresses a contradictory statement. Snyder said a current policy exists and Vable is making recommendations to amend the existing policy. Discussion ended. Barkdoll called for a voice vote. The amendment passed with a majority vote. Vable proceeded to discuss the language change to adapt the reappointment process to act as feedback. Feedback is not being provided to chairs and deans on an annual basis. The new proposal does not include the wording addressing feedback but leaves that to a future proposal. Scarlett asked for the committee recommendation. Vable said the committee recommendation is to make no changes to this section. Helsel motioned to postpone the vote to the next senate meeting. Scarlett seconded. Waddell asked if there was harm waiting two weeks. Scarlett repeated. Vable asked the reason. Helsel said her faculty needs to have time to review the modified proposal. Discussion ended. Barkdoll called for a voice vote. The motion to delay voting on this proposal passed with a unanimous vote.

b. Proposal 23-14: “Proposal to Establish Michigan Technological University’s Copyright Policy Regarding Scholarly, Academic, and Artistic Works”
This proposal was postponed from the last senate meeting. No discussion. Barkdoll called for a voice vote. The proposal passed with a majority vote.

c. Proposal 27-14: “Proposal to Revise the General Education Program”
Walck read a friendly amendment to the proposal. Scarlett asked about Item 14, the section detailing program review. Where does the number 1250 [referring to providing enough sections to accommodate 1250 students] come from and what will the decision making process regarding a ‘sufficient number of courses’ be. Walck said we must ensure enough courses so students have the opportunity to fulfill requirements. Scarlett asked who pays for these offerings. Walck said the provost. It is difficult to predict the number of seats needed or when or where students will take a course. Consequently, 1250 is best guess. Scarlett asked the rationale for deleting classes from the approved list of general education. Walck said they don’t want enormous list of courses not offered. Seel said we need some assurance that the course will be offered. Walck said they shouldn’t approve courses that are rarely offered. Hungwe asked what the petition process would be to have prerequisites for general education courses included. Walck didn’t know a priori and wanted a self-contained general education program and not have multiple pre-requisites. That is a program specific course and not a general education course. Hungwe noted the sequential nature of courses and that high level courses need prerequisites. Walck said there isn’t room for courses with prerequisites. This is best left for majors, minors or certifications, but not general education courses which are limited to 12 credits.

Scarlett approached the podium to discuss several textual edits provided by his constituents. Regarding ‘new course review’, when proposing a new course an instructor are asked to provide statement of learning goal, how it will be achieved and a specific assignment. This seems unnecessary as the aforementioned statement of learning goals addresses the issue. Seel said assessment needs to be in there. Scarlett said assessment is already in there. Walck said the vetting process for new courses is to provide the learning goals and assessment criteria. Specifically, they request an assignment which is used for the assessment process. Scarlett motioned to modify the text to avoid the redundancy. Waddell suggested changing ‘can’ to ‘might’ so including an example assignment is optional. Walck warned that such a change might prevent it from getting has approval. She wants student work for assessment. Vable said all you want is evidence, let faculty decide on what constitutes that evidence. Walck said it comes in the form of an assignment. Snyder suggested ‘examples of assignments that could be used to assess the goal’. Mullins seconded this change in wording provided by Scarlett. Snyder said it is a difference of stating the goal versus how it will be achieved. Scarlett failed to see how that changes the requirement in question. Snyder said this removes the ability to assess. Scarlett said the assignment is how the goal is achieved, which is already addressed by the requirement to describe how the goal will be achieved. This is redundant. Walck said the crafting of an assignment that allows students to demonstrate their knowledge. Vable suggested a friendly amendment to add a statement with evidence. This leaves the faculty to decide on what that evidence is. The friendly amendment was accepted with the motion on the floor. Jascsak said what constitutes evidence will need to be clear to help the process. Walton said the distinction seems to be with what we will assess versus how we will assess. Walck said as long as faculty understand what they need to submit student assignments as evidence for assessment she supports the change in text. Seel said we must have a means of assessment as required by HLC for accreditation. Barkdoll called for a vote for the amended text as provided by Scarlett. The amended text was approved with a majority vote.

Scarlett moved to make another textual change that is required to be consistent with the modification just passed. Mullins seconded. Scarlett said that Section 3.c. is redundant as the amended text already defines what is needed for a new HASS course. Walck said as long as it understood that student work will be needed for assessment. Barkdoll called for a vote for the amended text as provided by Scarlett. The amended text was approvedwith a majority vote.

Scarlett moved to make a final textual change to Section 1.3.1 “Proposed Changes to HASS”. His constituents were confused why they couldn’t offer a communications-linked course at a 3000-level. Walck said because MTA requires a second course in composition or communication. This does not refer to a learning goal but a course taught in that field. She said an expertise in this specific area is required. Scarlett said they have people in Social Sciences with these credentials and wondered why they could not teach a composition or communication HASS course. Walck said you could teach such courses for your majors, but not for general education. Scarlett asked if it would harm students to take such a course. He said it was as if they are being precluded from teaching a subject area and restricting options based on the merits of the course and instructor. Walck said the MTA requires us to offer a second composition course and that is not normally a course taught in a different discipline. Riehl asked what makes a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) more capable to teach composition than a tenured social scientist with decades of experience. Walck said it is about the MTA requirements and not learning goals in this case. Seel said it needs faculty that has credentials consistent with composition or communication and open to all students. Walck said not just credentials but the course is specifically in composition or communication. Seel said the proposal doesn’t say that the faculty can’t be in social sciences it is an expertise so the course is viewed as a composition or communication course not a course with composition or communication in it. Scarlett asked for a definition of a composition or communication faculty. Walck said that the purpose of the language was to assure that Michigan Transfer Agreement obligations would be met for a second composition course. She said there were no statutory descriptions of what qualified someone to be a communication or composition instructor. Waddell said that in the West, instruction in oral and written communication is a 2,400-year-old tradition.  He said that being an accomplished science writer is not the same as being trained in the teaching of writing.  Barkdoll called for a vote for the amended text as provided by Scarlett. The amended text was not approved by a majority vote. Barkdoll called for a vote for the amended proposal. The amended proposal was approved by unanimous vote.

d. Proposal 28-14: “Academic Calendar 2015-16 and Provisional Calendar 2016-17”
No discussion. Barkdoll called for a voice vote. The proposal passed with a unanimous vote.

8. New Business
a. Proposal 29-14: Required Oral Examination Attempts”
Carn, Instructional Policy Committee, says this addresses the issue of student requests for second oral exam. Storer said the graduate faculty council supports this. No current policy that gives students another opportunity to make a request for a second oral examination.

b. Proposal 30-14: “Amendment to Academic Suspension and Dismissal Policy”
Carn, Instructional Policy Committee, said the current Academic Suspension and Dismissal policy does not include the possibility of suspension when a student earns a GPA of 0.0 in one term while carrying 12 or more credits. Currently, a student in this situation will be placed on academic probation. Gorman defined how suspension occurs if occurring in spring. This proposal is documenting current practice. Mullins asked if summer counts as a semester for the purposes of the suspension. Gorman said summer doesn’t count as a semester off. Mullins asked if this is tied to the appeal policy. Gorman affirmed. Mullins asked how they appeal. Gorman said it isn’t written in this policy but it is detailed in the dean of student website. Snyder suggested some details be made available regarding the appeals process.

c. Proposal 31-14: “Proposal to Amend Senate Policy 701.3: Non Faculty Academic Appointments”
Carn, Instructional Policy Committee, said the proposed changes to the policy on Postdoctoral Research Fellow appointments will make Michigan Tech’s appointment policy consistent with national practice. Seel said it also allows Postdoctoral Research Fellows to be treated as fixed term employees eligible for limited benefits (like HuskyCare PPO and 6 days sick leave per 12 months). A limit of 6 years on Postdoctoral Research Fellow appointments is designed to encourage postdocs to progress in their academic careers. Beck asked what would happen if funding runs out mid-year. Seel said one year of funding is required to even hire a postdoc, but exceptions are made periodically.

d. Proposal 32-14: “Notification Time for Changes in Fringe Benefits and Questions for Healthcare Insurance Consultants”
Waddell, Fringe Benefits Committee, reminded the Senate that at our last meeting-at the recommendation of both the FBC and the Senate’s Executive Committee-the Senate voted down the administration-amended version of Proposal 7-14, at which point the FBC proposed addressing individual items from the original, senate-approved proposal. This new proposal retains the 30 day notification of benefits changes prior to open enrollment with the exception of retirement benefits, for which the administration should provide 12-months notice. The proposal also details the means by which the Senate may provide questions to healthcare consultants hired by the administration.

e. Proposal 33-14: “Proposal to Shelve Contemporary Culture Concentration in the CCM Program”
No discussion.

f. Proposal 34-14: “Proposal to Shelve Media Concentration in the CCM Program”
No discussion.

g. Proposal 35-14: “Proposal to Shelve Language and Diversity Concentration in the CCM Program”
Snyder asked how many programs are in this unit. Seel said consolidation of concentrations.

9. Report from the Senate President
Barkdoll said the elections committee is still looking for candidates for next years open positions. He also reminded everyone that an IT committee is being put together. Seel said the senate should be represented in IT decisions that impact the university. Beck commented on the IT survey. He felt problems should be identified before the survey is given. Seel said Milligan was working with survey specialists. Scarlett said his colleagues were among the group of survey specialists and their recommendations were not followed.

10. Reports from Senate Standing Committees
Academic Policy Committee. None.

Administrative Policy Committee. Vable said the president’s evaluation will be presented at the next senate meeting.

Curricular Policy Committee. None

Elections Committee. Riehl requested senators find nominees for open positions.

Finance Committee. None.

Fringe Benefits Committee. None.

Institutional Planning Committee. None.

Instructional Policy Committee. None.

Professional Staff Policy Committee. None.

Research Policy Committee. None.

11. Adjournment.  
President Barkdoll adjourned the meeting at 7:56pm


Respectfully submitted
by Marty Thompson
Secretary of the University Senate