The University of Oklahoma (Norman campus)
Regular session – February 12, 2007 – 3:30 p.m. – Jacobson Faculty Hall 102
office: Jacobson Faculty Hall 206   phone: 325-6789
e-mail:   web site:


The Faculty Senate was called to order by Professor Roger Frech, Chair.


PRESENT:       Albert, Badhwar, Basic, D. Bemben, M. Bemben, Biggerstaff, Blank, Bradford, Brown, Brule, Civan, Cramer, Croft, Elisens, Fincke, Forman, Franklin, Frech, Gade, Ge, Greene, Gutierrez, Houser, James, Keppel, Knapp, Kolar, Kutner, Lai, Lester, Livesey, Magnusson, Miranda, Riggs, Scamehorn, Schwarzkopf, Skeeters, Strawn, Thulasiraman, Trytten, Vitt, Warnken, Weaver, Wei, Wyckoff

Provost's office representative:  Mergler
ISA representatives:  Cook

ABSENT:         Benson, Draheim, Hamerla, Marcus-Mendoza, Raadschelders, Rambo, Roche, Tan





Announcement:  Committee nominations

Big Event

Senate Chair’s Report:


Library serials review task force

Health benefits

Science statement

Faculty Senate reapportionment

Grading scale






The Faculty Senate Journal for the regular session of January 22, 2007 was approved.





The call for volunteers for councils, committees, and boards was sent to faculty, chairs/directors, and deans on February 2.  Nominations are due to the Faculty Senate office by March 7.  Prof. Bradford, Chair of the Senate’s Committee on Committees, thanked the group for volunteering to serve on the Faculty Senate and said that without faculty service, departments and colleges of the university could not be run.  He asked the senators to volunteer to serve on a committee if they were not already on a committee.  He said, “If you don’t call us, I may call you.” 





Ms. Amanda Holloway said faculty service and the volunteer effort at this university are vital to the success of classes as well as the university as a whole.  The Big Event, which is a student-run initiative and will be held on April 14, is the university’s official day of community service.  About 4000-5000 volunteers are placed at various sites in the metro area.  Ms. Holloway distributed a handout describing the Big Event and an application to be a volunteer (available from the Senate office).  Volunteers are placed at sites that match their interests.  Over 120 sites and 3000 spaces still need to be filled.  Applications should be turned in by March 16.  Faculty can volunteer as an individual or put together a group.  (See 



SENATE CHAIR'S REPORT, by Prof. Roger Frech


“E-mail Spam.

At the January Senate meeting, the problem of spam was discussed.  During the discussion, the difficulties of accessing information about spam filters were noted by several senators.  I met with Nicholas Key, who is the IT Program Coordinator.  The short term solution is to go to the link and either search for help under ‘spam’ or ‘spam filter,’ or select the subject link of interest.  In the long term, this is not a satisfactory solution.  OU receives about five million messages a day, of which 90 percent are spam.  The amount of spam has tripled since fall 2005.  The spam filters unambiguously identify 75 percent of all messages received as spam and reject these.  The remaining messages are delivered, each with a different spam score.  The problem is if a lower spam score is set as a cutoff, it is less likely that the spam filter will reject valid messages, but more spam gets through.  There are a number of substantial changes that are currently under consideration, but IT perceives the need to do a better job of communicating with faculty and staff.  We discussed the need for IT to provide information to faculty and staff about possible changes and options and to receive feedback.  We will begin this process with a presentation to the Faculty Senate this spring by IT personnel.  They will talk about the kinds of options they should consider and get input on how much control and the nature of control individuals wish to have as well as how to make necessary information easily accessible and transparent to system users.


“Library Serials Review Task Force.

The library serials review task force has been appointed and is beginning its work.  The chair is Prof. LeRoy Blank.  I will send you a copy of the charge and the list of members.  Comments, concerns, and questions can be directed to the task force.


“Health benefits.

A white paper containing the charge to the Health Care Study Panel, the structure of the panel and the membership of the Steering Committee has been distributed to you by email this morning.  The strategy for developing a comprehensive health care benefit plan is now being done in a very different manner than previously.  Prof. Bob Dauffenbach, a member of the Steering Committee, will briefly outline this strategy.  In the March meeting of the Senate, Mr. Julius Hilburn, director of Human Resources, will also discuss this new development.”


Prof. Dauffenbach said he had been on the Faculty Welfare Committee for four years and had served as chair for three years.  He said, “Health care has been a ‘90 mile per hour train wreck’ waiting to happen.  It has now happened.”  Last year, the Faculty Welfare Committee gathered faculty and staff opinion through a survey.  That yielded a lot of responses and lengthy comments.  Prof. Dauffenbach and others have been concerned   the Employment Benefits Committee is informed and advised about health care directions.  The document given to senators -- (attached) -- includes an appendix listing several questions that need to be addressed.  He said it was time to explore our options, become personally accountable, and find out what is structurally wrong.  Family care is so expensive that individuals are opting out of the OU system, which leads to higher costs.  It is time to make investments in health care information.  The study is about finding ways to become more sophisticated consumers of health care.  A steering committee has been appointed by President Boren.  OUHSC has a health policy division that can provide support.  Subcommittees will include people who would be affected by any changes in options.  The new consultant specializes in university benefits consulting and will help uncover the nature of our problems and sources of our difficulties.  Robust communication is a central feature, and the obligation of the Steering Committee is to involve users in the process.  The study has both short-term and long-term components.  The short-term question is who will insure us next year.  Prof. Dauffenbach said, “We are all in this together, and it is up to us within the constraints of the health care system to try to figure out how we can effect a change.”





(See 9/06, 10/06, 12/06 and 1/07 Senate Journals for previous discussions.)  At the last meeting, Prof. Frech asked a small group of senators to draft a statement on science that would focus on the scientific process.  The proposed statement -- (attached) -- contains portions of the Zoology statement on evolution, which was supported by the Senate in October 2006. 


Prof. Fincke moved to amend the document to include two sentences at the end of the third paragraph:

Because science is the fundamental way in which we gain knowledge about the natural world, it is critically important that we strengthen science education at all levels.  This is particularly true given the compelling scientific evidence for global climate change and the profound economic, social, and political ramifications that climate change will have for societies worldwide.

She said she had taken it from a revision proposed by Prof. Weaver.  Prof. Frech explained that a number of scientists on campus had contributed to the drafting of the statement. 


Prof. Albert said the first sentence was similar to what was said later.  He moved to strike the second sentence of the last paragraph: 

In an expanding global economy that is increasingly driven by science and technology, it is essential that our children receive a first-class science education. 

Prof. Fincke said she thought it would be all right to remove the sentence.  She agreed that it was redundant. 


The motion to add the two sentences to paragraph three was approved on a voice vote, with one abstention.  The motion to delete the second sentence of the last paragraph was approved on a voice vote.  The Senate approved the document as amended -- (attached) -- on a voice vote, with one abstention. 





The recommended apportionment of the Faculty Senate for 2007-10 was discussed at January’s meeting.  With no further discussion, the Senate approved the recommended apportionment on a voice vote.  (See 1/07 Senate Journal and for the report and for the recommended allocation.)





For background information, see 11/06 Senate Journal and (attached).  Prof. Frech thanked the grading scale task force for doing an extraordinary job.  The task force gathered information and data from a wide variety of sources and obtained and responded to input from faculty, students, and administrators.  The members identified the key issues and separated real pros and cons from perceived pros and cons.  The report includes a set of recommendations with rationale, detailed process for implementation, and a realistic time frame.  Members of the task force were present to assist in the discussion.  Formal action will not be taken until the March meeting at the earliest.


Prof. Biggerstaff said two main points were brought up by the Meteorology faculty.  Faculty members do not have to use pluses and minuses if they do not like that system.  Another point was a suggestion to report the numerical average and eliminate letter grades altogether since it is sometimes hard to distinguish the distribution of grades so finely.  Prof. Badhwar commented that using numbers would make a finer distinction.  Prof. Biggerstaff said the professor would not have to make the decision about where the division would be; s/he would simply report the numeric grade.  Prof. Badhwar said she thought it would be harder to decide whether a paper was worth 89 or 88 points than an A or B.  Prof. Mike McInerney (Botany & Microbiology), a member of the task force, said not many universities use a strict numeric basis.  Prof. Joe Rodgers (Psychology), chair of the task force, said the task force tried to keep the behavior of faculty in class separate from what happens in the Academic Records office when the grades are filed.  The charge to the task force was to count how the grades points would be stored and compiled at the university level.  The members tried to avoid telling any professor how to manage his/her class.  The Meteorology proposal might try to standardize across the individual class how professors would compute class performance. 


Prof. Bemben said his department wondered how a B- would affect graduate students who need a 3.0 to be in good standing.  Prof. Rodgers said that would probably be up to the individual program or the college to administer.  They might decide that a B- would still be good standing.  One reason for not including a C- was the fuzziness in the status at the undergraduate level.  A lot more students are involved in the issue of the C and C- at the undergraduate level.  Prof. Frech said he wondered if the previous recommendations for an expanded scale could provide some illumination.


Prof. Trytten said it might be a good time to ask whether this kind of change was really wise.  Changing a system like this will involve a tremendous number of details.  The really compelling benefit seems to be missing.  Is the student learning more or better, and are we giving the outside world a better indication of the qualities and abilities of our students?  Prof. Frech noted that this meeting would be one of the few opportunities when the faculty would have a voice on this issue, and he encouraged the senators to make suggestions.


Prof. Schwarzkopf said he liked the minimal expansion that was recommended.  At the graduate level, only As or Bs are passing grades.  With the proposal, we would have four passing grades.  Currently B- grades are not transferable to OU for graduate students.  For undergraduates, there are only three passing grades: A, B, and C.  This is an opportunity for professors to send better messages to their students.


Prof. Bemben said the Health & Exercise Science faculty supported the recommendation and liked having more division.  However, they pointed out that there was no advantage to an A+.  There would be no room for adding to the scale at the high end, but the low end would be penalized.  Prof. Frech said the task force had made a number of points about the inadvisability of an A+.  Prof. Rodgers commented that the main issue with the A+ is it would be inconsistent with the state regents’ policy.  In fact, the status of the plus/minus system would need to be discussed with the state regents.  Prof. Bemben said the Senate had talked about A+ options in November.  Prof. Rodgers said the task force listened to the opinions expressed by the Senate, studied hundreds of other systems, and came to its best conclusion.  The recommendation is a typical type of grading approach at schools that have a plus/minus system.  A silent A+ would mean something within the classroom but would not be recorded in the system.  This seemed to be the simplest way to implement the A+ yet not be in violation of the regents’ policy.


Prof. Trytten said the IT details involved in changing the system would be substantial.  She asked if this was the most important issue to put before the regents, or if there was something else that would mean more to our students or to our constituents.  Prof. Rodgers responded that approximately 70 percent of the units that sent information back said they were interested in having plus/minus grading.  That is why the task force decided it was an important thing to do.  Prof. James noted that 30 units had responded to the survey.  He asked how many units were polled.  Ms. Cheryl Jorgenson (Institutional Research), a member of the task force, said the survey was sent to approximately 100 academic units. 


Prof. Keppel said he was in favor of the proposal because he could educate students as to distinctions between various types of work that they do.  He could also make distinctions in terms of professional expectations of students at the graduate level.  He suggested that an expanded scale was more urgently needed at the graduate level. 


Prof. Livesey said the report indicated that the number of 4.0 students was likely to go down.  He asked how many 4.0 students we have and how different we are from other universities that have employed plus/minus grading systems.  He questioned the effect the expanded grading would have on the award of NSF graduate fellowships and the like.  Provost Mergler said she would estimate that about 50 students graduate with a 4.0.  Prof. McInerney said the task force did not have data on whether a 3.95, as opposed to a 4.0, would influence an NSF fellowship; however, students are concerned about the impact on some very competitive fellowships.  Prof. Livesey there might be ways to allay those concerns.  Prof. McInerney pointed out that we could see what happens as the grading scale is implemented and fix any problems.  Prof. Louis Ederington (Finance), a member of the task force, said a number of schools had done studies, and none had mentioned that issue explicitly.  Most likely, there would not be much impact. 


Prof. Livesey noted that the plan was to phase in the grading system over a period of years.  Initially, students would see the plus and minus grades, but the pluses and minuses would not be used to calculate GPAs.  The report suggests that the process will incur some cost to Academic Records.  He asked whether it will be possible for faculty to automatically move the grades from D2L or other software into the Academic Records system and if so, why that would not be cost neutral.  Mr. Rick Skeel, Academic Records director and member of the task force, said his office has wanted to move away from manually entering grades.  The system should never drive the policy.  It is not clear yet if the grading system will automatically take grades from a course management system or whether we will have a web-based grading process.  He would like to give faculty members the responsibility of loading their own grades.  There will be a cost to move to a new student information system.  There could be additional short-term cost for expanded grading, depending on where we are in the transition and when we make some of the phased-in changes. 


Prof. Frech remarked that this issue will be an action item for the March meeting.  He complimented the task force on a remarkable, through job.





The meeting adjourned at 4:30 p.m.  The next regular session of the Faculty Senate will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, March 12, 2007, in Jacobson Faculty Hall 102.


Sonya Fallgatter, Administrative Coordinator


Cecelia Brown, Secretary