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Following are the minutes of the regular Faculty Council meeting of May 7, 2007.

Greninger Signature
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The General Faculty


The ninth regular meeting of the Faculty Council for the academic year 2006-2007 was held in the Main Building, Room 212, Monday, May 7, 2007, at 2:48 p.m.

Present: Urton L. Anderson, Judy Copeland Ashcroft, Lisa M. Bedore, Christopher J. Bell, Susan N. Beretvas, Douglas C. Burger, Virginia G. Burnett, Linda J. Carpenter, Lisa J. Cary, Miles Lynn Crismon, Gustavo A. De Veciana, Diana M. DiNitto, John S. Dzienkowski, Linda Ferreira-Buckley, Amy D. Forestell, Luis Francisco-Revilla, Jeanne H. Freeland-Graves, Linda L. Golden, Michael H. Granof, Sue A. Greninger, Ian F. Hancock, James L. Hill, Martha F. Hilley, David M. Hillis, Lori K. Holleran, David Justin, Klaus O. Kalthoff, Robert C. Koons, Desiderio Kovar, Nancy P. Kwallek, Desmond F. Lawler, Steven W. Leslie, Raul L. Madrid, Julia Mickenberg, John H. Murphy, Kate Nanney, Patricia C. Ohlendorf, Jon E. Olson, Alba A. Ortiz, Cynthia Osborne, Elizabeth C. Pomeroy, William C. Powers, Kenneth M. Ralls, John H. Richburg, Peter J. Riley, Gretchen Ritter, Brian E. Roberts, Juan M. Sanchez, Christine E. Schmidt, Janet Staiger, Vincent S. (Shelby) Stanfield, Janice S. Todd, Jeffrey Vaaler, Sharon L. Wood, Patrick Woolley.

Absent:Kamran Ali, Efraim P. Armendariz (excused), Eric J. Barron, Randy Bomer, Gary D. Borich, Marcus S. Ceniceros, Patricia L. Clubb, Penelope Davies (excused), Douglas J. Dempster, Randy L. Diehl (excused), Andrew P. Dillon, Richard B. Eason, Stanislav Emelianov, Miriam R. Estrin, Sherry L. Field, George W. Gau, Linda V. Gerber (excused), Oscar Gonzalez, Juan C. González, Edmund (Ted) Gordon, Bretna M. Hackert, Charles R. Hale, Donald A. Hale, Kenneth J. Hale (excused), Roderick P. Hart, Fred M. Heath, Kevin P. Hegarty, Troy L. Johnson, Manuel J. Justiz (excused), Karrol A. Kitt (excused), Dominic L. Lasorsa (excused), Wayne Lesser, William S. Livingston, Karl H. Miller, Joan A. Mullin (excused), Melissa L. Olive, J. Patrick Olivelle, Yolanda C. Padilla, Thomas G. Palaima (excused), Randall M. Parker (excused), Shirley Bird Perry, Mary Ann R. Rankin, Soncia R. Reagins-Lilly, Wayne A. Rebhorn, Victoria Rodriguez, Danielle R. Rugoff, Bonnie P. Rust, Lawrence Sager, Dolores Sands, Berkley B. Scroggins, Paul R. Shapiro (excused), James Steinberg, Frederick R. Steiner, Ben G. Streetman, Gregory J. Vincent, Jeffrey Walker (excused), N. Bruce Walker, John M. Weinstock, Barbara W. White, Stacy Wolf (excused), Paul B. Woodruff.

Voting Members: 46 present, 32 absent, 78 total.
Non-Voting Members: 9 present, 29 absent, 38 total.
Total Members: 55 present, 61 absent, 116 total.



The written report appears in D 5363-5369. Secretary Sue Greninger updated the written report by saying a letter from President Powers’ deputy, Charles Roeckle, had been received after the written report was posted. The letter indicated that the following three items had been forwarded from the president’s office to Provost Steve Leslie for his recommendations: D 5314-5315, D 5319, and D 5320-5321.


Minutes of the Faculty Council meeting of April 16, 2007, (D 5375-5389) were approved by voice vote.


Comments by the President.

President Powers welcomed the 2007-2008 Council members and congratulated the 2006-2007 members for their service to the University. He emphasized the importance of faculty governance in discussing and developing a consensus about the direction and priorities of the University. He said he had met with the deans earlier in the day where he had discussed ways to secure input from various groups across campus during the early “architectural” part of the decision-making process rather than at the end of the process. He said the deans had been receptive to the idea, and he thought it would be productive to include the Council along with other groups in this shared planning experience.

President Powers thanked Chair Linda Golden (marketing) for her “marvelous” leadership during the past year. He complimented her on her dedication to the University and especially for her competence in moving the curricular reform measures along with “grace and good cheer.” Although many people and groups had helped with curricular reform, President Powers said Chair Golden and the Faculty Council leadership had played significant and important roles in shaping and shepherding the proposed changes through the legislative process. He said he had been blessed that Professor Alba Ortiz (special education) was leading the Council when he became president, and he said he had enjoyed working thus far with Chair Elect Doug Burger (computer sciences). President Powers said the presentations by the chair elect candidates for 2007-08, Professors David Hillis (integrative biology) and Robert Koons (philosophy), convinced him that either of the two would provide great leadership for the Council in the future.

President Powers said Provost Leslie had approved the new faculty grievance legislation regarding tenure decisions, and the legislation should have no problem securing final approval. He recognized Professors Janet Staiger (RTF), Alba Ortiz, Mary Steinhardt (kinesiology and health education), and Alan Friedman (English) for their contributions in developing the grievance legislation and thanked Council members for their patience during the long, difficult process.

With regard to the legislative session, President Powers said the Texas House of Representatives and Senate had both passed their respective budgets, and a conference committee was now meeting to reconcile the differences in the two bills. He said he was still “cautiously optimistic” that there would be some positive items in the final budget even though UT Austin would not get all that had been requested. Saying tuition deregulation was still under discussion at the legislature, President Powers indicated that continuing flexibility was of major importance for the University to adequately support its faculty and students and to improve its student-faculty ratio. Although there had been no bills formally introduced regarding this issue, he said legislation could be added through amendments to other bills.


President Powers said UT Austin now has 71% of its Texas students admitted under the top 10% rule, and the percentage is expected to continue its upward trajectory. As a result, he said a proposal to cap top 10%-based enrollment at 50% of the entering freshman class had become a high priority. Since only about a quarter of the students admitted under the top 10% rule were Mexican or African American, he thought flexibility for admissions was greatly needed for achieving increased diversity across campus. President Powers said a Senate proposal would allow UT Austin to take half of the entering freshman class under the top 10% rule by counting down from the top 1% followed by the top 2% and so forth until half of the slots were filled. Another 10% of the freshman class would come from top 10% students, but the selection of this group would be based on factors other than class rank. He said he would not be surprised if 65-75% of the incoming freshman class would be in the top 10% of their graduating classes. President Powers said the bill leaves control of admissions policy in the legislature; however, he said he thought the bill offered a workable compromise and would be generally beneficial to the University. He said the University is not supportive, however, of the bill’s eight-year sunset provision because of the element of uncertainty it imposes. President Powers said there was agreement between legislators and the campus community that increased diversity was an important goal, and he thought a divisive vote on the bill would be adverse to the University’s interests. In addition, the Senate bill provides $4 million per year over the next biennium for scholarships, which the president favored. Regarding Senator Ogden’s amendment that would provide scholarships to all top 10% students, President Powers explained that the first provision was to waive the statutory tuition, which amounted to about $1,500 per student. The complexity in this was that the money would be funded and distributed by the legislature, but then the University would have to give back the statutory tuition based on formula funding. Although this could bring some money to campus, President Powers cautioned that this provision might not be included in the House version of the bill.

Questions to the President — None.

Questions from the President — None.


Chair Linda Golden asked the student members of the Council to introduce themselves and identify their specific leadership roles. Ms. Kate Nanney (Plan II and 2006-07 Senate of College Councils’ chair) introduced herself and then introduced the Senate’s incoming chair, Mr. Stephen Meyers (government), and policy director, Mr. Reid Long (Plan II and chemistry). Ms. Amy Forestell (astronomy and 2006-07 Graduate Student Assembly’s president) introduced the Assembly’s incoming president, Mr. Brian Gatten (English), and informed the Council that Mr. Travis Witherspoon (energy and earth resources), who was unable to attend the meeting, would be serving as the organization’s vice president for internal affairs.

Chair Golden thanked and presented gifts to the audio technician for his helpful assistance in recording Council meetings and to Debbie Roberts, Jenny Morgan, and Sue Greninger for their behind-the-scenes work for the Faculty Council and General Faculty. She also recognized all of the members of the Faculty Council Executive Committee and thanked them for their dedication and excellent work during the past year. After expressing gratitude to Faculty Council members for their support and active participation, Chair Golden recapped the year’s major accomplishments, emphasizing the passage and on-going development of undergraduate curricular reforms. She noted that there would be considerable work for next year’s Council to review and approve all of the resulting proposed catalog changes from colleges and schools. She also noted the following important 2006-07 Council activities and achievements: (1) modifications of the statements and functions of General Faculty Standing Committees; (2) clarification and notification to the faculty regarding different policies with regard to written student comments when submitted via the electronic Course Instructor Survey (eCIS) and the regular in-class survey; (3) acceptance and implementation by the administration of suggestions from the Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility regarding promotion and tenure policies and procedures; (4) availability of for faculty use in September 2007; (5)


  increased interaction between Faculty Council, Graduate Assembly members, and administrators through breakfast meetings; and (6) incorporation of survey results from Council members about University priorities, problems, and policies into discussions and interactions with administrators. After recognizing the work of the ad hoc Committee on Salary Compression, Chair Golden announced she had sent a written letter to Professor Martha Hilley (music and Faculty Welfare Committee chair) requesting that her committee work with the Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets to investigate the issue of salary compression at UT Austin and related issues impacting this matter, such as gender equity. According to Chair Golden, the charge asks that the Faculty Welfare Committee take primary responsibility for initiating the investigation, coordinating its outcome, and reporting the findings and specific recommendations of both committees to the Faculty Council Executive Committee by December 1, 2007.

Chair Golden commented that her participation in UT Remembers had provided her an opportunity to reflect upon the importance of both internal and external connections here at the University. She said the experience resulted in her thinking anew that “one of the obligations that we have as a university community is to reach out to those people around us.” She said the service activities of faculty members to the University, such as through committee work, and of the University to the broader community and state are important contributions that are largely provided on a voluntary basis. After suggesting the Council might address this issue in the future, she said donating time in service is something “we do because we care about The University of Texas and we also care about the state.” She noted that the retired faculty provided a tremendous human resource pool that might be matched up with public educational needs facing the state. She thought a way of helping the retirees to connect with one another and focus on some of these public service needs might be to provide them with a room in the Texas Union or some other place where they could come and “feel at home still in this University.” She ended by asking members to reflect on how the Faculty Council might facilitate the development of such connections.


Chair Elect Doug Burger thanked Chair Golden for her comments and agreed that UT retirees were a valuable and experienced talent pool. He said he thought discussions regarding this resource could be discussed during the coming year. He congratulated the undergraduate student leaders and said he was looking forward to working with them. Chair Elect Burger then announced the 2007-08 election results, which are included in the minutes of the special meeting that preceded the regular Council meeting (D 5460-5462). He noted that there was a tie vote for the representative to the Faculty Budget Advisory Committee, which resulted because the absent candidate's proxy vote was allowed in the earlier 2007-08 meeting. Following discussion about whether a revote should be held, Professor Burger moved that both candidates be allowed to serve on the Faculty Council Executive Committee and participate on the Faculty Budget Advisory Committee. After the motion was seconded, Chair Golden said she wanted to make sure that the candidate who was present at the meeting agreed to this solution. Following a statement by the candidate that co-representation was acceptable, Chair Golden called for a vote and the motion unanimously passed by voice vote. Chair Golden said that anyone who was interested in becoming involved in faculty governance should let the Executive Committee members know of their interest.


A. Motion from the Educational Policy Committee on Plus/Minus Grading (D 5316-5318).

Professor David Hillis (committee chair) presented the motion asking the Council to recommend adoption of the voluntary plus/minus grading system currently utilized for graduate courses at UT Austin be expanded to cover undergraduate courses. Highlights of his PowerPoint presentation are summarized here, and the PowerPoint presentation is attached in Appendix A. In his presentation, Professor Hillis cited research supporting the benefits of plus/minus grading and countered some of the issues raised in a resolution passed by Student Government asking that the motion be tabled until further student reaction and input could be determined. Professor Hillis said research findings


  indicate plus/minus grading reduces grading error and is a better indicator of student performance than systems without the plus/minus feature. He said institutions that use such systems report improved student focus on learning and overall performance and decreased concern about merely meeting a specific grade cut off. Professor Hillis reported there is some evidence that adoption of plus/minus grading slows the rate of increase in grade inflation. He presented findings from a study conducted at North Carolina State University that reported the rise in average grade point averages (GPAs) slowed somewhat after adoption of plus/minus grading in 1994. For the 10-year period prior to the changed policy, the average GPA rose 0.029 per year; following the change in grading system, the average GPA rose 0.008 per year from 1994 through 1996. Emphasizing that changes due to plus/minus grading on individual GPAs are quite insignificant, Professor Hillis said, “virtually all GPAs stay the same, plus or minus a few hundredths of a grade point.”

Professor Hillis said a change to plus/minus grading would facilitate assessment and comparison of student performance since the overwhelming majority of AAU-classified institutions now use some form of plus/minus grading; he reported that over 80% of such universities were using plus/minus grading in 2001 and said others have changed in the meantime. He pointed out that all of the peer institutions, to which UT Austin is normally compared, rely on a plus/minus grading system, and the Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers has recommended adoption of plus/minus grading based on its review of scholarly literature about the issue. With regard to the effect on individual GPAs, Professor Hillis said some students would benefit from plus/minus grading and some would not, but the effect on any one student had in previous research been only in the hundredths of a grade point, which he referred to as being “extremely small.”

To counter Student Government’s claim that a broad spectrum of student input on the issue had not yet been ascertained, Professor Hillis provided a summary of the process that had been followed, highlighting how students had been involved. He said he was “extraordinarily impressed” with the student leaders and had “excellent” student representation on the Educational Policy Committee. Noting that the original proposal for plus/minus grading had come from the Students’ Association in the 1980s but had not been approved by the Faculty Council, Professor Hillis indicated that Professors Elizabeth Cullingford (English) and Alan Friedman had forwarded the original proposal to the Educational Policy Committee for reconsideration. After circulating a draft motion at the Senate of College Councils, Professor Hillis said the student members of the Educational Policy Committee provided suggested changes to the motion based on student objections. As a result, according to Professor Hillis, the Educational Policy Committee modified its motion before sending it forward for Council consideration. The final vote in the Educational Policy Committee had been 13 to 2 in favor of plus/minus grading, with the two opposing votes being cast by student members of the committee. Professor Hillis said he had met with leaders of Student Government and the Senate of College Councils, and the meeting had resulted in two open student forums on the motion. He said he also invited students to forward any additional information or data to be included in the discussion.

Professor Hillis said he thought student objections to the proposed change were primarily the result of misconceptions about the motion, particularly related to the need for the system to be voluntary. With regard to the student concerns about the potential effect of plus/minus grading on students with GPAs at or near 4.0, he said there was a small effect in the hundredths of a grade point that provided greater discrimination among those students than the current grading system allows. The students, according to Professor Hillis, were also concerned about the omission of a grade of A+ in the proposed system. He said his committee had recommended the adoption of the graduate system so there would be one uniform system at the University; however, he said he thought it would worthwhile to discuss the possibility of adding an A+ grade if the plus/minus system were ultimately adopted. He said he found 20 institutions that included an A+ in their grading systems, but the majority of schools in the U.S. do not. Among the 20 institutions, he said 17 award their A+ grades a 4.0 weighting just the same as the A grades; the other three weight their A+ grades as 4.3. Professor Hillis said there were more institutions in the past that used the higher weighting, but many had changed because students were actually being penalized by the


  practice. He said other institutions tended to use a correction factor by multiplying a GPA by 4 divided by 4.3, which reduced the student’s overall GPA. Professor Hillis said he thought the A+ issue should be discussed as a separate issue in collaboration with the Graduate School since he felt it was preferable for UT Austin to have one uniform grading system.

Professor Jon Olson (petroleum and geosystems engineering) said the president of the Student Engineering Council had informed him of the group’s opposition to the proposed plus/minus grading system. Professor Olson said high GPA students were concerned that their GPAs would be lowered under the new system, which would reduce their competitiveness in the job market. Although he favored adoption of the proposal, he thought it would be helpful for faculty to receive instruction on how to specifically implement the new system. He said this instruction was not provided when the graduate plus/minus system was initiated. Professor Hillis responded that an implementation schedule had not been specified in order to provide adequate time for details to be developed and differences that might exist across campus to be addressed. An unidentified person said he had received emails about the graduate grading system but no instructional norms regarding cutoffs. He said he would object to this type of instruction because he felt it would violate UT Austin’s grading policies, Professor Olson said he was referring to guidance rather than mandatory instruction on how to grade. Chair Golden agreed that distributional guidance was not provided when the graduate system was implemented.

Mr. Keshav Rajagopalan (Plan II, communication studies, and 2007-08 Student Government internal financial director) introduced himself and said Nicole Trinh, student body vice president, was distributing copies of Assembly Resolution 6, which was endorsed by Student Government on May 1, 2007. He said Student Government had not taken a positive or negative position on the plus/minus proposal but was requesting in its resolution that the plus/minus motion be tabled until student opinion could be ascertained. He said his organization had initially learned about the proposal at the April Faculty Council meeting and wanted the Council, with the assistance of the Office of the Registrar, to conduct an on-line survey to assess student concerns about the proposed change. Although two forums were held, Mr. Rajagopalan said there was a great deal of confusion about the proposed change among students; he explained that he had received most of his information about the proposal in a private meeting with Professor Hillis. He said students were particularly concerned about the impact of the change on high-GPA students and the omission of the A+ grade.

Professor Hillis responded that the standard procedure and timeframe for Council legislation had been followed. He pointed out that input had come from students on the Educational Policy Committee and the open forums. He said he thought there had actually been more student than faculty input regarding the proposal, and he had not heard any new substantive issues that were not previously considered. He said tabling the motion would require the proposal to be considered by a new Educational Policy Committee and a new Faculty Council and would also delay catalog inclusion until 2010-11. Professor Hillis also expressed concern that tabling the motion would establish a “very bad precedent” that decision-making would be need to be delayed until a poll of some group were taken. Mr. Rajagopalan said a poll should not be taken, but the students felt an open-ended survey or questionnaire would assist the Council in understanding student concerns and preventing implementation problems. He pointed out that Student Government did not have a representative on the Educational Policy Committee and reiterated that a month had not give the organization time to develop a position on the issue. When Professor Hillis asked if conducting a survey during the implementation phase would satisfy the spirit of the student group’s resolution, Mr. Rajagopalan said it would be helpful, but “the Student Government resolution does request that the motion be tabled until that survey or questionnaire is conducted.”

Mr. Stephen Myers thanked Professor Hillis for speaking to the students about the proposal at a Senate meeting. He said the Senate was supporting Student Government’s resolution for postponement of a vote on the motion because additional concerns had been raised by leaders of the 19 councils after the Senate discussion, particularly with regard to the North Carolina State


  University’s study. He said his organization was concerned about the potential .08 decrease in GPAs of top students and the fact that 32% of the students’ GPAs in the study had been negatively impacted. He said majors in business, engineering, and pharmacy were particularly concerned about the potential impact on their competitiveness in securing top jobs and internships. In addition, his group had met with Dean Victoria Rodriguez (vice provost and graduate school dean) and learned that she did not think plus/minus grading was as effective for undergraduate as for graduate students because of the broader vs. narrower focus of the two respective curricula. Mr. Myers said he perceived that the plus/minus system is helpful in differentiating the performance of graduate students because so few of them ever get grades below Bs. Because professors assign a broader array of grades to undergraduates, he said he thought the same grading system did not need to be applied to both groups of students.

Professor Desmond Lawler (civil, architectural, and environmental engineering) reported that he had asked 51 full-time faculty members in his department in an email to rate their opinions about adopting the plus/minus system on a 5-point scale, where 5 equaled strongly agree. Of the 35 who responded, 18 strongly agreed to adopting the plus/minus system, 13 mildly agreed, 3 mildly disagreed, and 1 had no opinion or did not care either way. He said if the results were treated as a GPA, the score would be 4.3 on a 5.0 scale. Of the 14 civil engineering students who attended a forum held by Professor Lawler, 12 favored the plus/minus system and two opposed it. He noted that one of the students who opposed the change has a 4.0 GPA, which could be negatively impacted if the plus/minus system were currently in place. In a second class comprised of Plan II students who typically have high GPAs, Professor Lawler said the opinions were more evenly divided than in the first class. He said the comments from faculty were generally quite favorable, but there were some serious implementation questions raised by faculty, which Professor Lawler thought would require “careful consideration” should the proposed change be approved.

Professor Martha Hilley said she had used a 12-point system, where 12 equaled A+ and 0 equaled F, for 36 years. By using a specific rubric, she had found this system allowed her to finely distinguish student accomplishment and provide detailed feedback to the students. She said she thought using such a system demonstrated that the instructor had spent more time thinking and analyzing the student’s performance than when a grading system with fewer categories was utilized.

Mr. Andrew Solomon (Plan II, RTF, and 2007-08 Student Government president) said he was speaking in favor of the resolution and the students’ interests. He pointed out that three of the four students on the Educational Policy Committee represented the Senate of College Councils, one represented the Graduate Student Assembly, and none represented Student Government. He said he thought this had contributed to the delay in Student Government being aware of the proposal. He said he thought since both the Senate of College Councils and Student Government had formally asked that the motion be tabled, this indicated a “disconnect toward student input and the policy that this bill implements.”

Ms. Nanney said she was not speaking for or against the motion, but she wanted to comment on the student input issue. She reiterated Professor Hillis’ point that comments from the Senate of College Councils had resulted in changed wording in the motion. She said there had been votes in the college councils on the proposal and both undergraduate governance bodies had been concerned enough to pass resolutions on the issue. In addition, she noted that two student forums were held and both favorable and unfavorable op-ed columns had appeared in the Daily Texan and Firing Lines. She also reported that a Facebook group with hundreds of members had produced approximately 100 comments regarding the plus/minus proposal. As a result, Ms. Nanney said that she thought that the arguments that students had not had opportunities to be involved in the deliberations were “somewhat specious.”

Ms. Forestell reported that graduate students were overwhelmingly satisfied with the plus/minus grading system. The only issue was that many students thought the plus/minus system should be


mandatory rather than voluntary. She said Mr. Myers had attended the Graduate Student Assembly meeting about a month ago and polled the members regarding their opinions about the new grading system. According to Ms. Forestell, the vote was almost unanimous that the plus/minus system should be adopted for undergraduate students assuming it were mandatory. She said she thought this input from graduate students was important since they serve as teaching assistants at UT Austin and the majority attended undergraduate programs that utilized plus/minus systems.

Chair Golden announced there had been a call for the question. When Chair Elect Burger asked if he could make an additional remark, Chair Golden said the call meant that discussion had ended and a vote should occur. After a voice vote was taken, Chair Golden asked that a hand count be taken. When there was question from Mr. Rajagopalan (that was only partly audible on the tape) about student voting rights, Chair Golden indicated that only 2006-07 Council members could vote. When Chair Golden indicated that the motion on the floor had not been seconded, there was confusion regarding the motion that was being considered. After Chair Golden clarified that the vote was on whether or not to stop discussion due to the call to question, the motion to stop discussion passed by show of hands. As Chair Golden was announcing that the Council would vote on the Educational Policy Committee’s motion regarding plus/minus grading, Professor Chris Bell (geological sciences) asked if there was a quorum present because he thought this was “an important issue for everybody.” By count of hands, it was determined that a quorum was not present since only 36 members were present out of the requisite 40. Chair Golden immediately adjourned the meeting since no further business could be transacted.


A. Annual Reports of the General Faculty Standing Committees are due in the Office of the General Faculty.
B. Joint Meeting of the Intercollegiate Athletics Councils, May 11 from 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. in 326 Bellmont Hall.
C. David Hillis will attend COIA.
D. System Faculty Advisory Council meeting May 24-25.


Chair Golden adjourned the meeting at 4:09 p.m.

Posted on the Faculty Council Web site on August 10, 2007. Paper copies are available on request from the Office of the General Faculty, WMB 2.102, F9500.