Meeting Minutes:October 6, 2004

Call-to-Order and Attendance

The Fall Semester General Faculty Meeting was called to order at 3:30 p.m. by Chancellor Brady Deaton in the Jesse Wrench Auditorium of the Memorial Union. Approximately 150 people were in attendance.

Opening Remarks by Chancellor Wallace

Deaton welcomed the attendees of this meeting. He first reported on the recent improvements in the Columbia campus infrastructure including the recently completed renovations to Ellis Library, the new residence halls, and the new Life Sciences Building. He then requested that each college dean in attendance be recognized and introduce their new faculty members to those in attendance. Deaton then turned the podium over to Professor Gordon Christensen, Chair, MU Faculty Council for his report.

Report from Faculty Council

Christensen acknowledged and introduced Faculty Council members in attendance at this meeting. He congratulated Chancellor Deaton on his appointment as Chancellor of the Columbia campus.

There were further comments from Christensen on the process by which Deaton was appointed without a national search. He said the process had violated the principle of shared governance between faculty and administrators. President Elson Floyd had consulted with the Faculty Council about the process. However, without conducting a national search there had been no opportunity to explore diversity issues such as interviewing minority candidates and women for this office.

Christensen announced there would be a national search for the position of Provost. He foresees that the Faculty Council and the faculty will maintain a strong working relationship with President Floyd, Chancellor Deaton, and Interim Provost Franz. He then spoke to those in attendance that all on this campus should extend their welcome to Chancellor Deaton.

Christensen then proceeded to report on various Faculty Council activities.

1) The revised Grievance Procedure is completed and is now at the General Council's office for their review.

2) A Campus Ombudsman position discussed in the past is now being revisited. The idea has more recently been discussed with the Council Chairs, the group composed of the past Chairs of Council, seeking their advice and the possibility that a member of this group serve in this position.

3) The role of non-regular faculty (reference to all non-tenured, and non-tenure-track faculty) is now under review by the Faculty Council and a report prepared by Council members on this subject is expected sometime soon. One aspect of the non-tenured faculty is the great variation in the type of positions they hold from College to College and School to School.

4) The Intercollegiate Athletic Committee (IAC) has a new chair Professor Gail Ludwig, Chair, Department of Geography.

5) The Faculty Council Executive Committee will be meeting this fall with the members of the Black Faculty and Staff Organization to discuss diversity issues and concerns.

6) The Council has been involved in some academic matters recently some of which are: revisiting the plus/minus grading system attempting to clarify its use and the freshman seminars issue.
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7) In statewide issues the Council has acted upon the question of a name change for Southwest Missouri State University at Springfield, Missouri and the issue of teaching Creationism in the classroom.

8) Christensen announced that the Council's website has been changed under the supervision of Wilson Freyermuth.

Report from Chancellor Deaton

Deaton pledged to maintain an open administration as well as support for the integration of academics and athletics. Deaton complimented Ms. Myra Dickerson, graduate student in Communications, who was named one of the four academic future stars by the "Chronicle of Higher Education". He announced that 80 percent ($480 million) had been raised of the $600 million goal for the campus capital campaign.

A PowerPoint presentation was then made by the Chancellor on his priorities for action with the following points.

1) Retain and Recruit the Best Faculty
2) Provide Quality Graduate and Professional Education
3) Make MU More Affordable - Increase Enrollment
4) Increase Outside Research Investment
5) Strengthen and Diversity Funding Base
6) Strengthen Campus Infrastructure
7) Expand Global Outreach
8) Support Public Policy Research and Economic Development
9) Strengthen Linkages with Alumni and Key Constituents
10) Improve Campus Climate

Following this presentation Deaton made further points elaborating on his initiative. He was encouraged by some developments in graduate education funding. A new legislative campaign "Reinvest in Higher Education" is underway. This is a multi-year plan to increase state funding for the following purposes: need based financial aid, health care for Missourians, funds for maintenance and repair, money for new technology, and finally, capital funds for the maintenance of the new Health Sciences Research building. Deaton spoke on enrollment where growth is planned to be two percent per year as well as increasing the retention rate and diversity of students. Deaton reported that research funding had increased by 16 percent last year for a total of $205 million. He further pointed out that MU had the largest percentage increase in federal monies in AAU public universities. He pointed out that MU is relatively expensive for students to attend. Enrollment fees now pay for more of the cost than does the state's funding.

Deaton reported that he is now actively involved with: a) continuing the reallocation process of moving money to better fit current needs; b) proceeding with the implementation of the Internationalization Model; c) continuing to develop strategic alignment of MU Extension; d) initiating competitive undergraduate Research Creativity Awards; and, e) engaging the faculty in developing the University of the Future.

Deaton concluded by thanking the faculty and announcing that the ten year accreditation team would be on campus November 8-10, 2004.

Discussion of Plus/Minus Grading by Chair Gordon Christensen
Chancellor Deaton turned the podium over to Christensen requesting him to discuss plus/minus grading. Christensen introduced Professor William Lamberson, Chair of Council's Academic
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Affairs Committee, for his committee's report on this issue. Lamberson reported when faculty voted in 1997 to initiate a plus/minus grading system for MU undergraduates, many instructors probably thought the issue had been put to rest. However, over the years since its inception, there continues to be confusion about whether faculty are required to use plus/minus grading in their undergraduate classes. He said that nearly a year ago the provost's office sent out a reminder that all faculty are expected to use plus/minus grading in their undergraduate classes. Members of Faculty Council have received communications from some faculty expressing surprise and concern that use of plus/minus grading is an exception rather than an option. Faculty approved the plus/minus grading measure in November 1997 by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin. The confusion probably arose, he said, when Faculty Council certified the election and passed a motion to implement the new grading system. That motion encouraged departments to use plus/minus grading as an option for the next semester, Winter Semester 1998, and said the policy would become mandatory for the Fall Semester 1998. Unfortunately, that action was not recorded in the Faculty Handbook at that time leading to confusion over whether faculty have the option of not using plus/minus grading. The Faculty Handbook has now been updated with the following wording from the original ballot. "For undergraduates, all teachers are expected to use the grading scale approved by the faculty." This precludes any department or unit from opting to use a modification of the scale. Lamberson commented there should be no undergraduate classes in which an a priori decision has been made to issue only straight letter grades. In every class, the possibility should exist that plus/minus course grades will be assigned. If, at the end of the course, straight letter grades fit the distribution of assessments of academic performance, then assignment of straight letter grades is the perogative of the faculty member.

Interim Provost Lori Franz reiterated from the audience that the Provost Office will continue to expect that the plus/minus grading will be used as the grading system for MU's undergraduate classes. Franz said that students have been distressed by differing use of the grading policy. When they end up with a B in a class in which they had an 89 percent average, they feel like they've hurt their chances to get into Medical School or Law School. They feel that every grade is important to them. Problems exist when there are multiple sections of a class. Let's say they have a class that has six sections and some sections use plus/minus grading and some don't. They might feel that they performed better than a student in another section, they received better grades on exams, however they received a B while a student in another section received a B+.

Professor Frank Schmidt of Biochemistry, and Vice Chair of Faculty Council recalled that when the issue of plus/minus grading came up at MU, some faculty believed that this grading system would effectively deal with grade inflation. It was felt that if faculty had the option of marking an A- instead of an A, that would in effect reduce the average undergraduate grade point average down a point or more. Schmidt then queried Franz on its effect. "Do you have any idea or any data about what that has done over the years, and whether it has crept back up, crept back down or stayed the same?"

Franz replied that there was a question of whether there was grade inflation at MU. "We looked at the data over time, and we find that our grades have crept up, but it's been highly correlated with the increase in ACT scores. As you know, we have much higher ACT scores now than we had twelve years ago. If you look at this match, that appears to explain the change in the GPA now."

Other Business and Adjournment

Deaton adjourned the meeting and announced a reception that followed.

Respectfully Recorded,
Rex Campbell, Recorder for the Faculty