Faculty Senate Meeting Minutes 2016-10-26
SENATE MEETING 10/26/16
Hartman Room, Florham Campus
The meeting was called to order at 2:07 pm by President Karen Denning.
The approval of the Sept. minutes was postponed till the next meeting.
Dean Mills introduced Dr. Evelyn Garcia, Criminal Justice faculty member, who is doing an administrative fellowship.
Pres. Denning gave a reminder about the current capital campaign with a matching gift for faculty. The gift had been altered to match the contributions of all full-time faculty, not just tenured and tenure-track. This is important because other donors will be looking at the extent of faculty participation, and it is used as a metric in grants applications and college rankings. Faculty can also designate the destination of their gift, and the gift can also be a payroll deduction.
The PBC report was given by Sen. Adrignolo. He handed out the 9/28 PBC report and updated it verbally, based on the last Board of Trustees meeting and IPEDS: undergraduate enrollments are down 128 at the Metro campus (not counting all of Petrocelli), and 26 at Florham. As of the date of IPEDS, we are down 154 against the budget. Graduate enrollment (not counting Middle College of Petrocelli) is down 114. We tried to get a cost-of-living adjustment into the budget, but this year, COLA is very low, and because of the budget shortfall, it was not included at all in the October budget.
The Handbook Committee report was given by Prof. Ng, about the proposed changes to the Bylaws to switch from paper to online voting. Ballots for elections for President, Vice-President, and Senators will not be sent by mail any longer, but to faculty’s work emails. (See Attachment B to the Sept. 28th minutes.)
Sen. Farag: As I read the Handbook, there is no language requiring a secret ballot. Ng: The provision is in the Bylaws, saying that when requested, the vote can be “in camera.” Vice-President Rosen: “In camera” is not a secret ballot; it means removing people who are not entitled to vote from the room. Farag: So the secret ballot is a tradition. But so that people don’t dispute it in future, it should be part of the bylaws. Sen. LoPinto: So it should be specified that the ballot for Senate officers should be secret. I vote to amend the changes to the Bylaws 3.2.2 to the effect that “The faculty Handbook Committee shall prepare and send secret ballots to” and so on, and to Bylaws 7.2.5 to the effect that “Secret ballots shall be sent to faculty at their work emails” Sen. Swartz: Nothing we do on email can ever be secret, so this is not feasible. Rosen: The only ones capable of reading our email are Information Resources and Technology, and Neal Sturm told us at the Executive Committee meeting that they only do so when compelled by University counsel or by law enforcement. Swartz: Still, secret digital ballots are not feasible. Pres. Denning: Neither were secret paper ballots. Adrignolo: The double envelopes assured secrecy. Sen. Singer: But the potential to read them was still there. Sen. Houle: This is an invitation to participate, not the ballot? So it’s not email. So the language should be changed to “an invitation to participate in the voting process.”
The question was called. The vote was 26 yes, 4 abstaining. The amended proposal passed: 26 for, 2 against, 2 abstaining.
Sen. Boyd: Can we add a further amendment to change “up to two weeks” to “two weeks”? Because with this language, we could be required to vote in two days. Is that all right with everyone? Singer: The longer you give people to vote, the longer people will wait to vote, and the more likely they’ll forget or vote too late. In fact, I think we should put not only a date but a time deadline.
The Academic Policies and Research Committee report was given by Sen. Darden.
The General Education Task Force, created by the Senate in spring 2015, has now met 9 times. It included 6 Bachelor of Arts faculty, 6 Bachelor of Science faculty, and all the Deans. Our recommendations were to be forwarded to APRC, then brought to the Senate floor. We are trying to achieve general across-the-board standards where possible, while preserving the original missions of each college and school.
Sen. Farag: I was member of the Gen Ed Task Force, and I would like to give an opinion. We’ve spent two months discussing Gen Ed for the B.S. Most of it has been spent trying to make it align with that of the B.A. Historically there has been a difference between the degrees, and thus between the Gen Ed requirements. For example, Modern Languages is required for the B.S. in Natural Sciences in Becton, but not in University College. But the Task Force has failed to consider the following difference: there are core competencies for the B.S. that have been sloughed over—for instance math, statistical, and technological skills. I think it’s unreasonable to have a B.S. in Chemistry in which a student may take two language courses but isn’t required to take Biology. When are we going to talk about how much calculus there should be? What should the breadth and depth of distribution requirements in the sciences themselves be? There is no tech requirement. We don’t require even a programming course in the B.S. degree. We should be thinking of what fits a B.S., not trying to fit the mold of a B.A. Sen. Melloy: I see what Mark is saying, but I think when it comes to scientific competencies, that falls within the major, so that’s something the programs should consider as part of their degree requirements. Our department made a commitment to have a broadly-based Biology degree. I agree about the math requirements, but sometimes we’ve found that there are other pressures for accreditation militating against that. Maybe a math and tech task force for the B.S. should be convened. If we’re making a standard higher than our peers, students may be disinclined to come because of the higher requirements.
Sen. Casti: I agree that we need to distinguish between the requirements of the B.S. and B.A. for all of the STEM areas. Sen. Salierno: I agree that we should look at math competencies, but I agree with Sen. Melloy that it should be at the program or department level. Alfredo Tan: I am not a member of the Task Force, but I find disturbing that for the past two months all the Task Force talked about was how to replace a free elective with a humanities or liberal arts course. Dean Rosman was asked to replace a social science course with an Ethics course. For the B.S. in Biology program, the change was credit-neutral; the Biology faculty objected to adding liberal arts courses, so the Task Force backed off. Now they are reviewing the B.S. in math and computer science, and again they are being asked to replace a free elective with liberal arts courses. We need the free electives for our students to do their Honors thesis; if you take them away, they will not be able to do this. One company came with seven people to campus last year, as part of a relationship we were trying to cultivate to get internships and jobs for our students. If you go ahead and make these changes without consulting us, we will lose those contacts. Now, to maintain the free electives, we will be forced to take away the business elective. Melloy: We met with natural science faculty on the Metro campus, and we saw that they couldn’t absorb the Ethics and social science without adjustments, and so we adjusted our requirements. So there was dialogue. Sen. Singer: We have been meeting for a long time. None of us wants to cram something down someone’s throat. The level of math for our lib arts students is abominable. In my opinion, any one of the college math courses available for Gen Ed stinks. Dean Weinman: I want to make a correction to Dr. Tan’s statement. It is absolutely untrue that we tried to jam anything down anyone’s throat. The only change in the B.S. in Mathematics and Computer Science being looked at is to ensure that students take one social science and one humanities course. (See Attachment A to the Sept. 28th minutes.)
Pres. Denning then introduced the invited guests, Rose d’Ambrosio and Stefanie Miller from Human Resources, to discuss changes in our health care.
D’Ambrosio: We are going through the process of renewing our medical plan. The University is self-insured, so we are paying claims out of our bank account, up to a limit of $150,000 per plan member. We have stop-loss insurance on claims over $150,000. We are looking at a rise of 4.6% in premiums, with no changes to our current plan design. But I recently had a meeting with Pres. Capuano, and I shared with him that our claim costs continue to rise year after year. Currently the University pays 75% and the participants pay 25%. This places a burden on the University. Pres. Capuano understands that we cannot continue to sustain a medical plan like the one we have. I shared with him certain plan changes to consider. Currently we have copays ($35 for G.P. visits and $45 for specialists) and further costs are covered at 100%. Many plans now specify that diagnostic tests not be 100% covered, so that you would have to consider co-insurance. That is coming soon—if not next year, soon after that. Sen. Cohen: We can clearly see that changes like this would shift more of the expense onto us rather than the University. In addition, since our salaries are not very high, our benefits are an important factor in hiring and retaining faculty and staff. To make such changes would make the benefits, and thus working at the University, less desirable. What other alternatives are there? D’Ambrosio: We are looking at other universities, and our plan is considered a rich plan. We are looking at other alternatives, such as changing to an HMO, where you are not covered at all for out-of-network expenses. Pres. Denning: In some businesses, there are different elective levels of health service available as options. D’Ambrosio: We see that a lot of universities are moving in that direction, giving employees more choices. Denning: Would that benefit us as an institution? D’Ambrosio: Possibly; we have to discuss this with our consultant. With more plans, we have to be careful. Sen. Tuluca: The University should stop whining about how the health care plan is ruining us, because it’s not. The percentage division is never actually 75/25, it is worse for faculty and staff, when you include copays and deductibles. This adds up to a huge amount of money. Sometimes a medication is not approved, even when it’s the only one available. We used to have copays of $5. D’Ambrosio: Medical plans were far less expensive at that point. We are facing high costs on the medical and pharmaceutical side. Hepatitis C medication costs $90,000 for a three-month supply. Sen. Houle: I agree, but I also hope that you are raising the issue of CEO compensation. Two years ago the CEO of United Health Care took home 66 million dollars. When you have that kind of outrageous compensation, that’s a problem too. D’Ambrosio: Being self-insured allows us some self-control, and in years when we’ve done well and overpaid, we can refund your overpayment to you. VP Rosen: We should be sticking with the fundamental idea of insurance, that the risks should be spread among a large population. Higher copays will decrease that. The 4.6% rise is a small increase in insurance. I would rather have 4.7% or 4.8% spread among all of us, rather than increasing copays and fees. D’Ambrosio: We will look at plan options the allow you to buy up. Sen. Kovacs: I would like to bring up the idea of incentives and disincentives associated with health care. I have colleagues at other places where, if you get an annual physical, it brings down your premium. The same is true of having a mammogram or other preventive measures. In North Carolina state schools, smokers pay a high premium on top of their premium. I’m suggesting something like this. D’Ambrosio: We’ve started down the road of wellness. Kovacs: It’s more than that, it’s incentives and disincentives. You have actuaries who know whether a certain kind of program will benefit the University or not—early detection of cancer and so forth. The models have begun to change. Sen. Swartz: I was going to say something similar. You came to alert us to rising costs, but we all know that. I want to know to what extent we should be engaged in a discussion with you about wellness. In Silberman College undergraduate classes, we have started to pull sustainable development goals into our curriculum. It sounds to me as though our institution is behind the curve. This is an opportunity to make all of us aware that we are invested in our own health. Perhaps Faculty Rights and Welfare should look into this. We should be empowered to help reduce the use of medical services. We should see this as an opportunity. D’Ambrosio: The University does have a wellness committee, which discusses how to focus the community more on wellness. We would welcome any faculty member who wants to join. The 4.6% increase will go into effect on January 1st. Stefanie Miller: Our last increase was in July 2015. Sen. Slaby: 4.6% is pretty low compared with what’s happening elsewhere. Cohen: I think Sen. Kovacs’s idea is excellent—we should be considering not just “wellness,” but preventive care that could possibly reduce expenses for both the University and us. I would urge you to continue to consider those other options. D’Ambrosio: I hear you. Denning: There have been times in the past when we were able to push back against plan changes. But at the end of the day, it’s the President’s call.
The Senate then returned to the discussion of the proposed changes to the Gen Ed requirements for the B.S. in Natural Science for Becton and University Colleges. Pres. Denning: Deans Weinman and Mills have endorsed these changes. I hear that there is still some argument against this. I agree that we should consider what are the foundations of the B.A. and the B.S. But right now the only thing before us is this change in Gen Ed requirements. Sen. Farag: But we should have considered what the foundations of the B.S. and B.A. are first, before this. Sen. Darden: But the departments and schools already voted in favor of this. There’s been continuous faculty oversight and review of these changes. The host Lab Science departments at Becton and school at University support these changes to their Gen Ed. Sen. Swartz: For the record, I want to say that the SCB CEPC passed the proposal from APRC for Business. I don’t think we should lump that in with a difference on University College. The question was called. The vote was 19 for, 4 against, 1 abstaining. The proposal was passed by a vote of 20 for, 4 against, 2 abstaining.
Darden: Now we’ll consider a credit-neutral check sheet change to Gen Ed for the B.S. in SCB. Swartz: Our CEPC debated these changes; the Ethics requirement is already underway, most students already take this course. I don’t understand what hullaballoo is about. So I consider this non-controversial. For the sake of our students, we need to move forward with this. This would make the life of advisers in Vancouver much easier. In Silberman we have administrative staff who do advising; in Vancouver our faculty do a lot more advising. They like this; it gives them a lot more choice and makes the choices clearer, and gets them out of sticky situations when courses are unavailable. Alfredo Tan: The issues have nothing to do with what you just said. You have the right to make decisions on your own program. Here you have a Task Force making a decision, first 5-4-1 not to make a change. Then you come back and asked for another vote. This sets a precedent that at any time, a vote can be overturned by a re-vote. Darden: There was a vote by the Task Force based on the notion that we were only looking at comparable degrees. The University Provost came in to clarify the issues for the Task Force and before the full Senate in the same week; she came in and explained the parameters as addressing all undergraduate degree programs, seeking common ground when and where possible, and then after that we had a new vote. Denning: Please send me an email itemizing your concerns with the process. But there is no time for a SCB debate here. (See Attachment.)
Swartz: I move that we vote on the B.S. for SCB.
There was a quorum call; twenty Senators were present, which constituted a quorum. The revisions passed with a vote of 18 for, 1 against, 2 abstaining.
The Faculty Rights and Welfare report was given by Sen. Slaby.
FRW met twice this month. We received a one-time bonus in September that had been turned down by former University President Drucker, but put through by President Capuano. Last year’s equalization was based on prior CUPA reports. We have the new reports (from February 2016) now. The issue of the 12-or-13 hour load for science teachers was voted on by the Senate several years ago, and voted on by the entire faculty in a referendum. Drucker asked for peer data, and this was provided to him; then he asked for contact information to verify the data. Former Senate President Darden sent a reminder to Drucker; the answer he received was that the Administration was trying to confirm the data. We sent a reminder to the new President Capuano, and his answer was Yes, it’s time to resolve it, and he asked for data. We sent the data and referendum again.
At our last meeting in the spring, there was a proposal to reward faculty for supervising internships and independent studies; we made the decision to do more research about this question. I contacted Institutional Research about which departments have independent studies and internships, how many, and so on; they said they don’t have that kind of data. I have contacted the Deans to try to get this information.
Provost Small came to the FRW meeting; we wanted to inform her about our concerns and we discussed some of them, such as shared governance issues, equalization issues, IDEA evaluations, and health care costs. She also had ideas to discuss, about eliminating the first year faculty review, and changing the Bylaws so that the University Provost would be a non-voting member of Senate.
Sen. Slaby next discussed the University Investment Oversight Committee. This was created five years ago by the Board of Trustees in response to legal changes mandated for 403(b) retirement plans. The Committee includes the University General Counsel, the Vice-President of Finance, CFO Hania Ferrara, Rose d’Ambrosio, Stefanie Miller, Sen. Slaby as a faculty representative, and a staff representative. They have regular quarterly meetings and occasional special meetings. At the quarterly meetings they review the performance of University investments, but also focus each time on a particular issue: fees, participant focus, investment focus, and so on. They also have an outside consultant agency (FIA from Connecticut). At the last meeting they also had a lawyer who acts as an outside consultant. Slaby mentioned this because of the recent dozen-odd lawsuits that have been initiated against a number of large universities such as Yale, MIT, Columbia, and NYU. The committee reviews fees and investment options every time. Sen. Melloy: I went to a TIAA advisor who advised me to go into all sorts of bad options. Other universities have more options than just TIAA. Slaby: The current trend is to reduce the options, because they are too confusing. Also, CREF has re-structured their Money Market options. They were not charging fees for several years, because money market funds were doing so badly; now they are charging not only their regular fees, but additional ones to recoup retroactive fees. We added a new fund to replace it, Vanguard Federal Money Market. New fund contributions will go into that one instead. But for prior contributions that are already in TIAA-CREF, only you can move them. Sen. Adrignolo: What recommendations is FRW going to make about compensation for next year? Slaby: We have until January to make those determinations.
The meeting was adjourned at 4:09 pm.