Faculty Senate
Vol. 37, No. 8
December 12, 2002

I.  Roll Call.
Present:  Barmore, Barnd, Beck, Brooks, Cravins, Gendreau, Gibson, Hoar, Hollenback, Kelly, Kernozek, Krajewski, Majak, Poulton, Ragan, Senger, Taylor, Tyser, Vandenberg-Daves, Wingate, Zellmer.
Excused:  Dixon, A. Nelson.
Absent:  L. Nelson

II.  Approval of Minutes.

The minutes of the 11-21-02 meeting were approved as distributed.

III.  Reports.

A.  Chair Senger announced that the meetings for next semester prior to Spring Break have been moved forward one week to: January 30, February 13 and 27, March 13.  Copies of Senator Al Nelson’s e-mail regarding grade inflation and policy suggestions were distributed.

Last week Provost/Vice-Chancellor Hitch informed the campus community that she had suspended two administrative search/screen efforts, because of concerns related to the biennial budget situation.  There is no new news about the State’s severe budget.  Governor-elect Doyle is touring the State listening to concerns and gathering input regarding the financial crisis.  He will be in La Crosse next Monday.

Meanwhile, Deans and Division Heads will be meeting with the P/VC to discuss plans for potential budget cuts of 2.5%, 5%, 7.5% and 10%.  Provost Hitch has encouraged the Deans to think beyond the next two years and how we can arrange ourselves to meet the challenges four or five years from now.  She is optimistic that we can find a way to cope with the budget that doesn’t amount to drastic action (i.e. closure of large programs).  The likelihood of a formal declaration of financial emergency is remote – partly because of the time frame involved in that particular process.  There is no immediate financial gain to pursue that route.  Just like surrounding states that have experienced tuition increases over the last few years, the current thinking is that substantial reductions can be offset by flexibility to increase tuition.  Suspending all the searches and filling only the positions that are needed will allow us to trade off near term resources for long-term flexibility.  Assistant Chancellor Lostetter believes the actual reduction will fall into the 2.5% – 5% range with a possible realignment of positions.  Of course we won’t know anything until after Governor Doyle takes office.

Copies of the Academic Policies & Standards Committee report summarizing the combined effect of enrollment targets, admission categories and acceptance schedules on the success/retention of UWL students, and the perception that a disproportionate number of students leave after their second year was distributed.  The SEC is not recommending that any action be taken at this time, as recommendations are being modified.

B.  Chancellor Hastad will give testimony on behalf of UW-La Crosse at the Governor-elect’s listening session next Monday.

C.  There were no reports from Provost/Vice-Chancellor Hitch and Assistant Chancellor Lostetter who are attending a meeting at UW-Oshkosh.

D.  Faculty Representative, Georges Cravins continues to work with other faculty reps on the K-12 task force.  He assured senators that the conclusions of the task force will be conveyed. 

Chair Senger thanked Terry Kelly and Laura Nelson for serving as one-semester replacements for Senators Bigel (who had a class conflict), and Wilson (who was teaching in Scotland) – both will return in January.

IV.  Approval of List of Graduates.

Prior to the vote to approve the graduation list, Chair Senger reminded Senators of the seriousness of the action.  Reading from the diploma, the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, the Board of Regents of the UW System, on the nomination of the Faculty, has conferred… the degree of… together with all honors, rights, and privileges belonging to that degree.

M/S/P to approve the list of December 2002, and January 2003 graduates contingent upon the successful completion of the requirements for their respective degrees.  (voice vote)

V.  Second Reading of Bylaws for Research & Grants Committee.

Membership of the committee shall consist of the provost/vice chancellor (or his/her designated representative) and eleven faculty members.  Faculty and academic staff with faculty status who submit research proposals during a given year shall not be members of the committee during that year.  The coordinator of gifts and grants shall serve as an administrative consultant to the committee for grants advisory purposes.  The committee shall elect its chairperson.

M/S/P to approve.  This represents a second reading of the by-law.  (voice vote)

VI.  Continued Discussion of the Assignment and Reporting of Grades.

Senger reviewed the deliberations from the previous meeting when the discussions were frank and productive.  He is hopeful that the Senate can move toward common areas of agreement with respect to this issue rather than remaining mired in fruitless discussions and disagreements we have had for years.  He suggested that Senator Nelson’s Alternative Proposal for Addressing Grade Inflation at UW-L (listed below) be an area to begin deliberation.

Alternative Proposal for Addressing Grade Inflation at UW-L

  1. CAPS should abandon the policy of erasing D and F grades earned in courses by students who then retake those courses for higher subsequent grades.  D or F grades should be retained in the calculation of student GPAs permanently.  Students should still be allowed to retake those courses for mastery of course material, but the initial grade earned should remain in the calculation of their GPAs and be balanced by the subsequent grade earned.  Currently, a student who earns an F initially and subsequently earns an A has an A average.  Under the proposed policy, the student would have a C average.  This would necessarily result in a drop in the university’s aggregate student GPA.  This policy might be moderated by allowing freshmen and transfer students to “erase” D’s and F’s earned in their first or first two semesters enrolled at UW-L, just as we allow freshmen to drop courses without penalty with regard to the drop policy.  This would allow new students to adjust to the standards of performance at UW-L before being held accountable.

The current policy wastes valuable seats in courses.  The current policy encourages students performing at a C level in a course to give up and accept a D or F, knowing that the D or F will do less damage to their GPAs in the long run than the C they might have earned with sustained effort the first time around.  The proposed policy would bring the C grade back “on the screen” in the range of grades earned by students.  The C would become preferred to a D or F in terms of its impact on GPA for students.  This also provides some motivation for students to invest more serious and sustained effort in courses the first time around.

  1. All faculty and instructional academic staff, not just those eligible for promotion, should receive teaching assignment information forms every year and those forms should be used in departmental merit, retention, and tenure evaluations as well as promotion evaluations.  This would enable more balanced and thorough peer evaluations by colleagues.  Such a change would have a number of significant benefits.  First, instructor GPAs would be established as a check and balance to instructor SEIs.  This would help to discourage instructors from pandering to students by giving inflated grades in order to receive inflated SEI scores.  It would allow us to provide more accurate and effective peer evaluation as well as better mentoring to faculty and instructional academic staff who need to adjust their performances.  It would provide more consistency in the various levels of faculty evaluation.  Most importantly, it would provide more detailed feedback to instructors about their grading practices, feedback that they do not now receive in detail unless they are eligible for promotion.

The Senate Executive Committee has also discussed the possibility of expanding efforts in freshmen orientation with placement tests and by providing opportunities to test-out of areas where they may already possess the necessary skills.

The Senate discussed item #1 of the Nelson proposal.  How common is it at other universities to not count D and Fs in calculation as we do?  Madison currently calculates the way Senator Nelson is proposing.  Can we charge CAPS or another committee to determine how to take action?

M/S  that the University abandon the policy of erasing D and F grades earned in courses by students who then retake those courses for higher subsequent  grades, and charge CAPS with investigating the ramifications of implementing the policy.

Senators discussed the motion and determined that CAPS and colleagues should have an opportunity to discuss the issue before implementing.  Dr. Bigel responded that several years ago, CAPS deliberated this issue and brought similar recommendations forward to the faculty senate which where quickly defeated. 

Apprehension was expressed that we are micro-managing instructors, and that faculty haven’t had an opportunity to discuss these concerns at the departmental level.

The motion FAILED. (voice vote)

After a lengthy discussion, Chair Senger suggested that the Senate could take an advisory vote to gauge support of the proposal.

M/S/P that the faculty senate take an advisory vote on the proposal described in Senator Nelson’s Alternative Proposal for Addressing Grade Inflation at UW-L under Item I  CAPS should abandon the policy of erasing D and F grades earned in courses by students who then retake those courses for higher subsequent grades.  D or F grades should be retained in the calculation of student GPAs permanently.”   (voice vote) 

The Senate took an advisory vote with a show of hands.  (18 yes, 3 no)

The Senate agreed that the vote to adopt the proposed policy will take place at the February 13, 2003, meeting.  Chair Senger will notify the academic community so that discussions can take place at the departmental level.

The second topic also arose out of the Dr. Nelson paper. The Senate was supportive of the premise that the university would benefit from open communication of grade distributions within departments. The Senate did not wish to proscribe departmental policy but wished to encourage this practice. The Senate passed the following motion.

M/S/P that departments be encouraged to distribute grade distribution information to all members within departments annually.  (show of hands:  15-yes, 5-no, 1-abstain)

The third topic was related to the second and concerned communication of grade distribution information across campus. Since there is a range of possibilities for presenting and communicating this information, the Senate chose to form an Ad Hoc committee to formulate a precise proposal. The Senate passed the following motion.

M/S/P that the SEC appoint an ad hoc committee to discuss the most appropriate way to disseminate grade distribution information.  (show of hands: 14-yes, 7-no)

The Senate discussed using Freshmen Orientation as a chance to expand efforts in placement tests and for testing-out opportunities.

The Senate also discussed the need to inform students about the high expectations of UW-L. The orientation process could be utilized to impress upon the students an understanding that, while they come from the “best and brightest” among their high school peers, they need to work hard to attain that designation among the UW-L student body.

M/S/P to ask the Provost/Vice-Chancellor through Deans and Department Chairs to investigate a more elaborate freshmen placement test and test-out opportunities as part of the freshman orientation.  (unanimous show of hands)

M/S the following definition of grades:  F is not adequate for credit; D is adequate for credit but does not satisfy course prerequisites; C and above is adequate for continued work in the discipline.

M/S/P to table.

VII.  Old Business.

VIII. New Business.

IX.  Adjournment.

The meeting adjourned at 5:30 p.m.


Submitted by
Robert Hoar, Secretary