Meeting of June 15, 2004

Held in the Poole Board Room of the Wardlaw Center



Members Present: Cabot (OIT); Clough (President); Henry (OSP); Horton (GTRI); Kahn (CEE); Mark (CoC); Marr (PSYCH); Peterson (ECE); Schneider (MGT); Telotte (LCC); Warren (EDI); Andersen (U. Student, for Phuong); David (G. Student); Abdel-Khalik (SoF).


Members Absent: Alexander (Staff Rep); Chameau (Provost); Evans (GTRI); Gentry (ARCH); Huff (GTRI); McGinnis (ISyE); Uzer (PHYS).


Visitors: Benkeser (BME); Bramblett (IRP), Hamm (IRP); Turner (U. Student).


1.      Larry Kahn (Chair) opened the meeting at 3:05 PM and called on the President to comment on matters of interest to the Georgia Tech community.  The President offered the following comments:


a.       In preparation for the FY06 budget, we are working with several groups in the Atlanta area (including the City of Atlanta economic development committee and the Metro Chamber Executive Committee) to develop an economic development plan to attract and retain technology industry to the State.  The two main issues for us will be salaries and continued funding for the formula.  Other areas include funding for the equipment trust fund and strengthening of the GRA budget.  Other universities have made competitive offers to our faculty and our ability to respond has been limited.  


b.      The President participated in a panel discussion at the G-8 Summit.  He also made a presentation to the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Convention; Georgia Tech’s ATDC was nationally recognized by receiving the Department of Commerce’s Award for Excellence in Economic Development (best business incubator and best example for university-led economic development).


c.       The President’s Dinner was held last Friday at the World Congress Center -- 700 people who contributed significantly to Roll Call attended the black-tie event.  Roll Call is one of the main sources of undesignated funds which provide flexibility to the Institute.


d.      The President met with the GTRC Board; grants and contracts are at a record level with substantial increases over last year made by many units, including GTRI, COE, and COS. 


e.       We will be operating with a balanced budget this year; however, our flexibility will be reduced.  The reduction in the equipment trust fund will impact our ability to match grants from Federal agencies.  Endowment income which is directed toward scholarships will come under increased pressure because of tuition increases.  The State’s contribution to our budget is about 23% (versus nearly 30% several years ago). 


f.        We are actively working on fund-raising; the COM has received a $15M anonymous challenge grant (need to match it); this will close out the debt on the COM building.


g.       President met with several alumni groups around the country to build relationships in preparation for future capital campaigns; there are many young successful entrepreneurs who are aware of what is happening at Georgia Tech and are motivated to support the Institute. 


h.       The Engineering Education Summit will be held in July; President chaired the “Engineering 2020” project for the National Academy of Engineering -- a three-year project which is aimed at developing a curriculum to meet the anticipated needs for 2020.  


There were no questions for the President.


2.      The Chair called for approval of the minutes of the April 13, 2004 Executive Board meeting.  He stated that an error in the attendance list has been brought to his attention and will be corrected. The amended minutes were approved without dissent. (See Attachment #1).


3.      The Chair called on Dr. Paul Benkeser (BME), Chair of the Student Regulations Committee (SRC), to brief the Board on the proposed grade substitution policy currently under discussion by the SRC. He indicated that this issue is related to the quality undergraduate education initiative sponsored by Jack Marr, which was undertaken by the Board last year and led to the formation of the ad hoc committee chaired by Bob McMath.  Benkeser distributed copies of the SRC meeting minutes dealing with discussions of the grade substitution policy (see attachment #2 below; item #2 of SRC minutes dated February 9, 2004, and item #1 of SRC minutes dated March 15, 2004).  Benkeser stated that last Spring the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UGCC) forwarded the proposed policy to the SRC and that the intent is to improve retention of first year students.  The proposed policy allows students who receive a grade of “D” or “F” in a course to repeat the course and have the original grade excluded from the computation of their GPA. 


Based on discussions at the SRC February 9th meeting, the proposed policy was restricted to apply only to 1000- and 2000-level courses during the first year of residence at GT; the course has to be re-taken within two semesters of the term in which the initial course was taken (the draft policy forwarded by the UGCC was broader).  This can be done only once per course with a maximum of two courses total.   The committee circulated the proposed policy to the various academic units and SGA; feedback was “bimodal.” Anecdotal data referenced during the committee’s discussions indicated that when students repeated courses in the COS, they did not do much better in their second attempt.  Benkeser indicated that he checked the data for last Fall’s Calculus-I course and found that a significant fraction of the students repeating the course remained within the “D - F” range.  He stated that some SRC members felt that the proposal is a “band-aid” which does not provide a meaningful solution to the retention problem; retention between the first and second year may not the major source of the problem – instead, it may be a more significant problem during later years, which would not be affected by the proposal.  It was also indicated that some institutions which had similar “grade forgiveness” policies in the past have since rescinded them.  Based on these discussions, the SRC concluded (March 15th meeting) that the committee did not have sufficient information to confidently present the proposal to the Academic Senate for approval, and that actual data (vs. anecdotal data) are needed before a conclusion can be reached.  Since that time, Sandi Bramblett and Lesley Hamm of the Office of Institutional Research and Planning (IRP) have completed two reports which include quantitative data on the potential impact of the proposed grade substitution policy.  Benkeser indicated that his term on the SRC will expire at the end of the summer term, and that this issue will be carried forward by the new committee.


Bramblett stated that the first report (Phase-I Study) has been posted on the web (Attachment #3) and that the second report (Phase-II) will be published after corrections are made.  She stated that the Phase-I study examines the potential impact of the grade substitution policy on students who are considered to be “academically at-risk” (GPA between 1.0 and 1.7), while Phase-II deals with student who are generally doing well except for one or two problems (i.e. had a D or F in one or two courses) in their first year.  She stated that the policy will have no impact on HOPE Scholarship eligibility since the HOPE Scholarship Program considers all grades received whether or not the institute forgives some of them. 


Hamm indicated that the studies used data for the fall 2002 freshman cohorts. The majority of “at-risk” students who repeat courses change their grades from a “D” or “F” to a “C.” If the policy were in effect, replacing an “F” with a “C,” would improve the GPA for 25 students up to 1.7 or higher.  If low grades are assumed to be the reason for not returning, and if a “D” or an “F” in one course is replaced with an “A,”   the retention rate for these freshman cohorts would increase from 90% to 92%.  While the numbers appear small, a 2% increase in the retention rate would be significant.  She stated that the data for students with a GPA between 2.5 and 2.9 at the end of their freshman year summer were also examined; students in that GPA range usually have only one “mistake” (i.e. one course with a grade of “D” or “F”).   If one “D” is replaced by an “A,” 169 students would improve their GPA to 3.0 or better; if the “D” is replaced by a “B,” 103 students would improve their GPA to 3.0 or better.  A comment was made that these numbers assume that all students will be able to significantly improve their grade when they re-take a course, which is counter to actual experience.  Hamm indicated that even if the “D” is replaced with a “C,” 48 students (22%) would improve their GPA to 3.0 or better. 


A comment was made that it is obvious that if the policy were to be implemented, the GPA for the affected students would increase.  However, the probability that a student with a 1.7 GPA at the end of his/her freshman year will actually graduate may be extremely low due to the cumulative nature of science and engineering education.  As to the other group of students, increasing the GPA from 2.7 to 3.0 would have little impact on their decision to stay or leave Georgia Tech.  A question was asked as to whether the increase in retention from 90% to 92% is statistically significant.  Bramblett indicated that this was a simple analysis to quantify the impact of grade replacement, and that no statistical significance tests were performed.  A comment was made that 90% retention at the end of the freshman year is very high compared to the past, and that if one were to institute a policy of “complete grade forgiveness” in the first year to further increase retention, it would contradict what Georgia Tech is supposed to represent, namely, a highly selective and rigorous institution.  A comment was made that the ad hoc committee on quality undergraduate education has looked at the issue of retention, and that one needs to recognize that unlike comprehensive universities such as Harvard, Duke, UNC, or Virginia, a student who comes to Georgia Tech and later decides not to pursue a technological/scientific education would have very limited options.    This may have a larger impact on retention after the first year than grade substitution.  A comment was made that this is also true for places such as Cal Tech, where the available program options are even narrower; their graduation rate is nearly 85% versus nearly 98% for some of the Ivy League schools.  A comment was made that the study conducted last year by the Student Academic and Financial Affairs Committee shows that grades have increased significantly over the past several years and that there are many possible reasons for such an increase -- the students are much better, but the course requirements may not have significantly changed.  The proposed grade substitution policy is counter to the process of increasing rigor to match the higher student quality; it also reinforces the wrong behavior.  A comment was made that a student repeating a course and significantly improving his/her grade does not signify reinforcement of bad behavior.    


The President commented that regardless of how we ultimately decide on this issue, it is important to know what the competition is doing -- we lose many students to Duke; they emphasize their high graduation rates when prospective students and their parents visit their campus.  If one looks at the USNWR rankings, our graduation rate is not even in the top 75, which is one of things that hurt us in the National rankings and perceptions of parents and students.  Institutions such as MIT and Cal Tech, with whom we compete for students, have grade forgiveness policies.  An increase of 1 or 2% in the retention rate is very significant; we have done many things and spent a great deal of money to increase freshman retention from 85% to 90% over the past several years -- an increase from 90% to 92% would be significant.  Grade substitution may not be the answer but we need to understand all the ramifications; if schools are rescinding such policies, we need to understand why.  We want to bring the best students to our campus, not only in engineering, but also in the liberal arts, where we compete with the University of Georgia; schools competing with us tend to emphasize the negative aspects of low graduation rates.   


A comment was made that in many introductory courses (e.g. Physics), multiple-choice exams are used; when other exam formats are used, the grades drop substantially -- this raises questions about instruction, performance evaluation, and the students’ understanding of the subject matter.   The question is how to remain competitive and maintain the highest quality of education experience at Georgia Tech.  A comment was made that “expectations” set by the institution’s “culture” have a significant impact on students’ performance; the long-term implications of such policy changes may be very broad, and we need to move carefully on issues of this type.  A question was asked as to how such a change may impact the alumni attitudes; many alumni are very generous and they pride themselves on the rigorous experience they had at Georgia Tech. The President indicated that most alumni recognize that today’s students are smarter and the material is much harder than it was in the past.  Some alumni did not appreciate the “harsh” treatment they received and, because of that, they do not contribute to our fund-raising; however, the majority of our alumni appreciate the excellent education they received, which prepared them for competition.  Most alumni are proud that Georgia Tech is in the top ten public universities, and understand that issues such as student retention are important for us to remain competitive.


The Chair thanked Dr. Benkeser, Ms. Bramblett, and Ms. Hamm for their effort and indicated that it is important for the SRC to closely interact with the ad hoc committee on quality undergraduate education on this issue.                 


4.      The Chair initiated a discussion on Athletics and Faculty Governance.  A copy of the slides used in his presentation is attached (Attachment #4).  He indicated that this discussion has been motivated by the recent publication of two reports by the Coalition of Intercollegiate Athletics (Attachments #5 and 6), along with recent actions by NCAA.  He indicated that the aim is to seek Executive Board concurrence with several proposals regarding Georgia Tech athletics.  He pointed out that the State of Georgia requires the Institute and Athletics Association to be financially independent (i.e. no institute funds are used to support the Athletics Association), and that NCAA rules require the Institute to control the Athletics Association.   He stated that the faculty are interested in the welfare of student athletes, representation in the governance of intercollegiate athletics, and improving openness and communications with the Athletics Association.  In order to enhance openness and communications, it is proposed that the status of the Athletics Association relative to the Institute, including the role of the faculty and the appointment of faculty representatives be published in the Faculty Handbook.  This will provide an easily-accessible source of information to those interested in knowing how athletics are governed at Georgia Tech.  Currently, voting members of the Athletics Board include the President, Senior Vice-President for Administration and Finance (serves as Treasurer), eight faculty members including the Faculty Athletics Representative (represents the Institute at NCAA and ACC; currently Professor George Nemhauser), three students, and three alumni.  The President pointed out that no one from the Athletics Association serves as a voting member of the Athletics Board (Athletics Director is a non-voting Ex-Officio member of the Board). 


Kahn stated that in order to enhance communications between the faculty and campus athletics, the Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) will make an annual presentation to the Academic Senate.  He stated that last year, the FAR (Professor Nemhauser) made a presentation to the Executive Board, and that it would be more effective and meaningful if these reports are made annually to the Academic Senate.  He indicated that Professor Nemhauser is in agreement with this proposal.   Kahn stated that in order for the FAR to truly-represent the faculty, the President will consult with the Executive Board regarding the appointment of the FAR prior to making that recommendation to the Athletics Association.  The term of the appointment (as provided in the Athletics Association Bylaws) is three years, and the appointments are renewable.  Additionally, the President will consult with the officers of the Executive Board regarding the appointment of other faculty members to the Athletics Association Board in order to ensure broad representation by the faculty.  The President indicated that at this time engineering may be more-heavily represented on the Athletics Board and that it is important to involve faculty members from other areas -- the NCAA requires diversity in representation; we will consider ethnicity, gender, and areas of interest within the institute in making such appointments.  He stated that the three-year renewable term assures that members don’t serve too long and eventually become “co-opted.”  It is, however, desirable that the FAR serve longer than one three-year term in order to gain experience in representing the Institute at NCAA and ACC.    


Kahn described the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics; he referred to the Coalition’s charter (Attachment #6) and its recently-published document on the governance of campus athletics (Attachment #5).  He stated that the Coalition was started by faculty leaders at several institutions who were concerned about how athletics (rather than academics) seem to dominate over at the affairs of the university.  It was started at the University of Indiana and was soon joined by others in the Big-Ten, and later by schools from other conferences including the ACC and SEC (see membership list on last page of Attachment #4).    The goal of the coalition is to assert the principle that athletics should enhance the academic mission of the university, rather than vice-versa.  Membership consists of Faculty Senate leaders from member institutions.  Coalition members exchange ideas on the faculty’s role in the governance of campus athletics.  Among the areas examined are:  academics, student welfare, finances, commercialization, and governance.  Kahn pointed out that since Georgia Tech is not currently a member of the Coalition, we did not provide any input to the two documents prepared by it (Attachments #5 and 6).  He proposed that the Georgia Tech Academic Senate should consider joining the Coalition, so that we can have a voice in its deliberations.  He stated that some of the ideas and proposals produced by the Coalition may be submitted to (or considered by) the NCAA and that it is important for us to participate in the formulation of such proposals.  He indicated that while the Coalition consists of Faculty Senate leaders in participating universities, it would be preferable that the Faculty Athletics Representative be our principal contact with the Coalition (because of familiarity with ACC and NCAA rules), and that he/she would then consult with the Chair of the Executive Board.   He stated that this is the approach adopted by Duke and Wake Forest, and that George Nemhauser (current Georgia Tech FAR) agrees with the proposal.  Kahn concluded by showing a list of member institutions; there are more than 30 institutions from 12 different conferences, including eight from the Big-Ten, seven from the SEC, and three from ACC (see Attachment #4). 


The President indicated his agreement with the proposals; he stated that Georgia Tech is very unique in both the composition of our Athletics Board and the governance of athletics, and that many members of the Coalition would be very pleased to have a structure such as ours.  He concurred with Dr. Kahn regarding the importance of enhancing communications between the faculty and the Athletic Association.  Kahn stated that there are many positive things taking place in Georgia Tech athletics that need to be communicated to the campus community; he pointed to the strong academic performance of student athletes (e.g. the average GPA for the Golf team is 3.54, while that for the women’s swimming team is 3.50; the Football team has an average GPA of 2.6).  The President pointed to the important role played by the Georgia Tech coaches in attracting outstanding student athletes and emphasizing the importance of academics. 


A question was asked as to whether there is any evidence that the Coalition has had any influence on NCAA.  The President indicated that it is difficult to tell since the NCAA itself has decided to do something about academics. A follow-up question was asked as to the effectiveness of such a Coalition, and the level of influence we may have by joining it.  Kahn indicated that athletics is an important part of campus life, and that by having a knowledgeable representative (Faculty Athletics Representative), we can have an effective voice on the Coalition.


A motion was made to: (1) publish information regarding the Athletics Association in the Faculty Handbook; (2) the Faculty Athletics Representative will make an annual presentation to the Academic Senate, (3) the President will consult with the Executive Board regarding the appointment of the Faculty Athletics Representative, and (4) the President will consult with the Officers of the Executive Board regarding the appointment of faculty members to the Athletics Board.  The motion passed without dissent.  The Chair indicated that the Statutes Committee will be asked to draft the necessary Handbook modifications. 


A motion was made to seek a vote by the Academic Senate on whether or not to join the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics.  The motion passed without dissent.


5.      The Chair called on the Secretary of the Faculty (SOF) to present administrative matters.  Abdel-Khalik stated that several appointments need to be made to fill vacancies on standing faculty committees.  He indicated that the proposed appointments have been made in accordance with the procedure previously established by the Executive Board [recommended appointee is the person who ran for election to a similar position in the previous election and received the highest number of votes among those who were not elected or subsequently appointed].  He stated that the recommended appointees have all been contacted and have agreed to serve upon formal appointment by the Executive Board.


a.       Don Webster (CEE) has agreed to serve as one of the Engineering representatives on the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee for a three year term [04-07] in place of Janet Hampikian (MSE) who will be leaving Georgia Tech.


b.      Min Zhou (ME) has agreed to serve as one of the Engineering representatives on the Graduate Curriculum Committee to complete the unexpired term [04-05] of David Hertling (ECE) who has retired.


c.       Valerie Lafond-Faviers has agreed to serve on the Faculty Status and Grievance Committee to complete the unexpired term [04-06] of Heidi Rockwood (ModLangs) who has retired.


d.      Carol Senf (LCC) has agreed to serve on the Student Honor Committee for a three-year term [04-07] in place of Ray Vito (ME) who stepped down from the Committee.


e.       Mary Axford (Library) has agreed to serve on the Student Honor Committee to complete the unexpired term [04-06] of Jim Foley (CoC) who has been elected to the Executive Board.


f.         Mack Bowers (Counseling Center) has agreed to serve on the General Faculty Assembly as one of the representatives of the Services & Central Administration units to complete the unexpired term [04-05] of Tom Akins who has been elected to the Executive Board.


A motion was made to approve the recommended appointments.  The motion passed without dissent.


Discussion was initiated as to the preferred location to hold meetings of the Academic Senate and General Faculty Assembly.  Abdel-Khalik indicated that these meetings have traditionally been held at the Student Center Theater, with the exception of the President’s State of the Institute address (September 30, 2003 meeting of the General Faculty) which was held at the Global Learning Center.  He indicated that a suggestion has been made to move all faculty meetings to the Global Learning Center.  He indicated that while the Global Learning Center facilities are considerably better than the Student Center Theater, attendance may decline because of location away from the center of campus.  It was agreed that for the 2004-05 academic year, one meeting per semester will be held at the Global Learning Center (President’s State of the Institute address in the Fall and an additional meeting in the Spring); the remaining meetings should be held at the Student Center Theater.       


6.      It was agreed to cancel the July 20th, 2004 meeting of the Board since no business has been brought to the Chair’s attention. 


7.      The Chair called for any other business; hearing none, he closed the meeting at 4:45 PM. 



Respectfully submitted,


Said Abdel-Khalik

Secretary of the Faculty

June 21, 2004


Attachments (to be included with the archival copy of the minutes)


1.      Minutes of the EB meeting of April 13, 2004.

2.      Committee meeting minutes:

3.      Grade Substitution Study – Phase I (Report by the Georgia Tech Office of Institutional Research and Planning, Spring 2004).

4.      Campus Athletics and Faculty Governance (Presentation by Larry Kahn).

5.      Campus Athletics Governance, the Faculty Role:  Principles, Proposed Rules, and Guidelines (Coalition of Intercollegiate Athletics).

6.       Charter of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics.