The University of Oklahoma (Norman campus)
Regular session – March 21, 2005 - 3:30 p.m. - Jacobson Faculty Hall 102
office: Jacobson Faculty Hall 206   phone: 325-6789
e-mail:   web site:


The Faculty Senate was called to order by Professor Valerie Watts, Chair.


PRESENT:       Barker, Biggerstaff, Bozorgi, Bradford, Brown, Burns, Caldwell, Catlin, Civan, Cramer, Davis, Devenport, Elisens, Forman, Frech, Geletzke, Greene, Gutierrez, Havlicek, Hayes-Thumann, Henderson, Houser, Kauffman, C. Knapp, R. Knapp, Lai, Lewis, Magnusson, Marcus-Mendoza, Penrose, Rupp-Serrano, Scherman, Schwarzkopf, Sharp, Striz, Taylor, Watts, Wheeler, Wood

Provost's office representative:  Heiser
ISA representatives:  Schwiebert

ABSENT:         Blank, Cintrón, Dewers, Dohrmann, Draheim, Driver, Fincke, Halterman, Hobbs, Liu, Raadschelders, Ransom, Vieux, Wyckoff






Faculty tribute

Search committee, Instructional Development Director

Art museum admission

Huston Huffman center admission

Online course management system

Health insurance

Research compliance

Senate Chair's Report:  follow-up from previous meeting






The Faculty Senate Journal for the regular session of February 14, 2005 was approved.





The faculty tribute is scheduled for Monday, April 18, at 3:00 p.m. in the Sandy Bell Gallery of the Mary and Howard Lester Wing of the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art.  Further information will be sent to faculty later this month.


Dr. Dee Fink, the Director of the Instructional Development Program, is retiring the end of June.  The following faculty will serve on the search committee to select a replacement for him:  Doug Elmore, Chair (Geology & Geophysics and Associate Provost), Nancy Barry (Music), LeRoy Blank (Chemistry & Biochemistry), Doug Gaffin (Zoology and University College Dean), Susan Kates (English), Bruce Mason (Physics & Astronomy) Mary John O’Hair (Educational Leadership & Policy Studies), and Teri Rhoads (Industrial Engineering).  Karen Cozart, Coordinator of Distance Learning in the College of Arts and Sciences, is also on the committee.


President David Boren announced that special faculty and staff admission prices have been established at the Fred Jones, Jr. Museum of Art.  OU faculty and staff are admitted free on Tuesdays.  On all other days, the admission fee for faculty and staff will be $2 ($5 for the public).  Faculty and staff individual memberships for year-round admission will be $15, and faculty and staff family memberships will be $20 ($25 and $35 for the public).


President David Boren announced that the monthly membership fees for faculty and staff to belong to the Huston Huffman will be reduced from $30 per month to $20 per month, effective April 1, for prepaid annual memberships and annual payroll deduction memberships.  Amy Davenport, Recreational Services director, is working on a complete membership price review.  She said, "I expect all of our prices to decrease so that we can better promote health on campus with our faculty, staff, and their families."  Another option for membership is the punch card program, which allows faculty and staff to buy five entries to the Huffman center for $22.50 or 10 entries for $40.  For additional information, see





Vice President for Information Technology Dennis Aebersold and Dean of Arts and Sciences Paul Bell gave a presentation on the change from Blackboard to Desire2Learn course management system. 


Dr. Aebersold’s presentation focused on the history of Blackboard.  Blackboard became a company in 1997, and OU started using the system in 2000.  In spring 2004, events began to happen that caused concern.  Blackboard informed us that we would have to move to a new version (6) because the old version (5) would not be supported.  A group of faculty and staff tried to migrate to the new version, and that was a failure.  In fall 2004, we were without service for two weeks and had intermittent problems throughout the semester.  We had an engineer look at Blackboard’s software and realized the company had taken on too many clients and did not have enough circuits available.  Last fall, Provost Mergler asked Dr. Aebersold and Dr. Bell to co-chair a task force to make recommendations for a course management system. 


Dr. Bell then discussed how we made the decision to replace Blackboard.  He distributed a summary of the task force effort (available at or from the senate office).  The task force knew we had to change from Blackboard 5 to Blackboard 6 or an alternative.  The task force did an online survey of all instructors at OU to find out the features they wanted in an online course management system.  The group also compared Blackboard 6 with WebCT, the other system we use at OU, and looked for additional options.  One of the options was Desire2Learn (D2L).  After receiving positive feedback from other institutions, several members of the task force volunteered to teach courses this semester using D2L.  Based on feedback from the task force and evaluation of the product on ease of use, features desired by the faculty, and support from the vendor, the task force voted unanimously to recommend that we switch from Blackboard to D2L.  The provost accepted the recommendation, and faculty will be able to start using D2L in April.  D2L will be available to students August 2, the beginning of the August intersession.  Dr. Bell said D2L looks to be a far better product and solution, more closely provides faculty with what they say they want, including relative ease of use, and has good customer support.  The task force thinks it will work better for most faculty but cannot guarantee it will be perfect.  We will continue WebCT, which meets the needs for certain types of classes, into the fall.  However, many professors who use WebCT have agreed to try D2L.  It is possible a year from now that D2L will be our only course management system, which would save significant dollars.  We will not discontinue WebCT, though, until users agree that D2L meets their needs.


Prof. Sharp asked whether the online testing in the D2L module would allow professors to give feedback to students.  Dr. Bell said everyone finds D2L much easier to use than Blackboard, it does everything that Blackboard did for them and more, and it works better than Blackboard.  He said our Information Technology (IT) people had phoned D2L with a problem at 3:00 a.m., and it was resolved in 15 minutes.  We are getting much better customer service, and student feedback works just fine.  Prof. Kauffman mentioned that WebCT had an updated version called Vista.  He asked whether we would keep the current or new version.  Dr. Bell said WebCT was being used by a small number of users who find it meets their needs.  The task force decided that Vista was not the way to go for most faculty, primarily because it is very complicated.  Dr. Aebersold added that those who tested D2L said it was easier to go from Blackboard 5 to D2L than to Blackboard 6.  Dr. Bell noted that there is a conversion tool that will convert from Blackboard 5 to D2L but not to Blackboard 6.  Prof. Knapp asked whether the records would be kept at OU.  Dr. Bell answered that D2L would run on equipment here on campus.  Prof. Barker asked about the training available for faculty.  Dr. Bell said one contact person in each college would do whatever and as much training as a professor needs.  The office of Information Technology will also provide central support.  The plan is to be responsive to what individuals need.  Faculty will drive that.  Prof. Kauffman said he thought IT should notify faculty in the event of a course management system outage and not just post a notice on the IT website.  Dr. Aebersold said IT could do that.





Faculty Welfare Committee Chair Bob Dauffenbach (Management Information Systems) and Benefits Manager Nick Kelly were invited to the meeting to discuss health care benefits. 


Prof. Dauffenbach explained that the Faculty Welfare Committee (FWC) and Employment Benefits Committee had launched an effort to solicit comments about our health care system from faculty and staff on the Norman campus and Health Sciences Center campus and from retirees.  The three objectives were to identify systemic problems affecting the user community, make sure contractual obligations are closely being followed, and gain insight on any operational procedures and issues where additional information may need to be conveyed to faculty and staff.  The effort was more than just a way for people to vent frustrations.  The committees want to make sure we get our money’s worth and that Aetna insurance company is adhering to promises made in negotiations.  So far, the Norman campus has sent in 106 messages, the HSC 56, and retirees 4.  The process is slower for retirees because the survey was done through a paper mailing.  Some good experiences have been reported.  Most of the complaints have been about co-pays for pharmaceuticals and the process for certifying drugs.  The request for comments is not just a single one-time request for input, but a continuous process.  Prof. Dauffenbach plans to send a reminder to the user community to turn in comments.  The comments are being sent to Mr. Kelly, and it has been a fruitful endeavor.  When Mr. Kelly sees problems, he can get them resolved.  Prof. Dauffenbach is categorizing the responses.  Some of the problems have to do with the transition, which may diminish over time.  He thanked Mr. Kelly and Human Resources Director Julius Hilburn for their careful attention to the information. 


Mr. Kelly said over half the responses had addressed drug co-pays or the step therapy process.  Pre-certification and step therapy for drugs are not new concepts in medicine but are new concepts for OU, and this style of management is new for a lot of doctors in Norman.  The step therapy program requires a patient to start with a more cost-effective medication and work up to the higher cost drug.  We will be through most of the pre-certification and step therapy process in the next few weeks, as people who filled their 90-day prescriptions in December get refills.  When he receives a complaint, he asks Aetna to address the problem.  If the complaint is about a co-pay, there is not much we can do about that.  The communication process is difficult because it involves the patient, pharmacist, doctor, and Aetna.  He hopes most complaints are transition issues.  Even doctors who have voiced complaints about the drug program see it primarily as a problem with existing patients.  There is not much difficulty with new patients or new prescriptions.  In the end, pharmacy management provides for the most cost-effective medicine.  About an equal number of complaints and compliments have been received about the streamlined flexible spending account process.  Some complained that the flexible spending account was automatically processed.  However, individuals can opt out of the automatic streamlined reimbursement.  On the other hand, some people really like the idea of not having to do the paperwork to get reimbursed.  The third major issue was the length of time it takes to get a provider in the network.  One of the reasons is Aetna has a more extensive credentialing process for providers.  The negotiations with providers can take longer as both sides try to get the best deal.  Mr. Kelly said he would provide the FWC with periodic updates on the providers added to the network.  Aetna has added several medical and dental providers to the network since January.  Mr. Kelly’s office is handling both systemic issues and individual problems.  Some of the positive feedback has been about the national network.  When we were with HealthChoice, our previous insurance company, people who were traveling or working out of state did not have access to a national network.  Other positive feedback has come from people who have been very sick.  Individuals who have undergone treatment such as chemotherapy or surgery have received a lot of attention from Aetna.  Some people are very happy with lower drug co-pays; others complain about higher co-pays.  The Benefits office compared 20 of the most commonly prescribed drugs and found that some were higher with Aetna than with HealthChoice, some were lower, and some were about the same.  The co-pay depends on the drug.  With HealthChoice, the drug cost was a co-pay and a percentage, so expensive drugs cost more.  People who have catastrophic diseases are paying significantly less for drugs with Aetna.  In some sense, that is what insurance is about—protecting people against dramatically high out-of-pocket costs.  Employees who are covering dependents are paying about $40-50 less a month with Aetna than they would have with HealthChoice.


Prof. Dauffenbach added that individuals who were going through major procedures had sent in positive comments about the calls they received from Aetna nurses.  He pointed out that people who had gone through step therapy for drugs should not have to go through it again.  If anyone has a problem in that area, s/he should write directly to Mr. Kelly. 


Mr. Kelly then addressed questions that had been raised about the dental plan.  Aetna has a smaller network than Delta Dental, our previous insurer.  Delta had two networks, a very large network and a smaller network.  The Aetna network is comparable to Delta’s smaller network.  Aetna’s out-of-network is similar to Delta’s larger network.  Aetna will reimburse dentists at the 90th percentile of usual and customary fees, so Aetna will pay the dentist virtually the same amount that Delta would have.  Most dentists will file the claim even if they are out of network.  In addition, Aetna does not apply the $50 deductible to preventive care. 


Prof. Sharp thanked the employees in the Benefits office who had been helpful to her.  She said it was difficult to negotiate the “Find-a-Doc” option on Aetna’s web site and suggested that the Benefits office specify on its web page the Aetna plans that the university is on.  Mr. Kelly said he had told Aetna that its web site was not easy to navigate, and he hoped to get some feedback on that. 


Prof. Greene asked whether patients would have to go through the step therapy process again starting January 1.  Mr. Kelly answered no.  Once someone is certified for a drug, s/he is certified.  In fact, individuals should not have to go through the process if they already went through it for a specific drug.  The doctor simply needs to document that with Aetna.  Prof. Greene commented that she had heard a lot of complaints about Magellan, one of the subcontractors for mental health.  Mr. Kelly said Aetna would be taking over the business from Magellan this fall.


Prof. Burns said he thought the appeal process appeared to be a conflict of interest because the appeal went to someone who works for Aetna.  Mr. Kelly said it was difficult for the member to become involved in the appeal process.  It is really designed for the provider.  All insurance companies set up an appeals process within the company, and they have appeals at different levels.  Part of the process is what they call peer-to-peer (doctor talking to doctor), which seems to go more smoothly.  In other words, members should tell their doctors if they experience a problem and ask the doctors to expedite the process.  Prof. Burns asked how long it would take for a drug to be approved by Aetna in a true emergency.  He pointed out that a person could pay out of pocket and get reimbursed in the meantime, but some people do not have the money to do that.  Mr. Kelly replied that a pharmacy is often willing to give patients a few pills to get them through 4-5 days, or the doctor can provide samples.  He said he had not heard of anyone who had been in danger because s/he did not get the necessary medications.  Prof. Dauffenbach said the Chair of the Employment Benefits Committee had recently sent a reminder about step therapy and the need to plan ahead.  Mr. Kelly noted that drugs prescribed in an emergency were not subject to step therapy.  Step therapy applies mainly to maintenance drugs for chronic conditions.


Prof. Greene said a positive feature of the new plan is patients can ask the doctor to write a prescription for 90 days, and patients only have to pay a two-month co-pay.  Prof. Marcus-Mendoza commented that although she had been through step therapy before, Aetna would only authorize one pill a day instead of two of her current medicine and wanted her to try that amount with a certain amount of another drug.  If she could prove after two weeks that the medication had failed, she could get back on her previous therapy.  She said there is a cost to that requirement, and Aetna is overstepping their bounds.  She said she was also concerned that doctors were dropping out of the network.  She asked whether spouses who both work at OU could be connected so the health care reimbursements would be automatic.  Mr. Kelly said he would ask.  Prof. Dauffenbach said he thought the university should provide some guidelines on how OU couples could align their plans.  Prof. Marcus-Mendoza said she was also concerned that it takes a long time to get medical tests authorized. 


Prof. Penrose asked whether the only time antibiotics were not subject to step therapy was in emergencies.  Mr. Kelly replied that the majority of drugs for acute therapy, as opposed to chronic conditions, do not require step therapy or pre-certification.  Prof. Penrose asked whether the Benefits office would be willing to share the results of the cost of the 20 commonly-prescribed drugs.  She said the comments from her peers were usually about the high cost of prescription drugs.  Mr. Kelly he could probably do that.  He remarked that it was not unusual to hear from people who had to pay more.  He reminded the group that people who are on very expensive drugs are paying less. 


Prof. Dauffenbach said he thought we needed to become more informed consumers, keep track of things that are not working well, and pass those along to Aetna.  The FWC is interested in hearing ideas about issues it should pursue.  Prof. Watts mentioned that last year, the Employment Benefits Committee and/or FWC had recommended an ombudsperson.  Prof. Dauffenbach said Mr. Kelly had been serving as the ombudsperson, but as issues become more routine, the Benefits office will establish a contact person.  Prof. Henderson asked whether we would still be in transition in May.  Prof. Dauffenbach answered that after he receives replies to the upcoming reminder, he should have some answer to that question.  Mr. Kelly said the prescription drug transition would probably last through the end of this month, when most people would have refilled their prescriptions.  Prof. Watts thanked Mr. Kelly and Prof. Dauffenbach for sifting through all the e-mails.





Because of a question that came up at last month’s senate meeting, Prof. Laurette Taylor (Health & Exercise Science), Ms. Debra Chionopoulos (Compliance Director), and Ms. Kelle Rudolph (Human Research Participant Protection Director) were asked to give an update on the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process for research involving human participants (see for forms and training).


Prof. Taylor said she wanted to allay any concerns about a student serving as principal investigator (PI) of research.  Graduate students will be allowed to be PIs in research.  It is important for graduate students to learn to become researchers and learn about accountability and responsibility for research.  Graduate students can apply as PI, but the faculty sponsor must fill out a one-page form that has check-offs to verify that the individual has the training to carry out independent research.  It meets all the regulatory requirements that the IRB needs to satisfy and ensures that students can continue to conduct independent research.  The new form is on the Compliance web site, as well as the form for the faculty sponsor to complete.  Prof. Taylor introduced Kelle Rudolph, Director of the Human Research Participant Protection office since September.  She said since Ms. Rudolph has been here, the IRB has streamlined its process and developed new forms, tutorials, and resource material.  Applications are very user friendly, with click-on options.  Also, for research that qualifies for exempt status, there is now an abbreviated application that expedites the process.


Prof. Sharp said she had tried to add a student as part of a research team, but the student was added as a PI.  Prof. Taylor said the IRB has a new modification form, and one of the options is the addition of personnel.  She said she would check into Prof. Sharp’s situation.  Prof. Kauffman asked whether faculty would be notified when it was time to do the annual training.  Prof. Taylor replied that researchers only have to undergo the lengthy training once.  After that, they go through an abbreviated review.  People are given an annual notification to renew.  IRB has implemented a web-based training for researchers who conduct human subject research.  It can be done anywhere in the world, and it is divided into units so faculty can come in and out of the training.  Prof. Scherman asked whether the training pertained only to PIs.  Prof. Taylor answered that anyone involved in a research endeavor should be trained.  She explained that most undergraduate research does not require IRB review if it is done within the context of a class with the purpose of learning research skills.  However, for undergraduate research other than that, the undergraduate will be co-PI, with the faculty sponsor being the PI.



SENATE CHAIR'S REPORT, by Prof. Valerie Watts


“Last month’s senate meeting was most refreshing.  The discussion about what we had achieved this year, and in particular, additional concerns that you brought forward was very helpful.  I enjoyed the interaction and appreciated your insight on various matters.  Please continue to feel free to bring up any topics that you would like us to address. 


“This last month we were very busy following up on the various issues that came up at our last meeting.  Your questions about the increase in promotional raises and the availability of Symantec for retirees are noted in the minutes from last month.  The only other item I have to report is that Jos Raadschelders has agreed to write a resolution of appreciation for Instructional Development Director Dee Fink.  We plan on presenting the resolution for approval at next month’s meeting.  Feel free to contact Prof. Raadschelders if you would like to contribute a phrase or two.”





The meeting adjourned at 4:40 p.m.  The next regular session of the Faculty Senate will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, April 11, 2005, in Jacobson Faculty Hall 102.


Sonya Fallgatter, Administrative Coordinator


Roger Frech, Secretary