The University of Oklahoma (Norman campus)
Regular session – March 12, 2007 – 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 Roger Frech, Chair.


PRESENT:       Albert, Badhwar, Basic, D. Bemben, M. Bemben, Benson, Biggerstaff, Blank, Bradford, Brown, Brule, Civan, Cramer, Croft, Elisens, Fincke, Forman, Franklin, Frech, Gade, Ge, Greene, Houser, Keppel, Knapp, Kolar, Kutner, Lester, Livesey, Magnusson, Marcus-Mendoza, Miranda, Raadschelders, Rambo, Riggs, Roche, Scamehorn, Schwarzkopf, Skeeters, Strawn, Tan, Warnken, Weaver, Wyckoff

Provost's office representative:  Mergler, Jorgenson
ISA representatives:  Cook

ABSENT:         Draheim, Gutierrez, Hamerla, James, Lai, Thulasiraman, Trytten, Vitt, Wei






Faculty tribute

Federal and state legislators

Benefits--health insurance, OTRS

Senate Chair's Report:

Committee nominations

Meeting with OSU and OU HSC

OU Tulsa Faculty

Faculty deaths

Employment Benefits Committee retiree member

Grading scale

Clicker technology






Prof. Frech noted that in his Chair’s report last month, he inadvertently referred to the Library Taskforce as the “Library Serials Review Taskforce.”  Explaining that the charge of the Library Taskforce had nothing to do with a serials review, he recommended that “Library Serials Review” be changed to “Library Taskforce” in the minutes of the meeting.  The Faculty Senate approved the amendment and approved the Faculty Senate Journal as amended.





The Faculty Tribute will be held on Monday, April 16, 2007, at 4:00 p.m. in the Sandy Bell Gallery, Mary and Howard Lester Wing, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. 


Prof. Frech pointed out that a number of faculty had expressed concern about legislation that was pending and wanted to contact their senators/representatives.  To find out the district you are in and to determine your federal and state legislators, go to, fill in your zip code (the only information needed), and click “Submit.” 





Human Resources Director said he appreciated the opportunity to comment on the issue of health insurance.  A lot of concerns have been expressed in the university community with respect to the cost of health insurance, the options offered and in particular, the high cost of dependent coverage.  The Human Resources (HR) office has received resolutions from the Arts & Sciences chairs/directors and Norman Staff Senate, and there is continuing dialog with the Norman Faculty Senate as well as at HSC and Tulsa.  Health insurance has been a continuing issue for the Employment Benefits Committee (EBC), which is an advisory group to the administration and HR with regard to employee benefit issues.  The EBC has had continuing review of the health insurance options we offer and what our contribution strategy should be.  After evaluating the state’s HealthChoice plan and Aetna, the EBC recommended that we continue our program with Aetna in 2007.  The primary reason is that Aetna offers a national network and has lower cost for dependent coverage than HealthChoice.  For 2007, the deductible for the primary health insurance option was raised from $300 to $500 for an individual and from $600 to $1000 for a family in order to keep the premium increase manageable and to mirror what happened with the state’s plan.  HealthChoice’s premiums went up 18 percent, compared with 12 percent at OU.  Since 2001, the cost to cover an individual has more than doubled, and the cost for dependents has increased by 178 percent.  Because of these increases, the EBC recommended to President Boren a high-level review of health insurance, funding strategies, and our competitive position--whether we are offering a competitive level of benefits at a competitive cost.  President Boren accepted the recommendation and appointed a steering committee to manage this comprehensive review.  The steering committee is chaired by Dr. Dewayne Andrews, vice president of Health Affairs and executive dean of the College of Medicine.  Other members include Dr. Bob Dauffenbach from the Norman faculty, Dr. Gary Raskob, dean of Public Health, Ken Rowe and Nick Hathaway, vice presidents of Administrative Affairs, and Julius Hilburn.  The role of the steering committee is to ensure there is a thorough, fact-based analysis and that we have the resources and expertise necessary to do a thorough job of looking at the alternatives and options.  The committee has met twice and decided that the study should be a two-pronged attack.  Issues that need to be address in the short-term include how much the University should contribute, what coverage is appropriate for dependents, what is a competitive level of benefits, and what insurance options and vendors will be part of our program.  Longer term issues will revolve around consumerism, wellness, the impact that health care policy might have on the overall OU cost and the outcomes of health care offered to employees.  An expanded panel, with additional faculty and staff from all three campuses, will be appointed to look at OU’s contribution strategies and insurance options.  The panel will include Darryl McCullough, chair of EBC and Norman faculty member, Brenda Freese, an EBC member and HSC staff, Julie Miller-Cribbs, a Tulsa faculty member, Peter Budetti, assistant dean in Public Health, Don Harrison from Pharmacy, William Mathews, chair of Zoology, Theta Dempsey, director of Parking, and a retired faculty member (to be named).  Some of the members are experts in public policy or health policy at the HSC.  One of the keys will be to communicate to campus.  First, a notice from the president will go out to all employees.  The committee will set up a web site to provide ongoing updates for the campus community and set up a mechanism for employees to share questions and suggestions with the committee.  The committee made sure that the structure was set to lead to some thoughtful, well-developed recommendations.  When asked when the web site would be available, Mr. Hilburn said the full committee would meet in about two weeks and then would issue a notice to campus about the review, scope, timeline, and questions to address, including a reference to the web site and email address for people who have reactions.


Another effort of HR is the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System (OTRS) choice project.  In July 2004, the legislature approved the offering of a retirement option for OU and OSU.  People who were hired after July 1, 2004 in positions that formerly required mandatory participation in OTRS have a choice of making a monthly contribution to OTRS and participating in the defined contribution plan (DCP) or going into a new plan called the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP).  The ORP is a DCP, does not require an employee contribution, and is portable, once vested.  HR filed a request with the IRS in late 2004 to get approval to offer the ORP to existing employees.  The IRS came out with a revenue ruling in the fourth quarter of 2006 that said employers could not offer the type of choice for existing employees that OU was proposing.  OU asked the IRS to look at the specific facts of our filing and gave the IRS additional reasons why our request should be approved.  A couple of weeks ago, a group from OU, OSU, and OTRS went to Washington to make the case with the IRS.  We may hear from the IRS within a couple of months.  The bottom line is whether we can offer a choice to people who never had a choice before.  Whatever the answer, the administration will engage in a communication effort with employees. 



SENATE CHAIR'S REPORT, by Prof. Roger Frech


Prof. Frech solicited volunteers for certain committees that were short on nominations.  He asked people who were interested in serving to see Prof. Bradford, chair of the Committee on Committees, after the meeting.  Charges of the committees were available at the meeting.  The Committee on Committees will begin to draft people at its meeting on March 13.


“On March 1, the Senate Executive Committee met with its counterparts from the OSU Faculty Council and the OU HSC Faculty Senate.  The meeting focused on four topics:

a. Health Care Planning.  There was much discussion on the change in the way we will obtain and analyze information, as well as the actions that will follow.  At OSU’s request, we established a liaison between their health care planning group and the Steering Committee of OU’s group.

     b. Textbook policies.  OSU also has a Textbook Committee.  They are close to having legislation; when this legislation is passed, we will be given a copy that we will pass on to the Textbook Committee here on campus.

c.  Possible change in the grading scale at OU.  We distributed copies of the Grading Task Force report.  A discussion covered a variety of areas that were nicely dealt with in the report.

d.  Athletics and Universities—challenges and opportunities.  This was a topic suggested by OSU.  I would summarize the discussion by saying that both OU and OSU see challenges and opport unities in the interface between Athletics and the Academy, although the issues of concern to one campus may not be of concern to the other campus.


For the last half year, the Executive Committee has been looking at the question of providing an appropriate voice on the Senate for OU-Tulsa faculty.  For purposes of discussion, the members of the OU-Tulsa faculty (approximately 30 members) teach in academic programs that fall under the jurisdiction of the Norman Campus Provost but whose primary place of employment is Tulsa.  At present there is an elected member of the faculty who meets with the Executive Committee twice a year.  We are exploring the possibility of establishing some sort of liaison status on the Faculty Senate for an elected member of the Tulsa Faculty Advisory Committee.  Steve Bradford and I will visit with members of the OU-Tulsa faculty on March 29 to explore their concerns and issues.


[Although not reported at the meeting, Prof. Frech wishes to acknowledge the deaths of the following faculty:  Malcolm Morris (retired, Business), February 15, and Danney Goble (Classics), March 8.]





Prof. Frech explained that the OU Retirees Association requested that its delegate to the Employment Benefits Committee, who has been a nonvoting member, be afforded full membership and voting rights on the committee.  This change has the support of the Employment Benefits Committee and the Staff Senate and pre-approval of President Boren, contingent on approval by the Faculty Senate.  The request came to the Senate from the Employment Benefits Committee and is a “housekeeping” change.  The Senate approved, on a voice vote, the motion to grant voting privileges to the retiree member of the Employment Benefits Committee.





At last month’s meeting, the Senate discussed the recommendations of the grading scale task force (see 2/07 Senate Journal and  Prof. Frech said the Executive Committee discussed the report and had two amendments to propose.  The most straightforward approach under Robert’s Rules is to entertain a motion to adopt the recommendations of the task force, which will open the floor for discussion, and entertain any amendments.  Prof. Bradford moved to adopt the recommendations of the grading task force.


Prof. Bradford then moved to amend the potential steps in the implementation of a plus/minus system on page 19 of the report so that the working group in paragraph b and the evaluation team in paragraph c would be combined into one evaluation group to monitor implementation and respond to student, faculty and administrative concerns and problems.  This group would be formed and begin work during the first year of implementation.  The Executive Committee thought one committee to carry out this charge would be sufficient and provide continuity.  Prof. Frech said some members of the task force were at the meeting and could answer questions:  Prof. Joe Rodgers, chair, Ms. Cheryl Jorgenson, and Mr. Matt Burris.  Prof. Benson said his understanding was students would start receiving plus/minus grades immediately, but the pluses and minuses would not go on the transcript until 2010.  He asked how the students would get those expanded grades.  Prof. Frech answered that students would get the grades, but the pluses and minuses would not count on the transcript.  Academic Records would have to strip the plus/minus in the first year.  Prof. Rodgers said plus/minus grades would not be recorded on the transcripts but students would get the grades.  Provost Mergler clarified that in phase one, a student would know about a plus or minus grade only if the faculty member notified him/her of the grade.  Prof. Badhwar noted that many faculty members do that currently--give pluses and minuses, even though they are not recorded.  Prof. Rodgers said Rick Skeel (Academic Records Director) suggested that faculty could write down pluses and minuses and they could go to students, but those pluses and minuses would be stripped at the point when grades are recorded permanently on the official transcript.  Ms. Jorgenson explained that the current mainframe system could not easily record pluses and minuses and carry them forward onto the transcript.  Some interim process would have to be created.  Faculty could report pluses and minuses to the students through several mechanisms, perhaps D2L.  The path will be clearer once we are further into the new student records system.  Prof. Rodgers explained that part of the challenge was no one was sure when the new system would come on line.  Prof. Frech said the initial step would give faculty a chance to try plus/minus grading to see if it would work in a particular course.  Prof. Marcus-Mendoza asked whether the working group would look at the effects on students and faculty with the assumption that the expanded grading was definite or would look at whether it was succeeding and should be implemented.  Prof. Frech said his assumption was that the goal, if the grading was passed, was to move forward with the implementation, and the committee would address any problems.  Prof. Marcus-Mendoza asked whether there was a mechanism to stop forward progress if the grading system was not working well.  Prof. Frech pointed out that faculty would always maintain the right to grade on a five-point scale.  If there was a huge outcry that the system was not working well, additional legislation could be introduced.  The motion to form one implementation committee instead of two was approved on a voice vote.


Prof. Bradford moved that “the plus/minus system to be adopted shall not include a silent A+.”  He said the Executive Committee was concerned that another institution might automatically take an A+ as a 4.0, an A as 3.7 and so on and not pay attention to OU’s definition of an A+, even though an A+ and an A would be 4.0 under the proposed system.  When asked whether other institutions re-calculate GPAs, Prof. Bradford said his understanding was for graduate school, some institutions that count an A+ as 4.3 could re-scale the grades so that an A+ would become 4.0 and an A 3.7.  The Executive Committee did not want to take that chance.  Prof. Badhwar asked about the task force’s reasons for proposing a silent A+.  Prof. Rodgers said the silent A+ was not a strong component of the proposal.  In his view, the task force would not think the proposal had changed much with that amendment.  Many universities use a silent A+.  One of the concerns of students is that the plus/minus could disproportionately affect students at the top of the distribution.  A silent A+ would be a way for faculty to indicate to those students that they have done especially well without creating a problem.  Some institutions count A+ as a 4.3, so there was a concern that accrediting institutions and other institutions could re-scale a student’s grades and negatively affect student grades.  A+ is often a popular piece of the plus/minus grading system with students, even though it does not count in the grade point average.  Prof. Biggerstaff asked whether the transcript would show that an A was the highest grade.  Provost Mergler said accredited schools have an explanation of the grading scale on the back of the transcript.  Prof. Skeeters asked how the A+ would be indicated on the transcript.  Provost Mergler said the A+ would look like the other grades, but it would be counted as a 4.0 in the computation of the grade point averages.  Prof. Skeeters asked about the number of universities that use a silent A+.  Prof. Rodgers responded that quite a few that have the plus/minus system use the silent A+, and quite a few do not.  Prof. Greene asked how the A+ would be recorded on the back of the transcript.  Provost Mergler answered that typically the explanation delineates how many points each grade that is available is worth.  Prof. Kutner said he thought the language of the amendment was ambiguous.  He suggested that the intention was that the top grade would be A, and that there would be no A+.  Prof. Frech said he would accept that as a friendly amendment.  There was a brief discussion of other ways to express what was meant by the amendment.  Prof. Frech summarized that the sense was to strike the silent A+.  He reported that if the recommendations passed, a ballot would be sent to the general faculty.  Prof. Skeeters said the initial argument for dropping the A+ was the fear that some schools would re-scale the grade inaccurately.  Since many universities use a silent A+, most schools would be aware of the situation and take that into consideration.  She said she did not understand the concern and thought the argument for rewarding the top students was pretty strong.  Prof. Frech said if grades were renormalized with a non-silent A+, it would have an effect on a student’s GPA.  Prof. Rodgers said the amendment did not bother him, but he did not think it was especially important.  The task force heard of mistakes being made with a real A+ but not with a silent A+.  Prof. Benson said he took it that a silent A+ was meant as a gesture toward the students, to reward exceptional students.  Students are not excited about a plus/minus system.  He said he would hate to take away a gesture made toward students without compelling reasons.  The Executive Committee thought it had the potential to harm students.  He asked how important this was to the students.  Prof. Rodgers it was more than a gesture to the students.  It was also a gesture to the interaction between faculty and students because faculty could signal to students that they had done better than A work.  It was not fair to say it was a gesture without content.  Those A pluses, even though silent, could be used by students.  There could be some real value to it.  The motion to strike the silent A+ failed on a voice vote.  Prof. Forman asked if this was an appropriate time to hear from the students.  Prof. Frech said he would let the students speak after all amendments had been discussed but before the final vote. 


Prof. Biggerstaff moved that the plus/minus grading be adopted at the graduate level, not the undergraduate level.  He said there was a need for greater fidelity in grading at the graduate level.  He said there did not seem to be anything broken at the undergraduate level, and he did not see what the plus/minus grading aimed to fix.  The number of institutions that do and do not do it is close to equal.  Prof. Rambo asked whether implementing the system at the graduate level initially would provide a model for assessing possible benefits and problems for undergraduates.  Prof. Rodgers answered that the Big 12 universities had a variety of systems.  In no cases, were the plus/minus systems viewed as experimental and one case carried over to the other case.  Prof. Rambo asked whether the graduate level was so dissimilar from the undergraduate level that it would not be a good model.  Presumably, expanded grading could not occur at any level until the software could handle it.  Prof. Rodgers said the task force thought they were fairly dissimilar, and most of the compelling arguments applied equally to both.  At the graduate level, the range is more restrictive; faculty members typically use two grades.  More grades are used at the undergraduate level.  Prof. Kolar said he was not in favor of the amendment for the reason that the College of Engineering basically has a three-point scale for undergraduates; Ds and Fs are not passing grades.  He would like to see more fidelity in the undergraduate grading scale as well.  Prof. Greene commented that a B- would exist at the graduate level, but there would be no C- at the undergraduate level.  Graduate students who used to pass would no longer be in good standing if they received a B-.  In effect, this would increase the standards as to what is passing without much discussion among departments or colleges.  The motion to use plus/minus grading only at the graduate level failed on a voice vote.


Mr. Matt Burris, a member of the task force and a member of the UOSA Undergraduate Student Congress, distributed copies of a resolution passed unanimously by Student Congress the previous week.  It was the second such resolution concerning the grading scale; the first resolution was included in the task force report.  The resolution “asks the Faculty Senate and the Provost not to proceed any further on implementing the recommendations of the Grading Scale Taskforce which will, with great adversity, affect the undergraduate student body of the University of Oklahoma.”  UOSA would like to have a discussion with the Faculty Senate, perhaps a meeting of the executive committees, to talk about the proposal.  This decision affects students as greatly as faculty; therefore, the students would like to have a seat at the discussion.  The hope is to present something more appealing to students.  The major concern is GPAs for 4.0 students will decrease.  A student should be able to cancel out an A- with an A+; otherwise, it is an attack on student GPAs.  Another major concern is that adding more grades has the potential to increase the number of academic appeals.  The appeals system, as built into the Student Code, is a slow process.  An academic appeal during a student’s senior year could impact graduate school and employment. 


Prof. Benson asked how many 4.0 students there were.  Ms. Cheryl Jorgenson (Institutional Research) said about 1.4-1.5 percent of the last three graduating classes.  Prof. Frech added that the number of 4.0 students in the graduating classes was 53 out of 3776 in 2005-06, 51 out of 3544 in 2004-05, and 48 out of 3181 in 2003-04.  Prof. Greene asked if the students thought only the 4.0 students would be impacted.  Mr. Burris said the 4.0 students were not the only problem.  He was also concerned about students who could possibly get the A+ points that are not there.  Prof. Bemben pointed out that the state regents recognize a 4.0 as the highest grade.  An A+ would not do anything for a student’s GPA.  Mr. Burris said he would like to make an A+ equal 4.3.  Otherwise, a student with all As, including A minuses, could have a GPA below a 4.0.  Prof. Livesey noted that if a student received 39 As and one A- for 120 hours, his/her GPA would be a 3.9925.  He asked if Mr. Burris thought that would severely reduce one’s likelihood of getting into graduate school.  Mr. Burris said there were myriad other scenarios.  Prof. Livesey asked whether it was fair for someone who got 39 A minuses to be given the same credentials as someone who got 39 As.  Mr. Rod Jahromi, vice-chair of Student Congress, suggested that the Senate delay action until the executive committees could come up with a compromise.  Prof. Benson asked what kind of compromise the students were proposing.  The only issue raised was that students prefer an A+ that would really count.  Mr. Burris said it went beyond that.  The only dialog the students had had with the Faculty Senate was from reports from the task force and emails from Prof. Frech.  He said he thought there needed to be a forum where students had an official place at the table. 


Prof. Marcus-Mendoza asked whether a vote to approve meant approving the recommendations of the task force or sending it to a vote of faculty.  Prof. Frech explained that if the Faculty Senate voted to adopt the recommendations, then the next step would be a general faculty vote on both the form of the grade scale and the implementation process.  Prof. Forman said his opinion was we should do it or not do it, and do it in one year.  Prof. Blank asked whether there would be a mechanism for indicating on the transcript if an instructor chose to grade on a standard five-point scale.  Provost Mergler answered no, that an A, B, C, etc. would simply get the usual points.  We do not note it currently when professors choose to give all As and Bs, for example.  Prof. Skeeters asked whether the only input from students had been through the task force.  Prof. Frech replied that two students served on the task force.  Provost Mergler said the task force held a student forum with student leaders.  Prof. Rodgers added that students had input to the task force.  Mr. Burris said his only invitation to the Faculty Senate was through the task force.  Prof. Schwarzkopf asked Prof. Frech whether he had received an invitation to speak to Student Congress.  Prof. Frech said he had not.  Prof. Schwarzkopf asked about the time frame for the general faculty vote.  Prof. Frech said he expected to ask the general faculty to vote electronically in mid April and have the vote completed by end of the spring semester.  Prof. Knapp asked whether the task force took a formal vote and whether the decision was unanimous.  Prof. Rodgers said the process played out in two meetings.  There were differences of opinion, which reflected the differences of opinion within the university; that is, faculty members were more supportive than the students, and the administrators were in the middle.  No vote was recorded of who was in favor and who was not. 


The motion to adopt the recommendations as amended was approved by a vote of 26 to 11, including one written ballot.  After the meeting, an additional written ballot was submitted in favor of the recommendations, making the vote 27 to 11. 





Prof. Blank announced that individuals who were interested in discussing various forms of clickers (classroom response technology) would meet on March 15 at 1:00 p.m.  This is an effort to standardize as much as possible across the university system.  Anyone who is interested should email Prof. Blank,, or Prof. Bruce Mason, 





The meeting adjourned at 5:05 p.m.  The next regular session of the Faculty Senate will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, April 9, 2007, in Jacobson Faculty Hall 102.


Sonya Fallgatter, Administrative Coordinator


Cecelia Brown, Secretary