University Council Minutes

November 3, 1997

3:00 p.m.

Present: Dave Stetler (for Bob Bates), Landrum Cross, Peter Eyre, Rene Rios (for Elyzabeth Holford), Janet Johnson, Paul Knox, Peggy Meszaros, Carole Nickerson, Len Peters, Laurie Coble (for Minnis Ridenour), Ray Smoot, Hap Bonham (for Rich Sorensen), Andy Swiger, Tom Tillar, Robert Brown, Sigrid Gustafson, Jenne Ginther, Ben Poe, Charles Lytton, Cosby Rogers, Larry Shumsky, Terry Swecker, Richard Bambach, Norm Marriott, Deborah Mayo, Paul Metz, Kevin Pelzer, Frank Gwazdauskas, John Randolph, Bob Benoit, James Yardley, David de Wolf, Pat Scanlon, Rosemary Goss, Bernard Feldman, Kay Burke, Terry Lawrence, Peggy Rasnick, Marilyn Norstedt, Nancy Phillips, Joel Donahue, Steve Schneider, Moya Toohey, Natalie Wilson

Absent: Erv Blythe, Greg Brown, Eileen Hitchingham, Charles Steger, Bill Stephenson, Paul Torgersen, Terry Herdman, Eliza Tse, Tom Head, Gerri Johns, Curtis Lynch, Rajiv Khosla, Ningling Wang, Tekisha Everette, Raphael Castillejo, Duncan Neasham

Guests: Skip Fuhrman, Pat Hyer, Bill Snizek, Jack Crawford, Michael Herndon, Carol Penn

  1. Adoption of Agenda

    A motion was made and seconded to adopt the agenda as distributed. The motion passed.

  2. Announcement of approval and posting of Council Minutes of October 20, 1997

    Dr. Meszaros noted that the minutes from the October 20, 1997, University Council meeting have been voted on and approved electronically. Once voted upon, University Council minutes can be publicly accessed on the Governance Information System on the WEB.

  3. Council approved a packet of commission minutes comprised of:

  4. Announcements

    Dr. Meszaros reminded the group that there is a Campus Climate Forum scheduled for Monday, November 10, 1997, at 7:30 p.m. in the Auditorium of the Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center. Everyone was encouraged to attend if available. Ms. Carole Nickerson reported that the forum has been largely planned by a group of minority students who have been meeting with Barbara Pendergrass (Dean of Students' Office) and Carole Nickerson. Dr. Torgersen will be using a specific set of remarks and there is also a generous question and answer time, as well as time for students who have concerns or observations to share them with the group. This is not a one-time event, but is the first of several on-going events designed to look at campus climate issues at Virginia Tech. Announcements have appeared in Spectrum and the Collegiate Times and will be announced via a flyer.

    A question was raised in regard to the November 3 Roanoke Times article about the person Lee Hall was named for and his possible connection to activities that are KKK related. Dr. Peggy Meszaros noted that this and some other issues in the article speak to Campus Climate at Virginia Tech. Carole Nickerson reported that Dr. Torgersen was greatly troubled by the news that there may have been KKK activity by the person Lee Hall was named for. Dr. Torgersen has asked Dr. Peter Wallenstein to lead a very speedy workgroup which includes Dr. Joyce Williams Green and Mr. Michael Herndon, Ph.D. student and graduate student representative to the Board of Visitors. These three people have been asked to report to Dr. Torgersen by 5:00 p.m. Friday, November 7, on their historical examination and any other relevant material. Carole Nickerson assured the group that Dr. Torgersen has a strong interest in acting very carefully and thinking very well about the matter. He is acutely aware of the range of viewpoints regarding possible solutions.

  5. Discussion

    Campus Civility Issues Among Faculty, Staff and Students -
    Dr. Skip Fuhrman, President of the Faculty Senate

    The Faculty Senate has two working groups that are now a permanent part of the Faculty Senate: The Legislative Liaison and the Public Perceptions Committee. This year, the Faculty Senate chose to work on assessment and climate. Jack Cranford from Biology is chair of the Assessment and Climate Committee.

    Campus climate is sometimes referred to as the informal and formal climate on university campuses that affects learning. A large part of campus climate is uncivil behavior that ranges from students who bang their way out of classrooms disturbing their colleagues, to e-mail that disparages a particular ethnic or minority group, to physical and verbal harassment. The issue of campus climate is widespread across American universities and campuses. The websites that have information regarding campus climate are: 1) Campus Climate Reports -, and 2) Academic Freedom and Campus Speech Codes - Dr. Fuhrman offered a handout called "A Proposed Process for Managing the First Amendment Aspects of Campus Hate Speech."

    Dr. Bill Snizek, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Sociology -
    One concern is a growing level of instability among certain students, a small group of students who are very vocal and very intrusive in their behavior. Rude behavior includes coming to class late, leaving early, talking and joking. This can be very disruptive. Other disruptive behavior: several students sit together and steal each others' pencils, talk, and hit each other. This behavior is escalating; Dr. Snizek suggested that something might be done in orientation to alert students to this unprofessional, uncollegial form of behavior. Dr. Snizek feels sorry for the students who are punctual, yet cannot hear what is going on. To interrupt a lecture to ask students to stop talking is disconcerting and affects the learning environment of the class. This is an issue that needs to be addressed.

    Dr. Jack Cranford, Biology Department, Chair of Climate Committee -
    Dr. Cranford handed out the Climate Committee report, which characterized responses received from students. Students and faculty met to discuss: 1) what conditions could clearly be recognized as positive, constructive, and good; and 2) what conditions students are concerned about. There are clear differences in how faculty and students view these matters. Students are making choices as to whether or not to attend classes. The pressure in the job market is for students to be well rounded; to be good students as well as members of SGA, GSA and other associations and activities; and to assume leadership roles. Sometimes this gets to be more important than actually going to class. When it is time to get a job, listing all the classes taken as well as all the other activities has more credibility and visibility. Students believe a good QCA plus all the other activities is better than a higher QCA. In regard to the honor system, students do not want to get involved and want the faculty to take care of it. Students are willing to let faculty know that someone is cheating, but are not willing to say who it is. Additional meetings of this kind are necessary with different groups to get a true understanding of the views of faculty and students. Students feel dorms and dorm life are good, and that study halls and study lounges provoke discussion, interaction and meaning. Beyond the freshman year the places that meet these needs are Squires Student Center, Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center, and other places students congregate. It was suggested that future meetings of faculty and students should also include employers. Dr. Lanny Cross shared that Career Services does employer research and noted that grades are usually checked by an employer prior to the interview. Dr. Cross said that Dean of Students Cathy Goree would be willing to work with Jack Cranford's group.

    Dr. Carol Penn, Student Health Services -
    Dr. Penn reported on binge drinking. Binge drinking, heavy drinking and drinking to get drunk are terms used to describe the number one campus life problem. Some students are in fact drinking for the purpose of getting drunk. This kind of drinking results in both immediate and long term negative consequences for the drinker, other innocent people and ultimately the university. Dr. Penn invited everyone in the room to join together in teaching students to make healthy, appropriate, safe and legal drinking choices on this campus. There is no one solution to this problem. The point is not to criticize, but to do what we can as faculty and staff members to make a difference. This can take the form of advising students with potential problems, integrating alcohol prevention education into courses, and/or supporting various campus alcohol prevention events. Faculty, staff and students are invited to work together to prevent alcohol abuse on campus. The news reports speak for themselves. Some things being done in the Division of Student Affairs, the University Student Health Services and the Office of Health Education are: Catch the Wave (posters are available for the asking), Alcohol Awareness Week, a working pamphlet to access drinking habits, Student in Crisis Guide, Binge Consequences You Can Live With Program, door hanger to help in alcohol emergencies, Friends Helping Friends (alcohol related problems or sexual assault), and several organizations and Greek organizations taking advantage of the alcohol free competition program. A task force was developed in Student Affairs to study what we can do to alleviate the problem. It was suggested that the Faculty Senate look at what faculty and administration can do to help.

    Mr. Michael Herndon, Graduate Student Representative to the Board of Visitors and College of Arts and Sciences Cultural Diversity Committee (CDC) -
    the Cultural Diversity Committee is charged as a principal mechanism within the college to consider, recommend, and oversee initiatives which will aid and improve recruitment and retention of minority and female undergraduate students, staff and faculty, and which will improve the classroom and community climate for cultural diversity. For CDC purposes, cultural diversity covers a broad span of concerns including race, gender, class, culture, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and physical ability. While the CDC recognizes the importance of this broad range of pluralistic concerns, the CDC has agreed to focus on issues of recruitment and retention of African American students, staff, and faculty as its immediate area of attention. Accomplishments in 1996-97 include: Annual Diversity Award, Diversity Enhancement Project, Undergraduate Student Advisory Board, Graduate Diversity Research and Mentoring Project, College Diversity Planning Process, Cluster Hiring, Diversity Handbook and Web Page, visited Office of African-American Affairs (Dean Rick Turner) at UVA, met with Gender, Race, and Education Class.

    Faculty Senate was asked to look into why Virginia Tech has fallen out of the top 50 universities.

    A comment was made that we need to do a better job of getting information out regarding our successes.

    A question was raised in regard to what has happened to the EEOA Campus Climate Program. Response: there has been considerable training in regard to sexual harassment and sexual assault awareness.

    It was also strongly urged that whatever is being done in regard to campus climate, there should be a collective effort so everyone is aware.

  6. Adjournment at 4:45 p.m.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Carole Nickerson
    Executive Assistant to the President

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