Greetings from David Zeh, 2012-13 Faculty Senate Chair

Dear Faculty,
The Faculty Senate held their scheduled executive board elections at their May 9, 2012 Faculty Senate meeting and we are proud to present the new Faculty Senate Executive Board Members to you:
Chair:                         David Zeh (Biology)
Chair-elect:                Swatee Naik (Mathematics and Statistics)
Parliamentarian:        Chuck Price (Joe Crowley Student Union)
At Large:                    Trish Ellison (CABNR)
                                   Glenn Miller (CABNR)
Ex Officio:                    David Ryfe (Journalism)
Contact information for the new executive board can be found at the link below:

I encourage all faculty to communicate regularly with their Senators to help identify issues of importance that we may consider in the coming year.

The 2012-13 Senators are listed by the unit they represent at the link below:

Below I provide a brief summary of some of the accomplishments of the 2011-2012 Senate, and I outline goals and challenges for the new Senate.


Synopsis of the Activities of the 2011-2012 Senate

The UNR Faculty Senate, in collaboration with faculty, the University Administration and other NSHE institutions, accomplished a great deal over the last year. We reviewed the implementation of curricular review in the College of Education, the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, and the College of Cooperative Extension. We created a University syllabus policy and a new, more coherent policy on S/U and test credit limits. We implemented a University student dismissal policy, and a new policy requiring background checks for academic and administrative faculty. We also assisted in the hiring process for our new President, and held a special Senate meeting to discuss placement of laid off faculty members. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, we established the “Commission for the Future of the University of Nevada” (CFUN), a committee of administrative and academic faculty charged with assisting the administration in the development of a strategic vision for UNR as a top-tier residential campus for the 21st century.

I would especially like to thank Chair David Ryfe for his Senate leadership over the last year. David worked tirelessly to make the Senate a more proactive and visionary institution, and was a key player in soon-to-be implemented revisions to NSHE code regarding curricular review.

Under this revised code, a university administration request for curricular review will:

·       Trigger Faculty Senate review of the budget to provide a recommendation to the Board of Regents (BOR) whether or not faculty support the    

     process of curricular review

·      Require the university administration to provide access to all financial data relied upon in developing a curricular review proposal; this will ensure that the process is objective and data-driven

·      Necessitate a decision to accept or reject the declaration of curricular review by the BOR


A key feature of the revised code is that faculty oversight will occur at all four stages of curricular review process:

·      Review of the trigger for curricular review

·      Review of the programs to be affected

·      Review of the reorganization plan

·      Review of the appeal process for faculty threatened with layoffs


The Senate believes that effective communication between administration and faculty will lead to better curricular review outcomes and better faculty morale in the face of adversity.


2012-2013 Senate: Challenges and Opportunities

In the coming year, the University and the Faculty Senate will be confronted with many challenges but also some significant opportunities. The economy is stagnant, NSHE is proposing a new funding formula for higher education that currently favors high enrollment institutions in the southern part of the state, and higher education faces unprecedented challenges provoked by rising tuition costs, increasing student debt, and technology-driven disruptive innovation (e.g., massive open online courses). The Commission is developing strategies to deal with many of these issues. The new funding formula, if adopted, will retain tuition and fees generated by each campus, and will provide the potential for growth and enhancement of university functions. However, we will increasingly be competing with regional institutions for tuition dollars, and this will require clever and strategic decisions to make our university more competitive and attractive to students both within and outside of the state. The new Senate is also working diligently to convince the Chancellor and Legislature that the new funding formula must reward not only numbers of graduates but also excellence in teaching, research and outreach. We are making some progress on this front.

Finally, as the new Senate Chair, I am committed to opening up lines of communication between the administration and faculty. Beginning in the Fall 2012 semester, we will be holding informal, monthly meetings in which the President, the Provost, and the Senate Chair will be available to discuss any issues of concern to the faculty. We will also charge one of our Senate Committees with soliciting suggestions from both administrative and academic faculty to reduce red tape and improve the functioning of the University.

Best wishes,

David W. Zeh
Chair, Department of Biology
Chair, Faculty Senate 
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557

Tel: (775) 682 5735 or (775) 784-1648
Fax: (775) 784-1302


3 Responses to “Greetings from David Zeh, 2012-13 Faculty Senate Chair”

  1.   mhritz Says:

    Statement: wow. 3 people from biology-related fields. Out of 6.

    Faculty are elected to the Executive Board as a result of hard work, speaking up forcefully and eloquently at meetings, and agreeing to serve. The recent and draconian cuts to CABNR may have something to do with the presence of two CABNR faculty on the Executive Board, but if you’re looking for a discipline-related conspiracy theory explanation, I think you will be disappointed. The Chair of the nomination committee for the Executive Board was Eric Herzik (Political Science) and there were no Biology or CABNR faculty on that committee.


    David Zeh

  2.   mhritz Says:

    Comments: David, thanks for sending out the announcement about the Faculty Senate. I’ve been here just a few months, and haven’t had much opportunity to dig in to our faculty senate info.

    You said a couple of things in your email that I was curious about (requiring background checks for faculty? What’s that about?? And the syllabus policy—what is it? ). So, I went to the Faculty Senate page and poked a few links, and searched a few terms, and I’m not finding anything. The Senate Actions page hasn’t been updated since 2010, and I don’t see any minutes. Can you point me to the senate activities for 2011-2012? And, where do the minutes live?

    Thanks much!

    Good comments and questions. It’s nice to see that someone is actually reading emails from the Chair of the Faculty Senate!

    Faculty Senate minutes and summaries can be found at this link:
    Previous years, including 11-12 can be found in the archive:

    With regard to the syllabus policy, the Faculty Senate Executive Board felt there was no need for a syllabus policy and Chair Ryfe conveyed this information to the University Courses and Curriculum Committee. However, at the request of Regent Knecht, this issue will be brought up at the next Board of Regents meeting.

    Here is a synopsis of the UNR Administration’s position on syllabi:

    Syllabi and information about course content

    • The University Courses & Curriculum Committee has recently had discussions about the minimum expectations for a syllabus. The current guidelines were reviewed, and it was recommended that a policy regarding these minimum expectations be included in the University Administrative Manual. This policy has been developed and reviewed, and is pending approval.

    • During the above discussions, there have been no objections to the idea of formally requiring that students be provided a syllabus in every course, as this is already standard practice, but there was recognition that it is not practical to prescribe that certain specific details (such as precise lecture topics or even specific exam dates) be provided on the first day for the entire semester. In some courses, the pace of lectures and assignments must be adjusted in response to student needs.

    • Guidelines and a template for course syllabi are available on the provost’s website, Curriculum Central, as well as on Web Campus. Faculty are strongly encouraged to provide a syllabus to each student during the first week of class and to include the following information in the syllabus: instructor contact information, course information, course objectives and/or learning outcomes, schedule/course calendar, grading criteria/standards, academic standards, student support services, and the policy regarding recording of lectures.

    • The Instructional Design Team emphasizes the importance of posting the syllabus as the foundation for designing an online or blended course, and administrators indicate that faculty compliance is very high. The IDT stresses that the syllabus is the first step to building a course and this is emphasized in their face-to-face training sessions, online video tutorials and print step-by-step instructions. In addition, the first item on the Web Campus course menu shell is “Syllabus.” Faculty must take extra steps to eliminate the Syllabus menu item if they do not want to post a course syllabus.

    • In addition to encouraging faculty to post syllabi in Web Campus, the Instructional Design Team also urges faculty to post class assignments, reserve readings (or links to readings), and grades on Web Campus. This information is then available to students 24 hours a day in a secure, FERPA-compliant environment.

    • For distance education classes, Online and Independent Learning in Extended Studies provides a printed copy of a “best practices” document to faculty in the instructor packet given to every instructor/faculty during the first online course development meeting. In addition, Online & Independent Learning created an “Instructor Idea Exchange” that contains valuable and specific guidelines for the online syllabi. The details for development are included in this Instructor Idea Exchange that faculty can access when they develop a class with the division. Students of distance education classes always have access to an up-to-date class syllabus because every syllabus is updated/changed before the beginning of each semester that it is offered.

    • Prior to the start of the fall semester, the provost regularly reminds academic faculty in an e-mail of the need to provide a course syllabus to every student at the beginning of a course and provides faculty with links to resources for syllabus preparation (most recently on August 22, 2011.)

    • Colleges have encouraged departments to develop systems to ensure that an up-to-date syllabus is prepared and provided to students as the course begins. Some routinely maintain files of course syllabi.

    • Students who question whether a course matches the catalog description or whether it is meeting the student learning objectives can register their concerns with the department chair or through the course evaluation process. These processes ensure that the instructor’s colleagues are aware of the concerns and can conduct a review of the course objectives, assignments, evaluation procedures, and instructional techniques.

    A description of the background check policy for new faculty is contained in the University Administrative Manual. I am attaching the relevant pages. The checks are for new hires and are not required of current faculty. If I remember correctly, the cost per faculty member is approximately $50.

    Best wishes,


    David W. Zeh
    Chair, Faculty Senate
    Professor and Chair
    Department of Biology
    & Program in Ecology, Evolution & Conservation Biology
    University of Nevada
    Reno, NV 89557

    Tel: (775) 784-1648
    Fax: (775) 784-1302

  3.   mhritz Says:

    Comments: David,
    I’d not heard of many of the items you mentioned as accomplishments of last year’s faculty senate. I’m particularly interested in the University syllabus policy and the implementation of a student dismissal policy you mentioned. Can you send me links or details on these?

    Response: Student Dismissal Policy. The senate was asked to devise a dismissal policy for the students who were on probation three consecutive semesters, with a GPA below 2.0 and were taking up needed seats in classes. No policy existed to dismiss these students, so the Academic Standard’s Committee was asked to create a policy, which was vetted with administration and finalized as detailed in the link below:
    There is a change in the hearing timeline that was requested from the committee chair, which I believe will be in effect for Fall, 2012.

    Please see the previous post regarding the syllabus Policy.

    David Zeh

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