03-18-2015 Faculty Senate Minutes

Faculty Senate

Meeting Minutes

March 18, 2015

Present: Lester Gerhardt, Lois Peters, Pawel Keblinski, Christopher Bystroff, Murali Chari, Jennifer Monger, Antoinette Maniatty, Frank Wright, Jonas Braasch, Ekaterina Haskins, Jonas Braasch, Frank Wright, Diana Borca-Tasciuc, Vincent Meunier, Provost- Prabhat Hajela

Next meetings: Faculty Senate- May 13, 2015 Library Fischbach Room

                       General Faculty-April 6, 2015

1) Welcome by the President-Lester Gerhardt

Meeting opens at 8:22am. Professor Gerhardt welcomes the group.  Professor Gerhardt recently sent out a memo to the faculty on the upcoming Advising and Learning Assistance Center (ALAC) and the Office of Graduate Education (OGE) forum on Academic Advising scheduled for March 25.  It is open to all Faculty and covers both undergraduate and graduate student advising.

The President met with the Faculty on March 12th to talk about FY 2016 budgetary concerns before she held the Town Meeting for the Rensselaer community.  Professor Gerhardt spoke with the Chief of Staff to both personally invite the President to the April General Faculty meeting and to invite her to speak at the fall, 2015 General Faculty meeting and regularly thereafter, as in the Constitution.

2) Approval of the Minutes – February 11, 2015

Professor Bequette asked for some additions regarding the Core Curriculum committee information to be included.  They were reviewed and added.  Professor Wright motions, Professor Meunier seconds. All in favor. So moved.

3) Old Business

a)     Status of the Faculty Handbook:  The Provost spoke.  The handbook revisions were reviewed by Human Resources and have been passed along to our legal consulting firm. The next steps are that the Provost will coordinate with Legal to get their feedback, and any changes will be passed back to the Senate, and presented to the Faculty for final review.  Professor Gerhardt reiterated that the Senate will vote on the Faculty handbook, and then it goes to the President and Board of Trustees for final approval.

b)    Status of Digital Measures evaluations of TA’s:  Professor Peters spoke to Linda Schadler and she is expecting questions for the survey from the senate by April 1st in order to get it in for spring 2015.   When Professor Peters spoke with Stan Dunn a few days ago on the matter, he was uncertain if he had committed to creating the 1st draft of questions but was willing to do so.  There was some discussion in this meeting about making sure the TA’s have input to the questions.  Also discussed how it might be perceived as negative because it may feel like a performance review.  Professor Peters reminded the group that the reason this was brought up was because Lally TA’s needed input as to how they performed their teaching duties in order to apply for jobs after college.  Professor Gerhardt said he would bring up the topic at the Student Senate meeting this week to let them know what is happening and obtain input.   It was discussed that to get this done in time for the April 1st deadline,  the questions should be a submitted with broad scope questions and leave 3-5 questions that can be included and elaborated for specific school/areas.   It was further decided that for this first implementation for spring, 2015, Stan would be the best person to compose the initial draft questions and then pass it by the Executive Committee for their review.   Subsequently, it is planned that additional questions may be added by the Student Senate, or by Professors and their TA in specific courses. Professor Peters will ask Stan to inform the TA’s that at the end of the spring 2015 semester, Digital Measures will include a TA review, which will be given to them to use in the future. 

1.     ACTION ITEM: Professor Gerhardt will inform the Student Senate this week at their regularly scheduled meeting.  

2.     ACTION ITEM: Professor Peters will ask Stan Dunn to create the draft questions and also if the process for the review will be part of the faculty evaluation forms in digital measures or a separate form/process.

c)     Status of Faculty Development Survey:  Professor Peters spoke and said that it was determined that this is not the right time for the survey. 

d)    Committee on Honors:  Professor Gerhardt received an updated report from the committee chair, Professor McLaughlin, in which she made note that one of the 2015 Honorary Degree recipients at this year’s commencement is one of the individuals that the committee had nominated. 

4) Discussion of President Jackson’s meeting with the Faculty

Professor Meunier asked about how the budget cuts were to be accomplished.  The Provost spoke and said that as was mentioned, the Board agreed with reduction in the budget to bring it in line with the revenue. It did approve some ‘put-backs’ in the budget to reinstate some of the reductions – included in this were a continued investment in faculty recruitment, merit increases to ensure we do not lose ground on competitive compensation, staffing to ensure that efforts for fund-raising are continued, and continued staff support for maintaining operational needs. The gap budget funding that has been used in the past has been decreased by 1/2.  The provost office will work with the Deans to discuss exactly how many contingent faculty can be hired.  The board liked the idea of exploring flexibility in the academic calendar, particularly in how it would benefit innovative pedagogy, increase opportunities for students to develop themselves through outside activities, and provide access to a Rensselaer education for a larger number of students. The ‘Sophomore Summer’ concept that is at the heart of the new academic calendar discussion, is one where students would do one full summer session after completing their sophomore year, and must take time off to pursue other activities in one of the semesters in their regular junior year at Rensselaer. The board asked for a more detailed plan of how this approach would be implemented.  The lead time would be one and one-half to two years, if this were to be implemented.


Some discussion was brought up around specific questions with regard to the debt that the institution has.  The Poly article “Uncovering Rensselaer’s Finances” was also brought up.  The provost said that some of the numbers stated in the article were not quite correct and it may be simply how numbers were read from the 990 form.  As was discussed at the last meeting, there are challenges that all universities face in this changing climate. There were also discussions on developing a robust summer program and to continue to implement blended and online learning tools as a way of expanding reach and to provide the tools for students to pursue other opportunities. The blended learning approach was being successfully implemented at Hartford and should be more formally introduced for our students in residence at Troy. In the summer semester in particular, the institute has to make better use of facilities that are otherwise idle for 3 months.  It was also noted that debt related questions may be brought up in the General faculty meeting after the Provost speaks.  The Provost said that he would invite Virginia Gregg-VP of Finance to see if she would be available to attend the General faculty meeting.  

5) Discussion of Future Elections

Senate elections are to be held this spring for members whose terms expire; several of those positions are senators and standing committee members.  In addition, 5 out of 6 Executive Committee positions will need to be filled: 

1.     Chair of the Faculty – Professor Holguin-Veras has completed his 3 year term

2.     President – Professor Gerhardt is retiring

3.     Vice President - Professor Keblinski must step down since he has been appointed Department Head of Materials Science and Engineering

4.     Secretary of the Senate – Professor Meunier’s term is completed

5.     Recording Secretary – Professor Borca-Tasciuc is completing Professor Oehlschlaeger’s term

As it states in the Constitution under Terms and Succession, “...Each of the officers shall serve a three-year term, with the Vice President of the Senate to succeed to the position of President of the Senate in the second year, and the Chair of the Faculty in the third year; and the Recording Secretary of the Senate to succeed to the position of Secretary of the Senate in the second year, and the Secretary of the Faculty in the third year.

With that in mind, the EC positions up for election are for the following terms: 

1.     Chair of the Faculty: 1 year

2.     President: 2 years

3.     Vice President: 3 years

4.     Secretary of the Senate: 2 years

5.     Recording Secretary: 3 years

The Elections committee must be composed of six Senate members, one from each school, and one member at large, along with the VP of the Senate.  Since Professor Keblinski is no longer on the Senate because of his administrative role, Professor Maniatty was nominated as Vice President to complete Professor Keblinski’s term for this semester.  A motion was made by Professor Wright to elect Professor Maniatty as the Vice President.  It was seconded by Professor Meunier.  All in favor. So moved. As such, VP Professor Maniatty will serve as Chair of the Election Committee.

The remaining members who have previously agreed to serve on the committee are:

·         Open - School of Science Representative

·         Professor Akera-School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Representative

·         Professor Diana Borca-Tasciuc - School of Engineering Representative

·         Professor Braasch - School of Architecture Representative

·         Professor Chari - Lally School of Management

·         Open – Member at Large

Professor Meunier subsequently volunteered to be the School of Science representative, and a person will be sought for the Member at Large position.

3.  ACTION ITEM:  A person to fill the Member at Large position will be sought.

6) General Faculty Meeting Agenda

Professor Bystroff spoke.  He has been working with Professor Holguin-Veras on the agenda and in addition to the Provost speaking, wanted to send an open call for volunteers, one from each school, to speak at the meeting.  They wanted the feedback from the senate and suggestions were made to have a theme to all the speakers branching off the Provost’s presentation of the state of the academic enterprise.  After some discussion, the theme that was suggested was the ‘Future of RPI’ with self-selected speakers from each School to present for a maximum of 10 min including Q&A.  Professor’s Bystroff and Holguin-Veras will send along the agenda to the EC within a few days.

4. ACTION ITEM: Professor’s Bystroff and Holguin-Veras to send General faculty agenda to the EC in the next

    few days.

7) New Business

                No new business.

Action Items Summary

1.     ACTION ITEM: Professor Gerhardt will inform the Student Senate this week at their regularly scheduled meeting of the TA Evaluations to be  made available to them, and in future semesters, the Sutdent Senate will be asked to propose additional questions.  

2.     ACTION ITEM: Professor Peters will ask Stan Dunn to create the draft questions for the spring, 2015 implementation  and also if the process for the review will be part of the faculty evaluation forms in digital measures or a separate form/process.

3.     ACTION ITEM: Professor Gerhardt will seek a person for the At Large position on the Election Committee.

4.     ACTION ITEM: Professor’s Bystroff and Holguin-Veras will send the General faculty agenda to the EC in the next few days.

Professor Bystroff motions to adjourn. Seconded by Professor Wright.  All in favor. So moved.  Adjourned at 9:51am.