03-28-2012 Faculty Senate Minutes - General Faculty Meeting


General Faculty Meeting

March 28, 2012

1. Lester Gerhardt calls the meeting to order at 2:07. Dr. Gerhardt:

a)      Welcomes faculty, and thanks them for their confidence as evidenced by the vote.

b)      Outlines the agenda for the meeting: introductions, and open forum for ideas and suggestions.

c)       Introduces the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, Faculty Senate, Faculty Senate Committees

d)      Comments on direction of senate: Concentrate on opportunities and not issues, concentrate on product, not process. (See attached remarks).

e)      Turns floor over to general faculty.

2. Input from faculty

Harry Roy – All should support efforts of HASS to develop a plan to teach foreign languages at Rensselaer.

Linda Caporael –

  • Asks if the members of the Faculty Senate could discuss what the domain of discussion has been by Faculty Senate, and what ideas they have. Dr. Akera responds that the Senate Executive Committee has not had discussion about what they want to do, but rather discussed having a General Faculty Meeting to collect all the different ideas from the faculty to bring to the floor of the Faculty Senate, at which time the Senate will debate what the 2 or 3 most important issues to tackle.  He also states that the Faculty Senates desire is to respect the will of the faculty. Dr. Gerhardt adds that the intent is to have a grassroots effort.
  • Could establish peer review of teaching & development of teaching capacity.
  • Suggests the possibility of administering small faculty research grants.
    • Asks whether there is a budget. Les Gerhardt answers that there is a budget allocated by the Provost. It is not adequate to support research grants.
    • Asks to clarify the benefits to being on or being involved with the faculty senate?
    • Suggests that the Faculty senate could establish its own awards “Faculty Senate Award for XXXX”.

Jim Hendler – Students are engaged in interdisciplinary work, but the information systems on campus are not set up to handle the nature of the cross flow of students, especially when it comes to teaching hours and other activity. Senate could work with CIO office to appropriately track the faculty effort.

Abby Kinchy –

  • Clarify role of faculty senate & role of junior faculty. Issue: shortage of staff to support departmental activities, teaching, curriculum development, research. Faculty senate should analyze staffing across campus & establish standards, and analyze ways to improve the student experience.
  • Question regarding points that needed to be clarified in the Constitution, as her understanding was that the Constitution was provisionally accepted, but there were changes that still need to be made. Dr. Akera answered that the board approved constitution and faculty approved constitution are not completely in alignment – the Faculty Senate is working on this, and is aware that there are changes and amendments that need to be addressed.

Lee Odell – Geeky student body – issue of culture – can culture be changed through admissions? Need better rounded students who are willing to broaden their focus from narrow technological areas. Need to change admissions criteria?

Ken Connor – Need to assess the senate and assess the faculty and their participation in governance. Clearly state goals and outcomes of faculty governance and roles of senate, committees, and faculty. How do we assess whether senate is actually working? There are many opportunities to change things so that faculty can do their job more effectively.

Henry Scarton – Investigate and review policy: printing of faculty directory & catalog; new conflict of interest statement requirement.  He also asked about the terms of the Senate. Dr. Akera answered that the Senate needs to vote, but the hope is to have a 16 month term to get back on track. Dr. Scarton also asked when the Senate will be meeting so that people can attend. Dr. Akera responded with the Senate schedule.

Doug Swank – Increase level of faculty involvement in general and the faculty role in decisions made at RPI. Improve communication to allow greater input by faculty, e.g., using email.

Jeff Durgee – In the past, many items came to the Senate from the administration. He would like encourage the administration to do so again. The senate should provide input to administration on new initiatives – e.g., grading.

Lee Odell – support Jeffs comment. Senate also needs to be more proactive to bring forth initiatives to improve the quality of education and student life at Rensselaer.

Wolf von Maltzen – We need to address quality of education – benchmark against other institutions. Senate should assess the need for a graduate school. Notes that we have a Dean of Graduate Education but no graduate school.

Michael Century – Inquires about the role of the faculty senate regarding the search and appointment of the new provost. Les Gerhardt: there is a search committee that has been formed, includes four faculty. It is not clear whether the committee has been announced.  Henry Scarton: In past, senate interviewed provost candidates. Georges Belfort: a search company organized a conference call with chaired faculty.

Jose Holguin-Veras – Need proactive agenda to promote the development of existing faculty.

Atsushi Akera – Need better advising support which translates to reduce problems for students and improve the student experience.

Michael Fortun – Need to find ways to reinvigorate and enthuse the faculty to get them involved. Faculty didn’t wait for 5 years for the Faculty Senate, Senate was denied it. Does not want the past misrepresented. Many people are angry and disaffected and continue to be so. Can’t see how the Senate will be effective right now. There is a lot of work to reinvigorate the faculty to get them involved. Getting people involved should be a priority, getting them re-enthused. Dr. Gerhardt responds, clarifying earlier comments and emphasizes the opportunity that is presented now and making the best of it. Everyone needs to be involved and the culture has to change.

Pawel Keblinski – relevance – focus on a few issues, address them professionally.  Examples: promoting faculty for awards, and faculty development – helping with proposal writing and junior faculty development.

Les Gerhardt – need to promote faculty from within for prestigious external awards. We need to change the view of ourselves by changing the culture.

Atsushi Akera – Address interdisciplinarity at faculty level – research, program development, collaboration. Pick specific areas and promote them.  Create committees to promote research or collaboration, such as sustainability or using EMPAC.

Les Gerhardt – Need curriculum and program development in an era of rapid change.  Need innovation in pedagogy.  Need to look at what we teach and how we teach it. We are a STEM oriented Institute – our target demographic is shrinking. How will we adjust to such changes going forward. Need to promote international experiences.

3. Adjournment. Les Gerhardt ends the meeting at 3:03pm.

Minutes taken by Jennifer Harrington and Chip Kilduff.

Submitted by Chip Kilduff April 3, 2012.

Faculty Senate Remarks-Prof. Lester Gerhardt

First General Faculty Meeting

March 28, 2012

Welcome back! It’s been too long.

My colleagues and I are honored by your confidence and trust in us reflected by your vote to have us represent you in the Faculty Senate. Be assured we will do our best to honor you by virtue of our actions.

Let me briefly introduce the Officers, Members, and Committees of the Faculty Senate. The complete list has been distributed to you.

The Agenda for the first meeting is simple-It is you the faculty. We seek your inputs in terms of opportunities to pursue, priorities, and overall wisdom as we begin Governance anew at Rensselaer. We will accept your comments. They will form the foundation of the Senate’s subsequent discussions and deliberations.

Taking the Chair’s prerogative let me close these brief remarks by stating my personal recommendations.

We will succeed by having the best faculty, teach the best students, the best curriculum, using the best methodology established for learning, all integrated with the best research, at both the graduate and undergraduate level. That is after all, the faculty responsibility.

I suggest that to realize this overall objective:

We seek to not re-create what we had five years ago; rather we seek to build what we need and justly deserve as a faculty and as a university;

We need to emphasize the product as the outcome assessment, (not only the process);

We need to concentrate on opportunities (not only issues);

We need to be proactive as a faculty and Senate, as well as reactive;

Let’s remember the past, but place our faith in the future;

We must focus on a campus culture of community and cooperation (of all campus constituencies), not confrontation; Quoting a faculty colleague, the Senate should not be a forum for ‘complaints or dissidents’.

Simply put, I feel we need to trust, respect, and have confidence in each other, individually and collectively as constituencies, to move forward successfully.

And we need to smile a lot more…