04-06-2015 Minutes - General Faculty meeting

General Faculty Meeting

April 6, 2015




Meeting convened at 2:07pm


Welcome by Professor Jose Holguin-Veras, President of the Senate.

- Professor Holguin-Veras opened the meeting by welcoming the faculty.


Review of the Faculty Senate Accomplishments

- Continued process of increased engagement with provost, associate provost, academic deans, other admin; also bilateral meetings with student senate and participation in Middle States reaccreditation process

- Multi-year effort on revising facultyhandbook; begins with faculty committees; worked with provost to find common position; draft has been sent to HR and Legal department for review and comment

- Senate focus on faculty development and retention. Faculty Development Forums organized jointly by the Provost’s office and the Senate, other activities reported

- Second major focus was on graduate education. Ad Hoc Committee of FS formed, leading to a report with recommendations regarding grad student support, faculty involvement in recruitment, diversity, placement, alumni relations; process for TA evaluation approved by Senate; to be implemented Spring 2015; new Advising Forum piloted in Summer 2014; offered in March 2015. To be offered each semester in the future.

- Communication: Faculty-All list continues to be supported, and is in active use; retired faculty are able to retain their email address.

- Highlights of standing committee provided.

- New policy on eulogies and biographies. Annual publication to be issued in both electronic and hard copy.

- Questions and answers followed, with President of the Senate responding.


State of the Academic Enterprise, Questions and Answers

“Changing Landscape of Higher Education: The Rise of the New Polytechnic”

Provost Prabhat Hajela.


Landscape of Higher Education

- Higher education is responding to a variety of forces of change

- Continued increase in the segmentation of higher education

- Tenure remains a vanishing system; between 1975 and 2011, T&TT professoriate declined from 57% to 30% of all faculty, nationwide. (Currently 42.7% at doctoral institutions)

- US domination of global higher education market is eroding

- Intensifying public focus on affordability; debt (average $26,000; median $13,000; 67% indebted)

- Postsecondary education remains valuable long term investment; but capacity to pay higher prices tapped

- Other factors including government regulation

- Impact of technology: universities have responded by embracing more engaged pedagogies

- Demographic changes, especially majority minority population in US


The New Polytechnic

- Embodied in Rensselaer Plan 2024

- Student experience, pedagogic innovation, new learning paradigms, forward looking research

- New invisible college; self-organizing, emergent networks for knowledge. Agile, non-hierarchical

- “Message Map” provided that is responsive to these elements

- Areas of Emphasis

- Educational programs: review of core curriculum; new majors & concentrations; ART_X; Games & immersive learning environments; technology in education (online & blended)

- Faculty recruitment and development

- Research thrusts

- Student experience: CLASS; Flexible academic calendar

- Building diversity

- Reports were provided on each of these elements.

- The Faculty

- faculty development: pay equity & merit increases

- Diversity: 23.6% women; 6.3% underrepresented minorities

- pre- and post-doc programs to improve representation under consideration

- workload normalization

- continuing commitment to Tenure as an institution

- Student Experience

- Outstanding educational experience: pedagogic innovation plus lower student-faculty ratios (currently 15:1)

- Diversify student cohort

- Developmental opportunities including study abroad; research; internships

- Pathways to accelerated academic progress

- Flexibility of academic calendar

- pathways to accelerate academic progress

- Enhanced student-faculty interactions at critical phase of undergrad experience

- Room in academic schedule for all students to explore their passions


Closing remarks focused on need for Rensselaer to remain responsive to changing landscape of higher education.


Honoring Faculty: Retirees, Faculty Senate, and Senate Committee Members

- Senate honored the following retirees: Lester Gerhardt, David Goldenberg, Mark Goldberg, Larry Kagan, Victor Roytburd, Sheppard Salon

- Retiring members of the faculty senate were reported and recognized

- Our departed colleagues were recognized


Invitation for Faculty Comment

- Only one person from the audience spoke, Professor Chris Bystroff.  His comments centered on divesting in fossil fuels.   He suggested erecting a large solar panel at Rensselaer that would cost under $7 Million with the payback extending for 12 years.   

- Professor Holguin-Veras suggested that the sprinkler systems at Rensselaer be programed to not operate during periods of rain. 


Meeting adjourned 4:12pm.