04-08-2014 Minutes - General Faculty Meeting


General Faculty Meeting

April 8, 2014

Biotechnology Auditorium

Meeting opened at 4:10pm

1.       Welcome by the Chair of the Faculty Isom Herron

Professor Herron opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and provided a brief Senate History and overview of the various ad hoc committees.  He stated that the committee reports are available on the Senate website.  He also provided a summary status update regarding the   Faculty Handbook.  He explained that the next steps are to set up several meetings with the Provost to review the proposed changes.  The first of these meetings is scheduled for later this month.  Progress has been made in Graduate Education and the Executive committee has met with Stan Dunn several times this semester. They have reviewed the area of professional ethics in relation to the Graduate students.  Professor Herron then remarked about the accomplishments of the Faculty Senate over the past year.  One item was that they are starting to work with Human Resources in the area of Professional Development and will leverage any assistance HR has to offer.  One item that was brought up this year was the feeling that some faculty have had regarding the ‘erosion’ of benefits, particularly the decrease in Dependent Tuition Reimbursement. There are some achievements – the middle state association review has been scheduled and Professor Jose Holguin-Veras is chairing that committee.  The Faculty Committee on Honors has submitted their nominations for Honorary degrees to be given out at commencement this year.  Elections for Faculty Senate positions are coming up at the end of April and Professor Herron urged anyone who may be interested, to send in their nomination. 

2.       Progress Reports

A.  Faculty Handbook:

Professor Gerhardt spoke since Professor Holguin-Veras was away on business.  He summarized the events that took place regarding the handbook changes from committee reviews, faculty input, and administrative review which is slated to start with the Provost at the end of April.   Afterwards it will go up for a vote by the Faculty Senate and on to the approval of the Provost, President and Board of Trustees.

Professor Gerhard noted the Faculty Senate Elections are on April 28-30 and urged faculty members to be active and participate.

B. Faculty Development and Retention:

Professor Peters spoke and stated that this past October in collaboration with the Provost Office, there was a seminar of Research Grants & Contract.  This was primarily aimed at new faculty.   There was a presentation on the Promotion and Tenure process back in December of 2013 open to all faculty.  It was a panel discussion with various professors speaking regarding P&T experiences. 

In late April, there will be another faculty forum- Technology Innovation and Delivery.  They are in the process of putting it together. There will be a survey coming out asking for input regarding future topics for faculty forums.

C. Collaborative Efforts throughout the Institute

Professor Gerhardt spoke.  He summarized that the overarching goal of the Faculty Senate is to be a vehicle for bi-directional communication and would welcome increased participation from the faculty.  Professor Gerhard was invited and attended a Student Senate meeting to get a better idea of the issues they may have.  One item they would like to explore is getting excused absences to be discussed with the professors not the class Deans.  Another is linking the web syllabus to online course descriptions.  The Student Senate/Faculty Senate meeting was a great success and both look forward to continuing this avenue of communication.

Discussions were held with Human Resources to discuss areas they could assist the faculty with in respect to Professional Development. The benefit decrease in the Dependant Tuition Reimbursement was also discussed.  As discussed previously, meetings with the Graduate Education department were held and issues needing to be addressed were covered. Particularly the area of professional ethics with regard to reference articles as well as the area of Advising of both graduate and undergraduate students. 

3.       Open Discussion

A general question by Katarina Haskins asking for opinions on advising Graduate students.  She said some considered it as more of a chore because of the staff shortages.  Some discussion on the benefits of advising the students and understanding that it takes additional time to do this out of a busy academic year.  Mary Simoni noted that in HASS, recently some professors have left who had a lot of experience. It was noted by the Provost that the Learning assistance center can help and can put together a training session for schools if there is a need.

Question: CAP reports, with HASS specifically, has been off- is there a glitch in the system?

Answer: Yes, they are working to rectify during the summer. 

Professor McLaughlin, who serves as the Committee chair for the Committee on Honors, noted that the committee submitted their recommendations for Commencement Honorary degrees.  She made note that for Institute awards they review, there is not enough participation/nominations.  There was discussion on the fact that some schools/departments have a committee that assists with the nomination packages and others do not.  It was suggested that a Self-Promotion Committee be created to assist with this task.

It was noted by Lois Peters that there is a future Learning Seminar to discuss this topic and assist called Branding Our Scholarship.

Question: There are benefits that are seemingly eroding, specifically the Dependent Tuition Reimbursement, but our peer institutions don’t have the same issue.

Provost: As an Institution, we are financially stretched as far as benefits are concerned. A concern was raised that Staff cannot afford this but hardship concerns are evaluated on a case by case basis for those who may be in need.  Hiring faculty is a need and can be an expensive endeavor as well.  Looking at National averages for faculty attrition at 4-8%, Rensselaer would need to replace about 25 faculty this year.  Startup costs can be as much as $0.5M for one  faculty member alone.  HR has said that they will make an effort to make the Faculty Senate Executive committee aware of these changes going forward.

Discussion continued listing the following Dependant Tuition Reimbursement benefits for the following school:  Stanford-50%, Cornell-40%.  It was also discussed that the decrease in this benefit could be affecting possible new hires.  Professor McLaughlin was aware of 2 examples in her school. 

Meeting closes at 5:22pm