04-11-2016 Minutes - General Faculty Meeting

General Faculty Meeting

April 11, 2016


Meeting opens: 3:05pm


1.       Welcome - Professor Chris Bystroff, Chair of the Faculty, opened the meeting by welcoming the faculty.

2.       Remembering Faculty who have passed – Professor Bystroff listed the names of current/past faculty members who have passed away since last year and asked everyone for a moment of silence in their honor.

3.       Review of the Faculty Senate Accomplishments:

a.       Faculty Handbook - Our first order of business was to complete the Faculty Handbook and this has been done and the handbook is now approved and signed by the President. In the last General Faculty Meeting there was considerable discussion on this, and we took it to heart and worked out the wording of this our contract with the Institute.

b.      Eulogies and Biographies - The senate has implemented a new policy for soliciting and archiving biographical information on recently passed and retiring faculty members, so that eulogies for our colleagues can be distributed in a timely manner. The committee consisted of Professors C. Bystroff, A. Akera, L. Gerhard and Assistant Institute Archivist, Jen Monger.

c.       Planning and Resources - A Planning and Resources committee consisting of Professors K. Simons, P. Schoch, D. Nevo, A. Rempel and chair Professor G. Kovacic.  They have been charged with the tasks of soliciting and reviewing new ideas for revenue generation and cost savings from the faculty, to study the current situation in higher education in general and at Rensselaer in particular, and forward these results and ideas to the administration. All faculty are encouraged to proactively come up with good ideas for getting our institute out of the red, and to pass these ideas to the members of this committee.

d.      Teaching Effectiveness – Professors and senators D. Lewis and D. Borca-Tasciuc are undertaking the task of collecting and reviewing information on how the different departments within Rensselaer assess teaching effectiveness. 

e.      Ombuds Office - The Faculty Senate is exploring the formation of an Ombuds Office, which will consist to faculty or staff who are trained in the art of conflict mediation. Although we wish it were not so, conflicts between faculty and between administration and faculty do occur and expert mediation serves to avert the escalation that could otherwise occur. Professors J. Braasch and D. Kamiski are looking into the way this is done at other universities.

f.        Summer Arch - The Faculty Senate has formed a committee to gather and disperse information, and to provide recommendations to the administration with regard to the Summer Arch initiative. A forum is being held Wednesday, Apr 13 at 2pm in Sage 4112. Vice Provost Linda Schadler will be there along with the committee that includes myself and Professors A. Bennett, L. Peters, K. Connor, and N. Diniz.

g.       Student Senate/Faculty Senate Relations - Over the past academic year, a Faculty Senate representative has been in attendance for most of the Student Senate meetings and visa-versa. Our ability to talk and share information and concerns has led to improved discussions of sensitive issues such as academic honesty, evaluation of teaching assistants, and the poor state of the graduate student stipend.

h.      Graduate Student Stipend – Attention was brought to the issue of below par doctoral student stipends by graduate student members of the student senate, whereupon Grand Marshal Marcus Flowers brought it to the attention of the Faculty Senate. That plea, along with compelling data on peer and aspirant universities from Dean of Graduate Education, Professor Stan Dunn, led to the passing of a resolution by the Faculty Senate to increase grad student stipends by $3000/year. The Administration reviewed the request, and a few weeks ago the funds for that raise were approved.


If you would be interested in joining the Faculty Senate, elections are coming up for several open positions.  This includes three positions in the Executive Committee (faculty with previous experience in the FS are preferred), and senatorial positions in Science, Engineering, HASS, Architecture and Librarian.  We are also looking to fill positions for the following committees: Honors Committee, Committee on Academic Standing, Institute Curriculum Committee, and the Promotion & Tenure Committee. Please contact Vice-president John Tichy if you are interested in running for one of these positions.  Working as a Faculty senate member is hard but extremely stimulating and rewarding work. 

4.       Provost Presentation -  ‘The Academic Enterprise 2016 Initiatives and Key Observations’ -attached as a separate document. 

5.       Q&A – Professor Bystroff gave an update to his suggestion at last April’s General Faculty meeting re divesting in fossil fuels at Rensselaer and constructing a solar panel.  He stated that we as an institute spend roughly $4M annually on electricity and we get a good deal on that.  We could make over $1M/year if we constructed the solar panel he suggested, but at this time, there is no capital for the construction of the project.    

A question was raised as to what the impact on Research will be from Summer Arch Initiative.  There was also discussion on the approach to being a comprehensive university vs a focused university. For 200 years we have been focused on Science and Technology.  Discussion on who we want to be and that we should work together and not in silos to reach the objective.  Also discussion around building the Masters programs and offering specialty degrees.  An example to follow was the Hartford Management program in supply chain management which is a focused program.

Meeting adjourned 4:30pm

(Approved at 5/12/16 Senate meeting)