09-25-2013 Faculty Senate Minutes

Faculty Senate

Meeting Minutes

September 25, 2013


Jose Holguin-Veras, Les Gerhardt, Lois Peters, Isom Herron, Pawel Keblinski, Prabhat Hajela-Provost, Charles Carletta-Secretary of the Institute & General Council, B. Wayne Bequette, George Belfort, Antoinette Maniatty, Jeanne Keefe, Ekaterina Haskins, Murali Chari, Frank Wright


Next meeting:

10/30/2013   8:15-9:45am  Library Fischbach Room



1) Welcome by the President of the Senate – Jose Holguin-Veras

2) Approval of the Minutes - May 2013

A motion to approve the minutes was made by Professor Peters, seconded by Professor Gerhardt. All in favor. So moved.

3) Status of the Faculty Handbook Update          

Professor Holguin-Veras reported.  It was previously reported that this committee was broken down into two groups: one to gather the first round of input from faculty members and provide a draft of the handbook and the other to review it.  The idea is that the drafting sub-committee will evaluate the scope of the work needed to be done, invite/collect input from the Provost, HR, the Secretary of the Faculty and faculty members. Faculty feedback was gathered 6-7 months ago.  The review committee will review the draft recommendations and provide any additional ones they feel necessary.   They will complete their work changes by the end of September.  The Senate Executive Committee will review the document and solicit another round of comments from the administration and legal counsel.  The final document will be an all-inclusive list of submitted changes to the handbook. The senators will gather input from their faculty members on the final document. The first meeting with HASS is today.

Professor Gerhardt spoke reinforcing the information Professor Holguin-Veras reported on.  The Executove Committee is stressing engagement with all groups and gathering their input.  They have engaged the administration, the Provost, Mr. Curtis Powell, met with various faculty groups, people who were involved in previous handbook committees. We have had strong support from all quarters.  The Deans are relaying this information to their departments/faculty by October 15th to invite inputwith the exception being the school of Architecture who has their meeting set for October 30th. After the final version is completed, the Handbook would still have to be approved by the President and the Board of Trustees.

Professor Haskins asked if there would be any meeting minutes at the various Department meetings where this is being presented/discussed.  Professor Gerhardt replied that we’ve asked that the Deans call the meeting and run them accordingly. Professor Gerhardt, Professor Peters and Professor Holguin-Veras will be attending the meetings as well.

Professor Wright asked if after the meetings with the departments, is there another round of input to include any additional changes?  Professor Holguin-Veras answered stating that the faculty has the opportunity to submit suggestions to their senators but re-iterating that they have had ample time to provide their input. Professor Gerhardt also commented that the Faculty Senate will approve the final version but that the faculty Senate are representatives of the faculty body.  The Provost agrees with Professor Gerhardt on the fact that the faculty body has been asked for their input a while ago and that the representatives should have passed on any feedback. Professor Gerhardt stated that the existing faculty handbook is not in concert with the new constitution since the constitution has been changed.  We absolutely need an updated faculty handbook.

4)  Faculty Development & Retention

A report was introduced from the committee that was reviewed and approved by the Senate.  The Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the Provost discussed some next steps.  The Provost commented that there were two parts to the discussion.  The first part of his discussion was centered around P&T and as a joint effort, there will be Promotion and Tenure discussions organized by the Provost office. The speakers will be members from the P&T committee, the Provost himself, and faculty members who have been through the P&T process to speak about their experiences.  The second part of the discussions have to do with Research: what do we need to do to increase research productivity, to bring faculty that have not been fully engaged and bring them into the process. The goal is to get faculty members to submit large scale research proposals involving groups of faculty members.  The provost has invited the VP of Research to speak to the faculty, as well as faculty that have gone through this process to speak and included as well is research accounting.  This will be scheduled for later in the semester and Professor Peters is working with the Provost office on this initiative.  Professor Peters said that the P&T discussion is scheduled for later in October and the Research discussion for early November.  Also with regard to the Research discussion, they will be discussing how to get grants for smaller schools that don’t traditionally have grants.  Some other ideas for seminars in the spring are how to be effective mentors and another on pitching scholarship and branding it in a manner that gains visibility to RPI scholarship and faculty achievement.  Another idea was to help faculty write their papers, with understanding it is specific based on the different schools.  She asked everyone to send any of their ideas to her as well.   

 Professor Belfort spoke regarding his recent sabbatical at MIT and his experiences with regard to the culture around proposals and grants. He said they have an excellent system of teamwork. They send teams to countries where there is funding and include faculty members that are from that geographic area.  He also noted that we as a community are not as enthusiastic with respect to having lecturers come and speak.  Professor Holguin-Veras stated that it has been discussed as part of the Diversity committee. Professor Gerhard also noted that it is a difference in culture.

5) Safety Policy- Provost   

 The Provost asked that the Faculty handbook have specific language referring to the nature of relationships between faculty and students.  It needs to be emphasized that Institute policy states discrimination and harassment in all its forms is considered to be a serious offence and prohibited at Rensselaer as a matter of policy and as a matter of Federal and State law.  He will work with Mr. Charles Carletta and provide the specific verbiage for the handbook.  Professor Wright asked that the Student and TA handbooks emphasize that as well and have the same verbiage for consistency.  Jeanne Keefe asked that something be distributed to staff as well and also list who to contact if there is any concern. 

6)  Standing Committee Reports

  • Curriculum Committee: There was a report submitted by Professor Bequette and the committee will be meeting later today. 
  • Planning & Resources Committee: Professor Gerhardt spoke. The committee’s chairman – David Duchette along with Professor Gerhardt, met with the Provost regarding resources.  This committee has more of a planning for resources role vs. obtaining actual resources.  The committee has its first meeting scheduled for October 7th.
  • Faculty Committee on Honors: Professor Herron spoke.  One of their responsibilities is to nominate a speaker for Commencement to receive an honorary Doctorate.  They have had a slight setback since the chairwoman – Professor McLaughlin, has been ill and has not been able to participate this semester.  They are expecting to have a nomination very soon.
  • Graduate Committee: Professor Gerhardt spoke.  A report had been submitted by the committee and we are in the process of determining what action to take based on that report. 

7)  Old Business: Cost of Higher Education

Professor Wright spoke.  He said that the cost of education has many components and that the faculty can make an impact on the cost for the institute.  Part of the cost is how the faculty execute the education and research they do. One idea/way to do this is by looking at our graduates as part of Philanthropy.  Working with the Development office, how do we take our skill set, partner with that graduate, and turn it into an endowment or a scholarship.  So we can look at this area where we can increase the revenue for the institution.  The Provost mentioned that Alumni weekend is beginning to be a bigger activity every year. More alumnae are coming back every year and this is a wonderful opportunity for faculty to be engaged with them. As an example, MANE has set up an event this year to showcase what is going on in their department in addition a number of faculty will be around to meet with the alumni.  As an institution, we do a lot to provide connection assistance to our students.  The parents, who drop off their 1,400 children, expect that their children will be taken care of. For the students coming to the campus who have learning disabilities for example, we need a support staff to be put in place in order to provide the support that these students deserve.  All of these factors contribute to the cost of the institute.

 Professor Holguin-Veras said that a while back the schools would do fundraising and asked if that was still going on.  The Provost said that they are fundraising for the institute not the school.  It was noted that the School of Science and the School of Engineering have Advancement officers based in their schools.  They work with the Dean to set up alumnae events and speak at those events, and discuss possibilities of setting up chairs or special projects they might have. 

Professor Gerhardt has met with the Student Senate several times to see what student’s interest are, and what issues they are looking at.  The focus is to cement relationships and see what our common areas of interest are and how we can help each other going forward.  There are no major issues on the horizon but this is just to be aware that this communication is going on. 

8)  Action Items           

  1. ACTION ITEM:  Provost to submit specific language on Institute Policy to Faculty Senate Executive Committee by 10/15.
  1. ACTION ITEM:  Executive committee will identify action items from all committee reports.
  1. ACTION ITEM:  Professor Gerhardt will invite the Academic Affairs committee representative of the Student Senate to the next meeting.
  1. ACTION ITEM:  Professor Peters will publish an email to all faculty informing them of the Faculty Development Plans.

9)  New Business

The Provost spoke about an upcoming meeting regarding Lab Safety.  The issue has to do with the procedures and practices in place for the existing laboratories. From a practices standpoint, what are the research staff, faculty and increasingly undergraduate students doing? To what degree have they been trained to operate in  lab safely.  Related to that is the procuring of chemicals and the process for that.  Recently there was a chemical found with no English written label on it and later it was found that the chemical was on the US Homeland Security list.  It was discovered that the concentration of the chemical was low enough that it was not considered at risk by government standards. We need to make everyone aware that the faculty is personally liable in regard to safety procedures being enforced.  In a recent UCLA student’s death in a lab fire, the faculty member himself was found individually liable and was sentenced to four years in jail.  Professor Gerhardt suggested that language be included into the Faculty handbook regarding Lab Safety and the Provost will look into this. 

Professor Wright motions to adjourn. Seconded by Professor Peters.  All in favor.  So moved.  Adjourned at 9:45am.