10-10-2012 Faculty Senate Minutes


Faculty Senate Meeting

October 10, 2012


Present: Les Gerhardt, Isom Herron, Pawel Keblinski, Vincent Meunier, Paul Hohenberg, David Bell, Wayne Bequette, Georges Belfort, Michael Century, Chip Kilduff, Frank Wright, Prabhat Hajela, Antoinette Maniatty


President Herron opens meeting opens at 8:31


1. Approval of minutes from September 12, 2012

Committee takes time to review minutes from September 12, 2012. I. Herron asks if there are any questions. V. Meunier asks whether rising tuition costs would be addressed at this meeting, as minutes stated they would be. P. Keblinski states that there wouldn’t be enough time, but I. Herron suggests that it be added at this time in order to be consistent. M. Century, G. Belfort seconds. All in favor. So moved.

2. Welcome by the President

I. Herron opens by stating that the mid-point of the semester has been reached. He also stated that the Rensselaer Plan refresh has provided opportunities to address the future of the Rensselaer. The Faculty Senate will have an important part to play in the Rensselaer Plan. I. Herron asks if there is any feedback.

3. Update on ad hoc Committee of the Undergraduate Curriculum and Teaching

Les Gerhardt provides update. There is a standing Curriculum Committee that is currently very busy, so an ad-hoc committee was created to look at the broad area of the future of education. Les Gerhardt is the chair. There were many people who were interested in serving on the Committee. Executive Committee made additional recommendations. L. Gerhardt will begin to contact people and to ensure sense of balance among membership. He will bring the membership to the Faculty Senate for final approval and formal charge. Examples of topics the committee will be looking at:

  • MOOCs as an example of change
  • Where is higher Education going; where is Rensselaer going?
  • What will Renssealer look like on its 200th birthday?
  • Role of State vs private; role of US vs International
  • Process of education (degrees, certificates) versus product – educated people
  • What is the landscape of higher education; what are we going to do about it?
  • Where is joint global research going to be, what are international programs going to look like?

Intent is to provide a basis as to what Rensselaer is going to do, and that the Committee will integrate the larger Institutional initiatives. The Senate will be instrumental in developing a basis.

G. Belfort states that he believes that it is a very important committee. We need to be concerned about the future. Also, states that he is on a committee in Germany and it was clear that influences from other countries and other value systems will influence us. He also was on a committee for the National Academies in Washington along with CEOs of some of the top companies – we need to consider the corporate view – how do companies view the educational system, how do they view further education of their employees?  All are reassessing their educational opportunities for their employees. Based on the economy, they reducing their resources for reeducating their employees. Discussion about how global economy and landscape affects education at Rensselaer.

M. Century – we must keep in mind that there is a certain fad in the current trend of MOOCs. Especially from the perspective of HASS, we should be looking at Oxford training.  

P. Hajela states that the cost of education is tracking along the same path as other industries. How do you control the cost of education? Increase the number of students impacted by the same number of people. Think of tools and developments as a way to make our students learning experience more exciting. How can we impact residential education – perhaps bringing our students in contact with other students around the world by using the availability technology.

4. Update on ad-hoc Committee on Faculty Development

J. Holguin-Veras is traveling. No written report available. Will be discussed next time.

I. Herron states that the Faculty Development Committee wants to merge with the Provost Committee on Diversity. Meetings are planned between the two committees. A report should be available at the next meeting.

P. Hajela states that there will be a Provost Committee on Core Curriculum, and would expect that there would be a lot of interaction with the Committee on Undergraduate Teaching.

I. Herron asks if there are other committee updates.

A. Maniatty states that the Graduate Education Committee had a meeting - discussed the Rensselaer Plan, what should be the goals, and what policies would be needed to meet those goals. Stan Dunn is a member of the Committee and is also working closely with the Provost on the graduate education sections of the Rensselaer Plan, so there is a means of incorporating their views into the Plan.  I. Herron asks if the Senators have any input they would like to convey to the graduate Education Committee.  P. Keblinski - How can we be more effective in bringing more diverse groups of graduate students to Rensselaer. G. Belfort – there is a lack of awareness in other countries that students are supported with fellowships and research assistantships; they see costs of UG education and think the same costs apply to graduate education. States that we need to attract students from the top places. P. Keblinski responds that the top schools in other countries may know, while some may not. L. Gerhardt that the Senate take a look at the Open Doors report for some details on international education.

P. Hajela states that at most of the top institutions in other countries, there is a well established culture, where the ranking of students inside their home university establishes where they apply. The top 10 students will be the ones to apply to the top schools. Also, they will establish connections based on the knowledge of professors.

5. Rensselaer Plan

I. Herron states that the refreshing of the Plan is going according to schedule. He reviewed the schedule. He also reviewed the meeting that some of the Senators attended. The President gave a presentation that showed the original Plan and ways in which the goals were met in the last 10 years. She showed the updated draft of the Rensselaer Plan and addressed several key points- position for next capital campaign, being transformative instead of transformed. L. Gerhardt states that the presence of the President was very valuable. It was a celebration of success, and a look at the go-forward strategy for the future. It was more generic and some were looking for specifics. L. Gerhardt states that it should be able to change to accommodate the future.  C. Kilduff states that Dr. Jackson viewed the plan as an RFP – more of a framework. G. Belfort states that when we set up original Rensselaer Plan, an outside Blue Ribbon Panel reviewed research activity in the biotechnology area and made recommendations for possible constellation areas. The outside reviewers provided a useful perspective and were quite critical. Asks whether that will be done again? Reevaluating progress by oneself is somewhat biased. An outside group would review whether the things that we say we have done have actually been done. F. Wright states that the RFP observation is accurate, as the President believes that the Performance Planning process is the “how” while the Plan is the “what”.

P. Hajela states that the President is deeply engaged in the actual document production. There is a lot of discussion on the issue. Everything that is said by members of the community will be discussed among the writing committee and with the President. It is a plan that can and will be refreshed. Signature areas may change. I. Herron asks if the question raised by G. Belfort (regarding external reviewers) will be addressed. Experts were being brought in to talk to portfolios about the portfolios, what they did and what they thought they were doing well. Also, the Washington Group came in year after year to talk to the portfolios and report back to the President. Discussion takes place about the value of external review process.

P. Hohenburg states that while external evaluation is important, so is self-criticism. He also states that there is very little about faculty in the document. Rensselaer claims to be a research university with a student to faculty ration of 19:1. There is no research university in the country with that kind of faculty ratio. P. Hajela corrects that the document does not have a ratio of 19:1, current is 15:1. The plan is grow faculty to 500 in 8-10 years. We are recruiting 49 positions this year, of which almost half have been filled. P. Keblinski comments that the Plan should be less about how great we are and more about how we can be better.  Discussion takes place about faculty growth. P. Hajela states that Performance Planning is the time to address how faculty growth will happen. G. Belfort states that it is important to discuss how to lower the ratio, no matter what it is, because it is too high. He also asks if we are taking into account the grand challenges that the NAE has espoused, is this being integrating into our Plan. P. Hajela states that it is a blend of the grand challenges and the UN millennium challenges. A. Maniatty states that her perception was that the focus seemed to be fundraising and growing the endowment and that this is critical for the core of the University. M. Century comments on what he understands the document to be. How well the strategic objectives are aligned to what we are doing now. F. Wright states that the document should be focused on the what and the how.

Discussion takes place about landscape of education, resources to accomplish goals, and the view of Rensselaer in the external world.

I. Herron asks if the Senate is choosing to take a position at this time. Senate will wait until Plan develops to do so.

6. November General Faculty Meeting

November 13 is General Faculty meeting at 4pm. Rensselaer Plan items should be available for discussion. 

7. New business

I. Herron asks if there is any new business. No new business.

Michael Century makes motion to adjourn. Pawel Keblinski seconds. All approved. Meeting ends at 10:00.