10-26-2016 Minutes General Faculty Meeting

Video of 2016 Fall General Faulty Meeting

Fall General Faculty Meeting

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016, 9am-11am

Biotech Auditorium

44 people present


Meeting Convened @ 9am

Welcome Remarks by A. Maniatty, Chair of Faculty

- General welcome

- Hon. Shirley Ann Jackson, 18th President, Rensselaer


President Jackson—Opening Remarks

- Good morning & thanks for invitation to speak

- Town hall meeting in afternoon

- Welcome to new faculty

- Introduction of leadership

- Craig Cooke; Secretary and Institute Council

- Richie Hunter : VP Communication & External Relations

- Frank Ross: VP Student Life

- Graig Easton: VP Institute Development


General Updates from Town Hall meeting

- Since last Spring; happy evidence

- Intended class of 2020 to be >1500 students; we wound up with nearly 1700

- Exceeds our expectations; thanks for accommodating in classroom

- USNW rankings have risen to #39;

- Would love to pay attention to graduation rates

- Predicted graduation rates are higher because of higher admissions profile

- What can we do, esp. in student life to improve graduation rates.    Student life

   experience is always a problem for technical schools.

- Focus on outcomes; relate to outcomes for our students & research

- Look at work, graduate school placement

- Research of faculty scholars, increasingly recognized


Carnegie Classification

- Center for postsecondary research, U Indiana.

- Moved from R1 to R2 (Highest à Higher research activity)

- Dartmouth College; Rockefeller University likewise reclassified to R2

- Dartmouth feels they have very strong undergraduate program within a research university

- Rockefeller is on graduate side

- Factors include

- Breadth of research, and not just in science & engineering

- Strength—research expenditures, PhDs awarded. They also affect us

- Breadth questions, and how far do we want to go there

- Depth questions… SR numbers


Paradigm of the New Polytechnic

- of bringing disciplines together; utilize unique technologies that schools like us have

- Tools and technology that get invented here; to facilitate this melding of the disciplines

- When we ask, what are we trying to do at the root

- Traditional strength in engineering & sciences

- But to bring together humanities, social sciences, Business, theory & practice

- Investments in research centers & facilities; meaningful research collaborations

- [IMAGES] Biotech; PDI (Swersey Inventor’s) Studio;

- Resulting Initiatives

- New lines of inquiry in biomimicry, algorithms, information security,

- Co-chair of President’s Information Security Advisory Board

- Broadened degree offerings; New BS in Music

- KIP program; office of research administered. Bringing in researchers from Lally & HASS; Architecture


- ART_X @ Rensselaer; creativity in students, new partnerships

- Why is it all about partnerships: new sources of funding, support for doctoral students.

- We should ask questions

- What else should we doing?

- What do we need from the faculty


Art_X Charette

- Developed team taught courses that connect arts & other disciplines

- Incorporation of aesthetics in math, science, engineering

- Fractals; symmetries

- EMPAC+ programming

- Thanks for taking that concept and running with it.


What Do We Need to Do Re: Carnegie Classification?

- How do we bring unique strengths together?

- Much more breadth than we get credit for;

- Have people assigned to different schools from Communications; to reveal this breadth

- Faculty 500 Goal: 500 T&TT faculty

- Plus PoP and Lecturers to extent that it makes sense

- Key issue remains startup;

- Next major capital campaign will be to develop a startup fund (endowment?)


Financial Aid Gap

- Close financial aid gap; how much we want to provide, and are able to provide

- Gap is mitigated by the fact that they have high salaries upon graduation

- For example, default rates at RPI is very low. On the order of 1.5%.


Focus on Diversity;

- We do have an issue with underrepresentation; many do not come in wealthy packages

- We’re in bad shape

- We want to be exemplar

- We need to do better with Women, both faculty & student body

- Made progress in both; but have started from behind

- about 1/3 students; 26% faculty

- In terms of startup support and climate, hope we’ve improved

- Attention to sexual assault policies on campus

- Improvements have strengthened what we do

- Faculty are involved in the process; hard and sometimes thankless. thank you.


Building the Endowment

- Funds for startup packages

- Fund new faculty chairs; reward excellence

- Claude (Rounds) does excellent work with facilities; risk vs. depreciation linked approach to physical plant

- He and John (Kolb) do excellent work; technological infrastructure

- Family weekend; amazed how campus looks

- Want to make sure we are state-of-the-art

- Planning on a new capital endowment;

- Previous one was about doing specific things we had to do; strengthen student experience


Campus Prejudice

- Anecdotes about MIT

- Changing gender relations; ethnic & racial relations

- Some degree of estrangement; underrepresented minorities

- Things are different today, but it is not far back in our history

- We have to make sure we don’t revert to past cultures


Student Experience

- Student transitions; pipeline initiatives. From inward facing to outward facilitating; CCPD’s tasks, but other offices such as Summer Arch internships

- Student success: Will have a Dean for First Year Success; building on tradition of Dean of FYE; and now Dean of all classes + graduate

- Archer Center for Student Leadership Development: Will be asking them to do more

- Campus Experience: Res Life; Affiliated fraternities & sororities; Student Rights & Responsibilities Greater synergy across all aspects of student

- Re: Union; AVP will oversee what students do; Not direct, but oversee

- Student Support and Resource Centers: Health; Veterans & military

- NCAA Athletics: Lee McElroy; AVP & Director of Athletics



- Creating a physical manifestation of off-campus living facility; 15th & College Ave.

- Participate in CLASS based programs; take break

- To catch safe ride home; safe ride service. Launch next semester

- Expanded shuttle routes; hours


Pedagogic Innovation

- Teaching & Learning Collaboratory in Folsom Library; a platform for advanced teaching & learning

- New pedagogic approaches that come out of what we do

- Having a Beta Classroom with up to the date / minute equipment


Summer Arch

- Student spending summers, following Sophomore Year

- Will be piloting program this coming summer (from Engineering & Lally); voluntary, but based on GPA (selective program)

- Next summer, still voluntary, but based on some criteria; participating in a pilot.

- Summer 2019: Requirement for all rising Juniors.

- Recognize help that the faculty have put into making this possible

- Wish to move lecturers into tenure track positions


- Do have slides about financial standing



- F. Wright: ALAC wasn’t mentioned. Oversight?

- Not an oversight; part of five AVP, organizational structure

- Focusing on the big picture

- A. Maniatty: Appreciate what you’ve done as far as supporting Tenure faculty; how important Tenure faculty, and not eroding that institution. It comes at a cost. What are your thoughts with regards to strengthening the finances; faculty are anxious about the financial standing of the institution. What actions are being taken to strengthen the financial portfolio, and how can faculty contribute; all work together.

- Thank you; will show you some slides about Financial Profile of Institute

- $742 million in LT debt; 134M of that is in Defined Benefit Pension Plan liability

- Remainder of debt ($608M)

- Approx $328M for construction of EMPAC, CBIS, ECAV

- Approx $280M for deferred maintenance; res halls; classrooms; faculty hires; new infrastructures; investments in student experience

- Defined benefit Plan remaining accounting liability of $154M remains.

- Expenditure breakdown…

- Student campus infrastructure, 3%

- Other capital, 8%

- Pension, 18%

- De-Risking Strategies Adopted

- benefit accruals frozen as of 30 June 2014

- matched variable benefit features with like assets

- Variable accumulation option eliminated for terminated vested participants, 30 June 2014

- Increased lump-sum cash-out option form $5k to $50k; 30 June 2016

- Target pension asset allocation revised to reduce investment risk

- Source of Funding for Pension Cash Contributions ($208M)

- $59.7M from operating budget

- $10.5M from additional endowment

- $138M from pension specific debt

- Deficit begins in 2008 with financial crisis; we are presently around 77% funded; this is in line with pension plans at other (more typically corporate) institutions.

- We have a balanced (cash) balance very year; track every month, and project every quarter

- Various measures taken to achieve this

- In past, things like force reduction;

- But things such as Summer Arch also designed to be financially beneficial to our institution

- And as our financial situation improves, we decide what we do. Payment of debt; or increase contribution to pension plan;

- Interest rates go down; impact on liability goes up; changes in actuarial tables will also affect us.

- Also a technical dispute with the Dept of Education; didn’t catch publicity impact, centers around… accumulated gains on restricted endowment; look at pension plan liability as if we have to pay it all today; look at our full liability vs. reasonable measure. That’s theoretically impossible.

- How can faculty help us: 3 areas. These are things faculty do already… but could you do more?

- 1) Participate in academic performance plan, with provost. Better sense of where we’re trying to go.

- 2) Participate in Summer Arch. Reputation, attracting students, some budgetary strengthening.

- 3) Grow research, particularly sponsored research. Esp those that support graduate students. Hard to have grad students if we don’t have support for grad students. PhD numbers is what counts for Carnegie classification. You may see opportunity with master’s, and that may help with revenue (and many do not bring the revenue you think they do), but they will not help with Carnegie Classification. Supporting students with SR will help institute increase PhD numbers, since we support many currently on E&G budget (burden on undergraduate tuition). Will not leave the graduate student we bring in in the cold, but we have to find support.

- 4) Talk Up Your School, don’t talk it down. In her job description, but it’s in your job description as well!

- Invitation to talk with Faculty Senate. (And assurance it won’t show up in newspapers.)


- R. Hull: Thanks for insight into debt load of university. You’ve mentioned Summer Arch; among benefit is a financial one. Is there a projection on how much that will ease into help solve debt problem?

- G. Easton: It is critical about how we talk about the university; it impacts Donor Base.

- The more positive & exciting things we share; only help

- Jackson: also a lot depend on enrollments

- J. Wexler:

- Right now, 1691

- Goal for next year is 1600

- Visit volumes optimistic; but have to see through cycle

- V. Gregg:

- 1st slide says, what we use the debt for;

- Use debt to transform our campus

- Our student success & research success is a direct result of that

- Benefit we get from Summer Arch;

- We should not accelerate debt payment; if our financial profile improves, we should increase faculty hires; shoot for Faculty 500

- Jackson

- Not A1, but we are still an A rated credit;

- One thing they take positive note of: cash flow to cover out outlays, budget.

- We haven’t gone to borrow money for a while; avoid debt markets so we function within the financial envelope that we have (actuarial tables may make this necessary).

- W. Collon: Comment about graduate student; it seems it’s going in the wrong direction. Rising cost of graduate education. Here, about $75,000 from the POV of NSF grant; about half of grant will go to support a single student. I know of departments that have 15-20 faculty, and only handful of grad student. No choice but to go for postdocs.

- Jackson: Have to decide what’s important to you. If Rensselaer wants to be considered research intensive R1, then we have to play the game a certain way. If we’re an educational institution, then we go for what contributes most to “education.” We’re not alone in this either; other places do produce more PhDs. Training grants are a good option; but it relies on getting high quality students.


- A. Akera: Why the strong emphasis on undergraduate programs & student experience? Is this our current area of revenue growth?

- Jackson

- I look at the whole institution; each component of what we do is important

- When I arrived, undergraduate side, how we supported undergraduates was not sufficient

- Quality of our dormitories; other residence experiences.

- Our applicant pool was: 5500 students -> now 19,000 students

- Can’t build elite institution on this basis

- Begins with a focus on the quality of the students; the financial strength of the institution vis-à-vis our undergraduate program will follow

- AVPs, admin support of student services is necessary so each of the major functions are heard, not simply report to VP

- We cannot build graduate program on backs of undergrads (tuition)

- Faculty have their responsibilities, areas where they can invest, and this runs in parallel


Richie Hunter: Improving Institutional Image & Messaging

- Will be working with Times Union, be locally relevant

- Brand work that they will be doing

- Faculty will be invited to engage

- As a result of this, want to do 4 things:

- Engage public about Rensselaer: What we do, why it matters

- Attract top students & faculty, and we retain those students & faculty

- Engage alumni; not only about giving, but engaging them heart & mind

- Motivate donors: Inspire people by what we’re doing and how we’re telling our stories; Motivated to give, engaged with our institution

- Will include social media; revamping website; you will see these changes as they are rolled out.

- Jackson: How we have a wonderful undergrad program within a national research university

- Awareness in local community (Troy)

- On global stage: getting more of our faculty engaged. 2 Faculty on Global Agenda Councils or Global Economic Forum.


- Jackson: Thank you for invitation


Meeting Adjourned, 10:40 am.