10-28-2015 Minutes - General Faculty Meeting

General Faculty Meeting

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

EMPAC Theater


Prof. Chris Bystroff, Chair of Faculty, presiding

President Shirley Ann Jackson presenting.

Approximately 129 faculty & guests in attendance




Meeting Convened @ 4:10pm


Opening Remarks by Dr. Bystroff

- Chair of Faculty, Dr. Bystroff welcomed all those in attendance and provided opening remarks, including summary of agenda. In addition to Dr. Jackson’s opening presentation, Faculty Handbook and Summer Arch initiative to be featured during this meeting.


Dr. Jackson’s Remarks

- Dr. Jackson opened with a thanks to the officers of the Senate and the faculty for this invitation to address them at this meeting. During the last opportunity to address the faculty, last Spring, her emphasis was on institute highest priorities, with much of the discussions centered around budgetary issues. Resources remain a concern across universities in the United States.

- Am pleased to say we completed fiscal 2015 with a balanced budget, which preserving our academic objectives.

- To illustrate this ongoing commitment to academic excellence, Dr. Jackson pointed out the example of the excellent and exciting work in tissue engineering & regenerative medicine. $1.3 million grant recently received by Dr. Ryan Gilbert in the Dept. of Biomedical Engineering, based on electro-spun fibers and their use in patient recovery. This is but one of myriad examples of outstanding research at Rensselaer


Institute Finances & Capital Campaign

- We are in the quiet phase of capital campaign

- 3 Broad Goals

- Building faculty: Endowed chairs and fund for faculty excellence (recruitment & retention)

- Providing more financial aid; esp undergrads, but also grad fellowships

- Building out and upgrading our campus for 21st century, based on more of a master planning approach


The New Polytechnic

- We continue to push forward the vision of The New Polytechnic. Today, wish to focus on three institute-wide pedagogic initiatives that strive for this goal

  - Art_X

  - Focus on Resilience

  - Summer Arch



- Goal is to bring to students greater multi-cultural sophistication, and global outlook

- To see the art in science; science in and of art; to expand intellectual vocabularies; see new ways to solve hard problems; enhance creativity. Doing this by drawing on the brilliance and creativity of all of our faculty.


A Focus on Resilience

- Theme for Rensselaer community for this year

- Emerges from 2015 Presidential Colloquy

- Hope you will encourage students to think about resilience, and how to incorporate it into their lives


Summer Arch

- Students to spend summer after Sophomore year in Junior level courses on campus

- Spring or Fall of junior year will be spent elsewhere:

- volunteer project; overseas internship; a startup

- Will also encourage students to go abroad

- Begin with class of 2019: offered as an option

- Benefits

- Freedom to pursue an intellectual passion

- Develop capacity for leadership

- Greater interaction with faculty during the summer; just as they are making pivot to advanced classes

- Outdoor activities in the summer

- Year-round academic calendar will provide students who wish to with the opportunity to accelerate their studies.

- Will not be about requiring more classes / coursework

- Survey:

- ¾ of surveyed companies like Summer Arch type program

- Esp. opportunity for longer internships

- Some have committed to create opportunities for Rensselaer Juniors

- Other aspects

- Board has asked us to make year-around use of our campus & infrastructure

- Admit larger classes without increasing number of students on campus at any given time

- Also opportunity to recruit more/better students; more life and liveliness during the summer will help with recruitment


Impact to Faculty

- Summer Arch will offer new possibilities for the faculty

- We will stay with academic-year (9 month) contracts; there will be an option or supplemental pay for teaching during the summer

- It also introduces new flexibility to academic calendar

- Hoping faculty will help shape and execute the concept



- Next month on November 18th: Cognitive and Immersive Systems Lab (CISL) @ EMPAC to open.

- Two separate strains; each which will enhance the other;

- Advances in AI; Cognitive Computing

- The systems this lab will develop will be able to recognize language, gestures, even leadership;  Anticipate need for information in decision making settings (e.g. medical diagnosis rooms; design studios; board rooms), and bring it forward automatically in ways that enhance human capacity.

- This is made possible only because of partnership with IBM and experts from all five Schools at Rensselaer; Rensselaer is able to sustain world changing ambitions only because you have such respect for each other’s work.



- Thank all of you for helping create new vision for The New Polytechnic


Questions for Dr. Jackson


Q: How Exactly Does Summer Arch Provide Flexibility for Students?

A: It will, for example, allow students to have extended time periods for coops and internships. Primarily the 6-month period based on using Spring and following Summer semesters.

  - Might also allow for long-term travel and abroad experiences

  - Opportunity to build novel portfolio


Q: Have you Given Any Thoughts to a Name Other than Arch?

- Terrible name if the goal is flexibility

- We have a very constrained curriculum; this can provide flexibility, openness

A: Arch can be viewed as flexible if it’s seen as a gateway, not a constraining structure


Q: Re: Art_X, thanks for the initiative; great spaces that are opened up (Michael Century)

  - Noted EMPAC book (Programming EMPAC: The first 4,158 Days); Going forward for next 10 years: How do you see EMPAC connecting with Art_X

A: EMPAC represents an important asset, platform for Rensselaer

- Art_X is not just about arts courses; union of art & science

- Is as valuable for faculty research, collaboration.

- Faculty are looking forward to work in EMPAC

- visiting faculty who will engage with our faculty in Arts & in other fields, and engage our students

- But Students are not just there to be spectators, either. Expect them to be brought in.


Q: Appreciate freedom and flexibility of summer Arch, but students sometimes find navigating through flexibility to be challenging (Patrick Maxwell)

- Are we providing support structures, mechanisms to provide effective guidance to students so they can plan these experiences in meaningful ways?

A (Jackson): Yes, we have a task force working on this.

A (Schadler): We have an advising working group in place; also evaluating technology that will more effectively handle the more mundane parts of advising, so faculty advisors and advising staff can both focus on career development

- CDC is also creating a guideline for Summer Arch experiences; we have another subcommittee for this

- Benchmarking efforts have also revealed other options. Some institutions require students to take seminars that help students develop coherent plans for their semester off

- All this is still under development

A (Hajela)

- We also have the CLASS initiative on campus

- It will play critical role in how we bring students to think about what’s important for their lives & career, what they should do when vis-à-vis Summer Arch. Student Life will also play an important role in Summer Arch.


Q: How will the proposed changes in ABET accreditation criteria affect our vision for The New Polytechnic? (Atsushi)

A (Shekhar Garde): Understanding is that ABET is pursuing these changes to allow for greater flexibility in programs. This would be consistent with our vision for The New Polytechnic.

- We will always do what is necessary to attain accreditation.


Q: Faculty Involvement in New Academic Initiatives (Antoinette)

- How can the Faculty be more involved in setting priorities at the institute, especially in new academic initiatives like Summer Arch?

A: (Jackson)

- Understand and appreciate the question; we did get faculty advice although perhaps not in the way you’re talking about

A: (Hajela)

- We did give a preview at a Faculty Senate meeting; the plan developed over the summer and planning for the initiative starts now, with the faculty that’s in place

- We expect the faculty to be driving this initiative

- We have also had examples of other collaborative new academic initiatives. For example, Art_X began with an open invitation, a salon.

- Are you asking whether there should be more connection to the Senate?

Q: (Maniatty)

- Not exactly. One thought is, rather than initiatives coming from the administration, could there be major initiatives of this sort that start from the bottom up, come from the faculty

A: (Hajela)

- I see that as the new role of the Planning & Resources Committee. It would be the right channel for such ground-up initiatives, and will make every effort to include such ideas into his performance plan.

Q: (Jackson)

- Doesn’t have to be the only channel for communication. I invite you, as the President of the Senate, to meet with me to discuss new ideas and initiatives.


Q: How will Summer Arch impact research? (Georges Belfort)

- We’re primarily a research institution; how will Summer Arch impact the productivity of our faculty and students; Faculty are most productive during the summer. What discussions occurred along these lines in the planning to date?
A: (Jackson)

- First of all, don’t totally agree that most faculty research occurs during the summer

- To the extent to which it’s been the case, that’s a result of the structure of our academic calendar.

- Graduate students are here year round; You’re working with them all the time

- Exactly which semester you teach in; wouldn’t expect there to be much impact on overall research productivity

- Conversely with only ¼ of the undergrad students here during the summer, opportunity to interact with, and involve them in a different way in faculty research. This should be positive for both faculty as well as students.


Q&A session was brought to a close; President asked that the faculty recognize the cabinet members present.



Report on Senate Activities by Chris Bystroff – Chair of Faculty

- Word on street is Faculty Senate is useless.

- Used to think that also, but now convinced that’s not so, and would like to convince you of the same

- A summary of the faculty senate’s role is laid out in our constitution:

- voice of faculty; academic governance; key committees; forum for policy deliberations; advice to provost

- Chairperson Bystroff also offered recognition for members of the Senate & Senate Committees


Senate Accomplishments

- Faculty Handbook revised, and draft distributed to faculty for comment and considerations

- New policy on Biographies & Eulogies

- TA Evaluation Process, currently under development

- Other past developments

- Faculty development forums

- Forum on blended learning

- Forum on communication & conflict management.



Faculty Handbook

­- Introduction by Antoinette Maniatty

- Encourage everyone to look at handbook; formal meeting next Tuesday:

- Handbook meeting: 3 November 2015, 4pm. CII 3051.

- Best to speak to your Senators, who will vote to approve or reject the handbook

- Introduction to some of the key changes; Main discussion will happen next Tuesday, However as sample of what will be discussed, some of the key changes are:

- Policy for pre-tenure extension (comes out of ADVANCE; Kristin Bennett, chair of cmte)

- Changes to title of non-tenure faculty

- No longer clinical à lecturers + professors of practice (now may serve as PI)

- Elimination of research professor position

- However, research scientists / senior scientists may also serve as PI

- Will send out a summary of the changes


Questions & Comments

Q: Is it true that Senior Lecturers can serve as PIs, but are prohibited from serving on a doctoral committee? (Campbell)

- Seems we ought to have more discussion on this

A: (Hajela) There was conversation about this. At the time, the decision was based on length of a contract. Would be awkward to assign obligation that extends beyond their contract. Such individuals can always be called on as an external member of the committee


Discussion about Handbook Review Process

(Hajela): The past Senate EC spent 80-90 hours working through the details of this document

- Any change will have to go back out to HR for review

- This being said, If we think significant changes are necessary, they should be brought forward


Continued Q&A and Comments on Handbook


- Redefinition of Provost as the Chief Academic Officer of the institute is an improvement

- Not sure how much conditions of employment apply to non-tenure faculty; at one point saw that they were spoken of as at-will employees. Is that the case?

(Hajela): They are at-will employees

(Maniatty): However, they are covered regarding various procedures, such as grievance


Q: What is the process for promotion from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer

A: (Hajela)

- Same process as for tenure faculty

- Originates with department; vote; put forward by dean; decision is made at Provost’s level

- Does not go through P&T



Further Discussion of Summer Arch

- (Bystroff): Significant discussion on Summer Arch happened earlier during Q&A. Are there other questions?


Q: if you teach during the summer, do you have the option to take a fall or spring semester off?

A: (Schadler)

- Yes. Our plan again is to stay with the 9 month contracts

- While Summer teaching is officially designated as supplemental pay, departments may make any arrangements where faculty teach the equivalent of two semesters. This can be worked out at the departmental level.

- The only requirement from HR is that a semester where faculty does not teach occur during the year following the summer semester. (This is for contractual reasons.)


Q: Is it voluntary for faculty to teach over the summer? What if not enough faculty step forward?

A: (Schadler)

- This will be the department head’s challenge

- This is a situation that comes up even today…


Q: Given that there are so few places that do this, what is the database that you used to decide that this was a workable plan?

  - What have been some of the negative experiences, like Colgate; what have we learned from those cases?

A: (Hajela)

- We have looked primarily at 2 programs: Northeastern and Dartmouth

- Both have substantial program; Dartmouth is more flexible

- Have not identified any problem that’s a show stopper

- Meanwhile, there are apparent positive impacts:

- Pedagogic innovation

- Option to extend education to larger number of students

- Positives seem to outweigh possible hurdles,

- Legitimate questions have been raised… some of these still need to be considered. However what we’ve found are all things we can work on. We’re also helping students reach out to students at other institutions that are on this kind of schedule.

 - Also expect Summer Arch will bring new dynamic to Rensselaer, one that we haven’t seen before.

A: (Schadler)

- I will look at Colgate

- What I have seen is that, at Northeastern, because of the novel features that the schedule allows—e.g. relationship to employers—their campus is booming.

  - Pilot period will give us time to improve things; even make mistakes and fix them


Q: What will be our measure of success? Will it be about the bottom line ($)?

A: (Schadler)`

- Measure of success will not be just about our bottom line. We’ll definitely be looking at learning outcomes. For example, in MDL are the students able to better execute the design sequence? How about student placement? Real measure will be where students end up several years out.

- Right now, we’re focused on implementation, we’re not yet designing assessment.


Meeting Adjourned, 5:20pm

Reception followed.