11-09-2016 Minutes - Faculty Senate Meeting

Faculty Senate       

Meeting Minutes

November 9, 2016


Alhussein Abouzeid, Atsushi Akera, Jonas Braasch, Murali Chari, Jeff Durgee, Omar El Shafee,  Justin Etzine-Student Senate Representative, Joel Giedt, Virginia Gregg-VP for Finance, Helen Grzymala-AVP Finance, Prabhat Hajela-Provost, Katya Haskins, Amir Hirsa, Dan Lewis, Antoinette Maniatty, Jenifer Monger, Dorit Nevo, Varun Rao-Student Senate Representative, John Tichy, Andrew White-Director of Rensselaer Libraries, Frank Wright, Jack Wellhofer- Polytechnic

Next meeting:

December 13, 2016 12:00pm – Fischbach Room (Folsom Library)

1) Welcome from the Provost – n/a.


2) Approval of the Minutes

·         Meeting opens at 8:20am.  A slight change to the September minutes to say ‘…that influence the departure of students that leave between the sophomore and junior years’. Professor Wright motions to approve the minutes, Seconded by Professor Maniatty. All in favor. So moved.


3) Presentation by Virginia Gregg on Institute Fiscal Challenges

·         Revenue:

·         Tuition and fees 50% of revenue (tuition 170million net).

·         Room and board 15%.

·         Gifts 6%.

·         Grants and contracts 19%-23% (research just under 80million).

·         Endowment market value 7%.

·         Tech Park 3%.

·         Operating Expenses:

·         Salaries and wages 37%.

·         Benefits and retirement 10%.

·         44% faculty salary, 56% staff: 4:1 staff to faculty. Lower than other research university (6:1).

·         Supplies and services; utilities; travel; taxes and insurance, etc.

·         Interest on debt 10%.

·         Depreciation 7%.

·         Student aid and fellowship 12%.

·         Other 1%.

·         The budget gets balanced every year (a few years’ exceptions).

·         Cash based budget.

·         Did slightly better than budget over the past two years. Operating expenses improve.

·         Revenues went up and down (2014 through 2016) - due to Hartford campus.

·         Prior to pensions we were positive in 2016. After pensions-negative.

·         Endowment went up in 2015, down in 2016 (negative return, around median of other schools for FY16).

·         At the same time: pension interest rates came down so pensions as a liability continue to go up.

·         It was highlighted that managing the legacy pension plan as biggest challenge.

·         Debt went up between F14 and F15 – borrowed 40M for pension plan. Went down between F15 and F16.

·         Debt composition:

·         Pay down is about 8M a year.

·         134M for defined pension plan payments.

·         Remaining (600M) split between construction of three facilities and other campus investments (maintenance, classrooms, residences, etc.).

·         Accounting liability of pension 150M.

·         Pension

·         Contributions 1999 to present put around 200M.

·         Contributions prior to 1999 11M.

·         Change in pension liability 154M.

·         Negative impact on net assets 373M.

·         Impact due to maturity of plans and IRS adjustments in past years.

·         Market return hasn’t been a significant issue – conservative investment.

·         Our issue: not a lot of schools have defined pension plans. Ours is an old one that we still honor but it is expensive for RPI to do so.

·         Key issues: we have the old defined benefits plan that is a main liability. There are no new contributions since RPI moved away from this plan. Market rates over the recession added to the problem.

·         Expected to go down slowly – nothing that can cause it to go away (or get worse). Need to figure out a long-term path.

·         Endowment: 17 years ago was 350M. Has grown since. (Current, according to times union… 660M).

·         Pension cash contribution 200M.

·         Borrowing:

·         Cash flow 60 million (through operation).

·         Additional endowment.

·         De-risking strategies for pension plan.  Froze many options in 2014; increased lump sum option from 5 to 50K; asset allocation revised to reduce risk.

·         Department of Education: letter of credit issue

·         DOE treats pension plan as financial liability.

·         DEO does not consider portion of assets as part of asset base accumulated gains of restricted endowment).

·         How Faculty can help:

·         Participate in academic performance planning.

·         Participate in summer arch and growing research (additional 50million in revenue expected from summer arch).

·         Talk up the school.

·         Summary:

·         Improved operational results.

·         Balanced budget.

·         Summer arch expected to help.

·         Pension liability.

·         Technical dispute with DOE.

·         One comment was that there wasn’t room in the pie charts for growth/innovation/new initiatives etc. How much budget room do we have for these and what is the expectation in contribution (short-term/long-term)? How are these evaluated and prioritized? It was discussed that this should go through Performance planning process and Deans. Key criterion is strategic viability, then financial/budget process will kick in.


4) Presentation by Andrew White- Director of Rensselaer Libraries

·         Challenges/Issues:

·         Marketing-Website

·         Technology - Discovery Tool, Digital Repositories

·         Analytics/Assessments- use of resources, use/functional of space

·         Physical Space- Archives, first floor

·         Instructional Impact-information literacy

·         Staffing/Professional Development

·         Externally Funded Sources

·         Budget – 3.8M: 64% Materials (Peer Reviews, Journals, DVD’s, Electronic books), 28% Personnel, 8% Annual Maintenance–machines, printers.

·         94% of recurring costs are electronic journals

·         Subscription contracts

·         Publications 4-7% increase -mostly with smaller publishing companies

·         Working on avenues to involve student coders to assist/improve web

·         Justin Etzine said there is a Student Senate committee said they have a Web Technologies Group that could assist.


5) Report from Student Senate Visitor

·         Justin Etzine spoke. Students have some concerns re Summer Arch housing requirements for the Greek student members (Fraternities/Sororities). 

·         Students want to know how they go about getting an excused absence for mentally diagnosed illness. The head of the Academic affairs committee should be of assistance.

·         Varun Rao spoke-Some suggestions were to have Career Day be a holiday- no classes to allow for greater student participation/engagement.

·         There seems to be a disinterest in the proposed required summer reading.

·         Concerns that if a ‘leadership’ requirement is imposed, people would join groups just to fulfill that requirement.

·         Students are interested in procedures other college campuses use to reduce cheating on tests.

·         It was suggested that student senators attend the Core curriculum forum next week.


6) Report on visit to Student Senate

·         Professor Hirsa had nothing to add since item # 5 above covered the topics discussed. 


7) Old Business

·         Professor Akera suggested to table this item until the next meeting because of time restrictions.  All were in favor.

·         Items discussed that were the most relevant to the faculty were that they are aware of the core curriculum reform and the OGE survey-the graduate student senate representative was interested in getting a copy of the survey.  This was given to Spencer Scott on September 13.


8) New Business

a)   Core Curriculum Forum - Professor Hirsa spoke.

·         Meeting will be held on November 15th and all faculty are invited to attend.

·         Notice to Faculty lists should be 1 week prior to meeting – Professor Akera will send email today.

b)     Faculty Handbook Update – Professor Maniatty spoke. A question on what is counted as ‘consecutive semesters’.  The Provost provided clarification and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee will submit a draft to the senators for a vote in a subsequent meeting. 

c)     Open Access of articles & data produced by RPI Faculty - Professor Dan Lewis spoke. He suggested that there be a committee to review what exist at other peer/aspirant institutions. This is an opportunity to work with the Rensselaer Library on this effort in the future.  Committee members Professor Dan Lewis, Mr. Andrew White, Professor Diana Borca-Tasciuc, Spenser Scott-Graduate Student Council Representative, Nicholas Thompson-Student Senate Representative.



Professor Akera motions to adjourn. Seconded by Professor Hirsa.  All in favor. So moved.  Adjourned at 9:46am.