11-12-2013 Minutes - General Faculty Meeting


General Faculty Meeting

November 12, 2013

Biotechnology Auditorium

Meeting opened at 4:12

1.       Welcome by the Chair of the Faculty Isom Herron

Professor Herron opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and provided brief remarks about the accomplishments of the Faculty Senate over the past year, specifically in Faculty Development and Retention, and Graduate Education. The challenge of this year was redoing the Faculty Handbook. He outlined the process undertaken to revise the Faculty Handbook. Professor Herron then introduced the members of the Faculty Senate in attendance.

2.       Update and discussion about the Faculty Handbook

Professor Kilduff provided a brief presentation on the process of the Faculty Handbook revision. 1) A draft Committee convened and  went  through the Handbook line by line, took input from faculty and administration, considered that input and recommended revisions 2) Faculty Handbook Review Committee was formed – took initial revisions, additional input and made recommendation to the ?? 3) Currently in the hands of that Committee and going through it line by line and considering any additional input. They will then provide recommendation to Faculty Senate.

Question: What are the major changes in the Handbook?

Answer: Many changes are up for a vote by the Faculty Senate and Faculty can’t say yet what those changes are. Collecting input currently and will combine them into a master document that will address all the changes. Some changes are a matter of language – i.e. Department Chair is changed to Department Head. Not at the point of making actual changes, more a matter of correcting factual information at this point.

Question: Is a draft available of the revisions

Answer: Not yet available. Once it is combined into a master document it will be available for Faculty Senate and Administration to view. Right now the request of the Faculty is to identify issues in the current version. The Senate is meeting with each of the Schools to record what the issues raised are. The reference document is the Faculty Handbook dated 2006. The constraint is the Handbook has to be in line with the new Senate Constitution (2011).

Question: Is the purpose of doing this to simply reflect the way things are done now? Are there any real changes, or is it just clarification and wording changes?

Answer: We are trying to be pragmatic, and moving forward with changes that are appropriate.

Question: An idea of the general nature of deliberations of the draft committee and the review committee might be more useful at this point.

Answer: Atsuhi Akera provided context of draft Handbook review committee. Intent was to bring Handbook in conformation with the Constitution that had approval of the Faculty and Administration. There are certain unresolved issues. He would not recommending pressing controversial issues one way or the other at this time. The first Committee intent was to make the changes for conformance with the Constitution such as the definition of faculty. Certain factual things needed to be changed.  It is very important to have an up to date and valid Handbook. It is the desire of the Administration to have one as quickly as possible.

Question: What is the nature of the suggestions that are being sought?

Answer: Anything that anyone feels needs updating. For example, vagueness of P&T process was something that was brought up. It would be more helpful to have specific ideas for updating, specific language that needs changing. The hope is that by the end of December there will be a document for voting and final discussion.

Rpi_faculty_handbook@gmail.com is the email address that has been set up to receive input.

3.       Highlights of the Faculty Senate initiatives

a.       Faculty retention and development

Professor Bennett gave a presentation on the work of the Faculty Development and Retention Committee. She reviewed the charge of the Committee and the process followed. Four main areas in need of improvement were identified based on interviews conducted:

1) Climate – tense relations between faculty and administration; Recognize that there are inherent difference between schools; incentive and recognition of faculty achievements; not enough faculty input; dual career conflicts; failure to identify retention problems early and missed opportunities to address them.

2) Nurturing/mentoring – a holistic approach to Faculty Development and Retention; leadership training for potential leaders; little training of academic leaders on how to be effective leaders and how to foster faculty excellence; lack of formal mentoring programs and training; training on pedagogy and delivery methods; nurturing in general.

3)Process issues – clarity about the P&T process; outdated Faculty Handbook; Faculty input and participation.

4)Value/Resources – salary compression; technical and secretarial support; delays in promised resources; excessive workload.

Suggestions – support faculty led initiatives, implement a dual career policy and formal mentorship across campus; early identification of barriers to success in P&T process.

Leadership and peer training- implement a clear tenure clock extension process, clarify P&T process. Provide training for P&T committee members. Leadership training for potential leaders.

Professor Benent then reviewed some graphics gathered by the RAMP-Up program on P&T denial rates and reviewed the 2008 climate survey.

The suggested process of the Ad-hoc Committee on Faculty Development and Retention Committee is to create a high level task force with a mandate of studying the issue and creating a Faculty Development and Retention Plan; to identify perceived faculty development and retention issues through proactive faculty meetings and a faculty survey; benchmark faculty development and retention efforts at peer and aspirant institutions; to prepare a plan and consult with stakeholders and faculty; and finally to implement the plan.

Question: Was there a difference in stress between the 2 universities (MIT and RPI). (Question was in regards to the 2008 climate survey)

Answer: Comparing exact percentages. Graph shows the information.

Question: has the administration been responsive to the Faculty Development suggestions? Are the mechanisms in place to implement the suggestions?

Answer: They are very supportive, but not sure the mechanisms are formally in place.

Clarification point from a faculty member -  the Provost Office has been very supportive in the ongoing seminars (Research Seminar that had just occurred  and the planned P&T seminar). Some issues will be addressed in the Faculty Handbook changes.

Provost: in terms of stopping the tenure clock – the policies are in place. The Provost also clarified the difference in P&T at RPI and MIT – our processes are completely different so it is difficult to compare. Addressing the dual career issue the Provost stated that we work around the dual career issue on a regular basis.

A Handbook needs to be in place that is line with the Constitution. All changes might not be in place in one take. The Handbook, according to the Constitution, has to be reviewed and updated each year.

b.       Graduate education

Antoinette Maniatty –presentation  of Ad hoc Committee on Review of Graduate Programs.

Professor Maniatty reviewed the charge of the committee: in collaboration with the Office of Graduate Education, to identify the principal strengths, weaknesses, and needs of our graduate students, postdocs, and graduate programs in general, with an eye to the distinct needs of the 5 Schools; identify and report on key issues pertaining to diversity within the graduate program; formulate policy recommendations for consideration by the Faculty Senate. Advance these to the Faculty Senate by November 2012. She then reviewed the key background and findings: since adoption of the Rensselaer Plan (2000), a key goal of growing the PhD program to 250 PhDs awarded was not met; Rensselaer is no on track to attain the goals set out in the new Rensselaer Plan: 2024. Rensselaer will need to address challenges in four key areas – Graduate Student Support, Recruitment, Diversity, Placement and Alumni Relations. Rensselaer should also identify and leverage Opportunities for Distinction.

Professor Maniatty then reviewed the specific recommendations of the Committee in each of the 4 key areas.

Question: Is there any change to allow grad students to teach.

Answer: It is one of the Grad Committees recommendations.

Provost commented  that the current policy is that a person who is teaching a course has to be a faculty member and must be an employee. There is no change in policy. Possibly advanced PhD faculty could teach summer courses, but that is not yet the case.

Question/Comment:  Strength for recruiting students is interdisciplinary. Anything we can do to promote it is beneficial. We need to make it more known and needs to be in literature.

Question: Policy positions are important to push Rensselaer towards its goals, but do you feel that current policies are edging us towards the goal that we have in the Rensselaer Plan?

Answer: Provost – The policies aren’t the problem, resources are the problem.

Discussion – faculty must operate within the policy. But if the policy is not working, it is responsibility of faculty to bring those concerns forward. However, a quick fix does not work. Clarifying policies intent is important.

Quality of both levels (Undergraduate and graduate) of education is unsurpassed. We are doing both and doing it very well.

Meeting closes at 5:41pm