11-13-2012 Faculty Senate Minutes - General Faculty Meeting


General Faculty Meeting

November 13, 2012


Lester Gerhardt calls the meeting to order at 4:05 and welcomed the faculty. His full remarks are available in the Appendix to these minutes.  In summary, he said that the Faculty Senate in its first ½ year is growing and vibrant, elaborating on this in different ways in his remarks which are attached.  Dr. Gerhardt outlines the agenda for the meeting:   review action and accomplishments, Rensselaer Plan refresh , and open forum for ideas and suggestions.  The minutes from the first General Faculty meeting held on March 28 are available electronically and on the web site.


1.  Recreated /populated standing committees

 The Curriculum Committee- Chaired by  Professor-Wayne  Bequette;   Promotion and Tenure-Chaired by Professor Mark Shephard reports that fall cases are in progress; Planning and Resource-Chaired  by Professor David Duquette; and Honors-headed by Professor Joyce McLoughlin –with Awards made in the spring.

2.  Ad Hoc Committees

Faculty Development and Retention – Chaired by Professor Jose Holguin-Veras reviewed membership

Review of Graduate Programs-Chaired by Professor Antoinette Maniatty

Undergraduate Curriculum and Teaching Methodology, Chaired by Professor Gerhardt

3.  Infrastructure Supported

New Hire-Pat McGraw administrative support

Budget has been established

Web site up and running http://facultysenate.rpi.edu/

4.  Senate Administration/Cooperation

A positive Changing campus culture was noted-with stronger interaction and cooperation between the Faculty Senate and administration -- Real Com 2.0. L. Gerhardt and I. Herron were appointed to be on the committee.  Senate invited to participate in performance planning;  the Executive Committee was invited to participate in the Provost Search process. The Faculty Senate has been asked to provide input into the Rensselaer Plan Refresh process; faculty appointments to Review Board and Academic Board.

5.  Reviewed Comments and Responsive Actions From Last Faculty Meeting

Schedule regular meetings;  Closer ties with administration; Enhance faculty development-ad hoc committee formed; Quality of graduate education-ad hoc committee formed;; changing landscape of undergraduates-ad hoc committee formed. Increase Faculty participation in Faculty Senate and governance/reinvigorate  faculty-expressing desire for larger attendance

6.   What Is Still Left To Do?

Review and revise Faculty Handbook-need to form a committeedevelop a Faculty Senate award; resource distribution; work with CIO to keep track of students in interdisciplinary areas.

7.   Spring Faculty Meeting on April 9.

8.  Dr. Gerhardt invited Committee Chairs for comments:

Dr. Jose Holguin-Veras-Faculty Development has met and discussed leadership  strategies for faculty development and held a first meeting for newly hired faculty;  hopes to have more activities by next meeting  and a basic plan in place.  The Executive Committee has discussed plans to introduce additional seminars for newly hired as well as tenured faculty. 

9.  Open Discussion concerning the refresh Rensselaer Plan. 

Dr. Linda Schadler-asked Dr. Hajela what main message has been heard.   Dr. Hajelia responded that everything that was said at opening meetings has been collected and recorded.  Provost Hajela reviewed several of the messages that have been repeated across all of the sessions: affordability, too much about pedagogical limitations and not enough about other methods; measurement outcomes being made more clear; prominence and how we understand prominence-should this still be an goal.

Dr. Atsushi Akera-asked if Provost Hajela thought the Plan reflects the strategies of where the faculty would like to go.  Dr. Hajela felt that the Plan captures the sentiment.

Dr. Jonathan Dordick, raised issues:  what do we mean by communities, CLASS, global challenges, building external partnerships, innovation and entrepreneurship; advancing universities.  Broad question—How do we brand ourselves and how do we measure excellence?

Dr. Akera-stated that the Rensselaer Plan is an inclusive document  but does not provide a clear sense of the direction in which we should be moving.  What choices should RPI take to give RPI a unique signature.? Faculty needs guidance as to what needs to be done.

Dr. Hajela disagrees.  The document does lay out a master plan and that the Plan does establish direction.  A bold vision is needed for education and research.  We need to set the bar high so we can an impact and meet global challenges.

Dr. Jack McDonald-Gave an instance where a graduate students came to him and was concerning that his loans were coming due and that he may have to stop work on his Ph.D.  Dr. McDonald stated that American students are burdened with debt; weakening our students’ ability to pursue education.    We need system to work with large local industries for funds

Dr. Hajela-stated that this is not just a RPI problem but a national problem.  We do not have the resources.  Every effort will be made for financial aid for students including funds for fellowships and external funding.

Dr. Michael Century-what is the current state of the refresh process.  What are the big points of the Plan; many points are maintenance

Dr. Hajela clarifies-the plan has a double target of growing faculty and students and taking on global issues through research--500 Tenured/Tenure Track faculty, research to double, 2500 graduate students(1600 PhD), 5000 UG

Dr. Carlos Varela-Computer Science- asks about a foreign language program. 

Dr. Hajela— There are currently the following:  self-study programs, NASAL consortium of universities; Nanyang Tech Univ-4 credit courses in Singapore in Mandarin-no charge for this course; seed projects-immersive environments ; looking at possible partner to provide language instruction in a robust manner, Global EEE Program were some of the existing options cited.

Dr. Berman asked  about MOOC options.

Dr. Hajela replied—none for languages.  Went on to state that we looked at local schools (HVCC, Sage) but does not work will with students schedules.

Dr. Akera asked how EU countries address global challenges; how we will work with the current document.   How specifically will we work in regional and global market place.

Dr. Hajela-We work with 30 institutes at the institute level .  HASS and Science are falling short in international experience.   Engineering students 15-20 percent in international  programs.  

Dr. Gerhardt-serving as Sr. Advisor to President for The Institute for International Education-referred to the Annual IIE Open Door Report which was just released will be generally available soon, continues to report that only  1.4% of American students have an international experience in any given year. 

Dr. O’Rourke-asked if there was going to be a semester abroad program and inquired about the Biotechnology signature thrust area.

Dr. Hajela –we have five signature thrusts-  Bio Technology, Nano Technology, Media and the Arts, Energy and the the Environment and Computational Sciences.   We would like a semester abroad;  not a requirement.  We have to establish funding, curriculum activities.  A semester abroad throws students off track.

Dr. O’Rourke —no place in curriculum is not a good argument.  

Dr. Gerhardt then opened the floor to general comments and Questions/Answers.

Dr. Isom Herron –Faculty Senate is taking up the matter of tuition burden on students.

Dr. McDonald- we try to take care of our own undergraduate students going into graduate programs first.     If we are going to increase faculty, where is that money coming from;  hopefully not from increased tuition.  In 70 years, tuition went up 100 times.

 Dr. Akera—has the Senate or Institute come up with procedures to deal with this issue?   We should have some safety-net procedure in place to deal with financial issues.  Eg.  Emergency fund.   Role of the Faculty Senate is to take concerns and turn them into a procedure/plan.


Discussion on this issue ensues.

Dr. Tim Sams-VP of student life-Institute has provisions for students having financial difficulties--Financial Aid, Dean of Students, Class Deans  There is funding set aside specifically for students in hardship.

Dr. O’Rourke--questioned the five signature thrust areas.  Were they developed from the top down or the bottom up?  What input did faculty have in developing them?

Dr. Gerhardt—they  were developed over time; a lot of input from a variety of sources.

Dr. O’Rourke-asked if faculty senate looking at the five and developing a faculty view.

Dr. Frank Wright-when the President gave an overview of the five thrust  areas they were influenced by the UN Development Goals and Grand Challenges; fine line between Rensselaer Plan and performance plan.  A department might be able to do one but one another. 

Dr. Gerhardt-a degree of flexibility was built into the Plan.  Schools should come up with tactics as well as strategies (specifics).  Faculty needs to have their voice is heard on such initiatives.

Dr. Akera –have faculty initiative change?  Does the Plan create an environment for faculty to develop initiatives?  Administration sometimes pushes broad level initiatives. 

Dr. Gerhardt—Can’t recall any major thoughtful faculty initiatives that have been discouraged. Signature thrusts are ‘broad umbrellas’ and are diverse enough to cover many emerging fields and related initiatives.

Dr.  Keblinski—the way to affect plan is to identify strengths.

Dr. O’Rourke—we need to develop local company environment.    We need to find out how we can help local companies  and hopefully they will help us financially.  Discussed Stanford University and how they partner with local companies. 

Dr. Wright—Plan is a “capital development tool.”  Stanford has many graduates that own their own businesses-- this might be the place to use Dr. McDonald’s suggestion.

Dr. Gerhardt—thanked everyone who came and thanked everyone for working hard  and for their support.    Motion to end meeting made and seconded.  Meeting ended at 5:27.



APPENDIX – Remarks by Lester Gerhardt, Chair of the Faculty


NOVEMBER 13, 2012  DCC 337

            As Chair of the Faculty, and a Member of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, it is my honor to welcome you, my colleague faculty, to the fall 2012 General Faculty meeting.

            The very first meeting called by the newly constituted Faculty Senate was appropriately the General Faculty meeting held on March 28, 2012. Since then, a lot has transpired and it is a real pleasure to report that the Senate is alive and well, vibrant and continuing to grow in responsibility and impact.

 I’ll first briefly review some actions and accomplishments to add some substance to these broad comments, and then ask others in the Senate to perhaps add some details as they may wish. With the main purpose of this meeting being to hear from the faculty, we will then turn to the special topic of the Refresh of the Rensselaer Plan and process, and then open the floor for faculty discussion on it specifically. Following that, we will open the floor for general discussion and Q & A. As before, Minutes of this meeting will be posted on the Faculty Senate Website http://facultysenate.rpi.edu

I have grouped my summary of actions and accomplishments into Organizational Aspects, Infrastructure Support, Faculty Senate/Administration Cooperation, Comments at Last Meeting and Resulting Actions, and Going Forward.


Organizational Aspects

  • Re-creating and populating the Standing Committees

Curriculum (Wayne Bequette-Chair)

Promotion and Tenure (Mark Shepard-Chair)

            P&T fall cases being processed as normal

Planning and Resources (David Duquette-Chair)

Faculty Committee on Honors  (Joyce McLaughlin-Chair)

            Early Career Award-Peter Tessier

            Fishbach Travel Award-John Tichy

Outstanding Teaching Fellowship-Thomas Sharkey

Wiley Distinguished Faculty Award Nadarajah Narendran


  • Creating Special Ad Hoc Committees

Faculty Development and Retention (Jose Holguin-Veras-Chair)

Oct. 30 Panel on P&T (Linda Schadler, Larry Kagan, John Tichy, Heidi Newberg, Ricardo Dobry, Jose Holgin-Veras)

First of Many

Review of Graduate Programs (Antoinette Maniatty-Chair)                         

UG Curriculum and Teaching Methodology (Lester Gerhardt-Chair)

  • Monthly meetings of the Faculty Senate, and of the Executive Committee Held
  • Semester Meetings of the General Faculty Held


Infrastructure Support

  • Newly hired support staff-Pat McGraw (x2989) started Oct. 30

Many thanks to Jennifer-Marie Jillson Brock for all her help in this capacity

  • Budget established
  • Website formed; up and running as of September 21. http://facultysenate.rpi.edu -links directly from rpinfo (under faculty and staff)


Senate/Administration Cooperation

  • Isom and Les appointed to the Reassessment Leadership Committee (REALCOM 2.0)-Refresh of the Rensselaer Plan; Participation in the Information Sessions etc.
  • Invited to Dean’s Presentations of Performance Plans (Isom/Les)
  • EC Members actively participated in Provost’s Search
  • Individual meetings with the Provost and EC
  • Selected meetings with Deans and other senior Administrators
  • Faculty Appointments to the Review Board and the Academic Board
  • Football Game Invitation to EC from the President
  • Meeting with the President set for November 26


Comments at Last Meeting and Resulting Actions

  • Schedule Regular Meetings-See Above/Done
  • Establish Closer Ties to Admin-See Above/Fine Start
  • Enhance Faculty Development-Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Development and Diversity Formed and Active
  • Involvement in Provost Search-EC Interviews/Done
  • Evaluate Quality of Education-Graduate Focus-Ad Hoc Committee on Graduate Education Formed and Active
  • Need Budget-Established
  • Need More Faculty Participation in Governance/Re-invigorate Faculty-Has Begun; Needs Improvement Over Time
  • Evaluate Impact of Rapidly Changing Landscape in Higher Education-Ad Hoc Committee on Curriculum and Teaching Methodology Established


Going Forward

  • Review and Revision of the Faculty Handbook
  • Create Faculty Senate Award
  • Review of Faculty/Student/Resource Distribution
  • Tracking of Interdisciplinary Students and Activities with CIO Assistance
  • Develop Strong Student Interactions
  • Promote and Develop Larger and Broader Faculty Involvement

            In closing, in this short but productive and effective formative period, we have observed a positive change in the campus culture, an air of openness, and a greatly enhanced cooperative relationship between the newly constituted Faculty Senate and Administration. We need to focus on creating a strong integration with the student body, but most of all to develop stronger and broader participation of the Rensselaer faculty. The last item will take some time to rebuild, but we remain optimistic and enthusiastic and look forward to the day when the Faculty Senate is a major force on campus, and a recognized and instrumental key part of the Rensselaer Community and Family.

As a reminder, the spring 2013 General Faculty Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday April 9, 2013.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you and your family a most Happy Thanksgiving, and an especially Healthy and Happy New Year.

Prof. Lester Gerhardt

Chair of the Faculty