12-08-2015 Minutes - Faculty Senate Meeting

Faculty Senate       

Meeting Minutes

December 8, 2015

Present:

Atsushi Akera, Audrey Bennett, Diana Borca-Tasciuc, Jonas Braasch, Jeff Braunstein, Chris Bystroff, June Deery, Marcus Flowers (Grand Marshall), Joel Giedt, Amir Hirsa, Dan Lewis, Antoinette Maniatty, Ernesto Gutierrez-Miravete (via Skype), Lois Peters, Rich Radke, Alexandra Rempel, Wayne Roberge, Spencer Scott (Graduate Student Council), John Tichy, Ning Xiang

Next meeting:

February 10, 2016: 8:15am-9:45am, Library Fischbach Room

The following people were not present but sent their regrets:  Jen Monger, Katya Haskins, Murali Chari.

1) Welcome by the President of the Senate

Meeting opens at 3:12pm. Group started with a round table introduction.     

 

2) Approval of the Minutes

November 11, 2015 Faculty Senate Minutes: Professor Bystroff motions to approve, Professor Tichy seconds. All in favor. So moved.

 

 

3) Old Business/Review of Action Items from November Meeting

 

a)     Update on Advising Task Force:   Professor Radke spoke. Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, Linda Schadler, is in charge of this committee and Professor Radke who is a member has been asked last month to attend the Faculty Senate to provide ongoing status updates.  They have met a total of three times so far, representatives are from all areas of the Institute including faculty, staff and administration.  They are looking at how advising is done by each of the schools, what the best way to ‘teach’ advising, and what are the implications for Summer Arch when we will have more undergraduate students on campus.  They have looked at advising satisfaction surveys and found the numbers to be: Architecture: 77%, Lally: 82% (faculty don’t play a large role here until toward the end of their 4 years at Rensselaer), Engineering: 60%, Science: 60%, Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences: 52%.  It was noted that Engineering has an advising hub on the 3rd floor of the JEC and they tend to handle more basic/repetitive questions.  It was asked whether the hub has been in place long enough to impact the student satisfaction surveys that are done after students leave.  The effect of the hub may not be evident for a few years.  Professor Radke will investigate what group of people (freshmen, sophomores, etc.) primarily uses this hub. Architecture is a very one-on-one program which provides many opportunities for the students to speak with their professors which explains the higher satisfaction numbers.  One item to consider is the CAP report- while it is not robust enough as a forecasting tool, it can show you if you are on-track.  The senior surveys currently do not capture enough information on this.  Suggestions include a focus group to look into what we can do better.  There was discussion on the topic with some comments saying that we assess everything, shouldn’t we be assessing undergraduate student advising?  Another comment included the fact that the there is no enforcement for the Student Advisory Meeting.  The Provost posed a challenge to the committee to look at faculty engagement prior to the student’s sophomore year. 

 

1. ACTION ITEM:  Advising Task Force - Professor Radke will investigate what group of people (freshmen, sophomores, etc.) primarily uses this hub.

 

b)     HASS School Appointments:   

                              i.        Promotion and Tenure-Special Election: Professor Bennett spoke. Caren Canier will serve out the remaining term for Michael Century which is until the end of Spring 2016.

 

                             ii.        Faculty Committee on Honors: Professor Bennett spoke.  HASS has selected Professor Nirenburg as a candidate.  A secret ballot was issued for the members of the senate to vote on the nomination.  The result was unanimous and Professor Nirenburg joins the committee as a new member.

 

c)     Summer Arch: An update to the status of forming a subcommittee to poll and organize faculty discussions regarding the Summer Arch initiative.  Professor Maniatty spoke. Unfortunately up until now, no one has been willing to serve on this sub-committee.  It was pointed out that in prior years, the Senate would meet twice a month, but it was reduced to once a month to allow time for other committee activities.  It is a duty of the senate members to serve where needed. Professor Maniatty asked that senate members consider serving on this committee and contact her directly if interested.  Professors Bennett, Peters and Bystroff volunteered.  It is suggested that a member from each school would be preferable so a representative from Engineering and Architecture are still needed.  Professor Maniatty suggested that there be a faculty survey and in addition, suggested we gather feedback from students as well.  The survey should be a true information gathering effort asking questions like ‘What does your department need’ and asking for suggestions not just items of concern.  Another suggestion was to hold an open forum across the schools and present the information gathered to date.  It was also suggested that as the Summer Arch is rolled out, we should look and evaluate how it is being implemented. The current Institute’s Summer Arch task force has done a lot of work so far.  The Provost suggested that the senate invite Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, Linda Schadler, to the next senate meeting to hold an open discussion for the senators.  He pointed out that there is a website that is being launched in the next 2-3 weeks that will have Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) and a central place to get information and that as questions are raised; they will be added to the FAQ’s.

 

2. ACTION ITEM:  The FS Executive Committee will contact the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, Linda Schadler, to invite her to the next senate meeting for a discussion on Summer Arch. 

 

d)     Ombudsman:  At the last senate meeting, it was suggested that the Executive Committee appoint a sub-committee to look into this and get further information. It was reported that the Institute does not have an Ombudsman and suggested that we look at peer schools to evaluate.  HASS does have an Ombudsperson and it is the Chair elect of the HASS Faculty Governance Council.  Professor Akera volunteered to speak to that individual and gather some more information on their role and skill set.  The Faculty Development and Retention senate committee had previously recommended that there be an Ombudsman.  Professor Maniatty did not get any volunteers before the meeting today but Professor Braasch volunteered to serve during the meeting.  Professor Akera and Maniatty will continue to find individuals to also serve on this committee.  Senators are also asked to send Professor Maniatty the names of volunteers to be on this sub-committee.

3. ACTION ITEM:  Senators to send Professor Maniatty names of volunteers to be on the Ombudsman Sub-Committee. 

 

e)     Graduate Student Stipend: At the last Senate meeting, a resolution was passed to increase the Graduate student Stipend.  The last time there was an increase was back in 2012.  This resolution was passed along to the Provost.  It was discussed to reach out to the schools and pass along the information on the resolution.  It was mentioned that faculty should be encouraged to include the recommended stipend amount into the grants they are writing. There was some additional discussion regarding how a typical NSF grant doesn’t support a full RA at Rensselaer because our tuition charged to grants is higher than most of our peers.  There was further discussion on TA’s and their opportunities for earning additional hours, including summer work hours.  The senators were encouraged to pass along the resolution to their respective schools.  A suggestion was proposed that the VP for Research, John Dordick, be asked to circulate an email with the Stipend resolution.  The Provost encouraged faculty to support their students in any way they could and also stated that the resolution is something the administration is reviewing. 

 

f)      Biographies & Eulogies Implementation Update: Professor Akera spoke.  This process was already presented by the Provost at the Dean’s Council and is being implemented today.

 

g)     Faculty Handbook Update: The changes that were presented and discussed at various meetings were presented.  A motion to hold a vote by the senate on those proposed changes was made by Professor Lewis and was seconded by Professor Braasch.  The senators voted and all were in favor of the proposed changes.  There was some discussion regarding the Research Professor title that happened a few years earlier and how it may have a negative effect on attracting talented individuals without the title.  The Provost commented that there were not a lot of people in Rensselaer that fell into that title.  A suggestion for future changes regarding issues that affect faculty should involve a subcommittee to look into first before changes are made. The next steps regarding the Handbook are that the Provost will be meeting with Legal and HR to get their approval. 

 

h)     Committee Updates:

                              i.        Promotion and Tenure:  A report was submitted and read (attached as a separate document to these minutes).

                             ii.        Committee on Honors:  A report was submitted and read (attached as a separate document to these minutes).

                            iii.        Planning and Resources:  A report was submitted and read (attached as a separate document to these minutes).

                            iv.        Curriculum:  Professor Deery spoke.  The committee is working at improving communication with all the departments including the registrar’s office on changes.  Sometimes the faculty do not notice the changes in the course descriptions and the Associate Deans have been instrumental in following up with them on these issues.    

 

 

 

 

4) New Business

 

a)     Faculty Senate Representative at Student Senate Meetings: Professor Akera attended the Student Senate meeting on December 1st and reported that the Student Senate expressed appreciation for the recent resolution that was passed in the Faculty Senate.  The graduate students have expressed interest in looking into fellowship opportunities.  In engineering, the MANE department and the Office of Graduate education has held seminars on this topic.  It was reported by Marcus Flowers that the Student Life Committee wanted to make sure that the professors follow along when the Institute has issued a closing or delay and not hold classes.  The Student Senate meetings will change to Wednesdays in the spring, and a Faculty Senate representative is invited to attend the 1st Wednesday of every month starting February, 2016.

 

b)     Senate Member Responsibilities: It was mentioned above and at prior senate meetings that each member has an obligation to give of their time and talents to items that are related to senate business, which include volunteering to work on sub-committees, as needed.

 

c)     Conflict of Interest Commitment Report:   It was suggested that a list of specific questions from the survey be identified and be presented to Human Resources asking if they are indeed required to satisfy the legal minimum requirements.

 

d)     Sabbaticals:  As is the case currently, any sabbatical requests should be sent to the Provost for approval.  In March 2016, the Trustees will approve the budget for the next fiscal year and any new changes to the current Sabbatical requirements will be made available at that time. 

 

e)     Other New Business:  The Provost gave an update on Middle States.  The Chair of the visiting committee came and met with the core committee members on December 3rd.  He assisted us and asked us to focus on his recommendations.  The next steps are to update the document and get it to the oversight committee by the middle of January.  The actual Middle States site visit is scheduled for April 2016. Professor Maniatty requested that the Provost share the updated document with the faculty when it is complete so that we can be better prepared for the visit in April. 

 

Another item was the recent comments that were being generated through the Faculty-All list on evaluating teaching.  There was some discussion on this topic.  It was suggested that the current survey does not track students longer than one semester and more data needs to be available.  Another comment stated that an evaluation of faculty by their peers could happen at recruitment or if a problem comes up to help in effectiveness.   We should see what everyone is doing to be more effective teachers and roll out best practices to all faculty campus wide.  Another suggestion involved tracking follow-up courses that had pre-requisite classes and how they helped prepare the students.  There was much discussion on this topic and how to best approach evaluating the faculty.  It was agreed that student surveys are just one part of the equation. Senators are asked to reach out to the departments in their Schools to find out how each department currently evaluates teaching to get a benchmark and understanding of what current practices are across the institute.  Faculty Senators were asked to find out what current practices are in their own departments and to send to Professors Lewis and Borca-Tasciuc, who have agreed to look into this subject in their own departments and to collect information sent to them from senators.  They will discuss what they find at the next meeting.

 

4. ACTION ITEM:  Faculty Senators send Professor Lewis and Borca-Tasciuc information on how teaching effectiveness is assessed in their departments.  Senators Lewis and Borca-Tasciuc will look at their departments, collect the information from the Senators, and discuss at the next meeting. 

 

 

5) Action Items Summary

 

1.     ACTION ITEM:  Advising Task Force - Professor Radke will investigate what group of people (freshmen, sophomores, etc.) primarily use this hub.

 

2.     ACTION ITEM:  The FS Executive Committee will contact the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, Linda Schadler, to invite her to the next senate meeting for a discussion on Summer Arch.

 

3.     ACTION ITEM:  Senators to send Professor Maniatty names of volunteers to be on the Ombudsman Sub-Committee.

 

4.     ACTION ITEM:  Faculty Senators send Professor Lewis and Borca-Tasciuc information on how teaching effectiveness is assessed in their departments.  Senators Lewis and Borca-Tasciuc will look at their departments, collect the information from the Senators, and discuss at the next meeting. 

 

Professor Hirsa motions to adjourn. Seconded by Professor Lewis.  All in favor. So moved.  Adjourned at 4:52pm.