12-12-2012 Faculty Senate Minutes


Faculty Senate

December 12, 2012

Present:  Atsushi Akera, Georges Belfort, Michael Century,  Stan Dunn (for Prabhat Hajela) , Lester Gerhardt, John Gowdy, Isom Herron, Pawel Keblinski, Jeanne Keefe, Antoinette Maniatty, Vincent Meunier, Robert Parsons, Chang Ryu, and Frank Wright .

President Herron opens meeting at 3:05 pm

  1.  Approval of minutes of October 10, 2012

Following Senate review of the minutes of October 12, 2012, and acceptance of a minor edit, Professor Herron made a motion to approve the edited minutes, and Professor Akera seconds.  All in favor.  So moved.

  1.  Welcome by the President

Professor Herron opened by stating that it was gratifying that so many faculty were able to attend the last meeting of the semester.  Apologies were related from Vice-President Jose Holguin-Veras and Professor Lois Peters who are serving RPI in India.  Professor Herron reminded everyone of the Trustees Celebration of Faculty Achievement Dinner that is being held tomorrow and Professor Anna Dyson will be the speaker at the event.   There were no reflections or questions on Professor Herron’s comments.

  1.  Update on November General Faculty Meeting

Professor Gerhardt provided an update of the November General Faculty Meeting.   The minutes of the General Faculty Meeting held on November 13 are available on the web site.  The Faculty Meeting was broadly divided into three categories

  1.  Faculty Participation-standing committees, ad hoc committees, etc. citing accomplishments to date.  There is much eagerness and enthusiasm in moving forward. 
  2. Open floor for discussions of the Rensselaer Plan and those comments are recorded in the minutes.
  3. Open floor for discussions other than the Rensselaer Plan; again, those comments are recorded in the minutes.

Professor Gerhardt concluded by expressing his disappointment that the meeting was not well attended with less than 5% of the faculty in attendance.  Approximately two dozen people attended the meeting including five writers of the Plan and the six members of the administrative committee.  Professor Gerhardt stated that the Faculty Senate needs to be more engaging and promote increased enthusiasm on the part of the faculty.

  • Professor Belfort stated that many faculty do not appreciate the efforts put forth by the Senate.  There has been a complete turnaround of new faculty and they have no idea of what the Senate does.  The faculty needs to be educated on the importance of attending faculty meetings.
  • Professor Gerhardt suggested that the President,Vice President of the Senate and Chair of the Faculty should try to arrange a visit to each Faculty Department or School Meeting and explain what the Senate does and why it is important for faculty to participate and have input in the General Faculty Meetings.
  • Professor Akera states that he spoke to the Provost and the Provost has agreed to speak at the spring General Faculty meeting.  Once the committees start producing reports, there will be something of substance on the table that the faculty will want to hear. 
  • Professor Wright suggests having members from the Executive Committee speak to new faculty during on-boarding process.
  • Professor Belfort asked if it would it be out of place to invite outsiders to give a talk on a topic that would be relevant to the faculty, eg. music, management theory, etc.  These individuals could give a talk and meet the faculty.  The idea is to bring people to the meeting.
    • Professor Keblinski felt it might be appropriate to invite someone to speak on governance or on how great institutions are created. 
  • Professor Maniatty said she read a book on great institutions of the world and the three components of leading universities—excellence of faculty, resources and shared governance.
  • Professor Gerhardt stated that the last years of the faculty senate were difficult and that discussions were based on issues and problems.   We need to strongly emphasize the positive; we have added ad hoc committees on faculty diversity, the changing landscape of higher education, and graduate students issues. We also need to engage more faculty, have positive participation, and obtain new ideas from the ground up.  We need to start out with a subject specifically relevant to the Rensselaer Senate rather than a broad generic discussion. The opportunity is there to promote change and develop enthusiasm. Let’s do it together.
  • Professor Ryu suggested that the meetings be advertised.

Professor Herron asked if there were other people who were at the meeting who would like to make comments.

  • Professor Wright wanted to point out the difference between the RPI Plan and the Performance Plan.  The RPI plan is going through rejuvenation and the Performance Plan went ahead as if it was the same process.  He has only read two of the Performance Plans, but that if you read last year’s Performance Plan, there is not a striking difference.   As a faculty we can bridge the two plans because we go back and influence what is going on in our separate schools.  Encourage that we go back to our schools and ensure that the Performance Plan actually reflects goals that seem to be mutually aligned with the Rensselaer Plan.
  • Professor Herron stated that he neglected to mention earlier that the President and Vice-President of the Faculty Senate were invited by the Provost to attend and discuss the Performance Plan at a meeting held on November 8. 
  • Professor Gerhardt added that there are many opportunities to be involved in meetings, mentioning the meeting with the President and the writers of the Rensselaer Plan.  He felt that the President was open and receptive of the comments made and that there was a warm feeling of acceptance.
    • Professor Herron concurred that opportunities are there and we have to take advantage of them.

Committee Reports:

  • Faculty Development and Retention

Professor Herron stated that the Faculty Senate invited members of the Committee to attend today’s meeting but no one could attend.

  • Faculty Development and Diversity Committee

Professor Akera stated that the Committee had a very productive meeting. The Committee invited  junior faculty to attend and there was a very frank and open discussion on the tenure process.  There needs to be a culture to promote faculty retention and one where there is a broader range of strategies.  We need to encourage communication with the committee chair and put the committee on some kind of time line so that Senate can receive results. 

  • Professor Akera asked, how quantitative are the promotion and tenure standards?   Is there a mismatch between what the junior faculty seek and the criteria of the Tenure Review Committee ?   Initially, the quantitative method is important but letters of recommendation are also important.  We do not want the junior faculty to be shooting for the wrong set of criteria.  That is a serious issue.  We do not want a reputation as a bean counting institution.
  • Frank Wright stated that the Faculty Handbook could be a vehicle for getting the message out. The junior faculty are looking for some type of guidance and they need to know the teaching evaluation process works.
  • Professor Herron stated that if every school could convey to the faculty committee their comments, it would be helpful.
  • Professor Keblinski asked, what do we really expect for promotion and what are the expectations and areas of excellence that should be obtained?
  • Professor Wright stated that rules are now changing—they are looking at the front and back--output and input.   There is a blending of the accreditation process and looking at quality cycle of development. 
  • Professor Belfort asked if most schools have senior faculty advisors for junior faculty.
    • Professor Akera stated that we need to standardize this in the schools and that practices are not uniform among the schools.
    • Professor Gerhardt stated that we need to mentor our own, both colleagues as well as our students.
    • Professor Ryu stated that it would nice to have a process where we welcome the faculty; where we would help junior faculty with the tenure process. 
    • Professor Belfort asked if we had a committee to help post-docs.
      • Professor Akera replied that there is no committee for post docs.
      • Professor Herron stated that there is a meeting scheduled with HR and asked if this an item to be brought up?
  • Professor Wright suggested the faculty handbook as a means of communication.


Rennssealer Plan

  • Professor Herron gave a synopsis of the meeting that was held November 26 at 4 pm.  In attendance were Professor Herron, Professor Lester Gerhardt, Professor Georges Belfort , Professor Antoinette Maniatty, Professor Lois Peters, and Professor Wright.  Also in attendance were several cabinet members and the Provost.  President Jackson sought input on the Plan.  The representative of the Lally School emphasized the importance of the Plan and that some representatives expressed reservations about the student objectives being obtainable.  Professor Herron said that Professor Wright felt that the financial scope of the Plan should be greater.  Professor Herron said that Professor Gerhardt felt that there should be a summary of the Plan produced with specific objectives for Rensselaer.   Professor Herron asked Professor Akera to summarize what he said at the meeting
    • Professor Akera said that he encouraged VP of External Communications, Bill Walker, to relook at document as something that works in terms of external communications and maybe fund raising.  Professor Akera said that President Jackson worked with people for over 30 hours to rework the draft.  Professor Akera also stated that there were too many questions. 

Professor Herron asked for discussion.

  • Professor Century felt there are not ideas we can take away and that it seemed to be more of a maintenance plan.  He felt President Jackson was very thoughtful and was listening to the comments.  He feels the Plan is generic and that we need more Rensselaer specific.  We need to define big, definitive priorities.
  • Professor Gerhardt stated that the Plan should more emphasize on the strengths, challenges, and opportunities of Rensselaer than on generic issues such as the ‘Grand’ challenges.

Professor Herron asked Vice Provost Dunn for an update on the Plan.

  • Vice Provost Dunn stated that the latest revision was released on Monday.  The Provost and the committee are working hard to take into consideration faculty senate comments.   President Jackson is trying to create something vibrant and exciting which builds on the strengths that were developed in first plan.    Vice Provost Dunn mentioned that there will be a Trustee’s meeting this week.
  • Professor Akera stated that there was question brought up on how to position RPI correctly in the present financial situation.  President Jackson mentioned that if Rensselaer chose to only emphasize undergraduate programs then it would have to become a smaller institution.  President Jackson also felt that the future of Rensselaer depends on our standing of research and that is where the Rensselaer Plan is trying to strike the correct strategic balance between graduate and undergraduate programs.  Professor Akera also stated that one additional point that was mentioned is what part the Master’s program plays in this.  Dr. Jackson would like to see an expansion of the PhD programs in the three smaller schools. 
  • Vice Provost Dunn discussed advanced professional studies.  Many of us are familiar with the challenges at Hartford and the decline in enrollment.  We do have an opportunity of redefining continuing professional education at large and something not just based at Hartford and not just tied to a revenue stream and corporate tuition reimbursement.  We need to expand beyond terminal masters degrees and we need start to think about short courses, workshops, certificate programs, and self-paced student learning. There is a market study that will be getting off the ground shortly on these topics.
    • Professor Akera stated what is important to faculty is that there is stability in the program.  The science programs have suffered because of the changes and lack of stability.  He also stated that another discussion point brought forward in the conversation with the President is the Co-terminal Masters Program.  Clarity is needed on what the Co-terminal Masters Program is supposed to be.  Do we create a course or do we use the existing graduate course? If we use the existing graduate courses, we really need to filter out those students who will not be able to succeed.  The faculty needs guidance to handle this issue either from the Graduate Office of Student Senate.
      • Professor Wright felt the Curriculum Committee might need to look at this.
      • Vice Provost Dunn said that the report is coming out in a few months.  Problems vary from unit to unit.  Intent was to create opportunity for inter-disciplinary work.  Original intent was for students to explore inter-disciplinary work and has not always worked out that way.  It is more than curriculum issues, there are policy issues, admission policy issue student eligibility.  Vice Provost Dunn worries about student expectation not being met. 
    • Professor Belfort stated that our Master’s programs are not considered serious and that they are for people who want to go a little further than a bachelor’s degree.  The real effort in the Chemical Engineering department is obtaining a PhD.  If the PhD program were stopped, three quarters of our faculty would leave.  This is a critical issue.  He went on to discuss students who are having difficulties with the co-terminal programs.  Professor Belfort also stated that putting undergraduates in co-terminal courses is disingenuous.  We were setting them up for failure; therefore, we stopped putting them in.
      • Professor Wright said the same thing is seen in the Lally School.  In the masters program, two-thirds of courses contain material from undergraduate courses.  Internal is a problem and coming across is a problem.
  • Professor Gerhardt states that we need to address both graduate and undergraduate level programs in an integrated context. That really is an issue.  It is a challenge to find an institution in the US that is doing as well as Rensselaer at both UG and Graduate levels.
  • Professor Belfort stated that we get many foreign students and that we are not getting graduate American students from other outstanding universities in the US for PhD work.  We get the second or third level down.  We need the students here who are the best. 
  • Professor Akera stated that he highly encourages the committee to think on how to differentiate between the graduate and the PhD degree rank.  Our programs might need to be specialized.  If you look outside the US, they have made an effort to split their programs into three year undergraduate and a two year master program.  The purpose of the masters is to have a marketable skill; it creates a whole European economy that is much more responsive to technical changes.  Rensselaer should target marketable areas and that we could lead that way in the US.  We could target our master’s program to the untapped marketable areas.  Professor Akera encourages the Committee to explore that area.

Professor Herron felt this was a very interesting discussion and then asked for any more comments.

  • Professor Wright brought up Chemical Engineering and the fact that the global market place for financial planners requires chemical Engineers.  The financial arena is looking for chemical engineers because of the systems process material.  There is a poaching problem.  Industries are looking are other disciplines to poach those students.
  • Professor Belfort asked, what was the main issue of the Rensselaer Plan?  His understanding is that the Plan is not specific. He asked Vice Provost Dunn if there was something exciting that the faculty should know about.
    • Vice Provost Dunn stated that the structure is the same as the previous Plan so the general areas are the same.  The original Plan was limited to five areas.  The current Plan is much broader play to larger scale world problems.  The Plan includes the areas of water, conservation, advanced materials, manufacturing, and pollution but with individual goals in each of the areas.  The path is the same but we are enlarging the areas we want to tackle. 
    • Professor Belfort stated that before we were focused on a few areas.  Prof Based on Vice Provost Dunn’s remarks, we are broadening the area and there will be opportunities for more people  to join.
    • Vice Provost Dunn stated that perhaps the areas before were more scientific but now  we are focusing on the world’s large scale.  It is fundamental work of the Rensselaer faculty and students not just to solve these problems but to contribute to the solution.
    • Professor Wright stated that he did not see how to get from the Rensselaer Plan to the Performance Plan.
    • Professor Century expressed frustration that there was nothing about technology arts in Plan.  Rensselaer is one of the places in the world where you can develop creative arts related to technology and put this is not in the Rensselaer Plan.


Old Business 

1. Professor Wright stated that he would like to see tuition and its role in the revenue stream brought up at the next Executive Committee meeting.

ACTION for Executive Committee: Professor Akera stated that that this would be brought up at the next Senate Executive Committee meeting.  Professor Akera stated that administration does not want to share financial information, but the Senate could look at the policy issue.

Review of Graduate Programs Committee

Professor Maniatty stated that the committee is focusing on four areas--funding, recruitment, placement, and diversity.  They would like to have recommendations ready for February.   Professor Maniatty stated that she would like to address the issue of the shrinking pool of students available to us.  She also stated that demographics are shifting and that international universities are becoming stronger.


New Business

1. Professor Herron states that we need to get faculty involved in faculty honors.    We need to recommend that faculty nominate candidates and to make sure we study the issues. Professor Akera stated that we study issues and get faculty involved.

2. Professor Century stated that the Rensselaer Club is having a cocktail party and concert and would like to invite the Faculty Senate to be involved and suggested that the Faculty Senate partner with the Club. Professor Akera thought the idea of Faculty Senate co-sponsoring with Rensselaer Club on this event was a good idea, and we could allocate a budget for this.  There was a discussion of tickets, seating, etc.  Professor Akera will be in touch with Professor Century about this event.

3. Professor Belfort states that he would like to suggest that we send the faculty an email wishing all a Happy Holidays.  ACTION: Professor Akera states that he will get that done as soon as possible. 

4. Professor Wright asked about Senate Elections in April. Professor Akera stated that the Senate needs to get publicity out for the elections and that the Election Committee will be handling.  

Professor Herron makes a motion to adjourn at 4:55 pm.   Professor Akera seconds.  Motion carried.