3-20-2013 Faculty Senate Minutes


Faculty Senate Meeting

March 20, 2013


Members Present:  Isom Herron, Les Gerhardt, Chip Kilduff, Jose Holguin-Veras, Pawel Keblinski, Atsushi Akera, Michael Century, Wayne Bequette, Prabhat Hajela, Paul Hohenberg, Lois Peters, Jeanne Keefe, Antoinette Maniatty, Robert Albright–Hartford via dial in.

President Herron opens meeting at 8:35am.


1)  Approval of February 13, 2013 Minutes:

            Committee takes time to review minutes and Professor Herron asks if there are any questions. Professor Century noted that listed under item no 7 – Graduate Review committee it should say 72 credit hours not 70.  Professor Akera updated the action item under item 8 to note that in fact, Professor Keblinski verified the CBIS Auditorium for the General Faculty meeting in April.  The motion to approve minutes is made by Professor Century, seconded by Professor Holguin-Veras.  All in favor. So moved.

2)  Address from the Senate President:

            Professor Herron stated that the Executive committee has met and have approved the handbook revisions committee recommendations. They have received much informal feedback and they urge the Senate ad-hoc and standing committees who need to have immediate or specific responses from the administration to do this in concert with them.  He stated that Open Communication is the watchword for the executive committee.  He also noted that the level of communication with the administration has improved considerably.  He further stated that the executive committee can be very helpful to the ad-hoc and standing committees in seeing that information is received. 

3)  Committee Reports:

  • Institute Curriculum Committee - Professor Bequette provided report. They have been meeting every 2 weeks throughout the semester with roughly 3-4 mtgs remaining.  They have a meeting scheduled today where they will get the results of the student survey on the J (January) term.  The Provost added that the J term started with the student leadership approached him asking how students can be more involved over break.  Presently there is no J term but this is a poll done by the students asking what kinds of programs they would be interested in seeing over the Christmas break.  Paul Hohenberg noted that there used to be a J term many years ago at Rensselaer.  Professor Akera asked if there will be an expansion of the break period, as an example MIT has a 4 week program. The Provost agreed it is a great model but unlike Massachusetts, New York State, has a very specific credit hour definition that we have to adhere to.  For example, MIT has 12-13 weeks semesters but we have 15 week semesters.  He went on to say that if we expand the Christmas break period, it puts a strain on the timeline in regard to the summer.  Professor Gerhardt elaborated on the J term at Rensselaer years ago.  That what was offered were pseudo courses which were an extension of more traditional courses such as physics, as well as some interesting elective courses.  He comments that it is an interesting sign that students are looking to find more to do with that time.  Professor Bequette noted that only 5% of the students responded to the poll.
  • Graduate Review Committee – Professor Maniatty stated that the committee is meeting later today and things are on track.  They have a 1st draft of their report and should have a version to distribute to the senate. 
  • Faculty Development & Retention – Professor Holguin-Veras reported they are finalizing reports.  They will send information to everyone that provided input to the committee.  They still have to have a conversation with the faculty for their feedback.  Professor Akera recommended a draft report be ready and a special Senate Faculty meeting convene after the General Faculty meeting April 9th but before the May Faculty Senate meeting May 8th.  He would like a report out to the Senate before year end.  Professor Holguin-Veras stated that currently has a draft but would need to get the faculty input and would need at least until the third week of April.  Professor Akera wanted to make sure that as a major initiative, this did not drift into the following academic year without some closure.  He thinks we should coordinate with Graduate Review Committee and further suggests that they should also get a report out for the Handbook committee as well.  This can wrap up the outstanding business for these major items before the May 8th celebratory meeting.  Professor Holguin-Veras stated that committee has recommendations for the Handbook Committee and the Faculty diversity committee also has items as well.  Professor Peters agreed with Professor Akera with regard to making sure these items don’t go out past this academic year without closure. 

4)  Elections Committee: Professor Holguin-Veras reported that as previously discussed, they have polled the senators asking if they can continue another term so there is some continuity in regard to on-going initiatives.   He distributed information for review.  Paul Hohenberg commented that Michael Halloran is getting together a list of retirees as possible representatives for rotation.  He further commented that a relatively recent retiree might be a good fit for the role.  Professor Akera clarified a point regarding the senate elections.  The senate offers to run the elections on the calendar but they may choose their own representative.  He also suggested that the Planning & Resources committee be on rotation as well. Professor Herron asked if the Faculty Committee on Honors would be rotating out looking at the dates listed.  Professor Akera also noted a concern that 4 people out of the 5 would be rotating off at the same time.   Professor Holguin-Veras clarified that the dates listed are just the current member’s willingness to serve if on the committee.  Professor Akera mentioned that anyone that stepped forward that wants to run should be encouraged to towards an open election process.  Professor Herron also noted that it would be good thing as well to rotate out the committee members.  The Provost wanted to encourage the faculty Committee on Honors to be more forceful in terms of submitting names for honors, speakers at commencement and such.  We are set to go forward with the April 10th elections.

     Professor Gerhardt discussed the work he has done on a presentation with regard to the changing landscape in higher education.  He is coordinating a meeting this semester. There is a scheduled 1 day workshop on this April 10th.  He wants to underscore that there is recent activity to look at major changes in higher education and some focus will be on the issue of MOOC -Massive Open Online Courses.  The Provost noted that the Higher Education Reauthorization Act is being reviewed and there is much commentary around MOOC and whether MOOC will be looked at as part of accreditation.

   The Provost went on to say that the issue of MOOCs comes down to the University to approve - can we certify that the quality of education is credit worthy of Rensselaer.   He further noted that his department is not going to lag behind; we will most likely get the version of Open Source software so we can develop our own platform vs. using the commercially available platforms.  There are certain courses where lab work is required and the Provost mentioned an example at MIT where the student logs in and an experiment is all for set for them that they can run remotely.  Professor Gerhardt  discussed further how the issue of the changing landscape is a complicated one and there are many facets to consider.   Professor Akera noted that the faculty needs to make sure the Faculty Development committee is folded into the changing landscape discussions. Professor Akera asked Professor Albright for his input on the discussion from a Hartford perspective.  Professor Albright mentioned they are doing quite a bit of work in ‘distance learning’ and have been successful in the past with GM in Detroit and Lockheed-Martin in LA. He also agreed with Professor Akera that the Faculty Development committee has to be tied into the discussions on this matter.  It is a completely different mode of information delivery and the fluency with the technology associated with it comes with a learning curve.  To do it well requires a significant investment in terms of faculty development.

Professor Akera asked if there is an effort to do more on-site learning at Harford as well.  Professor Albright stated that they are revising the Executive MBA program and it is now being hosted out of Hartford not Troy.  They have done benchmarks with other comparable programs around the country.  You need a blended approach to learning, both face to face as well as a significant component on-line. 

Action Item:  Professor Atsushi will get a microphone for the senate to use for future conference calls.

5.  Faculty Handbook Update:  Professor Akera spoke on the topic. The constitution states that the Secretary of the Faculty should review the faculty handbook and recommend revisions or consideration by the faculty.  But given that the handbook has not been revised in 5 years and there have been substantial policy changes, including definition of faculty and other serious changes, the decision within the executive committee was that it was beyond the responsibility of the Secretary of the Faculty.  They appointed a Drafting committee and a Review committee and defined a process. The idea is that the drafting committee will evaluate the scope of the work needed to be done, collect/invite input from the Provost, HR, the Secretary of the Faculty and 2 additional faculty members.  They are still waiting for 1 of the inputs.  Then the Secretary of the Faculty and Secretary of the Senate will serve as non-voting ex-officio members of the Drafting committee and the Review committee. 

The Drafting committee will meet for the first time this Thursday to plan out their approach.  Based on that, they will have a draft of the handbook that they will provide to the Review committee.  They in turn, will provide any additional changes to the to the Faculty Senate Executive committee that will make the final review of those changes.  At that point there will be discussions with the administration and faculty to make sure that everyone can support.  There will be a General Faculty meeting for feedback and afterwards the final draft will be brought before the faculty Senate.  The constitution specifies that the senate, not the faculty, approve the faculty handbook.  It was recommended that the committee communicate using the faculty_ all list.  There is an email that has been set up for faculty handbook revision input, it is:  RPIFacultyhandbook@gmail.com

Action Item:  Professor Akera will send note with the email to senators

Memberships of the committees are:

Draft Committee: 

  • Angel Garcia (Chair)
  • Curt Breneman
  • Mike O’Rourke
  • Faye Duchin
  • Chip Kilduff (ex-officio: non-voting)
  • Atsushi Akera (ex-officio: non-voting)

Review Committee:

  • Bob Linhardt (Chair)
  • Ricardo Dobry
  • Peter Fox
  • Chip Kilduff (ex-officio: non-voting)
  • Atsushi Akera (ex-officio: non-voting)

6) General Faculty Meeting Agenda:  Professor Gerhardt spoke explaining that there is a General Faculty Meeting that will be held at 3:30pm on April 2nd at the Biotech Auditorium.  It has characteristically has been a presentation by the Provost.   There will be a very brief agenda with introductory remarks by Professor Gerhardt with accomplishments of the year. He asked the senate if there were any items that they would like the Provost to speak on and he will compile a list and send to the Provost.  He encourages the senate to get the word out, in various ways, to the faculty so it can be very well attended.  Professor Akera suggested that the Deans be asked to encourage their staff to attend as well.  The Provost will share this information with the Deans as opposed to the senate sending out a note to them directly.

In closing, the Provost wanted to comment on the Handbook revisions.  This is not a one shot process, this is an ongoing process, so don’t get hung up with trying to get everything into this revision or else we could get right back into the situation that currently exists.   There was further discussion regarding the revision cycle, how to keep focused on progress. 

7) New Business:  No new business.

Professor Akera makes a motion to adjourn.  Professor Peters seconds.  All in favor. So moved.  Adjourned at 9:45am.