4-02-2013 Faculty Senate Minutes - General Faculty Meeting


General Faculty Meeting

April 2, 2013

Biotechnology Auditorium


Meeting started at 3:42

1. Introduction by Professor Lester Gerhardt, Chair of the Faculty


Professor Gerhardt opened the meeting by welcoming everyone, and then provided a brief updated on some of the activities that the Faculty Senate has been working on over the academic year.

  • Review of Senate activities
    • Ad hoc committees
      • Faculty Handbook Draft committee, chaired by Professor Angel Garcia (members: Professors Curt Breneman, Faye Duchin, Michael O’Rourke)
      • Faculty Handbook Review committee, chaired by Professor Robert Linhardt (members: Professors Ricardo Dobry and Peter Fox)
        • Input from faculty and other major stakeholders was requested (Provost, VP Research, VP Human Resources, Dean of Students, Interim Faculty Handbook Committee)
        • Meetings of these committees have been taking place.  Following completion of the draft report, a general faculty meeting will be scheduled to allow the faculty an opportunity to review the revisions.  The faculty senate, by a majority vote, must approve the revisions followed by submission to the Provost, President and Board of Trustees for final approval
      • Ad-hoc Committee on Faculty Development and Retention (FDR) , chaired by Professor Jose Holguin Veras
        • Report draft prepared
        • Campus wide meeting planned
      • Ad-hoc Committee on Review of Graduate Committee, chaired by Professor Antoinette Maniatty
        • Report in preparation
    • Faculty Senate Elections scheduled for April 24
    • Faculty-All e-mail list up and running (as of 2/26/2013) to allow faculty to communicate together easily through one address.  Also, a separate e-mail list for retired faculty has also been established. Faculty can elect to have their name removed, however, faculty are encouraged to use the list to assure they do not miss important information being shared through this line of communication.
    • Meetings between Faculty Senate Executive Committee with Provost, HR, President, Cabinet have occurred and will continue into the future.
    • Colloquium on Teaching & Learning April 10
      • Topic:  changing landscape of higher education – emphasis on MOOCs
      • Chair of Faculty (Lester Gerhardt) was active participant
    • End of year newsletter will now include eulogies for faculty who have passed away in the past year


  • Introduction of Provost, Professor Prabhat Hajela, to present the Provost’s report (Powerpoint presentation available on the Faculty Senate Web site)


2. Summary of Provost presentation


  • P. Hajela thanked L. Gerhardt and the other faculty members in the room for giving him the opportunity to present at this meeting.   He complimented the Faculty Senate on the progress they have made over the past year with the important activities they have undertaken, and he encouraged the faculty members in the room to speak to their colleagues to express the importance of their involvement and to encourage participation in faculty senate activities.  


  • P. Hajela provided a brief synopsis of his presentation, which will focus on a few highlights of the Rensselaer Plan, and an overview of the Rensselaer academic enterprise, including the external environment as it is emerging and its impact on higher education. Issues include rising student debt, cost of higher education, increasing use of technology, increasing regulatory environment.


  • The Provost encouraged the faculty to review the renewed Rensselaer Plan document envisioned and brought to us by President Jackson, and encouraged them to attend the Town Hall Meeting as President Jackson will be speaking on the Rensselaer Plan at that meeting.   


  • Revised Rensselaer Plan
    • Greater emphasis on people and programs
    • Seeks to position RPI as a significant transformative force
    • Discussed six strategic goals
      • Enhance national and international leadership in innovation learning and teaching
      • Dramatically expand the Research Enterprise
      • Increase our focus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship
      • Achieve true intellectual, geographic, gender, and ethnic diversity among our students, faculty, and staff
      • Revitalize our diverse communities
      • Redesign and invigorate enabling activities


  • Immediate focus of the academic enterprise and how it aligns with the Rensselaer Plan.
    • We must build CLASS up to allow for complete student experience; transform the residential and experiential environments of both undergraduate and graduate students; build identity and affinity among students.  
    • Emphasize pedagogical innovation – expand research initiatives in this area
    • New opportunities – immersive environments, collaborative online education, enhancing education for residential students
    • Enhance education for our residentially based students.


  • Research thrusts: nanotechnology, energy, computational science and  engineering, biotechnology/bioscience, media and arts
    • Position Rensselaer to address many Grand Challenges


  • Faculty and students
    • Grow faculty from 342 to 500 by 2024
    • Goal: 5000 undergraduates, 2500 grad students, 1600 PhD students in Troy
    • Long term faculty : student ratio target UG: 9:1;  overall 13:1
    • Student recruitment emphasize selectivity
    • Broaden geographic base, diversity: ethnic, gender, intellectual, cultural


  • Resident UG education – emphasize greater intellectual diversity
    • New programs in Arch, Lally, HASS


  • Graduate  Education
    • Selectivity gains, gains in domestic accepts, confirms
    • New MS degrees in Lally (Business Analytics and Supply Chain Management), Architecture, and HASS (Fine Arts)
    • New PhD programs in Web Science, Economics
    • Assists students to compete for external grad fellowships
    • As part of CLASS we will continue to enhance support for comprehensive professional development through a variety of programs through the Office of Graduate Education


  • Faculty recruitment
    • Faculty recruitment will be driven by the instructional needs of programs and linked to the research agenda we have identified. 
    • Priority areas cover the recruitment for T&TT and Constellation positions
    • Transition gap-funded adjunct lines to Lecturer/Professor of Practice positions
    • We need to reduce student-faculty ratios. Targets: 7500 students, 13:1 S/F ratio, 14:1 intermediate goal (down from 16:1)
    • 10-15% contingent faculty (low compared to national average); goal: 85% tenured/tenure track faculty
    • Focus adjunct involvement on special areas or contingency needs such as sudden faculty departures, leave of absences, or a focus on very specific areas of expertise.   


  • Faculty Instructional Activity
    • About 450 credit hours per faculty since FY10-12, dominated by Science then Engineering, followed by HASS
    • Adjuncts teach 17% of credit hours, Professor of Practice 24%, tenured/tenure track 58% of credit hours. Would like to see a shift from an intellectual standpoint in the division of credit hours between T&TT and contingency faculty. 
    • Graduate advisement: 0.4 PhD /faculty – competitive with top schools
    • FY 13: 342 faculty; anticipate 366 in FY 14 accounting for 15 departures


  • Faculty Hiring Plan
    • A number of positions have been filled with arrivals in the Fall 2013 and some in January 2014.  Constellation searches are ongoing with the additional positions in FY14 consisting of a possible new constellation in Computational Science and Engineering.
    • Replacement positions from departures: positions will be filled based on critical instructional needs and identified priorities of the Institute.


  • Distribution of Incoming freshman
    • Need better distribution - targeted enrollments are needed in all five schools focusing on new academic programs and attention to oversubscribed programs. 
    • Oversubscribed engineering programs – S/F ratio too high, esp. MANE
    • Set standards for interdepartmental transfer
    • Common first year


  • Undergrad debt
    • Median debt around $30,000 (2009-2011); 70% of students graduate with debt
    • Cost of instructors and instruction drives cost – tracks with other services – dental, medical, legal services – highly educated labor
    • Difficult to maintain quality while increasing efficiency (S/F ratio) – can’t provide effective feedback to large numbers of students


  • MOOCs
    • Video on demand
    • Automated assessment & feedback
    • Widespread connectivity
    • Automated assessment/feedback
    • Social media
    • Semi-synchronous delivery
    • Crowd sourcing
    • Acknowledgement of completion
    • Role of university: select and certify students


  • Rensselaer approach
    • Open source tolls for content delivery
    • Automated feedback
    • On line tutors
    • Innovative assessment
    • Tools for searching, validating and using web content the “new Library”
    • Supplement existing courses – flipped classrooms
    • Development of platforms for content delivery – open source tools
    • Develop and deploy tools for searching, validating, and using web content – the new library


  • Faculty Development
    • Develop systematic processes and guidelines to ensure diversity in Rensselaer faculty ranks
    • Develop and implement standard guidelines for annual faculty performance review
    • Benchmark existing tenure and promotion policies at peer and aspirant institutions
    • Develop policies to support faculty success and retention
    • Align faculty handbook with current practices and policies.


  • Assessment
    • Middle State interim five year report submitted and accepted – full review 2015-2016
    • ABET – review Fall 2013
    • AACSB – next study in 2014-2015
    • NAAB – full review was conducted in 2010


  • The Higher Education Re-authorization Act
    • Regulatory mandates
    • Emphasis on accountability
    • Outcomes assessment


  • Program reviews
    • Establish process for peer review of programs at the departmental level
    • Work with Deans of Science & HASS to begin internal self-assessment, develop timeline               for review of UG and Graduate programs


3. Provost opened the floor to the audience for questions

  1. Question:  Request for specifics as to arriving at a lower student/faculty ratio. Response: P. Hajela clarified that it is “student/faculty ratio” and explained that the calculation can be done in two ways.   One is total number of students divided by FTE faculty and the second is total undergraduate students divided by FTE faculty.
  2.  Question:  Request to address how the Institute defines significant student support as regards to undergraduate students or graduate student ownership of their creativeness.  Response:  C. Carletta responded to this question.  Within the past month he has published an interpretation of the intellectual property policy.  The policy applies equally to everyone – faculty, staff and students.  The term “significant use” applies in broadest terms to any use of institutional resources, which includes attending a class.  It needs to be clear how that is really applied.  For instance, there are things that particularly apply to faculty that are excepted from significant use: for example, what faculty do in their office, or the use of library and computers.  The writing of books that are published are part of the exception and are not significant use.  Secondly, students’ ideas are not institutional resources.  Students have to take an idea and convert it to intellectual property, which is the next step.  For example publish something, apply it to something, convert an idea to some application before it is defined to be a creation within the meaning of the Intellectual Property Policy. Rensselaer does not have a commercial interest in students’ ideas. Rensselaer does have an interest in protecting the students while in a classroom.  An interpretative document of the Intellectual Property policy is on the General Counsel’s website and explains all the distinctions and applications. 
  3. Question: Request for clarification as to what the underlying reason is for reducing the number of adjuncts. What is the logic about higher education today that makes it a priority for us and why is RPI choosing a direction that is different from other institutions?  Response:  P. Hajela expressed his belief that T&TT faculty are the best stewards of the institution. Faculty members who come in contact with students both in and outside of the classroom should have more of a permanent presence on campus, which is not always the case for adjunct faculty.   In addition, T&TT faculty members are invaluable with curriculum revisions, in setting direction for their departments.   There are always exceptions for example in Architecture there are certain specialized courses best taught by adjunct. Adjuncts can be very valuable to fill leave vacancies, to provide experience in a specific area; however, not sustainable to build a program around temporary adjunct instructors. Recurring needs should be addressed in a more long term sustainable way. Reduce adjunct faculty to 10 to 15%.
  4. Question: Why is there the need to provide under 20 student enrollment in classes, or is this only unique to Economics and HASS? Response:  P. Hajela explained that we have to balance efficiency with the pedagogical requirements of a particular course.  While we can only offer a fixed number of sections or classes as dictated by classroom and instructor capability, we do want to have as  many courses as possible available to students, and to facilitate greater student-faculty interaction. Must  balance benefits of student/instructor interaction with economics. There will be classes with 150 students and there will always be classes with lesser numbers of students.    Schools and departments are not being held to the 20 student class enrollment, however, we must make sure that intellectual quality is preserved in the classroom.
  5. Question:  How does the Provost’s Office keep track of hiring assistant professors across the schools, and then how does that fit in the same framework when considering lecturers and adjuncts?  As what seems to be the history of HASS, as the school lost faculty over the years those faculty lines have not been returned back to the school. Response:   The current policy is that all lines are turned back to the Provost’s Office.  If a strong case is presented by the Dean as to why that faculty position is important for the health of the school, and if it aligns with the priorities of the Institute, then that faculty line in most cases is restored back to the school.


  1. Further concerns were expressed and discussion followed with respect to the history of HASS in getting back faculty positions that had become vacated, HASS programs, and also in obtaining institutional support for HASS programs that are brought forward by the school for consideration.  P. Hajela offered to continue this discussion off line and, that building programs in HASS is something that is desired, but needs to be done selectively so as to focus in areas that have the most opportunity to develop strength and prominence.    


 Professor Gerhardt ended the meeting by thanking the Provost, on behalf of the faculty, for continuing the tradition at Rensselaer by presenting at the General Faculty Meeting, the Provost’s vision on the future for Rensselaer.  Adjournment 4:48 PM.


Postscript: There were several complaints about difficulty entering the Biotech Center. In large part this had to do with faculty not carrying their RPI ID cards. In the future, need to 1) provide a reminder for faculty to bring their IDs, 2) ask Center to unlock doors or 3) open foyer doors to the auditorium, if possible?





Handbook Committees


Handbook Draft Committee

Chair: Professor Angel Garcia

Members: Professors Curt Breneman, Faye Duchin, and Mike O'Rourke


Handbook Review Committee

Chair: Professor Robert Linhardt

Members: Professors Ricardo Dobry and Peter Fox