9-12-2012 Faculty Senate Minutes


Faculty Senate

September 12, 2012

Present: Isom Herron, Les Gerhardt, Frank Wright, Chang Ryu, Lois Peters, Paul Keblinski, Georges Belfort, Vincent Meunier, Wayne Bequette, Michael Century, Jose Holgiun-Veras, Jeanne Keefe, Chip Kilduff, Atsushi Akera, David Bell, Prabhat Hajela, Antoinette Maniatty, Robert Albright (via Skype)

President Herron opens meeting opens at 8:32. 

1. Approval of minutes from May 9, 2012

Pres. Herron asks members to look over minutes from last meeting.  President Herron asks for a motion to approve minutes. Atsushi Akera motions to approve. Jose Holguin seconds. All approved. Minutes approved.

2. Welcome by the President

President Herron welcomes Provost Hajela and congratulates him on appointment as Provost. I. Herron announces that Les Gerhardt will chair Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum and Teaching. This Committee will coordinate with other groups on campus. I. Herron discusses expansion of Academic Standing Committee and communication to the faculty. The three faculty added were Bruce Piper (Mathematical Sciences), Mike Kalsher (Cognitive Science), Michael Jensen (MANE). They were appointed by the Provost. Committee to Refresh the Rensselaer Plan (RealCom 2.0) – Les Gerhardt, and Isom Herron will be members, as well as 3 additional faculty members. The Committee has not yet met, but an update will be provided once the meeting takes place.

Provost Hajela discusses the Committee to Refresh the Rensselaer Plan. (Real Com 2.0). A group has been assembled to rewrite the Plan. The rewrite is mostly complete. It will then be released to the campus community and there will be public sessions Oct 3, 9, 10, 11 for discussion; five guiding questions related to where Rensselaer should be at its 200th anniversary will direct discussion. Reviews within individual portfolios will then be done. The Faculty Senate will also have an important role in this process. Once input is received from constituents, Suggestions will be considered, deliberated, incorporated into report, and re-reviewed. The goal is to have it presented to the Board of Trustees in December.

Georges Belfort asked what precipitated the need to rewrite the Plan. P. Hajela answered that in the original plan, there were a number of “We will” statements, and a number of them has been accomplished. New priorities have surfaced, and it is time to create a new vision. Other contributing factors include Rensselaer’s 200th anniversary in 2024, the changing global economy and the need to address where we want to be and how we address these challenges.

Lois Peters states that she is happy to see that the Faculty Senate will be involved in the process, as it can offer synergies across portfolios. She feels that going to the individual departments for input is also important.

3. Review of the action items

  • Asked Frank Wright to follow up on issue of voting by proxy. Frank will give a report later in meeting.
  • The website redesign and development. Chip Kilduff is working on it, and it is ready to go live.

A. Akera asks if there is new business.  The following will be added to the agenda.

  • Women and Diversity - Georges Belfort states that he brought up the issue about women on campus and asked what is being done. A. Akera states that there is a Faculty Development Committee as well as an Institute Diversity Committee, both of which are addressing this concern.
  • Tuition costs - David Bell states that he has been reading a lot about acceleration of graduate tuition costs and if this is something that the Faculty Senate can address.
  • Rankings - P. Hajela states that he will address US News and World Report Rankings.

4. Update by the Committees, if needed

  • Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of Graduate Programs – Committee did not meet as a group, but A. Maniatty did meet with each member individual to gather strengths and weaknesses in each School, and met with Stan Dunn as well. A report was done in 2009 on Graduate Education. She is working with Jack Mahoney to get updates to the data, and to find out what happened to the nine (9) recommendations contained in the report. There was a change to the membership – Ted Krueger stepped down, and Jefferson Ellinger is now on the committee. Also, Jeff Durgee stepped down, and Gina O’Connor is now in the role. The Committee will meet next week. A. Akera asked if the Committee has been able to identify the key issues. A. Maniatty states the list is quite long right now, but when they meet next week, they will begin to narrow it down. A. Akera states that the Senate feels that it is important to have an interim report as the information becomes available. F. Wright asks how this Committee aligns with the Rensselaer Plan refresh. A. Maniatty states that they perhaps they would want to get input in sooner so that they can have an impact on the Plan. L. Gerhardt suggested that each Committee’s charge should be modified to address its relevance to the Plan. P. Hajela recommends that they read the Plan as it stands today, to have a starting point, and review the Committees work to see how it could fit into the new Plan.
  • Jose Holguin-Veras reports on the Faculty Development Committee. They have met with the Provost, Human Resources, and most of the Deans to get a sense of what issues they see with regard to faculty development. They will meet tomorrow to decide what the action plan is. Kristen Bennett, Linda McGown, Bill Francis, Kim Fortun, and Jose Holguin-Veras make up the Committee. J. Holguin-Veras adds that there is a Institute Diversity Committee. They currently are writing their report. The Committee would like to provide a briefing to the Senate.  I. Herron states that the Diversity Committee made a series of field trips, and the results and lessons learned will be incorporated into the report. L. Peters asks what kind of action plans are being created specifically in retaining women. J. Holguin Veras answered that they have found that there are a variety of reasons why women aren’t retained, so the Committee plans to provide a menu of what can be done, such as providing search committee with training, providing a checklist to the search committee. It has been reported to the Committee from other institutions that this seems to work.  P. Hajela adds that it is his intent to keep the work of the Committee as a high priority. G. Belfort states that the person from Human Resources who visits search committee should make it clear that if there are two equal candidates, the committee should definitely take a look at diversity. I. Herron responds that at U. Michigan, there is a team of faculty that does the training, not Human Resources.
  • Wayne Bequette reports on Institute Curriculum Committee. Other members are George Plopper, Shawn Lawson, and Chris Perry. He states that he thought they needed 3 new faculty, as two members were on a one year term. However, A. Akera responds that the term would be defined as 16 months, with voting taking place in April. Therefore, Wayne will ask the other 2 members if they are willing to remain until April. The final member had to step down. In replacing the 7th member, they will put it on the Executive Committee agenda to discuss and will get back to the Committee.

ACTION – Executive Committee will discuss process for replacing 7th member.

  • A. Akera states that the Faculty Committee on Honors made their recommendations for the Faculty Recognition Dinner.
  • P. Keblinski asks that a change in agenda be made to discuss voting by proxy, as many members will have to leave.
  • Voting by proxy

Frank Wright gives report on voting by proxy. Voting by proxy to establish a quorum is used, but tends to be found only in Student Senates. Electronic participation is acceptable in many Faculty Senates across the country to establish attendance. If Faculty Senate uses proxy, the most effective means seems to be that the person voting by proxy is aware of the issue and part of the discussion, the document is written, and the proxy vote is either specific or general. It is only given to one person and it is submitted for approval prior to the meeting. Wright recommends that participation by electronic means should be accepted. Does not recommend proxy, but rather affirm the seriousness of Senate office and general expectation of attendance.


Motion: Frank Wright makes motion to approve electronic participation as attendance at the meeting. Georges Belfort seconds. 13 in favor, no opposed. Motion approved.

Additional Discussion: V. Meunier states that the concern could be that too may people could decide to participate electronically. A. Akera states that it is understood that in person is preferred method.

L. Gerhardt states that the issue of proxy is a little more complex, and requires more discussion. F. Wright states that there may need to be a change to the Constitution, requiring Board of Trustees approval, making this a more complex issue. This will remain an open issue, to be acted on should attendance become an issue. Until then, all Senator are reminded of the seriousness of the office and necessity of attendance.

5. Ad-hoc Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum and Teaching Methods.

  • Executive Committee had been talking about this for some time, deciding that since the Curriculum Committee has not been in existence for some time, they have a lot of catch-up work to do. As a consequence, decision was made to constitute a separate ad hoc committee to discuss broader matters of undergraduate curriculum and teaching methods. L. Gerhardt is the chair of the Committee. They will be looking at rapidly and dramatically changing scene of higher education, and Rensselaer future role in the changing landscape. An example is the MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), done by institutions like MIT, Stanford etc. This model, as well as distance education, will be reviewed, along with that of the traditional brick and mortar university coupled with the emphasis on STEM fields nationally. What kind of proactive action should Rensselaer take to determine our initiatives for the future?

ACTION: The Committee will be populated soon as well as given a written charge.

L. Gerhard said that the Rensselaer Plan needs to be sufficiently flexible to incorporate future input form this Committee as well as the others of the Faculty Senate. F. Wright, Chang Ryu, David Bell, and Michael Century volunteered to be on the Committee.

ACTION: . Gerhardt will recommend members to FSEC for approval.

P. Hajela states that this committee is vitally important for what we will be doing over the next several years. Technology based education is the future, and the formation of this committee is very timely. While there are these things happening all over, he is not convinced that we should jump in just for the sake of being a part of this. Rather, we should decide what our unique space in this arena should be.

  • P.Hajela will be forming another committee, on Core Curriculum Reform, soon. He will work with the Deans to populate it. He will work with the Executive Committee to ensure it has appropriate representation. L. Gerhardt also discusses a recent meeting with Dean of HASS, as the School is undertaking a Core Curriculum review, and the Committee will also meet with the other Deans. L. Peters states that the Lally School is also undergoing a curriculum review.
  • Return to subject of Ad Hoc Committee on Curriculum and Teaching Methods: A. Akera states that participation by members of the Administration is also appropriate, important, and permitted under the new Senate Constitution. L. Gerhardt asks for suggestions from the Provost about who might be interested in participating from the administration. P. Hajela answers that Stan Dunn is very interested.

7. New business

  • Judicial Board

J. Holguin-Veras states that the Election Committee was contacted by Provost stating that the Dean of Students, Mark Smith, asked for input from Faculty Senate. He passed out a document, explaining each of the 3 boards that typically have faculty participation. J. Holguin-Veras states that the intent is to gather representatives for each of the boards. A. Akera states that it is his belief that this can be decided by the Executive Committee, but can solicit input here from Senators. A. Akera suggests that an email be sent to all Senators with information about the boards and ask for volunteers.                 

  • US News and World Report

P. Hajela states that the rankings were released and we are now ranked 41, up from 50. A. Akera asks what changed. P. Hajela states it is a very sensitive Z-score. The main contributor is that US News has a predicted graduation rate, this year, that gap closed for us as our graduation rate jumped from 82 to 84% and our retention rate for sophomores went from 92 to 93%. School of Engineering (undergraduate) also went up to 23 in ranking of engineering schools. A. Akera asked what are some recommendations the Provost can make to the faculty to retain the high standard of the University. P. Hajela states that whatever we can do to help students, work with Student Life whenever possible to ensure that student needs are addressed properly. We should strive for intellectual diversity on campus, so students have a safe place to land if they choose a different direction. This ranking is recognition of what we do and what we do well. J. Holguin-Veras asked how we compare with our peers and aspirants. Their graduation rates are certainly better, and we would like to aspire to be there as well. L. Gerhardt states that our graduation and retention rates for women are higher than men, and we have improved over the last decade. F. Wright states that there have been many elements that Rensselaer has developed such as First Year Experience, CLASS etc to create a comfort zone. There is also a big opportunity in admissions.

  • Tuition Costs

This is an important issue and will need to be added to the agenda for the next meeting.

ACTION: Rising tuition costs tabled, will be added to the agenda for the next meeting.

  • Women and diversity

Discussed during Committee reports by Jose Holguin-Veras.

Michael Century makes motion to adjourn. Les Gerhardt seconds. All approved. Meeting ends at 10:00.

Summary of Action Items:

ACTION: Executive Committee will discuss process for replacing 7th member (FS Curriculum Committee)

ACTION: The Committee will be populated soon as well as given a written charge. (Ad Hoc Committee on Undergraduate Curriculum & Teaching Methods)

ACTION: L. Gerhardt will recommend members to FSEC for approval. (Ad Hoc Committee on Curriculum & Teaching Methods)

ACTION: Rising tuition costs tabled; will be added to the agenda for the next meeting.