Faculty Senate Communications Vol 3 No. 2 (May 2016)

John Tichy, Vice President | Antoinette Maniatty, President | Chris Bystroff, Chair of Faculty  
Amir Hirsa, Recording Secretary | Atsushi Akera, Secretary | Lois Peters, Secretary of Faculty
Faculty Senate Communications
v3,n2 - May 2016
To the Rensselaer Faculty and Community,
On behalf of the Faculty Senate, we send this communication to keep you apprised as to the activities of the Faculty Senate.  We take very seriously the obligation of the Faculty to advise the Administration of the Institute in all matters relating to the principal missions of the Institute.  We would like to take this opportunity to inform you of upcoming events, review activities over the 2015-2016 academic year, and request your input and participation in the future.    
Upcoming Events
Two important events will be happening next week.  The Faculty Senate Election will be held on Monday and Tuesday, May 9 and 10. All Tenure and Tenure Track Faculty will receive an email with a link allowing them to vote. It has been difficult to find people willing to serve, so most of the positions are uncontested. There are multiple reasons for this, the largest being the heavy loads that Faculty are currently carrying making it difficult to take on additional service. We thank all those who have agreed to serve and ask that Faculty vote.  The last Faculty Senate Meeting of the academic year will be held on Thursday, May 12, noon-2pm in the Library Fischbach Room (lunch included).  All Faculty Senate meetings are open to the Rensselaer Community.
2015-2016 Faculty Senate Activity Review
Two resolutions were passed unanimously by the Faculty Senate in the current academic year, both in support of our students.  They are briefly summarized below, and the full text is attached.  Subsequently, the administration has taken steps that are aligned with both recommendations.
* A resolution recommending an increase in graduate student stipends was passed by the Faculty Senate at the November meeting. An analysis prepared by the Graduate Student Council, with the support of the Office of Graduate Education, showed that the minimum graduate student stipend at Rensselaer: (a) has not changed since 2012, (b) is not competitive with peer institutions, and (c) does not cover the cost of living. In response to this, the Senate requested an increase to bring the stipend up to a competitive level and that adjustments be made annually in order to remain competitive.
* A resolution recommending active engagement of students in the restructuring of Student Life in a way that is aligned with the structure and vision of the Rensselaer Union was passed by the Faculty Senate at a Special Meeting on April 13, 2016. This was in response to concerns raised by the student leadership over recent changes made in Student Life.
Two ad hoc committees and a standing committee were charged by the Faculty Senate.
* An Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Summer Arch was established and charged with: (a) surveying the faculty on Summer Arch, (b) hosting an open Faculty Forum (held on Wednesday, April 13), (c) create an assessment plan, and (d) recommend a committee to oversee the assessment of Summer Arch. All of these actions have been completed and a final report will be presented at the Faculty Senate Meeting on May 12th.
* An Ad Hoc Committee on Establishing an Ombuds Office was established and charged with: (a) examining best practices at peer institutions, and (b) making a recommendation for Rensselaer. This committee will also be presenting an update at the Faculty Senate Meeting on May 12th.
* Planning and Resource Committee of the Faculty Senate has been charged with coming up with ideas for revenue generation and cost savings at Rensselaer, with input from the faculty, which will be passed on to the administration. As you are aware, Rensselaer is facing significant budgetary challenges, and must reduce its cost structures and find ways to enhance revenue.  To be successful, Faculty must be involved in seeking and evaluating possible solutions as well as in the implementation stage. We seek to bring the collective talents of the Rensselaer Faculty to bear on the challenges facing Rensselaer to come up with solutions. We welcome your input and ideas.  Suggestions can be made to any member of the Planning and Resource Committee or member of the Faculty Senate 
The revised Faculty Handbook was approved by the Faculty Senate unanimously in December. It has since been signed by the President and has gone to the Board of Trustees for final approval.
A process for TAs to receive evaluations using Digital Measures has been put in place and a trial run is set for this semester. This was achieved through working with Office of Graduate Education and the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education.  
Information about the Faculty Senate, including agendas and minutes of meetings, list of members, reports and presentations, and the meeting schedule, may be found on the Senate website at: http://facultysenate.rpi.edu/
Antoinette Maniatty