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* < Faculty Governance Review

Memo from Provost Robert E. Palazzo to President Shirley Ann Jackson

Re: Impact of current faculty governance issues at Rensselaer

In December, 2006, the Rensselaer Board of Trustees restated its definition of “Faculty” for governance purposes, limiting it to tenured and tenure-track faculty members.  The Board then requested necessary modifications to the Faculty Senate Constitution, specifically Article II.A.i. and elsewhere as appropriate, to comply with this definition. As of today, the Faculty Senate has not acted on the Board’s directive.  Discussions with the leadership of the Faculty Senate over the course of the Spring 2007 term have indicated that they are unable to comply with the Board’s resolution as a result of the Faculty Senate’s interpretation of the current Faculty Senate Constitution, bringing about a situation that the Senate leadership has described as an “impasse.”  Importantly, during the Spring of 2007, the Faculty Senate conducted an election, under the Faculty Senate’s constitution not in conformance as requested by Rensselaer’s Board of Trustees directive, that included voting opportunities for members of Rensselaer faculty and staff who do not fit the Board’s definition of Faculty.  This election brings in to question the impact on a number of important faculty functions, most specifically those related to the membership and operations of current Faculty Senate Committees [1] on which the Office of the Provost relies for important advice as part of the conduct of normal academic business.

My motivation in writing this memo is the immediate need to assure that a legitimate and functional Faculty Promotion and Tenure Committee (FCPT) is in place to assure due process and advice to the Provost regarding promotion and tenure decisions. This is an immediate concern as we are now in the throes of our recruitment process with a number of senior candidates being considered where the results of a promotion and tenure review are required as part of negotiations to hire. Just as importantly, as the Fall term begins, we will soon initiate the tenure review process for a number of our junior faculty who are scheduled for promotion and tenure decisions in 2007.

Given that the recent Faculty Senate election (which included the election of FCPT members) provided opportunities for voting by members of the community other than tenured and tenure-track faculty in a manner not consistent with the December 2006 Board of Trustees directive, I am concerned that the normally scheduled FCPT membership turnover cannot occur. If so, this situation compromises an important faculty advisory process regarding review and recommendations on promotion and tenure to the Provost. Therefore, immediate action is necessary to allow for and to assure legitimacy for a proper review and recommendation for tenure of faculty now being considered for appointment at Rensselaer, and for current tenure-track faculty who are about to be considered for promotion from Assistant to Associate Professor with tenure. Given that we are in an intense phase of annual faculty recruitment, and we are entering our annual promotion and tenure review process, the current “impasse” situation regarding faculty governance seriously impacts Rensselaer’s current recruitment efforts and will soon impact the career advancement of existing faculty.  Therefore, immediate attention is needed to assure the recruitment and career advancement of faculty.

As the Board of Trustees is the governing body of the University, faculty governance must align in accordance with Board directives. At this time no recommendations have been received by the Provost Office regarding faculty governance modifications to meet the Board’s directives.  Given the importance of faculty advice in due process for academic development, and the impact that lack of change will bring to the FCPT and other Faculty Senate committee operations, I urge serious action to avoid compromising the careers of current and future faculty and the progress of the University as a whole.

I would like to offer the following recommendations for your consideration as we attempt to resolve faculty governance issues at Rensselaer.

Transition Faculty Governance 

1) Declare a state of transition faculty governance immediately.

2) Initiate a faculty governance review process under the guidance of the Provost aimed at the development of recommendations for the enactment of changes in faculty governance as needed to meet Board of Trustees directives.

Promotion and Tenure Process and Other Faculty Senate Committee Functions:

1) During the transition period between now and the institution of the recommendations of the Faculty Governance Review Committee, the appointment terms of FCPT members and all other Faculty Senate committees (elected on or before May 2006 for the ’06 – ’07 academic year) are extended.

2) If such members of the FCPT or any other Faculty Senate Committee are unable to continue service for any reason, decline extensions, or resign, the Provost, in consultation with the ’06 – ’07 committee membership and with other tenured and tenure-track faculty as appropriate, will be given the authority to identify and invite appropriate tenured and tenure-track faculty members to serve on the FCPT and/or other Faculty Senate Committees on an ad hoc basis until resolution of faculty governance issues is achieved. 

Transition and Resolution of Faculty Governance

1) Establish a Faculty Governance Review Committee, members of which will be recommended by the Provost and appointed by the President, to:

a) Consider faculty governance at Rensselaer in its totality;

b) Develop a plan for ideal faculty governance at Rensselaer within the context and boundaries of the directives of the Board of Trustees, with the ability to appropriately convey views of the tenured and tenure-track faculty and the consensus and perspective from other instructional faculty, as well as the ability to work constructively with the administration on behalf of the faculty;

c) Develop a plan for transition from the current faculty governance structure to the ideal faculty governance forum;

d)Prepare recommendations for a newly minted constitution or modify the existing constitution of the Faculty Senate as appropriate to meet Board of Trustees directives, in conformity with faculty governance best practices; and

e) Recommend appropriate mechanisms for the initiation of a modified faculty governance structure and release from the transition faculty governance state.

2) The recommendations developed by the Faculty Governance Review Committee would be considered and reviewed by the current tenured, tenure track, and other instructional faculty of Rensselaer, and a final document ultimately will be provided for a vote of approval by a quorum of the tenured and tenure-track faculty for transmission to the President for review, comment, decision and subsequent transmission to the Board of Trustees for final decision.

I believe that this approach most appropriately ensures that our recruitment, retention, and promotion efforts will be secure while Rensselaer aligns its governance to the directives of the Board of Trustees and best practices for a private, research university.

Dr. Jackson, I will schedule time on your calendar with your Executive Assistant in order to discuss my proposal and my timeline for the implementation of this proposed change to Rensselaer’s faculty governance.

[1] The Faculty Senate maintains a number of committees, including an Executive Committee, a Curriculum Committee, a Promotion and Tenure Committee, a Planning and Resources Committee, an Election Committee, a Faculty Committee on Honors, and various standing committees.  With the exception of standing committees, all other committees are composed of members who are elected from the faculty body as a whole through a normal Faculty Senate election process. Typically at this time, committee membership would normally change as a result of Faculty Senate elections conducted annually during the Spring term.

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