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* < Faculty Governance Review

Memo from Chairman Samuel F. Heffner, Jr. ’56 to the Rensselaer Community

October 19, 2007

Re: Institute Governance

It has come to my attention that a misunderstanding exists regarding the power and authority of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees and the delegated authority to the Administration. As Chair, I am writing to resolve this misunderstanding.

I wish to emphasize that Rensselaer by-laws and tradition shape the objectives, nature and scope of our academic mission. Traditionally, governance has been a responsibility shared by Trustees, Administrators and Faculty, given the variety and complexity of Rensselaer’s academic mission.

In fact, as affirmed by the Institute’s attorneys, the legal structure and governance of Rensselaer is established by legislation adopted by the New York State Legislature and approved by the Governor, known as the Act of Incorporation. The Act provides that Rensselaer is a corporation governed by the Board of Trustees. The Act empowers the Board of Trustees to appoint a President and other administrative officers as the Board deems necessary, to adopt by-laws “for the regulation and government of the Institute,” and to appoint, prescribe the compensation for, and remove faculty, among other powers.

In the exercise of its powers, the Board of Trustees has designated the President as the Chief Executive and Academic Officer of the Institute. The President is empowered to supervise all the affairs of the Institution.

The Board of Trustees and Rensselaer’s President have the power to approve a faculty governance structure, and to delegate to that governance structure, the responsibility to advise the Provost of the views of the faculty on academic matters. The decisions of the faculty governance body are advisory to the President and Board of Trustees, through the Provost, and must be approved by the President and, as appropriate, by the Board of Trustees to be binding on the Institution.

The existence and structure of faculty governance are subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees. The faculty and the governance structure are not independent legal bodies. The faculty governance structure is not authorized to determine its own membership, or eligibility for voting, except as authorized by the Board of Trustees. The faculty governance structure does not define the duties or responsibilities of the President or administrative staff reporting to the President.

The Board of Trustees governs the financial affairs of Rensselaer. Funds of the faculty governance structure are funds of Rensselaer and are subject to the normal fiscal procedures of Rensselaer.

Rensselaer’s governing legal documents do not require a Faculty Senate as a specific form of faculty governance. However, the Faculty Senate has been the representative form of faculty governance at Rensselaer for a period of time.

Therefore, the Board of Trustees, in its delegation of authority to the President, endorses the process presented by the President in her October 16, 2007 memo to the Rensselaer community with respect to what the Board has mandated regarding a faculty governance review, and with respect to revisions to the Faculty Senate’s constitution and faculty handbook in order to bring the documents into conformance with the Institute’s By-Laws and the Board of Trustees’ definition of Rensselaer faculty.

No Faculty Senate will be considered until:

  1. the Faculty Governance Review Committee completes its work and recommends a governance structure to the Provost and to the President;

  2. a faculty senate constitution and faculty handbook are conformed and approved by the President, as laid out in the President’s October 16, 2007 memo to the Rensselaer community: and

  3. the President sends to the Board of Trustees said faculty senate constitution and faculty handbook, together with results of the Faculty Governance Review Committee’s work, with a recommendation for faculty governance for the Board of Trustees’ review and final approval.

I am pleased that under the direction of President Shirley Ann Jackson, Provost Robert Palazzo has developed an effective process to have broad faculty participation in this faculty governance review. This shared responsibility and cooperative action among key members of the Rensselaer community are instrumental to Rensselaer achieving greater prominence as a top-tier technological research university.

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