Faculty Senate Meeting

January 21, 1997

 

Present: M. Abbott, J. Brunski, C. Canier, B. Carlson, A. Desrochers, R. Eustace, W.R. Franklin, M. Goldberg, J. haddock, G. Handelman, M. Hanna, T. Harrison, L. Kagan, M. Kalsher, J. Newell, B. Racicot, E. Rogers, F. Scott, M. Tomozawa, W. Wallace.

 

Guests: President R.B. Pipes, B. Adams, N. Connell, L. Gerhardt, I. Herron, D. Johnson, D. Lahey, R. Noble, L. Rubenfeld, T. Torello

 

Presentation by President Pipes to the Faculty Senate Regarding a Plan for the

Future of Rensselaer

Dr. Pipes began his remarks by noting that the past four years have been a time of dramatic change.  While conceding that the Institute faces many challenges, he insisted that we have much to be proud of, too.  For example, he recounted an experience at a reception for the Pew Award in Washington, D.C. during which he was able to take pride in Rensselaer’s success in curriculum reform.  He indicated that a major reason for our success in this area is largely tied to the exemplary efforts of Rensselaer’s faculty and that faculty is not the problem, in contrast to what the governor of Colorado has suggested at the meeting.

 

He then turned to the current budget problems, indicating that resources are not what they once were—they have shrunk steadily over the past six years.  He feels that this drop has occurred for many different reasons.  He pointed out that our competitors are not currently feeling the same pinch, but soon will.  He feels that they will follow our lead in addressing this problem.  He likes the idea of Rensselaer taking a leadership role in turning this situation around, as long as our efforts are in the right direction.  Noted that there is a lot of room for debate regarding what constitutes the “right” direction, but hopes that the discussions are constructive, not destructive.

 

Dr. Pipes feels that he has learned a great deal about Rensselaer since assuming his duties as President, including much about its strengths and problems.  However, he feels that he has done so at the expense of other responsibilities.  Looking back at where we have been and where we are going suggests that the time was well spent in terms of important outcomes, including curriculum reform and the increased efficiency of the Institute.  He now feels he can turn over maintenance/continuation of these efforts to the schools, department chairs, etc. so that he can focus more on the task of identifying and attracting resources.  For example, he feels that his recent trip to DOT on behalf of Rensselaer’s efforts in advanced transportation research was successful and he also noted his involvement with the Micro-electronics Center to raise resources.

 

He then turned to the topic of the new campaign and noted that the “quiet” phase of the campaign will begin in the summer of 1997.  Feels that it may be important to announce the campaign at Rensselaer’s upcoming “birthday party” in 1999.  He feels that this campaign could results in substantial cash and deferred gifts, noting that we continue to receive monies from the last campaign.  He emphasized the fact that we need to get rolling soon.  He intends to spend a great deal of time in March with the Trustees to develop a more focused set of priorities for the campaign.  Dr. Pipes indicated that he currently spend about 25% of his time on development issues (travel etc.) and about 75% of his time on-campus.  He feels it is now important for him to flip the percentages.  What does this imply, who will do what he does now?  For example, currently the Deans report directly to him.  After discussions with Deans, VPs, and now the faculty senate, he feels he needs to relinquish some of those duties.  When should that happen?  And who should the person be who assumes these duties?  If he is going to succeed in attracting new resources to Rensselaer, he feels that he needs to get going quickly.  It is his belief that under the present conditions, an external search, including the requisite start-up time for the new person is not in the Institute’s best interests.  He has examined a number of “internal” possibilities about who would best assume these responsibilities, and he has sought out the opinions of, for example, a few of the leaders in the Faculty Senate.  He recommends that we select an individual already in place and add these responsibilities to their existing ones.  The individual he has in mind is Dr. Gary Judd.

 

He recommends that the Deans should report to Dr. Judd.  He noted that Dr. Judd has been here since 1963, knows and loves the Institute, and is appropriate to the tasks he wants him to assume.  He added that Dr. Judd has been the primary force behind a great deal of positive change at the Institute; for example, he was the person responsible for transforming the faculty council to a faculty senate and was the primary force behind curriculum renewal and the various strategic initiatives.  He also reminded the group that G. Judd has proven himself in terms of his willingness/effectiveness in dealing with the Faculty Senate.

 

President Pipes noted that among all his colleagues at Rensselaer, he spends the most time with Gary and both trusts and values his opinions.  He also noted that 7 of the 13 President’s cabinet members are academics, feels that this is also important.  Pipes proposed that we bypass the traditional approach to filling this position because of the rapid change we are experiencing and because of the experience and skill Dr. Judd brings to the position.  He feels strongly that if he can devote 75% of his time to development, it could help solve some of our current budget problems, but recognizes that this is our (the faculty’s) Institute and looks forward to our perspective and our advice.

 

End of the President’s Remarks

 

Discussion:

E. Rogers:  Reminded Dr. Pipes that when he first came to Rensselaer, there was a lack of communication regarding the provost position.  He expressed appreciation for his willingness to do so now.  Requested additional information about G. Judd’s proposed new duties.

 

R.B. Pipes: Responded that G. Judd already performs most of the duties associated with a “provost”.  He feels that he and Dr. Judd have good communication, so that most decisions are already shared.

 

A. Desrochers: Noted from their previous discussion that some of G. Judd’s responsibilities would go away/change.

 

R.B. Pipes: Agreed; for example, much of G. Judd’s graduate school responsibilities are already being given back to the Schools.  He feels, though, that G. Judd should be allowed to discuss this with him.  He reminded the group that he bragged that he could carry the whole load himself, but admits that is not possible if he devotes 75% to development.

 

E. Rogers: Wondered how that would affect the graduate school administrative structure.

 

R.B. Pipes: Prefers to let Gary address this.

 

E. Rogers: Asked if there would be term limits attached to the position.

 

R.B. Pipes: Responded that he had not really thought through this issue, but would entertain input.

 

B. Carlson: Noted that the President is free to make these types of appointments, but expressed deep concerns over this approach.  He reviewed history of governance at Rensselaer.  He expressed concern that appointments made without faculty participation is a serious blow to faculty participation in governance.  He feels that it is a step back, not forward.  He also noted that the lack of faculty input into selection of person/selection of the job title is a blow to the faculty.

 

R.B. Pipes:  Suggested that we put this into perspective.  He noted that B. Carlson’s comments may have been relevant four years ago, but not now.  He feels that he is doing exactly what B. Carlson is asking for, consulting with the faculty about his proposal.  He reminded the groups that there are numerous examples of situations in which the faculty senate/faculty in general have been involved.  He agreed that B. Carlson/faculty have the right to feel concerned, but emphasized that he is interested in faculty participating in this, and other decisions.  He noted that he wants our advice.  Emphasized that this is NOT an announcement, merely the first step in obtaining faculty input, this is merely his recommendation.

 

E. Rogers:  What is the time frame?  Will we have time to speak with Gary?  Each other?  Has he spoken with the Deans?

 

R.B. Pipes:  Noted hat he has spoken with the Deans but will let them speak for themselves.  He also noted that he spoke with the faculty senate leadership earlier.  At that time, they recommended that President Pipes speak with the group directly.

 

L. Kagan:  Noted that when one looks for a chief academic officer, historically it is the norm to look for a “stellar” intellect with exciting ideas/visions who exhibits true leadership.  He feels that the approach being taken doesn’t allow for the possibility of having the selected individual articulate their vision of leadership.

 

R.B. Pipes: Agreed, but pointed out that Larry’s suggestion does not always results in success.  He indicated that we have spent the last three years defining who and what we want to be.  There has been a great deal of self-evaluation.  We have brought in four new Deans, each of which has articulated their visions.  So, doesn’t feel that we’ve overlooked this point.  He feels that it is also important to ensure that the Deans and the “person” work well together.  He feels that G. Judd has demonstrated this ability.  Also feels that the many years of experience we have with G. Judd have allowed people to learn not only his strengths, but also his limitations.  Not true of outside potential candidates.  Noted that we don’t really have the luxury to “try our hands” at identifying the characteristics of an “unknown” candidate.

 

G. Handelman:  Referred back to B. Carlson’s remark.  It is important to recognize people’s perceptions concerning this approach to selection.  He noted that RPI has lost some of its “warm and fuzzy” character.  Feels that this action may destroy the little bit that remains.

 

R.B. Pipes:  Agrees that is essential to maintain those characteristics:  institutional loyalty and respect.  Recognizes there are problems along these lines, but feels there are many examples of strong commitment to the Institute, as well.

 

A. Desrochers:  Noted that the faculty senate represents the faculty, and feels that the faculty have to have confidence in their representatives.  If we want to poll every faculty member on every issue, then perhaps there is no point to a faculty senate.

 

B. Carlson:  He noted that this logic is flawed.  Reminded the group for example, that the Dean searches were largely faculty driven, in fact, each search committee was chaired by a faculty member.  He feels that this instance is more akin to execution by fiat.

 

A. Desrochers:  Recounted his initial reaction to this news, agrees that R.B. Pipes may be correct in a number of ways e.g., avoiding lengthy search etc.; also that G. Judd has the most/best experience for the job.

 

J. Newell: Noted that there exists a dichotomy of views on how to go about the business of conducting a search: an “ideal” view and a “pragmatic” one.  He feels that in our current circumstances, it may be important to pursue a pragmatic path.  He feels that when he, A. Desrochers, and A. Wallace recommended that R.B. Pipes bring the news to the faculty senate directly that the group would recognize the need for pragmatism.

 

A. Desrochers:  He alluded to an earlier comment by Pipes in which he emphasized the need to discuss and consider these issues carefully, but also the need to make a timely decision.

 

J. Haddock:  Not concerned about the process, but instead expressed the need to focus on finding someone with tremendous leadership skills.  Feels that we need to define the position first, and then consider people to fill it.

 

G. Handelman:  He feels that it may be okay to make the appointment, but need to ensure there are term limits.

 

L. Rubenfeld:  Wondered if President Pipes considered making an interim appointment, but then go ahead with a formal search.

 

R.B. Pipes:  He said he considered it, but doesn’t want to have an “under-empowered” position.  Reminded the group of past instances in which we had either absences of leadership or changes in leadership at critical times.

 

L. Rubenfeld:  He noted that much of the workings currently underway will go on regardless of our decision on this issue.  Feels that it may be reasonable to follow the pragmatic route, but build in a way to check on the wisdom of the decision later on.

 

E. Rogers:  Although faculty senate is designed to provide faculty representation, poor communications often negate its effectiveness.  He wonders how we should explain the process to our colleagues (who may be thinking this approach is very non-traditional.)  In other words, where was the faculty representation in the decision?  He feels that it is important to think about how the outcomes will be reported and whether it will be accepted favorably by the general faculty.  He feels that it is not yet an easy case to make.  Wondered what steps we as the faculty senate should take?

 

A. Desrochers:  Speaking about the level of faculty involvement in decisions on campus, Alan referred to the Agenda that went out to the faculty regarding this meeting.  He expressed disappointment at the turnout of faculty at the meeting, which was deliberately written to be a bit of a “tease” to pique folks’ curiosity and attendance.

 

D. Johnson:  Process; noted that happens in a search, is that the community gets the opportunity to shape the agenda of the person coming on board; he feels that this new approach under discussion today seems to lack this opportunity and thus puts both Gary and the faculty in an awkward position.  We may need to think of ways for Gary to have open discussions with the faculty.  He feels the most serious problem facing the faculty is the morale issue, doesn’t feel as if B. Pipe’s proposal really addresses this problem.  He would like to have the opportunity to speak with Gary about this before he steps into the position.

 

L. Kagan:  He again made the point that traditionally, the person in this position should demonstrate excellence both as an academic and as an administrator.  He feels that Gary has represented Rensselaer well, but is concerned that we are by-passing standard procedure.  If that is the case, he feels strongly that the Faculty should be involved if this new approach is to become a precedent.

 

B. Carlson:  He noted that the pragmatism/efficiency has been brought up a lot.  Perhaps instead of calling the position Dean of the Faculty (which implies faculty involvement) we should call the position Vice President of Academic Affairs and make it clear it was a presidential appointment.

 

A. Desrochers:  He indicated agreement with this possibility, and then asked for any new perspectives.  He then yielded to R.B. Pipes for closing remarks.

 

R.B. Pipes:  He appreciated concerns, but reminded the group that time is of the essence.  He added that none of the people currently in the administrative positions are perfect, may also be important to consider the persons commitment/love for the institution/ willingness to give unselfishly of themselves for RPI.  Suggested that is someone can give him the names of people who rate highly in all of the areas, academics/administration/unselfishness, he would be willing to consider them for the job.  He noted that we have to take who we are and what we are and go forward.  There is a real need for pragmatism.  He gave him promise that where weaknesses exist he will do his part to accommodate them.

 

E. Rogers:  Feels that the Faculty Senate needs to say something about this issue formally, but feels that we should take a week (until next Tuesday) to consider it in more detail.

 

L. Rubenfeld:  Provided feedback that the agenda was misleading and in the future should more specifically sate what the meeting is about

 

Adjournment.