Faculty Senate Meeting

January 28, 1997


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


Guests: B. Adams, N. Connell, L. Gerhardt, D. Johnson, S. Molloy, D. Musser, S. Nason, R. Noble, L. Rubenfeld, M. Glicksman, F. Scott, S. Sternstein


Results of the December 1996 Board of Trustees Meeting – Shirley Molloy


Elections and Re-elections

  • Harlan Anderson resigned from Active Trustee and was elected as Honorary Trustee
  • Gary T. DiCamillo ’73, Chairman & CEO of Polaroid Corp., was elected to a four-year term as Active Trustee
  • Active Trustees reelected were Barton, Bruggeman, Campbell and Mueller


Highlights of Resolutions Approved

  • Coopers & Lybrand were hired as Rensselaer’s accountants for 96-97.
  • Debt financing for Troy Bldg. Renovation and other projects is as follows:

            Troy Bldg                                 $6.7 M

            Pittsburgh Bldg                         $1.5M

            Other Moves                            $0.8M

            Lally Renovation                       $0.3M

            Student Record System            $3.7M

            Issuance/Closing Costs             $0.5M

            TOTAL                                    $13.5M


  • Tuition was set as follows:  (1) Undergraduate tuition for FY 97-98 is $20,030/yr.; (2) Graduate tuition is $600/credit hour
  • Harry Roy will replace Ed Rogers on the Retirement committee effective May 1, 1997.
  • Formal approval of the Hartford Graduate Center and approval to execute the agreement with Hartford.


Special Presentations and Reports

Minority Student Recruitment:  An Ad-Hoc Committee of the Board is concerned with the steady decline in under-represented minority student recruitment and is working to improve Rensselaer’s ability to attract minority students.  The Committee mandated no further slippage.


New Budgeting Process:  The newly adapted contribution margin approach was also discussed.  This discussion paralleled the formal presentation made by Paul Lawler at the October 96 General Faculty meeting.


Review of Rensselaer’s Endowment:  The endowment grew from $80M to over $350M during the last 20 years and it represents 10% of Rensselaer’s revenue stream.  It is ranked 74th largest in the nation.  The spending rate began at 8% in 1984 and has been reduced annually by about .02%; it is expected to be 5% in 1999.  Spending rate during FY97 is 5.4%.  Gifts to the endowment during the past 10 years total $50M.  The new bequest policy re-directs unrestricted gifts to endowment and facilities.  Variables that have impacted Rensselaer’s endowment during the last ten years include investment return (+7.9%), spending (-13.6%), and gifts (-20%).  NACUBO rankings show that Rensselaer’s endowment dropped in rank from 31st in 1975 to 74th in 1995.  Compared to five “market-basket” schools (CalTech, MIT, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Lehigh), Rensselaer’s endowment on a per student basis ranks lower than all since 1985.  A more detailed report on Rensselaer’s endowment is available upon request.


The Budget Challenge:  Rensselaer’s current financial picture is clouded by several factors, including: fierce competition for qualified paying students, the increase in the undergraduate tuition discount rate, smaller endowment income relative to competitors, and generally less wealthy students.  Together, these factors have resulted in $20M in cumulative lost income between 1991 and 1996.


We will respond to the budget challenge by achieving a $22 million reduction in budget expenditure in five years; this represents 19% of the total Institute operating budget.  Budget savings will be achieved through: (1) personnel reductions (e.g., the voluntary separation programs), (2) greater efficiency in delivering academic programs (e.g., the 4x4 curriculum), (3) significant administrative/process re-engineering, including a $50M investment in RPI’s infrastructure (e.g., deferred maintenance, a new financial management system, a new student records system), and (4) budget discipline (e.g., reduced endowment spending rate, reductions in operating costs.


Most of the discussion of this report consisted of requests for clarification, for example what is meant by “greater efficiency,” “how has/will the 4x4 format lead to $$ savings,” and specifics regarding some of the figures presented.  G. Handelman asked whether there exist any scientific studies of tuition increases, noting that tuition increases have outpaced most other costs (e.g., books, room & board, salary.)


Student Retention at Rensselaer- Dave Haviland

Dave Haviland defines retention as the percentage of each succeeding cohort of students that graduates each year or persists to the next academic year.  He provided detailed data regarding the percentage of students within each cohort that persist across years and to graduation (either in the 4th, 5th, or 6th years).  He suggested that we need to identify the reasons that affect students’ decisions to leave Rensselaer, both overall and at each level.


Current data indicates that about 90% of freshmen persist from year 1 to 2; about 90% of those persist into the 3rd year; and about 95% of those persist into the 4th year.  Overall, taking into account the fact that some students often take 6 years to graduate, Rensselaer has about a 70% overall graduation rate.  He noted that a retrospective study of the overall graduation rte suggests that it is currently high, relative to past years.  We also compare favorably to other schools like us.


Haviland noted that most of the studies of retention show that students leave primarily due to financial concerns, they either cannot afford the tuition or they don’t perceive that the education they’re getting is worth the cost.  He added that the institute’s goal is to increase the graduation rate from 70% to 80%.  He indicated that to achieve this, we need to focus on increasing the retention rates at each level (e.g., from year 1 to 2, from year 2 to 3, and so on) to 95%.  Finally, Haviland described several potential ways to improve retention.


Discussion of President Pipe’s Presentation to the Faculty Senate on January 21, 1997

A. Desrochers summarized the discussions of the previous week regarding the President’s proposal to appoint G. Judd to the position of Chief Academic Officer in order to allow him to devote more of his energy to off-campus issues, including fund raising.  He suggested that we begin our discussion by focusing on the position President Pipes described:  Do we need the position?  What kind of person would we, as faculty, like to see in the position?  How do we get the person?  Reminded the group that we also need to keep in mind practical issues (e.g., timing, the potential that an “outside” hire would need significant time to learn the Institute and the job).  He wondered whether it is safe to say that we’re in agreement that it’s important to have a chief academic officer.


Much of the discussion was spent trying to achieve a balance between expediency and a desire to help the President and the Institute succeed versus the need to assure that faculty are integral to the process.  Guests at the meeting provided an extensive historical perspective with regard to the evolution of faculty governance at Rensselaer.


After a lengthy discussion, E. Rogers proposed the following motion, an amended (friendly) version of a previous motion by B. Carlson:


            The Faculty Senate endorses the President’s view that Rensselaer needs a chief

            Academic officer and recommend that a search committee with a faculty

            Member as chair be established to conduct a search for the position of provost.


The vote was 16 for, 0 against, 2 abstentions.


Minutes Approval

Minutes of the December 3 and December 17 Faculty Senate Meetings were approved unanimously.