Faculty Senate Meeting

October 8, 1996


Present: M. Abbot, J. Brunski, C. Canier, B. Carlson, A. Desrochers, R, Franklin, G. Gabriel, M. Goldberg, G. Handelman, M. Hanna, T. Harrison, G. Judd, M. Kalsher, J. Newell, B. Racicot, A. Wallace


Abstracted Minutes distributed; for detailed minutes, contact the Faculty Senate office or archives.


The Future of Rensselaer: An Interactive Panel Discussion

A. Wallace discussed details of the upcoming special faculty meeting.  The purpose of the meeting is to elicit active participation of Rensselaer faculty in determining the future of the Institute.  The meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday October 17 at 1:30-3:00pm, in the Fischbach Room of Folsom Library.  The meeting is scheduled to follow the upcoming Trustees meeting (October 11-12) and precede the Voluntary Separation Commitment (October 25) and the President’s Retreat on Priorities for Rensselaer (October 30).  A. Wallace noted that the panelists and discussants were asked to share their recommendations for achieving their vision of the future of Rensselaer.  The invited panelists are John Wen (ECSE), Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer (Biology), Lonnie Edelheit (G.E. R&D, Rensselaer Trustee), and Gary Judd (Dean of the Faculty).  The invited discussants are Faye Duchin (Dean of H&SS) and Frances Bronet (Architecture).


Issues Regarding Pay Practices at Rensselaer

R. Franklin raised the issue of certain pay practices at Rensselaer, referring to recent instances in which faculty members were asked to return monies paid to them when they began a leave of absence prior to the end of the Fall Academic term (i.e., the 4/9 pay rule).  G. Judd emphasized that the administration is currently looking to see if the practice can be changed.  It may be a remnant of the past; for example, when mid-terms were given after Christmas break.  R. Franklin noted that the 4/9 split is not made explicit in the faculty handbook and that we have an obligation to alert our colleagues to the practice.


Discussion of the Core Curriculum Resolution


The basic core requirement remains at 24 credits of Humanities and Social Sciences and 24 credits of Science and Engineering Science.  Any school or department may replace 4 credits of the Humanities and Social Science core requirement and/or 4 credits of the Science and Engineering core requirement by a substitute(s) approved by the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee.


M. Hanna noted that the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee feels that the resolution is appropriate.  Since its members are part of the faculty senate, which in turn, represent the faculty, they believe that they have the faculty’s best interests “at heart”.  R. Lahey, Dean of Engineering, explained why the proposed resolution is critical to engineering’s restructuring efforts.  The majority of opposition to the resolution focuses on the need to ensure that adequate controls are in place to ensure that the integrity of the core curriculum is preserved.  M. Hanna responded to the various criticisms, arguing that the point of the resolution is not to replace courses haphazardly, or to reduce the core, but rather to enhance the overall flexibility of the core.  He reminded the group that all five schools have representation on the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee; therefore, each school has a voice in these matters.  He added that when needed, the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee seeks input from appropriate persons.  As a compromise, Senator T. Harrison offered the following friendly amendment:


            The Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee will consults with the appropriate school regarding whether a proposed educational experience is an acceptable substitute for the core credit(s).


The point was made that we have an obligation to look out for the best interests of our students; they frequently fail to see the professional relevance of courses outside of their major.  M. Hanna reiterated that the point of the resolution is not to break the system, but rather to flex it to meet each program’s needs.  With appropriate controls, it will work.


Vote on the resolution, as amended: Passed unanimously, no abstentions.


New Business

The Writing Curriculum

M. Hanna questioned whether Rensselaer’s current writing intensive requirement really accomplishes the goal of enabling our graduates to be “effective communicators.”  He requested input from faculty senate members, and the community at large.  Noted that prospective employers want employees who can communicate effectively – this implies more than just writing effectively.


Faculty Voice in the Curriculum

B. Carlson wondered whether adequate controls exist to preserve faculty control over the curriculum.  Used the School of Engineering’s curriculum template as an example.  He noted that during the draft stage, there were many differences between the various departments.  The marked differences resulted in the creation of a smaller appointed group charged with producing the final template.  Added that the product of this process is now being promoted as the Engineering template, despite the fact that it was not generally approved by engineering faculty.  G. Judd suggested that it may be important to determine whether other faculty from the school of Engineering concur with B. Carlson’s viewpoint.  He added that it is important to deal with issues locally, whenever possible.


A. Desrochers called for the meeting to end.

Adjournment at 4:00pm


*Please note that the minutes of Faculty Senate meetings were distributed in a condensed format at the time.  The change in reporting format was adopted to reduce costs, while increasing readability.  Detailed minutes of each meeting can be obtained by contacting the Faculty Senate office or by contacting Institute archives.