General Faculty Meeting

April 14, 1998

 

Present: B. Carlson, J. Durgee, D. Ellison, R. Franklin, G. Handelman, K. Fortun, R. Messler, J. Newell, S. Salon, R. Smith, W. Wallace, T. Willemain, J. Wilson ex officio

 

Absent: M. Abbott, A. Basile, C. Canier, M. Goldberg, T. Harrison, R. Leifer, R. Norsworthy

 

Guests: B. Adams, H. Scarton, R. Parsons, E. Rogers, V. Gregg, R. Burnham, M. Johnson (POLY), M. Hanna, S. Cozzens

Agenda

Approval of Minutes of April 1, 1998 Meeting – R. Norsworthy

Informational Update – A. Wallace

Results of the Elections – R. Messler

Institute Priorities – J. Wilson

Budgeting ProcessE. Rogers

 

Meeting called to order at 2:21 p.m.

 

Approval of Minutes of April 1, 1998 Meeting – R. Norsworthy

A. Wallace called for a discussion of the minutes of the March 31 Faculty Senate meeting which had been sent out to the membership by mail.

 

D. Ellison asked that comments attributed to him be corrected.  K. Fortun commented that there should be a more detailed accounting of statements made, particularly at meetings as important as the last one.  (Despite two people taking minutes, many details of statements were left out.)

 

A. Wallace agreed that perhaps the only way to do this would be to tape the meetings, but no resolution to the problem was reached. 

 

Some members noted that they had sent corrections to the Recording Secretary, but were unsure if they had been included in the minutes of the meeting.  Because a corrected “hard copy” of the minutes were unavailable to check, the Recording Secretary being absent, Wallace proposed delaying approval of the minutes until April 28.  He noted that the minutes are not public until they are approved by the Senate membership and that until that time, the drafts of the minutes should be regarded as the private business of the Senate.

 

Informational Update – A. Wallace

A. Wallace then provided an informational update regarding activities of the Executive Committee since the announcement of President Pipes’ resignation on April 1, relative to the transition of leadership of the Institute.

 

On April 3, the Executive Committee met with Sam Heffner.  He reviewed many of the issues facing the Institute during this transition period and asked for the Senate’s help in a number of areas.  Among these were characteristics to be sought in an Acting President and Faculty names to be proposed for a Presidential Search Committee to be formed immediately.

 

On April 4, Mr. Heffner contacted A. Wallace to review the recommendation he was preparing to make to the Board of Trustees for a person to assume the responsibilities of Acting President.  On April 8, the formal announcement of Neil Barton as Acting President was made public.  At that time, A. Wallace provided a list of faculty members, each of whom had agreed to serve on the search committee.  The search process will begin immediately and will operate intensely through the summer months.  It is the goal of the Board to approve a candidate for President at their October Board meeting.  The composition of the Search Committee will be 5 trustees, 5 faculty, 2 administration, 2 alumni and 2 students.

 

A. Wallace noted that this is the first time that the Trustees have asked the faculty directly to recommend names for a Presidential search.  In the past, the responsibility has fallen on either the Deans of the Schools or the Provost.

 

On April 14, just before the present Senate meeting, the Executive Committee met with Acting President Barton.  An open and strongly positive discussion was held which foretells the desire of the Acting President to work closely with the Faculty in moving the Institute forward in this time of transition.  Neil Barton would like our advice on the priorities facing Rensselaer, particularly which projects need to move forward aggressively.  He wants to see Rensselaer become a rewarding place for new leadership to be attracted.  The Provost search is still a matter of discussion.  Neil Barton has met with Bruce Watson.  One suggestion coming to favor at present is to keep the search process moving, but at a slower pace.  He recognized that the primary duties of the Provost are to work with the faculty, however, he is concerned about the potential for incompatibility between a new Provost and a new President if a Provost is in place first.  The ideal scenario is to select a President first, (in the fall), followed closely by a Provost, then a Dean of Engineering.

 

J. Newell described the outline of a proposal he is preparing to initiate a dialog among faculty and trustees.  It appears that something definitely will go forward in this regard.  The essential features of the proposal have been strongly received both by Sam Heffner and Neil Barton.

 

A. Wallace indicated that Neil Barton will speak with the School of Engineering faculty later this semester and may arrange an open faculty meeting very near the end of the semester.

 

Results of the Elections – R. Messler

R. Messler reported on the results of the Faculty Senate election.  He noted that 149 ballots were returned, which is a record (at least in recent years.)  The newly elected members of the Senate and Senate standing committees are as follows:

 

Vice President: Michael Hanna

Recording Secretary: Robert Parsons

At Large Members: Sharon Anderson-Gold, Steven Derby, Neil Rolnick

Member from Engineering: Kenneth Jansen

Member from Science: Ashwani Kapila

Member from Architecture: Mark Rea

 

Curriculum Committee

Member from Engineering: Kevin Craig

Member from Science: Jane Koretz

 

Promotion and Tenure Committee

Member from Engineering: Rena Bizios

Member from H&SS: David Hess

 

Planning and Resources Committee

Member from Architecture: (unresolved; person receiving the most votes may be ineligible)

Member from Engineering: R. Franklin

 

Elections Committee

Member from Engineering: Daniel Berg

Member from Management: Richard Leifer

 

R. Franklin questioned the short time which was available for faculty to receive ballots and return them.  Messler reiterated the constraints on the schedule (General Faculty Meeting on April 7; election to be ratified on April 14) and notes that 149 ballots were returned, a larger number than in recent years.

 

A motion to accept the election results, except for the Planning and Resources position fro Architecture, was made, seconded and passed without dissent The Executive Committee will present an eligible candidate for this position at the next Senate meeting, as per the Senate Constitution.

 

Institute Priorities - J. Wilson

Acting Dean of the Faculty, Jack Wilson, presented an update on Institute priorities.  (Wallace noted that Neil Barton wants faculty input on these priorities and candidate projects which have been proposed, to determine which ones need to go ahead “full force.”)  The overhead transparencies used in Dean Wilson’s presentation are attached to the minutes.  He showed a number of candidate projects in the three Institute priority areas of Interactive Learning, Information Technology, and Globalization, as well as candidate projects in Distinctive Programs and Focused Research (these will be key elements of the new campaign), Student-Centered Learning Environment, and Special Opportunities (projects needing special donors).  All of these projects remain in the draft stage and will require additional faculty input.  Dean Wilson also noted that there is a need to re-do the feasibility study for the campaign, which ahs now been delayed for approximately one year.

 

J. Durgee asked for a clarification or sharper focus of global programs.  Dean Wilson noted that there has been an effort to bring in a professional marketing firm to identify markets for global programs.  The Strategic Investments Globalization Committee had identified 4 target areas, which were seen as being too many to pursue right away.  They have now picked one, the ????? University in Taiwan.  Other initiatives are being put on the back burner for now.

 

D. Ellison asked if there could be an expansion of global opportunities for students overseas.  The curriculum is so tight that it makes it difficult for a student to go abroad.  A brief discussion ensued as to the availability of international co-ops vs. international study.

 

A. Wallace noted that there is a big problem of language skills for students going abroad.

 

K. Fortun suggested that students could go to India, where English is the primary educational language.

 

J. Wilson pointed out that at present almost all students studying abroad from Rensselaer go to the United Kingdom.

 

R. Franklin asked where there are any Trustees from outside the US.

 

J. Wilson noted that there are a couple of examples of Trustees with strong international connections (e.g., Mow), but that there is a well established process for identifying new trustees which makes it difficult to make quick changes.

 

H. Scarton asked about Institute priorities relative to research and research infrastructure.

 

J. Wilson responded that these are there—see Distinctive Programs and Focused Research.

 

A. Wallace reiterated that it is important that faculty be actively involved in setting priorities.

 

Finally, J. Wilson pointed out that we must match donor priorities with Institute priorities for a successful campaign.

 

Report from Ed Rogers, Faculty representative to the Executive Budget Committee.  (A. Wallace noted that faculty representation on this committee resulted from a direct recommendation by the Faculty Senate to the Administration.

 

Budgeting Process – E. Rogers

E. Rogers’ presentation followed closely to his written report, which is attached.  He noted that the keys to prosperity at the Institute are Reputation and Revenue.  The Trustees charge is that there will be a balanced budget by FY2000, with a positive cash flow by FY02.  We gave been operating on deficit budgets since 1994.

 

Virginia Gregg recited some of the history of deficit budgeting and the evolution to a balanced budget through carefully prepared business plans.  This was a switch from a cost containment strategy which caused everyone hardship.  The emphasis now is on revenue growth, and business plans of each operating unit must reflect that charge.  To move in this direction, the Trustees approved a budget deficit of $4.6M in FY97, which results in an operating deficit of $3.1M, a budget deficit of $7.4M in FY98 (actual will be $7M), and a $4M to $5M deficit for FY99.  She noted that a positive cash flow in FY02 is not a “profit” since it will be applied to structural deficits such as financial aid and faculty parity.

 

E. Rogers reported that the charge of the Executive Budget Committee is the oversight of the incentive based budgeting system which is now in place.

 

Some of the background and details for this process and how it was initiated are described in the detailed report.

 

R. Franklin twice asked E. Rogers and V. Gregg to provide the Senate with the assumptions and numbers that formed the basis for the summary report.  Twice they declined.  The second time, Gregg said that Franklin would have to go to Jim Tien, who would have to study the figures first.

 

R. Franklin complained that we are not theologians, but scientists and engineers, who need evidence to support conclusions.  Maybe Engineering is losing money, but the administration hasn’t shown this.  There is a suspicion that the numbers are manipulated to reach a forgone conclusion.  RPI should release the numbers and assumptions to the RPI community, and let us all study them together, in order to better think of ideas to help RPI.

 

A. Wallace questions whether the EBC has considered the problem of new students coming into Engineering, with many of the revenues from those students going elsewhere for the first two years.

 

E. Rogers said that the Committee is taking a long term view of the budgeting process.

 

R. Smith asked about the relationship between the new contribution margins and disincentives for a School to run summer classes.

 

E. Rogers discussed the rules on the contribution margin and recognized that there might be a disincentive if the budgeted contribution margin for a school isn’t met.

 

Al Wallace asked if the transfers made from Engineering to Humanities and Social Sciences and Management at inception of the new budgeting strategy would continue in the future.

 

Virginia Gregg, Vice President of Finance, responded, indicating that the perception of transfers having been made was erroneous.  As Professor Rogers indicated previously, Finance had conducted a multi-year respective study of each school’s operating activity.  For the past several years, Engineering (and to a lesser extent Science) has seen a decline in contribution margin due to declines in core business activity.  Simultaneously, Humanities & Social Sciences and Management have seen significant growth and proportionately dramatic contribution margin increases.  For equitability purposes, the original budgetary baselines were established at levels designed to challenge growth in Engineering and Science while at the same time not stifling further growth in Humanities and Management.  The latter schools have seen significant increases at eh margin which were not considered to be sustainable on a long-term basis.  The baselines were set based on a review of past activity plus application of judgment.  A strict numerical averaging technique would have set the baseline even higher for Engineering.

 

M. Hanna asked the development of new priorities and programs, and whether our revenue projections for these make any sense.

 

V. Gregg responded that we must use our best guesses.  Professional consulting can help for graduate programs, but undergraduate programs probably must rely on our own experiences.  M. Hanna responded that we often don’t have the expertise to answer all these questions.  An example is the potential financial impact of proposed calendar changes, where the financial impacts of these changes were highly uncertain.

 

V. Gregg said that her office is available to try to help in these matters.  She notes that what we would like to do is to engage in an educational process, especially with regard to the Executive Budget Committee.

 

R. Franklin requested that we see details of numbers for the School of Engineering budget and its performance relative to the contribution margin.

 

V. Gregg said that she would want Acting Dean Tien to decide whether and how to do that.

 

In the remaining few minutes, J. Newell passed out the “final” draft of the Electronic Citizenship Policy.  It will be expected that this will be discussed at the next Senate meeting and endorsed by the Senate at that time.  The members are charged with reading the draft carefully.

 

Meeting adjourned at 4:05pm.

 

R/s Randy Norsworthy, Recording Secretary

 

The minutes were recorded and prepared in my absence by

Richard N. Smith

Secretary of the Senate