TO:      President Shirley Jackson

 

FR:       Faculty Senate and the Planning and Resources Committee

            Michael Hanna, President of the Faculty Senate

            Joyce McLaughlin, Chair, Planning and Resources Committee

 

The Rensselaer Plan has many strengths.  It is forward thinking, ambitious, includes goals for a significant set of Rensselaer’s activities, and represents a valuable first step toward moving Rensselaer forward into the new center under the leadership of a new President.  An important part of the Plan calls for significant building in research.  This goal is widely supported.

 

By far, however, the major concern of the faculty is also in the proposed plans to advance Rensselaer’s research programs.  The Plan calls for a major effort in the areas of information technology and biotechnology; it makes a very good justification for why these are high impact areas for society.  Some faculty feel that there should be additional major target areas; one frequently mentioned area is nanotechnology.  Further the plan does name a number of areas, which are recognized at Rensselaer as being very strong, in some cases stand out on their own, and that should not be neglected.  However, there is widespread concern by faculty who are not in the targeted and named areas.  In particular, faculty who have a strong research program in a timely research area, but one that is not specifically mentioned, are concerned that they will not be able to sustain an active program under the new plan.  As a result, faculty request that the Plan address sustaining timely, strong research programs whose focus is outside of the named areas.  As we see it, leaving this issue unaddressed could result in highly qualified faculty in the untargeted areas choosing to leave Rensselaer to go where they perceive the enabling environment as more positive.

 

Finally we note that there is widespread discussion about the need for more justification for the planned target in biotechnology.  Specifically faculty request more justification that: (1) we have sufficient strength on which to build; (2) there is a sufficient pool of professionals available for us to attract to Rensselaer as we compete with the many other universities building in this area; (3) Rensselaer can either avoid a two-tier salary system when/if it attracts professionals in a highly competitive area or it can effectively address the morale problem that can occur should a two-tier salary system result; and (4) that Rensselaer can garner sufficient resources in this expensive area (how would our expenditures compare with other universities building in this area?) to achieve recognition for our biotechnology activities.