Faculty Senate Meeting



Present: A. Van Epps, N. Rolnick, J. Haddock, K. Fortun, P. Hajela, R. Parsons, M. Hanna, J. McLaughlin, K. Jansen, S. Anderson-Gold


Absent: A. Kapila, R. Diwan, J. Norsworthy, P. Boyce, S. Derby, R. Leifer, P. Quinn, K. Craig [FSCC]


Guests: C. McIntyre [President’s Office], Bruce Nauman [P&R], L. Peters [P&R]



Approval of Minutes from the 2/8/2000 Meeting

Electronic Senate Voting Discussion

Rensselaer Plan, Second Draft


Approval of the Minutes from 2/8/2000 Meeting

M. Hanna: I would like to call the meeting to order and ask if we can approve the Minutes for the meeting on February 8.  [Minutes approved.]


Electronic Senate Voting

M. Hanna:  Prabhat [Hajela], as chair of the elections committee has been looking into this and will explain our options.


P. Hajela: This is a proposal I have discussed with Mike to facilitate electronic voting through the use of WebCT and the help of Don Bell.  WebCT has a survey sheet, which will be set up as a template for voting.  All one needs is an RCS number.  Whoever runs the server will know if someone votes but not what one votes.


J. McLaughlin: Can one assess if people vote more than once?


P. Hajela: Yes, which isn’t possible with paper votes.


M. Hanna: Last year about 1/3 of the faculty voted.  Hopefully we can improve the numbers.


P. Hajela: The benefit is electronic tabulation of votes.


B. Nauman: What will motivate people to vote?  If they receive a hard coy ballot, they are more likely to vote.


P Hajela: I can send an email reminder with the link to the WebCT site.


B. Nauman: We should be able to get an alias for the entire faculty from John Kolb.


J. McLaughlin: I make a motion that the Senate implement electronic balloting.  Second: N. Rolnick.


S. Anderson-Gold: May I make a friendly amendment to include a commitment to monitor the implementation of electronic balloting? Though the voter turnout could not get much worse, we still should watch for negative consequences.


K. Jansen: Another benefit is the ability to assess how voting is going – if people are voting. An email reminder can be sent if people aren’t voting and the deadline is approaching.


M. Hanna: Let’s vote with the friendly amendment committing us to monitor the effects of electronic voting. [Passed unanimously.]


Rensselaer Plan, Second Draft

M. Hanna: Our next agenda item is the second draft of the Rensselaer Plan which you all should have received hard copies of.


J. McLaughlin: Cynthia [McIntyre], could you explain why this draft isn’t available electronically?


C. McIntyre: We set the precedent that if a draft went out electronically everyone was welcome to respond.  So we didn’t want to do it the same way so that people wouldn’t have the impression that they could respond individually.


R. Parson: Cynthia, I want to thank you for coming and point out that your coming in itself redresses a major communication problem between the faculty and the President’s office – and between the President’s office and the Senate in particular.  I hope our communications continue to improve.


Also, some clarification: is this our last chance to give comments on the Rensselaer Plan?


C. McIntyre: The Scheduled Review meeting on February 29 is the time for faculty to comment.


M. Hanna: Will the meeting on February 29 be an opportunity to thrash issues about or is this the time to present our final comments?


C. McIntyre: Views will be presented from both sides.  Everyone will get a sense of what the group is thinking and what the three principals are thinking.  There will be some closure by the end of the meeting.


L. Peters: All on February 29? What about the meeting on March 7 when the President will be joining the Faculty Senate?


C. McIntyre: The meeting on the 7th is a different kind of meeting with a different purpose than the Structured Review.


J. McLaughlin: Does the meeting on the 7th include an opportunity to discuss implementation?


C. McIntyre: I don’t think so; I think it’s too early for that.


J. McLaughlin:  The timing doesn’t entirely work with the process we have laid out, which is to make a draft response, then have the February 28 discussion, followed by a possible revision of our written response.  We would like the opportunity to reflect on what is discussed on the 29th and then work that into our report.


C. McIntyre: The Structured Review process is the mechanism envisioned to get the leadership groups to respond to the Plan.


K. Fortun: Can you explain what a “Structured Review” is?  Does it displace the need for a written response? You mentioned that there would be closure at the end of the meeting.


C. McIntyre: The Structured Review meetings are intended to be the main venue for comments on this draft of the Plan.


K. Fortun: Will there be space to discuss what isn’t in this draft of the Plan? Detailed description of priorities identified by portfolio groups have already been presented by RealCom and in the reports from the portfolio groups.  If these priorities do not who up in this draft of the Plan, should it be assumed that it has already been decided that they will not be Institute priorities?


B. Nauman: Can the overall priorities still be questioned?


C. McIntyre: I would ask the President this outright at the February 29 meeting.


K. Fortun: What kind of response do you think is likely to be the most productive?


Let’s just say that the School of Architecture has a project in Tanzania that was well described in earlier report, submitted by RealCom and the School of Architecture as a portfolio group.  And there is no mention of the Tanzania project in this draft of the Plan.  Should an argument be made on February 29 regarding the ways this project can contribute to Rensselaer’s status as a world-class university?


C. McIntyre: That kind of argument is not what is needed now.  The Tanzania project will be addressed in performance plans.  The Structured Review is an opportunity for people to say whether they feel they are well represented by the Plan.


The Plan is intentionally broad and inclusive.  Performance plans will have to be justified in terms of whether they synchronize with the Plan – furthering the research prominence of Rensselaer in particular.


M. Hanna: I want to turn the discussion over to Joyce [McLaughlin], for her presentation as chair of the Planning and Resources Committee.


J. McLaughlin: There are two main points in our first report.  The first regards justification of the two new research focus areas – IT and BT.  The second regards existing strengths at Rensselaer.


There is some justification for IT and BT as focus areas on p9.  And there is some language on existing core strengths.


R. Parsons: The justifications for IT and BT that are here are largely descriptions of what is already happening at Rensselaer – not a description of external factors that will influence our success in these areas.


N. Rolnick: The plan points out that Rensselaer is not itself choosing these focus areas – but that these focus areas are so powerful that they are moving toward us and we can’t ignore them.


  1. Van Epps: That much said in the first draft of the Plan.  I wanted more information on what risk we are going to face – information on the broad context in which these initiatives will be undertaken.


J. McLaughlin: People seem to be more comfortable with IT than with BT which is a higher risk.  People seem to want to know what is possible in BT and what is not.


S. Anderson-Gold: Isn’t it also an issue of who else is doing it?


L. Peters: The competition


M. Hanna: Yale is putting $500 million into science, which, because it’s Yale, much of it will be in biotechnology.  We don’t play in that game.  The question is what kind of niche we can carve out.


B. Nauman: May I comment from the chemical engineering perspective? This draft of the Plan has not represented chemical engineering and in fact has misrepresented chemical engineering at Rensselaer.


S. Anderson-Gold: Can you clarify your point about misrepresentation?


B. Nauman: There is no recognition of key strengths of the department and a strength is identified that it is not a strength – there has been one proposal submitted on this supposed strength.


N. Rolnick: I think this document defines broad areas and goals not specific areas.  And it does say that investment will be made in core strengths as well as in new research areas.


J. McLaughlin: Not everyone is reading the plan that way.


B. Nauman: May I note another observation.  The investments that are not directly BT or IT will only be supported if they relate and contribute to BT and IT.


N. Rolnick: But IT and BT are so broad that it includes almost everything and everybody.


K. Fortun: But there is much greater specificity about some things than others – suggesting that there is indeed exclusionary focus within the broad focus areas.


P. Hajela: I think we need to get away from whether we see ourselves in the Plan.  And address more global issues, issues regarding how we are going to accomplish this.  How are we going to get where we say we need to go?


If we are going to add x number of PhDs, how are we going to do this? 18 new faculty for IT and BT aren’t going to cut it.  This information isn’t important for marketing, so maybe not ought to be in the Plan document, but must be addressed.


J. McLaughlin: Do you have a proposal for change in the plan?


P. Hajela: I’m almost at the point of recommending that we have Plan A and Plan B, one for external circulation and one for our own internal purposes.  The latter addressing the structural issues implied by the priorities laid out in the external version.


Something in the faculty profile here will have to change, for example.


J. McLaughlin: Do you think this kind of information is going to be needed to have faculty buy-in?


P. Hajela: My personal opinion is that it does not need to be in the Plan itself, but must be addressed as we proceed over the next few months.  What we need to know is what will be required of each one of us.


K. Fortun: Art Sanderson, at an IT meeting last week, addressed how the priorities laid out in the Plan will affect existing faculty.  Someone asked what kind of resources would be mobilized to accelerate research activity across campus and how these resources would be distributed – among existing faculty as compared to the new priority hires.  Sanderson emphasized that Rensselaer could not achieve its goals if resources were spread too thin, so it had to be expected that most resources would go to the new priority areas, with expectation that their success could leverage the entire campus.


B. Nauman: I think we should engage this Plan as a planning document.  And be patient that the details will be worked out later. So the question regards the priorities spelled out here.  I think IT and BT are too narrow; I think there should be a third area: Core Technology. CT.


My proposal is that, however the core is defined, a third of the chairs go into that exiting Core.


P. Hajela: this would not be in synch with the way giving happens – giving today is very specific and tied to specific projects.  To target chairs in core technology would work in an era of unrestricted funds. Not now.


I know of a donor in Florida, for example, who wanted to give money to build a street that turned orange over a month’s time. What he wanted was very specific and given that, he was happy enough when his contributions supported broader educational projects.


B. Nauman: Your argument suggests that there is no role for the Institute in directing donors, in educating them about what their priorities should be.


N. Rolnick: The three areas within the core area basically encompass everything.  So they provide a focus for funding priorities. The challenge is to make faculty feel included.


S. Anderson-Gold: There is tension here. If it’s inclusive, we haven’t defined our niche.  If it defines a niche, money has to be thrown at it, and not at something else.


It’s also relevant to consider something said by the Provost candidate we interviewed last week.  He argued that IT is hard to play, because corporations do the cutting edge research.  BT, too, is hard, because it is best done near or in collaboration with a medical school.


M. Hanna: The suggestion that we must have a medical school to do BT suggests the need to read a basic biotech handbook.


B. Nauman: I disagree with that, and actually think we are missing two things – a medical school and an agricultural school.


M. Hanna: At this point, maybe all the document can do is identify the focus areas.  And I see no reason why we shouldn’t consider “Core Strengths” as a focus area; it will allow us to be more inclusive without giving up focus.


K. Jansen: I started with only one thing to say – first to support what Neil had to say: IT can be anything – look at how many proposals NSF got within their IT initiative.  This, of course, also begs the question as to how Rensselaer can ever be a major player.


Second, can these 18 chairs link to our core strengths? Or will they make little islands?


B. Nauman: There will not be a biotech department.  There will be a biotech facility, where the stars and their lesser stars will be housed.  What will happen to the structure of departments?


J. McLaughlin: I want to take a reading: Should be add CT [Core Technology] as a third focus area or is the existing way of describing core strengths sufficient?


[Most people generally supported the two currently named focus areas; two people indicated strong preference for the existing structure of the Plan; two people argued that inclusion of CT as a third focus area would be beneficial.]


P. Hajela: I don’t see H&SS articulated here in research strengths. If faculty are going to be rewarded for participation in research, it should be expected in all schools.


K. Fortun: Even if it is implied in what is written here, it is not enough.  This Plan must say what we are going to do, in a way that responds to entrenched perceptions of Rensselaer.  In the past, Rensselaer has not been perceived as a place with exemplary research in all five Schools. If that is the goal here, it must be very overt, not submerged.  Otherwise, people will not notice that very new priorities are being set.


J. McLaughlin: What are you asking for? Increased articulation?


K. Fortun: that’s a nice way to put it.  It has to be recognized that moving into the ranks of world-class universities is going to take very overt articulation of the Institute’s commitment to excellence in all research domains.  As scholars we might see ourselves in these descriptions – but others need to see us as well, recognizing that Rensselaer excels at many different kinds of research, carried out in many different ways.


N. Rolnick: I want to support what Kim has said.  It’s not just a matter of quantity but also quality.  The metrics for evaluating excellence are going to be different across the campus.


L. Peters: The issue of what is submerged is also important.  I, as a management research, may see what I do in this description, because I am deeply immersed in the issues and see them everywhere.  An outside reader is not likely to see the connections, particularly if they are not aware of the kind of research management scholars conduct.  More overt articulation does seem important.


J. McLaughlin: There is another issue the Planning and Resources Committee has discussed: interactive learning.  It has been proposed that the Plan include the need to have metrics that measure our success.


P. Hajela: As a faculty, I think we need to pay very careful attention to this, but I’m not sure it goes in the Plan.


J. McLaughlin: On page 4 it does say that we will develop continuous and interactive assessment techniques so that testing becomes a tool for learning.  There are no statements about program assessments.


M. Hanna: I think the emphasis on interactive learning on page 4 is a way of acknowledging that Rensselaer is perceived from the outside as a place where we excel in interactive learning.  It’s a way to foreground our commitment to undergraduate education.


B. Nauman: The purpose of this document is to set priorities, which we shouldn’t do by glossing over questions many of us have about some of these priorities.  Like interactive learning.

K. Fortun: Defining metrics for interactive learning does relate to the broad, future oriented focus of the Plan.  Undergraduate curriculum in all spheres is undergoing dramatic change, changes brought about by the reorganization of ABET, for example; changes in social science education propelled by globalization.  It seems that the Plan should address how our educational programs will respond to these changes and, ideally, how Rensselaer will provide a model for responding to them well.


J. McLaughlin: My plan now is to make a written draft response to the final draft of the Rensselaer Plan, to ask the P&R Committee and the Faculty Senate to review the draft response and to send that draft possibly changed with your input, to President Jackson, Doyle Daves and Dave Haviland before the Tuesday, February 29 meeting.  Revisions to the draft response, if needed, will be made before the March 7 Faculty Senate Meeting.


R. Parsons: I do need to raise one item of new business, regarding the correct way to request corrections to the Faculty Senate Minutes, by people who did not attend the meeting which the Minutes are a record of.  If a correction is desired, the person making the request should attend the next Senate meeting and ask that the request be discussed as a “new business” item.  Different views on a given issue will then be recorded in the Minutes, avoiding the need for the Senate (and the Recording Secretary in particular) to function as final arbiter of the dispute.  In other words, corrections by people who were not at a meeting can not be addressed except by attending a later meeting and bringing the issues up in the time dedicated to “new business.”  Emailing requests for corrections will not suffice.