Faculty Senate Meeting
August 29, 2000


To Original Minutes of 8/29/2000


Present: P. Hajela, S. Derby, M. Hanna, K. Fortun, R. Parsons, R. Leifer, L. Caporael, M. Embrechts, K. Anderson, G. Belfort, C. Brenneman, J. Mitchell, G. Gabriele, F. Scott, B. Baeslack

 

Original Minutes from August 29, 2000

 

Agenda

Discussion on 2000-2001 Activities and Issues

††††††††††† Communication

††††††††††† Governance

††††††††††† Curriculum/Student Issues

††††††††††† Human Resource

Committee Charges

Rensselaer Plan Commitments

Performance Planning Guidelines

New Business

 

Discussion on 2000-2001 Activities and Issues

Prabhat Hajela, President of the Faculty Senate, stated that the Executive Committee met recently to outline issues that should be addressed this year. The Faculty Senate is charged to look at all faculty issues affecting the common purposes of Rensselaer.Faculty includes all tenured or tenure track faculty, research faculty, and members of the library.In order for the executive committee to be more responsive to faculty concerns, the Executive Committee has agreed to hold its meeting in the different schools. The Faculty Senate Executive Committee meets every other week (the week between Senate meetings), and he has asked that the Executive Committee hold their meetings in each of the five schools separately. There will be a closed session with the Executive Committee and will then open the meeting with an invitation to members of the faculty of that school to come and share their thoughts.This is on an experimental basis. It is unknown how many people will show up, but think that this process should be tried in order to directly solicit information from the faculty.In addition to the five schools, meeting with clinical faculty and with members of the library staff will also be scheduled.President Hajela asked Fran Scott to convey this thought to the library staff.He then listed some of the issues identified by the Executive Committee and asked for other suggestions.

The issues identified by the Executive Committee can be listed under four categories:Communication, Governance, Curriculum/Student Issues, and Human Resources.

 

Communication

A WebCT-based electronic voting system was introduced last year which was reasonably successful. President Hajela suggested that this vehicle be extended to solicit faculty input on issues of importance. He suggested that a web presence also be established and that he has already had preliminary discussions on this with John Kolb.He hopes to have the Faculty Senate homepage available soon and that it should contain items of interest to the faculty at-large as well as a posting of the Minutes. Another issue of importance has to with evaluation of the administrators. There are administrators such as the Deans of different schools who are periodically evaluated by the Institute. Bud Peterson informs him that the Institute could use the Faculty Senate input in addition to other material that they develop for such reviews. More importantly, there are some administrators who are not evaluated on a routine basis, and the faculty Senate initiated discussion on this subject last semester. He suggested that Bob Parsons speak to this at a later time. Another issue of concern is with the consistency of faculty performance evaluations and with the mechanisms used in different schools.This concern is further heightened by how faculty evaluations will take place in cross-disciplinary programs such as Information and/or Bio-Technology.

Governance

At the top of the list is the Faculty Senateís role in the performance planning process. Curt Breneman (Planning and Resources Committee) will outline a procedure that was discussed for his committee to follow.The executive committee also feels that the Senate should be involved in developing focus projects for promoting Rensselaerís overall mission.In Prabhatís discussion with Bud Peterson, the idea of Rensselaer applying for entry to the American Association of Universities (AAU) was brought up. He stated that he would like to see the Senate undertake this project if it is acceptable to the group.

 

Curriculum/Student Issues

President Hajela said that he would like to continue to monitor the scheduling guidelines.There is still one semesterís experience at the end of this term, and he would like to solicit information from both faculty and students to feed to Garyís committee. He would like to help in a constructive manner to improve the scheduling process.Kevin Craig and he have discussed the role of the Curriculum Committee in taking a look at the 4x 4 curriculum as well as the use of laptop computers. They will invite this committee to develop metrics to evaluate the success of these programs. They would also like for them to explore/study new initiatives that will keep the Faculty Senate at the leading edge of universities involved with innovative instructional paradigms. He has asked the Curriculum Committee to be proactive in proposing new ideas.

Human Resources

At the top of this list is the issue of Clinical faculty and their representation in the Senate.The Faculty Senate is also interested in Senate participation from colleagues at the Hartford campus.President Hajela has initiated some contact with Heidi Ellis who is the representative from the Hartford campus.The Faculty Senate would really like to see a consensus emerge on this issue this year. He has also been in touch with Deborah Nazon who is coordinating campus efforts at promoting diversity Ė the Senate should be involved in these efforts and the Senate will hear from Deborah later in the year on this issue. The Faculty Senate also has to do some bookkeeping activities in terms of the faculty handbook.Another subject of interest is that of faculty salaries.Prabhat has been told that the new VP of Human Resources is going to undertake a review of faculty salaries to see how it compares with other universities that are reviewed as competitors. Prabhat thinks that the Senate input in this matter will be important.

 

Committee Charges

The Planning and Resources Committee is going to have a full load in handling the performance planning process. The Curriculum Committee is charged with developing an assessment of the 4x4 curriculum, the use of laptop computers, and to study new innovative initiatives in undergraduate education.Prabhat will be asking the chairs of these committees to come in and make periodic presentations to the Senate to see how their plans are shaping up.The Promotion and Tenure Committee is asked to re-examine the procedure by which appeals cases are handled. If the case is turned down in the P&T committee, an appeal will come back to that committee at a later stage, albeit with new information. There is a need to be proactive on how the promotion and tenure criteria will evolve during this transitional period for Rensselaer. Both the President and Provost have brought up the issue of Ďraising the barí; it would be useful for the P & T Committee to take a look at the existing metrics and see how they stand relative to schools with which Rensselaer competes. An internal examination would be more useful rather than having ideas imposed from outside.

Senator Georges Belfort stated the he is surprised that President Jackson has made a major thrust to try to build back graduate education, and thereís no mention of graduate education.He thinks this should be part of the curriculum.President Hajela stated he agreed and it should be in both the curriculum and the performance planning.Georges suggested that it is very important to focus on graduate education and research as the university has been slipping for some years.Prabhat stated that the idea of looking at ways of reducing graduate tuition was brought up. Provost Peterson was specifically interested in exploring Faculty Senate input on how Rensselaer can lower the cost of graduate education to the PIís.

 

Rensselaer Plan Commitments

Senator Richard Leifer stated that in the Rensselaer Plan, there are 144 or 142 commitment statements, and over the summer, the senior administration whittled those down to a smaller number of major commitments. Among them, are hiring world-class faculty.He thinks it would be helpful if what the Senate does is supportive and consistent with the commitment statements that are forming the basis of the performance plans throughout the Institute.He suggests that the Faculty Senate be seen as consistent with those.He added that it might be useful to look at the commitment statements and see what implications they have for the faculty and faculty interests.One of them is the revision of promotion and tenure standards.He thinks it would be important to have input into that process.Prabhat stated that the President is going to have a series of town meetings, the first one of which is slated for September 7, at which she will identify the priority list. He agreed with Richard about the Senate being supportive, but that support should develop from discussions in the Senate.

 

Performance Planning Guidelines

Prabhat stated that this leads to the performance planning guidelines schedule.As informed by the Provost, a draft of performance plans from each portfolio will be available October 27th, with cross-cutting reviews within the academic portfolios taking place between November 10th and 21st.The performance plans will then be sent to the Presidentís office December 1st.The cabinet will meet with portfolio honors for review of these December 4th to the 20th and there will be a series of meetings in between. In essence, the resource allocation and overall prioritization of resources will be completed by February 2nd of 2001.Curt and Prabhat had a meeting with Bud Peterson where he asked us to identify what the faculty Planning and Resources Committee would be doing with respect to the performance plans.Both the President and the Provost feel that this committee should be looking at both the process as well as the content of the performance plans. We have developed an outline plan that Curt will present to this group for critique.Curt Brenneman, Chair of the Planning and Resources Committee stated that timing was discussed during a meeting with Provost Peterson and it appeared that there was not enough time for proper faculty response.He added that the idea was that a way of getting a preview of where things are going be developed in order to allow time to react.

 

Prabhat added that it was agreed upon by Curt and him that the size of the Planning and Resources Committee be expanded to get the task accomplished.They also want to appoint an ad hoc committee in each school and academic function.For example, the School of Engineering may have representatives from each of the departments who are part of an ad hoc committee which serves as a liaison between portfolio owners (deans of that school) and the FSPRC. They also serve as a link between the faculty in general and the individuals who are responsible for preparing the plans.Dean Baeslack stated that a committee is being appointed right now and will include department chairs and other faculty.

 

Prabhat stated that the idea is for the ad hoc committee to interact with this group and collect information about the performance plans which may be useful to the planning and resources committee.He would like the Senators from specific schools to be proactive in helping us and the planning and resources committee identify people who would serve on this ad hoc committee.This is something we really need to get done quickly.The FSPRC will meet with the individual portfolio owners and Provost as necessary. Once the Performance Plans are released, the FSPRC will participate in a retreat with the portfolio owners. With the help of the ad hoc committees, however, the FSPRC will have some sense of faculty perspective on Performance plans.The FSPRC will then critique the performance plans for presentation to the Senate. ††He added that he was not clear about the mechanism for this committee to interact with the Vice Presidential divisions and that there are some which do involve faculty interests.He thinks that whatever is pertinent to the faculty will emerge as part of performance plans in individual schools. However, the plans from the VP of Research should be subject to a review by the faculty committee for planning and resources.

 

Curt Brenneman stated that a mechanism is needed by which someone can represent the different departmentsí interest without divulging anything considered confidential. There are two Senators from each school and they need to identify those members who will report back to them. An ad hoc committee could condense information for the Senators, the Senators will report to the P&R core, and this would give the group an idea of where things are going early in the process.From this input, the P&R core will prepare its report to the full Senate.The difference is that either the P&R could meet with ad-hoc committee members or the Senators are going to be involved.†† There was some additional criteria that was being considered. In particular, members of each of the departments or school committees should not (if possible) be involved in the administration of that department, which is why Chair involvement should be discouraged.It is important to have people who are not specifically involved in the performance plan generation in order to get a sense of where things are going without any vested interest.

 

Vice President Linnda Caporael asked Richard Leifer is there is a list of the whittled down commitments of the 144.Richard Leifer stated that he got a list of 10 or 12.He added that they would be institute-wide.Linnda asked why she cannot get a copy of it and that it seems different school have different policies on doing things. Itís not that the Senate should tell the schools to standardize, but that the schools should be encouraged to be as open as they can at appropriate times, which would mean more access to information and more participation in determining which directions to go.

 

Recording Secretary, Kim Fortun stated that there is also the issue of those decisions that may have been made and that he has heard just informal discussion of those. He asked what it meant when they hear that decisions got Institute-level support.The same is true of these external committee processes for IT and BT. He is on the IT committee, and he is not exactly sure what the input of the document they are producing will be and he does not know what the circulation plan is.

 

Curt Brenneman stated that the Biotech committee will have a presentation of the external committee report to the biotech committee later in the week. In todayís Review, there was an announcement for some decisions to be made for resources for bio-informatics prior to the report being issued.Prabhat Hajela agreed that there are a couple of things that need to be ironed out including the procedure itself.Curt Brenneman added that he also feels that the performance planning is much more significant than the original Rensselaer Plan generation. From discussions with Bud Peterson, the importance of the February meeting is very clear Ė they will allocate resources according to the plans. With regards to the P&R mechanism, Senators were wanted to identify key individuals within the departments who will be in tune with what is going on in those departments at the planning stage.We had decided to discourage chair participation, and to have another voice; typically these plans develop in a hierarchical mode. The faculty provides ideas to the Chair who will then condense them and send them out to the dean, where another revision takes place. We need to know what got left out. The Senators, we thought were a good condensation point because we will essentially have 5 or 6 ad hoc people who will be talking to each Senator or pair of Senators.

 

Prabhat reiterated his suggestion for using the ad-hoc committee directly is that some schools do not have as large a representation (number of Senators) for them to be able to put together all the ideas.The Senators will be charged to identify these individuals and will be asked for participation.

 

Dean Baeslack stated that one thing that is important is that each of the schools develop a process to work through this in a different way.He just had a department meeting with his chairs last week. He suggested that the time-line be reviewed to times and points where a sub-group of Senators should meet with a sub-group of chairs, or the dean, or whoever you want to meet with, and make some assessments at that point.

 

Senator Mark Embrechts stated that the task is for them, as the Faculty Senate, to represent the interests of the institution and the interests of the faculty, and to allow their voices to be heard, particularly on the procedures. His preference would be that this sort of thing happens over a period of time with respect to hiring priorities or maybe targeting buy-outs or something.

Chair Linnda Caporael asked if it was possible for the committee to develop a list of general criteria that might be helpful in evaluating the plan and whether the plan is modifiable.She also asked if there are plans to transition faculty if thatís necessary.Curt Brenneman responded that input will be solicited.Linnda added that she thinks that one of the advantages of this discussion is that it is just raising things that she had not thought about at all in terms of the performance plan.She would like to be sure that these items are included in how we think about and evaluate them.Curt stated that as has been done in the past, departments have been asked to prioritize their activities, and it is always difficult for the very reason that Rensselaer does not operate as a coherent business unit.One of the things to come out of this is that representation is the most important thing.If everyone feels that they have been heard then priorities are at least represented.

 

Dean Baeslack said that he would make their plan available for distribution.He will be sending a memo to all of his faculty about the process, where they are going and how it is going to work, including committees and timelines.

 

Curt Brenneman stated the one thing not brought up is that it can be done at various levels of confidentiality.Obviously, during certain phases of planning, the draft will not want to be shared.Those things can be integrated in the core P&R report and the report to the Executive Committee.Dean Baeslack stated that this process will happen very fast.He added that each of his working groups will develop their final presentations, and that could quite possibly happen in a four hour meeting, two days before he sits down with his staff and listens to the leadership input.It is just going to be very compressed; that is why it is important to get these schedules and try to figure out what the best time is to insert yourself into that process.

 

The Motion

Curt Brenneman made the following motion:I propose that Senators from each school identify members of the departments within the school that can act as representatives to, or as part of the ad-hoc committee that will be involved with planning and resources.

 

Curt stated that he had originally thought that the senators form the ad-hoc committee, so the initial plan was that the information from the task force members, would flow to the Senators, and the Senators would then report to the core P & R committee, as a member of the ad-hoc committee.Prabhat agreed but thought that some schools do not have sufficient numbers of Senators to do that.

 

Mike Hanna stated that one of the things that should be suggested is that the Senate members from that school immediately meet with deans to see how the mechanism is going to work in that particular school, and then either one or both of the Senators serve to organize the group.Curt stated that the major idea of the motion was to generate a representation of the departments using the Senators as contact individuals to help generate this.Mike noted that the motion does not disallow the Senate members from participating in it.

 

Prabhat suggested that a deadline for completion of the task be designated.He felt that greater interaction was needed with the dean in each school.Provost Peterson could give the engineering Senators a time frame.Richard Leifer suggested that a memo from the Faculty Senate be sent to each of the Deans advising them of what the process is so that when he goes to the dean, it is not seen as just an ad hoc thing that he is doing, but that it is a consistent activity throughout the campus and that they are participating with this ad hoc committee in the same way that all the others are.

 

Dean Baeslack interjected that this will actually be coming out of the Provostís office, that the Provost will develop this guideline and that he will show it to all the deans.Prabhat added that he was going to do that yesterday except that he said he wanted to hold off and get input from todayís meeting before he did that.

 

A vote was taken and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Richard Leifer suggested that someone from the Faculty Senate initiate a discussion with Curtis Powell. There is a concern about faculty positions and what happens to people who are not going to find themselves in high priority positions, and what the response of the university is going to be for faculty who suddenly find themselves disenfranchised.And whether there is a plan for dealing with the issues that come up.There needs to be a plan for the people who find themselves in low priority positions and are they kept, what kind of incentives or selective early retirement is offered.He suggested that he does not think the administration has thought through this thoroughly.

 

President Hajela stated that the Executive Committee has thought about asking Curtis to attend one of their meetings and answer some questions and perhaps lead to presentation of what his office was going to be doing in various areas. The Executive Committee has also discussed bringing both the Provost and the Vice President for Human Resources up to speed on where the clinical faculty issues stand. Both of these individuals are from the outside and there is a lot of history that needs to be discussed.

 

Kim Fortun stated that in the process that Curt is initiating, he thinks that they should be sensitive to having junior faculty participate because he thinks that it is easy to hear this conversation as more senior scholars with intense research fields that suddenly are not relevant anymore.Younger researchers are equally as important in terms of a baseline atmosphere; they are not likely to be doing something obsolete in terms of what the broader research community is thinking if they just got out of graduate school.

 

Prabhat stated that one of the things that was not discussed was the size of the committees.It is something that probably warrants discussion.He asked what size is good and at what point does it become too large.Mike Hanna stated that if every department is not represented, there is a significant chance that some perspective may be missed.He added that it is important to think about their colleagues and decide who would be recommended.

 

Richard Leifer stated that he does not think that the majority of the faculty know the importance of performance plans.He added that he thinks that once it, there is going to be an uproar.He suggested that the Faculty Senate plan for that such as who the faculty should go to, how people can raise concerns and who the contact person is in individual schools.The evaluation process needs to be clarified so that people have some assurance that their concerns will be heard and considered.

 

Prabhat suggested that this be part of the ďSenate Executive Committee ListensĒ exercise when the Faculty Senate goes to the schools.A memo will be sent ahead of the scheduled time so as to get as much participation as possible.

 

Kurt Anderson asked about the time frame.Prabhat responded that the Provost suggested it have a short time frame.He did not think it sounded like there is time to put this off until the next time the faculty gets together.Richard Leifer stated that the performance plans themselves are to be available October 27th .That is when the draft plans will be available for critique.The committee needs to start at least a month before that, because that is when things start to take shape.Right now the directives are being issued by the deans to the department chairs to provide input and faculty is going to be involved in this in the usual manner Ė perhaps at faculty meetings.Some ideas will start to percolate in the next two weeks or so.He felt that is was also important for each of the Senators to identify with their deans as to what the timelines are.Prabhat stated that by the beginning of the week, the Senators from the particular schools should be talking to each other and to the deans to learn of the process and timelines.

Linnda Caporael asked Richard about his comment that the faculty are not aware of the performance plans.She asked what the implications are that may come out of this and also, if the faculty member is not in a targeted high priority area, then one could face a life time of employment of having fairly low faculty salary raises. All this because the faculty member may be in the wrong area and it is quite independent of the quality of their work.Richard Leifer responded that they are moving to a zero-base budgeting which is different than what was done before.What was done before is the priorities are funded and then when additional things are added, those are funded marginally.But, what the President wants to do now is have all the activities in the school in rank order from highest to lowest priority, and then allocate resources.Once resources are gone, a line is drawn and anything underneath that does not get any resources.He felt that it did not have to do necessarily with faculty salary, rather with what activities in the institute will receive support and which will not.

 

Kurt Anderson said that in regards to Richardís comments and what Kim had said earlier, the comments of younger faculty members need to be considered.He stated that a lot of young faculty members are scared stiff.They see themselves coming out of graduate school working on what they consider a hot topic, and they see no start up funds are going to be available for work.No backing from the institute on any of their proposals, because it is not what somebody over in the Troy building chose as a hot topic.A number of the young faculty have very little faith in the hot topics that have been chosen in the past.

 

Richard Leifer added that as far as he can see, if the process works properly each dean becomes an advocate for the programs within each school.It is really the schoolís responsibility to decide what they are going to support and what they are not going to support and to get everybody to understand those and that the decisions are not made in the Troy building.Kurt Anderson thought that Curtis Powell needs to be involved and the young faculty members need to be made aware that they are being considered.†† They are very concerned that some Vice President will decide on some area, and then any hopes of getting support to generate a good proposal will evaporate.Kim Fortun disagreed and stated that in the absence of facts, there are a lot of rumors and they generally reflect the deepest worries and fears. ††

 

Richard Leifer stated that one of the other items that came out of the Rensselaer Plan are things that are going to be given up or are willing to get rid of.Kurt Anderson said that it is important to state that junior faculty could have been put in the position of being afraid that they are going to be cut. This is certainly not productive for anybody.The other thing that the Institute and the administration need to remember is that the job market out there is really good in a lot of these areas and Rensselaer has some really good junior faculty.If things are done foolishly, some of these faculty members will be lost since they will get fed up.Kim Fortun added that it will not only be junior faculty who get fed up.Kurt Anderson added that faculty expect a certain atmosphere for research and he thinks it will affect all faculty if there is a flight of people who are so committed to their research that they actually want to do it.

 

New Business

Mike Hanna stated that the schedule for this semesterís Senate meetings is complete.He suggested that thought be put into the unique niches in the scheduling process which may warrant the time ofSenate meetings.For example, Wednesday afternoon is theoretically light.Tuesday afternoon from 4-6 is a time where classes cannot be scheduled without special permission.He asked whether the historical time period for Senate meetings be changed for the spring semester and it will have to be decided on before the spring classes are scheduled, which is in about six weeks.