Faculty Senate Minutes


Original Minutes of 9/12/00


Present: M. Hanna, P. Hajela, B. Parson, M. Embrechts, G. Belfort, J. Erickson, F. Scott, A. Dyson, J. Ackerman, C. Breneman, J. Mitchell, L. Caporael, S. Anderson-Gold, K. Fortun, G. Korenowski, B. Peterson, R. Leifer


Absent:  S. Derby, K. Anderson, P. Boyce, P. Quinn, K. Craig, R. Gutmann


Guests: J. Anderson, F. Scott



Introduction of Provost Peterson

Approval of the Minutes from the April 12, 2000 Meeting

Election of new Senator

Senate Report on AD Hoc Committee for FSPRC

Provost Discusses the Performance Plan Process



Introduction of Provost Peterson

President Hajela called the meeting to order and introduced Provost Bud Peterson. 


Approval of the Minutes from the April 12, 2000 Meeting

The Minutes from the April 12, 2000 meeting were unanimously approved.  The Minutes of the August 29, 2000 meeting are not ready for distribution. 


Election of New Senator

The first item on the agenda is the election of a new senator to fill the position vacated by the resignation of Jorge Haddock.  Jon Erickson has been nominations to fill this position.   He was elected unanimously. 


Senate Report on Ad Hoc Committee for FSPRC

Next was the report on ad hoc committee formation as required to help the Planning & Resource Committee in the Performance Plan critique.   Some names were put forward from individual schools. The slate is expected to be complete by the next meeting.


Sharon Anderson-Gold, Senator stated that the H&SS Council will be this committee from H&SS. She asked why representatives of the PR committee were not charged with creating this committee.  Chair of the Faculty, Mike Hanna, stated that while the P&R committee has representation from each school, this group may not have the grass-root connections that are needed in the current process.  Each ad hoc committee member will have knowledge of the department plan that was submitted, and will provide the Faculty Senate with the department likes/dislikes of the plan.  President Prabhat Hajela said there are senators from each school and that they represent school interests and should be connected to individuals within the school. He added that they would be in a good position to identify people for the ad hoc committees.


Curt Breneman, Chair of the Planning & Resources Committee stated that this is an alternative mechanism; the purpose is to be a sensing network that would be able to head off problems so that alternatives can be suggested before the time schedule becomes too tight.  Prabhat asked if within this school, will this group (the H&SS council) be working with the Dean in preparing this plan?  Sharon Anderson-Gold stated that only in the essence of providing input; other groups will prepare the plan but there are a number of groups who will give input.   She added that the faculty council is aware of their departments and the planning process.  As far as she knows, they are not involved in any executive committee and she asked why not use this as the ad hoc committee?


Curt Breneman said that it is important to make sure the plan is tailored to the needs of the faculty that is involved.  He said that the nature of the process is such that it will please some people and there will be those who are going to be less happy it then others. The idea is to give everyone a chance to put his or her voice in.


Prabhat said that he is hoping that this approach will identify anything controversial in one of the plans at an early stage.  He said that Curt Breneman will have a chance to question the portfolio owners at an appropriate time.  In this way, the Senate can concentrate on items that will be most important to the faculty.


Kim Fortun asked if the communication channel is going to be such that the ad hoc committee members will let it be known that they are a point person and that the PR committee as a whole is open to receive input? It was answered “Yes”.


Curt Breneman suggested that it be published in Rennserv or in the Review to make it well known.

That's the reason for this committee besides the PR Committee.


The Provost Discusses the Performance Plan Process

Provost Bud Peterson stated that he feels the Faculty Senate plays a critical role in the well being of the institution and that they are a body that provides input on a number of issues including playing a key role in the tenure and promotion process and in the review of curriculum request for the undergraduate degree approval by the Faculty Senate.  The ways he would like to see the Faculty Senate become involved are to pursue a chapter of American Association of Universities, which would be a critical role for the Faculty Senate and in the Performance Planning process.  He feels it is a critical aspect of the activities in the coming months.  The Faculty Senate will hopefully play a key role.  He suggests reviewing the guidelines from previous meetings.


The Provost said that the Plan has specific time targets driven to a large extent by the time frame to offer new faculty positions.  He said that department chairs, administration, faculty search committees, and deans need to have some idea and understanding of the budget situation for next year so as to make informed, intelligent decision on new hires. This is one of the key points in this process. If the process waits until March, then it is almost April/May before the budget can be established for the schools/dept.  The opportunity to hire the best faculty is thus missed.  There is an attempt to move this process forward so that an entire year is not lost.  This will be a continuous process and this initial planning process is geared towards a three-year plan.


A decision made this year for three years out are not fixed in concrete.  Goals made this year will be re-evaluated and modified as needed and that it is not a one-time deal.  Each year the plan will be re-evaluated to identify high priority goals, and to see what needs to be done to accomplish goals. The Rensselaer Plan is the goal.  It will identify the target, goals and the vision for the Institution. The Performance Planning process is the road map by which what is outlined in the Rensselaer will be accomplished.


Linnda Caporael, Vice President of the Faculty Senate asked about the changes in tenure standards in relation to interdisciplinary work on campus.  Provost Peterson said he had a meeting with the Dean’s council and the academic deans.  He said they had a discussion on standards for hiring and continuing employment which includes staff, faculty, and administrators. If the goals outlined in the Rensselaer will be accomplished, the expectation of these individuals has to be increased.  This ripples down to higher tenure and promotion standards.


It was asked who is responsible for doing this? The Faculty says this is Provost and Deans job and the Deans say it’s the faculty's job.  It is actually it's everyone’s responsibility.  Where in the tenure process should the highest hurdle be?  The process itself is as follows:

a.              Dept. TM department chair <- dean TM dean committee TM faculty committee/dean committee TM joint committee TM provost TM president TM board of trustee

Where in your mind should the biggest hurdle be?  In my mind it should be at the dept. level.

They are the ones that know the sciences and are in the best position to evaluate the quality of individual work.


How do we handle tenure/promotion situation for non-traditional cases, for example an individual involved in interdisciplinary work.  We need to look back at the faculty and ask what the expectation of these individuals is, and have they met those expectations?  We need to focus on the quality of the work that the individuals are doing.


How can we raise standards?  The way to raise the standards should come from faculty.


Sharon Anderson-Gold asked about the comment on standards coming from departments because departments understand the sciences. She wondered that if once its out of department, will the understanding priority of the discipline still be in place as the case moves through the system?  Provost Peterson stated that the individual committee needs to put together a good package which will include strong reference letters from strong individuals that are leaders in the field.  Most critical in promotion process are the letters the chair solicits. Questions such as who is asked to write, where they are from, how they respond, how direct, these questions carry a lot of weight.  Will this letter carry forward and up the line? I believe it will. Reason for this process is to allow for multiple inputs.  It lets us avoid situations where you have a provost with an engineering degree trying to determine quality of work in an area they are not familiar with.


Senator Gerald Korenowski said that if a department turns down or rejects one of their people, do they get to retain the tenure line to fill with new a hire?  Provost Peterson said that the following individuals have developed a process that deals with vacated faculty positions:

                                Ginny Gregg - Vice President of finance

Curtis Powell - Vice President of Human Resources

Bud Peterson - Provost


A memo was sent by Doyle Daves stating that all vacated faculty positions will revert to the Provost office and redistribution will occur from there.  He said that he does not believe that decisions on tenure should be based on financial resources.  He feels that the decision to not grant someone tenure should not have an adverse budget affected on a department.  Faculty should be able to make decisions without worrying about budgets.  They should not be pushed into making a decision they are not ready to make.  Budget should not be a factor in tenure/promotion decisions. 


Sharon Anderson-Gold asked if these letters are supposed to let the committee get a sense of how the letter writer feels about an individual and whether it should sum up by judgment.  Provost Peterson said the decision to go for letters should be done carefully.  Letters are important especially in area of interdisciplinary work.  Letters for multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary fields should be very precise.  Sharon asked if training is needed to look for the right thing.  Provost Peterson said that the right things need to be asked.  When a letter is asked for, comments need to be asked that identify the individual’s strong points, especially in multi-disciplinary fields.


Georges Belfort said that he agreed that the highest hurl should be at the department level but that there is also the possibility of serious conflicts within the departments, which often taints that process. He recommended that the dean's office and faculty office give a white paper on what the criteria should be for great success.  This would allow the Chairperson to ask the proper question and focus on the end results to give tenure or not to give tenure.


Georges then asked why they should join the American Association of Universities, what it is and why is the Faculty not already in it and what does it take to do it. 


Provost Peterson said that he understands that there are many issues that arise at the dept level.  That’s the reason there is a process and it is not left up to the department to make the decisions and send it to the Board of Trustees for approval.  No one believes that one person or group is capable of making the right decision every time.  In answer to the white paper, he prefers to do it in a form of a question to be asked and that he would like to see the faculty determine the questions to ask. An example of a question is whether graduate students are coming to this institution to work with that individual.  Georges Belfort suggested that this process have feed back.


Provost Peterson said that is precisely the reason he is talking to the deans.  Deans should be communicating to department chairs before decisions are made. The decisions need to be based on the quality of the scholarship of the individuals that are concerned.  Most important job of Provost is to attract, develop and retain the very highest quality faculty possible.


Prabhat said that in the context of remarks that have been made concerning higher standards for promotion/tenure, what can be done as a body collective to try and eliminate the fear complex. It would be good to indicate that if one has a good scholarship and good track record, then there won’t be a discontinuous process in place here.  Provost Peterson said that decisions are made not by a single individual but by a group of individuals by the faculty.  This is not going to change as a step function but a gradual change. This can be a difficult process but it will not change quickly. People must recognize that if they work hard, do good work and have a level of activity, then the right things will happen. 


Kim Fortun asked if it was fair to say your expectation is that higher expectations be incorporated for hiring new people, and to mentor them with reference to higher standards for promotion.  If someone is just about to be tenured now, or just about to be promoted now, what can they expect?  Provost Peterson said that in terms of change in the standards, he thinks that the expectations of new hires will be significantly different from the expectations of today.  Expectation of people coming up for tenure and promotion right now is not going to be the same level as new hires. 


Kim Fortun asked what faculty can expect of this planning process and how soon will more of the inner structure be seen.  Provost Peterson said that he thinks very soon.  He added that there have already been some changes: e.g. Vice President of research is new position. He thinks there will be visually noticeable changes soon that can be seen already.  Like some of the initial changes that resulted from Rensselaer Plan, (The remodeling of the Union, the Mueller Center) some changes that are not so visible (ex:  13 classrooms wired for laptop computers, additional resources made available to promote research activity).  He thinks the Performance Planning Process is going to allow the faculty and administration to sort through what we're doing.  Do I believe we are going to be able to do everything we are currently doing, and still accomplish the goals in the Rensselaer Plan?  NO! Who will need to decide what we are going to do and not do, this is part of the Performance Planning process.


Kim Fortun asked if there will be an organizational shift.  Provost Peterson said: Do I believe we are going to be able to do everything we are currently doing and still accomplish the goals in the Rensselaer Plan?  NO, what is it that we need to do differently?  That is part of this performance planning process, that not a decision the President nor I will make, this is a decision we will have to make collectively.


Kim Fortun said that in speaking of things that will not be done anymore, would areas to be cut include things that are demanding of the faculty’s time including teaching undergraduate.  Provost Peterson said that he means it in the broad sense.  He said that he is not saying that the faculty is not working hard.  He believes they are already working hard and it is just a matter of prioritizing and time.  Not everyone’s priority list will be the same and not everyone’s priorities need to be the same but a total sense of absence cannot be had in a single major area and have the expectation of being successful.  Do I except someone who just did research to be tenured?  No!  Do I except someone who just did teaching be tenured? 


Provost Peterson said that the fact that the Rensselaer Plan says the Institute is going to focus on biotech does not mean everything else we do well will be stopped.  The Rensselaer Plan wants to double the research volume. That means the people doing research in areas that have nothing to do with biotech or IT will still be doing research. It doesn't mean that if someone is not doing research in biotech they need to go some place else.  There are decisions that will have to be made. The process by which we get to that decision is the performance plan.  We want to move forward in an area and that means we have to make changes. It does not mean everything else will be thrown out.


Mike Hanna asked whether the people in the pipeline are afraid that they will be evaluated at Promotion & Tenure time on the basis of their choice of field as well as the quality.  Provost Peterson said that those decisions need to be based on quality and it must be a fundamental first step.  What we can really do well needs to be decided and then focus on those things.   We are not going to quit doing everything else - we now just add to it. 


Kim Fortun said that to add to the comment that retaining good faculty needs to be thought about, he believes that maintaining an overall sense of community needs to be achieved.  The Provost said that the process is made up of three components:  Attract, Develop, Retain.


The what and why about the AAU was asked for clarification.  Provost Peterson said that the AAU is a number of different types of Institutions.  It's a list he believes Rensselaer should aspire to be on.  New hires look at this list before deciding on employment.  So, if we want the best, we need to let everyone know we are the best and this is one way of showing it.  This group has high standards of scholarship and standards of fair treatment.  It just seems like a group we would like to be associated with.



Meeting adjourned 4:10 p.m.