Original Minutes of Faculty Senate Meeting - April 23, 2003

Return to revised Minutes of 4/23/2003

Attendees:  Jun Abrajano, Kurt Anderson, Tom Apple, Terry Blanchet, Linnda Caporael, Michael Danchak, Jeff Durgee, Ellen Esrock, Gary Gabriele, Cheryl Geisler, Ron Gutmann, Jack Mahoney, Achille Messac, Bruce Nauman, Jonathan Newell, President Peter Persans, Provost Bud Peterson, Bob Sands, Don Steiner, Jim Stodder.


President Persans called the meeting to order at 2:10 pm, asking for standing committee reports.  He stated the Election Committee report would be given at the end of the meeting to announce the election results.  There were no other outstanding committee reports.


President Persans introduced Provost Bud Peterson who presented the 2004 Performance Plan for the Office of the Provost, a report on the Academic Affairs of the Institute.  (PowerPoint presentation)


The Provost expanded upon the "Enabling Functions" of his Office, and his Portfolio's Highest Priorities, first the Research Enterprise.  One of the key initiatives in trying to expand the Research Enterprise is to complete the searches for the six constellations; three in the Biotech area and three in the IT area.  Two of the senior constellation positions have been filled, Fred Schubert and Bob Linhardt, in IT for future chips and biocatalysis in metabolic engineering, respectively.  Candidates are being interviewed for the junior constellation chairs in the IT area.  The Department of Physics, and ECSE are also interviewing candidates for those positions.  Progress is being made in the terms of the additional senior hires.  However, we had one candidate withdraw, and realistically we are looking at three of the senior constellations being filled by July 1st.


Expanding the Research Enterprise - Tuition Waivers:  The Provost noted that a policy was distributed to the Deans regarding Tuition Waivers.  Tom Apple and his office administered a total of 550 tuition waivers and a hierarchical process for allocating those tuition waivers has been established.  We have substantially increased the number of tuition waivers we provide in order to fully support all the graduate students.


Expanding the Research Enterprise - Transition of Faculty Composition:  The Provost has asked the Deans to review the composition of their faculty, to determine if that composition is appropriate and if we have the right balance of tenure-track, clinical, research and adjunct faculty.  We have over the course of the past two years transitioned seven clinical positions to tenure-track positions.  It is important to recognize we are talking about transitioning "positions" not people.


Expanding the Research Enterprise - Research Revitalization:  These are grants that are administered out of the Provost's office.  The goal is to help faculty who have a desire and ability to become actively involved in research through some initial support, and that support is focused primarily on the support of graduate students.  This is not to be confused with Vice President of Research, Art Sanderson's seed funding program, which he administers out of his office, interdisciplinary and programs that are strategically focused on biotech and IT.  This program is directed at faculty members who are not currently active in research, but would like to reenergize or revitalize their research programs.


Expanding the Research Enterprise - Cost Sharing of Proposals:  We have greatly expanded, over the course of almost three years now, the contributions and support for cost sharing on proposals. 


Enhancing Undergraduate Education - These are Vice Provost Gary Gabriele's initiatives, and he will talk about updating the Core Curriculum a little later in the meeting.  There was a task force this year on the advising process that prepared a report that has been accepted by President Jackson.  The task force has been asked to take steps to implement those recommendations.  There is a search underway for a Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship across the curriculum.  We have a search committee working on that, and a candidate is coming back for a third visit.  Some progress is being made there in terms of how we can infuse entrepreneurship throughout all the programs so that every undergraduate has some exposure to entrepreneurship during their stay at Rensselaer.


In expanding the role of Graduate Education, as indicated in the Provost's response to the Faculty Senate's response regarding the Graduate Tuition Policy, we are going to continue to monitor the outcomes of the policy (both intended and unintended outcomes) to try to track our students to see how they are progressing through their programs.  Hopefully by this August, a better, automated tracking system, being developed by the CIO, will help staff in the individual departments to go to a common database and enter a graduate student's name, and funding source, and spreadsheets and worksheets will automatically give more complete history on students.  At this time, this information is being done by hand for 1500 graduate students.


The Provost touched on each of the Graduate Education slides, Strengthen Graduate Recruiting, Program Quality and Visibility Improvements, Develop New Programs in Strength Areas, Broaden and Improve the Student Experience, and Create Platforms to Increase Quality and Impact of the Graduate Education programs.


In terms of strengthening enrollment, there is a key focus on trying to recruit a freshmen class of 1200 students, which would keep us on target for our steady state value of 5000 undergraduate students.  The quality of the freshmen applicants is up substantially this year.  We will have a much higher number of Rensselaer Medalists in the fall.  We had 222 this past fall, and we should exceed that by a significant number next fall.  The reason for this is the increase in the funding for the Rensselaer Medalist from $10,000 per year to $15,000 per year; so it is a $60,000 scholarship, a substantial increase.  The response from the students has been very positive.


By the start of the fall semester it is hoped a new Vice Provost for Institute Diversity will be selected to strengthen the Office of Institute Diversity, and enhance overall diversity at Rensselaer.  The Provost's principal focus is on diversity of the faculty.  There are 385 tenured or tenure-track faculty today, of that 57 are women; we've hired 12 women within the past two years.  However the downside is we lost 6 of them, so we have a net increase of 6.  In terms of ethnic minorities we've increased the number from 12 to 21 in the past two years.  So, we are making some progress although the numbers are small.  We have a goal this next year that the Deans are aware of, and I hope the faculty is aware of (it's in the Performance Plans) that half of the faculty positions that we will be filling in the next year, and there are 41 at this point, will be diversity hires.  They will be either women, or other underrepresented minorities.  This is a rather ambitious goal, but one that is necessary in order for us to have a faculty that will reflect the diversity of the students that we teach and the environment in which we live.


The Provost considers the most important function of his office is the ability to attract, develop and retain the very highest quality faculty possible.  He has been extremely pleased that over the course of the past several years we have lost very few faculty.  We are bringing in large numbers of very highly qualified faculty, we're working with the faculty who are here, to expand the opportunities for those who are already very successful and provide opportunities for those who wish to become more successful.  But we are not losing faculty to other institutions, and that is a very positive sign.


Regarding oversight of Academic Portfolios, President Jackson mentioned at her Town Meeting, that we are moving forward on many fronts.  One of the reasons we are able to do that is that we have a very effective and a very efficient process by which we allocate resources.  At times it seems cumbersome, at times it seems overly restrictive, but if you look around nationally and ask yourself what type of faculty renewal is going on at other institutions, what type of faculty growth is going on, you won't find many institutions where it has reached the level that we have at Rensselaer. 


At the end of his presentation the Provost asked for questions.  Cheryl Geisler, Vice President of the Faculty Senate, questioned if the Institute Diversity hire has taken longer than originally anticipated.  She asked the Provost to outline some of the issues that have come up.


The Provost replied that the process was initiated in August or September, the expectation and goal was to have somebody in place for the fall.  "We still have that expectation and goal but you are right, it's moving a little slower than I would have liked.  What we would have liked was to have candidates in here in the February timeframe and be at a point where we had identified somebody that could start.  We are not there; I think there are a number of reasons for that.  One was it took us a little longer to define the position, and what we wanted that individual to do.  We greatly expanded the scope of that position.  This position has all of the functions that the office formerly held, when it was an Assistant Provost, but also has some expectations in terms of, I'll say 'grant writing,' is probably the best way to phrase it.  There are a tremendous number of opportunities for Rensselaer as an Institution to solicit and attract external funds to support diversity initiatives.  We have not as an Institution taken advantage of those to the extent we should, and we tried to build that into the description of the position."


Vice Provost, and Dean of Graduate Education Tom Apple, stated "very late in the process we decided that in order to get the best candidates possible we ought to employ an external search, and that slowed us down a little bit.  But on the other hand we are likely to get far better candidates."  Provost Peterson added that within two weeks we'll probably be bringing candidates in, so we're about two months behind.  Geisler asked if there would be an open presentation or some opportunity to meet or interact with the candidates.  The Provost suggested that possibly there should be an open forum to the faculty, and he will discuss it with Dean Apple.


Ron Gutmann noted the Provost mentioned a number of 5000 steady state under-graduates, and wanted to know what the steady state plan for Graduate Students is; what is the number today; and how long do you think it will take to get there?  The Provost replied that the only number he could quote for Graduate Student steady state is what is posited in the Rensselaer Plan, and that was to double the number of Ph.D. graduates.  At that time it was about 125 per year, so it's looking at a steady state graduation rate of about 250 Ph.D. students.  I don't think that we've identified a target number for steady state graduate students because it so heavily dependent upon the research volume.  One thing that has become apparent is that when the goal of doubling the number of Ph.D. graduates every year was established, there was also a concomitant goal of $100 million dollars in terms of externally funded research.  I think there is a realization now that $100 million dollars won't allow us to graduate 250 Ph.D. students a year.


Tom Apple added that as a first milestone we would like to have at least as many students supported externally as internally. We have 263 graduate students supported on externally funded research programs.  Apple furthered that the first goal should be to try to shoot for 550 external supported to match the 550 internal.  In order to do that, we have to get our funding up near $80 or $90 million external.  To be honest, to meet the goals of the plan, which was to double the number of Ph.D.'s to 200-250, schools that do that have typically about $180 to $200 million in external research funding.


Gutmann responded, could "part of the reason be that we also have very ambitious graduate goals and objectives, plus a very wide undergraduate program compared to some of the schools that may be in your comparison list, at least within Engineering?"


Provost Peterson replied, "The student-to-faculty ratio is something that we are working on.  At Carnegie Mellon it's maybe 11/1 or 12/1 in terms of undergraduate student/faculty ratio.  Here it's 16/1.  It's going down, but not terribly fast.  But it is going down because we are growing the faculty, and that is an issue.  But what Tom is saying is the external support drives the number of graduate students; and the number of undergraduates student/faculty ratio, may drive the faculty's ability to attract external support.


Linnda Caporael, Chair of the Faculty Senate asked if the Provost expected the Institute Diversity position to be filled by a person who is a faculty member or has been a faculty member, or someone with Human Resource or Personnel type of background.  Tom Apple asked to make a comment that, originally, the thought was to use a faculty member in a tenured slot, with a lot of proposal writing experience, and they are still considering this.  However, there are a lot of people that do this position very well that don't come from that background, Georgia Tech being a classic example.  We have not made it an absolute requirement.  The Provost added that the ad refers to the appointment as 'tenured full-professor is preferred.'  We actually talked about this at some length.  "Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer put together a proposal that was not funded, two years ago, and we invited in a panel to help us.  There were probably about six people on that panel that I met with and they talked with us and they reviewed our new submission which is currently under review and they were people in these types of positions at other institutions.  Initially I was leaning very heavily toward someone who would have a faculty appointment.  I think I was swayed substantially by my interaction with this group only one of which was in a faculty position.  There are pros and cons to both but we are going to find the person who can do the best job."


Linnda Caporael pointed out that the FS has recommended that Chairs have some discretionary funds that could be built into their budgets.  She asked, "How is it that the Administration is now able to take advantage of funding opportunities that are not part of the Performance Plan, but that emerge, and that require some kind of quick action to exploit that opportunity?"


Provost Peterson answered, "A couple of questions...first, I know that the Faculty Senate has talked about contingency funds at Faculty Senate meetings and a recommendation was put forward that each Dean have 5% of their annual budget in terms of discretionary money.  For the School of Engineering, that's $1 million dollars, and that's a lot of discretionary money.  So I think we have to be realistic about what that amount is.  The Deans have an opportunity in the Performance Planning process, to build discretionary funds in as part of their budget.  Two of the Schools have done this...Science and I think the Lally School have formal tag lines in the budgeting process for contingency funds.  I think we can and have responded to a number of unique opportunities.  We don't revise the budget, but in a quarterly forecast process we give permission for organization's portfolios to expend funds beyond their budget.  We have a budget, and we adhere to that budget, then the Schools can request permission to take new initiatives in terms of summer offerings, additional opportunities to teach courses or short courses, opportunities to hire faculty, etc.  So we have mechanisms to do that and I think we have been able to be responsive to many of those.  We can't respond to everything that everybody wants, but I don't think we're missing a lot of opportunities because of the rigor of the process."


Peter Persans thanked the Provost for his presentation and asked Vice Provost Gary Gabriele to present on the Institute Core Curriculum.  (PowerPoint slides posted to the Faculty Senate website.)


Cheryl Geisler mentioned that she had a read a previous version of this Core Curriculum proposal and a question she had was that it seemed the proposal didn't really focus on outcomes, but it presumed an existence of a core curriculum.  "The mandate is to tell each program to insure that those outcomes are met for their students...why then does there have to be a core curriculum?"


Gary Gabriele remarked that certainly at the committee's starting point the assumption was made that there is a core curriculum.  Most schools have a core curriculum for the reasons that I stated early on, to provide a foundation for the disciplines to build upon.  There are logistically good reasons to do it, to satisfy a large number of students needs.


Geisler added, "Is there a reason the School of Architecture couldn't propose a mechanism for the students to meet the Communication goals within the School of Architecture?  So that every program takes care of its outcomes, which means there is no core?"


Gabriele answered that was an "unqualified 'yes'...if a program can show that they can achieve the outcomes that we've outlined here... and again, by not saying 'courses' and leaving it as 'outcomes,' could Architecture say this is how we want to meet these Communications requirements?  Would any of those courses necessarily be in the Communications Department?  They may not be, but they would have to pass scrutiny. 'Scrutiny,' meaning approval by the Core Curriculum Assessment Committee and the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee.


Provost Peterson added that what is advantageous about this approach is that it would have been easy for this committee to come up with a series of courses...but what they've done is an approach that says figure out a way that you can meet the outcomes that we expect and come forward with proposals.  There is obviously some oversight from a curricular content and there is also some oversight from a budgetary perspective.  "If H&SS wants to hire a biologist to teach a biology course, then the Dean is going to have to somehow justify that that is an optimal use of resources, and there are some other factors that come in here and the Core Curriculum Committee would hopefully have some input, too."


President Persans thanked Gary Gabriele, and asked that the Senate move on to the next agenda item, which was a review of the election results. (PowerPoint presentation)


Cheryl Geisler announced the results of the elections and the tallies of the votes for the ballot propositions.  All propositions passed. Approximately 150 people voted, two thirds electronic, one third was by paper ballot.


There was some discussion regarding whether or not, in the future, the policy should be that actual number of votes for candidates be released, as there is precedent both ways for announcing election results.  No decision was arrived at, but this and other issues regarding the actual voting procedures will be taken up next semester.


Linnda Caporael motioned to accept the results of the election as submitted by the Vice President of the Faculty Senate.  Seconded by Achille Messac.  The motion passed.


Cheryl Geisler reminded the Faculty Senate to take the pilot Faculty Satisfaction Survey, and she would be sending out a notification in this regard, she would like some results to share at the next Faculty Senate meeting.


President Persans asked for any new business.  The Provost mentioned an issue that has come up in terms of the Student Representative to the Faculty Senate Promotion & Tenure Committee.  There is one representative to the FS P&T committee that is elected by the students.  This year that was Al Wallace; he is finishing his second year and is stepping down.  The students contacted the Provost's office and they contacted a number of individuals, and some individuals agreed to run in that election.  However, the Student Senate neglected to include the names of the individuals on the ballot.  So the options were to hold a special election, or as alternatively suggested by the Provost (and discussed with the Promotion and Tenure committee) the Student Senate Executive Committee could interview the candidates and then make a selection or recommendation to the Faculty Senate.  The interviewing alternative was accepted.


Ellen Esrock mentioned that she would bring a proposal concerning a revision to the grading system to the next meeting.  She did some research already and will continue to contact a few people.  If anyone would like to share thoughts with her she would be interested in further comments.  President Persans added that it was the intent of the Executive Committee to invite student representatives to the next meeting in order to address this question. 


Provost Peterson asked, "What is the process by which that can be undertaken?"  President Persans answered that the FS is only thinking about the initial stages where the senate will discuss it and make a recommendation.


Linnda Caporael added that it is written in the constitution that the Faculty Senate makes the recommendation to the Provost, and the Provost takes it up to the President, and on up to the Board of Trustees.


The Provost wanted to know if there might be a motion and a vote on this at the next meeting, because it may be that it requires some significant amount of discussion among the faculty.  Further discussion about the anticipated motion was left for next week's meeting.


The meeting adjourned at 4pm.