Faculty Senate Meeting

April 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.

 

Click here for Original Minutes from 4/23/2003

 

April 23, 2003 Agenda

 

Reports from Standing Committees

2004 Performance Plan – Provost Bud Peterson

Search for Six Constellations

Expanding the Research Enterprise: Tuition Waivers

Expanding the Research Enterprise: Transition of Faculty Composition

Expanding the Research Enterprise: Research Revitalization

Expanding the Research Enterprise: Cost Sharing of Proposals

Enhancing Undergraduate Education

Graduate Education

Strengthen Graduate Recruiting

Institute Diversity

Faculty Retention

Academic Portfolios

Contingency Funds

Institute Core Curriculum – Gary Gabriele

Election Committee Report

            Election Results

            Releasing Actual Number of Votes

Faculty Satisfaction Survey

New Business

            Student Rep for Promotion & Tenure Committee

Grading System Proposal

Adjournment

           

Reports from Standing Committees

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.

 

2004 Performance Plan

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 presention)

 

Search for Six Constellations

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, one candidate withdrew, and are realistically 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.  The number of tuition waivers provided has substantially increased 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 the balance is correct for tenure-track, clinical, research and adjunct faculty.  Over the course of the past two years, seven clinical positions have been transitioned to tenure-track positions.  It is important to recognize that “positions” are being transitioned, 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 is administered 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

Over the course of almost three years now, the contributions and support for cost sharing on proposals has greatly expanded.

 

Enhancing Undergraduate Education

These are Vice Provost Gary Gabriele's initiatives, which will be discussed later in the meeting during the Core Curriculum update.  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 in terms of how entrepreneurship can be infused throughout all the programs so that every undergraduate has some exposure to entrepreneurship during their stay at Rensselaer.

 

Graduate Education

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, the outcomes of the policy (both intended and unintended) will continue to be monitored 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.

 

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 the number is today; and how long 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.  He does not think that a target number for steady state graduate students has been targeted 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.  Now 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 there should be at least as many students supported externally as internally. There are 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, our funding needs to be 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.”

 

Strengthen Graduate Recruiting

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.

 

Institute Diversity

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; 12 women have been hired within the past two years.  However the downside is 6 were lost, so there is a net increase of 6.  In terms of ethnic minorities the number has increased from 12 to 21 in the past two years.  So, some progress is being made although the numbers are small.  A goal this next year that the Deans are aware of, and hopefully the faculty is aware of (it's in the Performance Plans) that half of the faculty positions that will be filled 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 to have a faculty that will reflect the diversity of the students that are taught and the environment in which we live.

 

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 candidates will probably be brought in, so our schedule is 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.

 

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.  It has not been made an absolute requirement.  The Provost added that the ad refers to the appointment as 'tenured full-professor is preferred.'  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 were met with reviewed our new submission which is currently under review and they were people in these types of positions at other institutions.  Initially someone who would have a faculty appointment was being leaned towards.  My opinion changed substantially after interaction with this group when 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.”

 

Faculty Retention

The Provost considers the most important function of his office is the ability to attract, develop and retain the very highest quality faculty possible.  The Provost has been extremely pleased that over the course of the past several years very few faculty have been lost.  Large numbers of very highly qualified faculty are being brought in and the current faculty are being worked with to expand the opportunities for those who are already very successful and provide opportunities for those who wish to become more successful.  Faculty is not being lost to other institutions, and that is a very positive sign.

 

Academic Portfolios

Regarding oversight of Academic Portfolios, President Jackson mentioned at her Town Meeting, it is moving forward on many fronts.  One of the reasons this is possible is our very effective and very efficient process by which resources are allocated.  At times it seems cumbersome, at times it seems overly restrictive, but if looked at nationally regarding what type of faculty renewal is going on at other institutions and what type of faculty growth is going on, there aren’t many institutions where it has reached the level of Rensselaer. 

 

Contingency Funds

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 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, it would be $1 million dollars, which is a lot of discretionary money.  So the amount has to be realistic.  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 the Lally School have formal tag lines in the budgeting process for contingency funds.  A number of unique opportunities can and have been responded to.  The budget is not revised, but in a quarterly forecast process permission is given for an organization's portfolios to expend funds beyond their budget.  There is a budget which is adhered to 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.  There are mechanisms to do that and have been responsive to many of them.  Everything that everybody wants cannot be responded to, but a lot of opportunities are not missed because of the rigor of the process.

 

Gary Gabriele - Institute Core Curriculum

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." (PowerPoint presentation)

 

Election Committee Report

Election Results

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.

 

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.

 

Releasing Actual Number of Votes

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.

 

Faculty Satisfaction Survey

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.

 

New Business

Student Rep for Promotion & Tenure Committee

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.

 

Grading System Proposal

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 the process is.  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 to the President, and 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.

 

Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 4pm.