Original Minutes of Faculty Senate Meeting - April 30, 2003


Return to revised Minutes of 4/30/2003

Attendees: Jun Abrajano, Kurt Anderson, Sharon Anderson-Gold, Tom Apple, Terry Blanchet, Steve Breyman, Linnda Caporael, Michael Danchak, June Deery, Jeff Durgee, Ron Eglash, Connie Fritz, Gary Gabriele, Mark Goldberg, Tamar Gordon, Iftekhar Hasan, David Hess, Amir Hirsa, Debbie Kaminski, Ash Kapila, Sonja Krause, Tanis Kreiger, Achille Messac, Bruce Nauman, Jonathan Newell, President Peter Persans, Provost Bud Peterson, Patricia Search, Bill St. John, Mary Ann Staniszewski, Don Steiner, Bruce Watson, Roger Wright


At 2:10pm, President Persans welcomed everyone to the last meeting of the Faculty Senate for the 2002-2003 semester.  He asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the March 26, April 9 and April 23, meetings.  All minutes were approved.


Ash Kapila, chair of the Promotion & Tenure Committee reported that the majority of the committee's work is finished and cases have been sent on to the Provost's office.  The process went fairly smoothly this semester, with only a couple of issues arising.  The committee confirmed with the Provost that in the future the FCPT will be brought into the loop, and have sufficient time to look over dossiers of candidates before a major external hire is announced, as was explained in the statement read at the General Faculty Meeting.


Sonja Krause, chair of the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee reported on the activities of the committee during the past academic year.  (Report attached)  Two new doctoral programs, one in Cognitive Science and the other in Architectural Sciences were approved.  Most of the new courses proposed this year were approved, as well as a Certificate in Communication Design program.


Roger Wright, chair of the Planning & Resources Committee reported that they would meet today and are currently looking at the new curricula for the Architecture and Cognitive Science Ph.D. programs.  The committee recommends for next year a checklist, or more formal procedure of items to validate each program.  A sharper definition of expectations for reviewing and measuring up new programs was suggested.  The committee suggested that a "live" database on budget information and performance planning information and others be made available to the committee next year.

President Peter Persans noted that the Executive Committee appointed Ron Gutmann to chair the Handbook Committee, and he will work with the Provost on the revisions.  Other committee members will be identified shortly to help in that process.


President Persans introduced Ellen Esrock who proposed a new grading policy.  Ellen gave a condensed overview of her, and Mary Ann Staniszewki's research on grading systems, grade inflation, and in particular "plus/minus" grading.  It was found that faculty generally prefer to have a plus/minus system in place.  Students are sometimes frightened and generally wary of the system.  Students were fearful that they might experience more stress because they will feel a need to compete for smaller increments of grade improvement.  It was noted that graduate students were more in favor of the system than undergraduates.  Students operating in the summa cum laude range, (3.8) were concerned that they would have to work harder to make sure they do not sink to an "A-" level, which could change their grade.


At most other institutions, faculty were strongly in support of plus/minus.  Professors felt they could evaluate students more fairly, with care and exactitude and thus assure students that grades would reflect their achievement in their courses.  Another "pro" argument is the possibility that plus/minus systems will hold down grade inflation.


Ellen brought the following motion to the Senate:


"It is proposed that a committee that has student representation be formed or delegated to work next year to research the adoption of a plus and minus grading system for graduates and undergraduates: to develop a broad model of such a system for RPI; to discuss this system with the RPI community - faculty, students, administrators; and to report back to the Senate with an evaluation of these discussions in December 2003.  The proposal will be put to a vote at that time.  If the vote favors adoption of such a system, this will go on record and a committee will be formed/continued to develop implementation specifics and report back to the Senate in the spring."


The motion was seconded.  A lengthy discussion followed with opinions for and against expressed, the status of plus/minus systems at other institutions questioned, the effect if any, on faculty evaluations, and an agreement of the need for very careful consideration of the issues.  Bruce Nauman suggested a friendly amendment to the motion that before the committee is instituted, guidelines for discussion should be implemented.  The motion was approved.


Vice President, Cheryl Geisler reported on the preliminary results of the pilot faculty satisfaction survey.  The people who were asked to complete the survey were the Faculty Senate and the Senate Subcommittees, which totaled forty people, and the response rate was 50%.  Of the twenty people who responded, all the schools were represented in the data Cheryl released; as well as all appointment levels, i.e., tenure-track, clinical, research and librarian; 12 full-professors and 7 Assoc. Professors, no retirees, 16 were men and 4 were women.  (Presentation attached)  The survey categories were grouped into "strong satisfaction", "average satisfaction" and "weak satisfaction" relative to each other.  Strong satisfaction was noted in Rensselaer Benefits, Rensselaer Visibility, Promotion, this particular Survey, Academic Freedom and Faculty Senate Representation.   Average satisfaction was found in Appointments, Promotion, and Tenure, Program Visibility, Policies and Procedures, Teaching and Rewards & Recognition.  Weak satisfaction ratings were in Departmental Planning, School/Campus Planning, Rensselaer Planning, Campus Culture, and Compensation and Decision-making issues. 


Looking ahead, Vice President Geisler stated she would like to do a more complete analysis, and report on it in the fall.  She also would like to see more deliberation based on that analysis, about whether or not to go forward with a full survey of the faculty; and for the FS Executive Committee to strategize about some of the issues that this preliminary survey seemed to suggest we look into.


President Persans asked if the "joint" Executive Committee, those who are on the committee now and those who will serve next year, would be willing to meet as a group next week to decide what further meetings might have to take place before the end of the semester.  He then introduced the new members of the Faculty Senate for 2003/04: 


Vice President                                      Bruce Nauman

Recording Secretary                             Deborah Kaminski

H&SS Senator                                     Ron Eglash

Management Senator                            Jeff Durgee

Library Senator                                    Mary Anne Waltz

At Large Senator                                  Pat Search

At Large Senator                                  Tamar Gordon

At Large Senator                                  Bob Block

Troy Clinical Senator                            Bill St. John

Hartford Senator                                  Jim Stodder

P& T Management Rep                        Iftekhar Hasan

P& T At Large Rep                              Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer

P&R H&SS Rep                                  Steve Breyman

P&R Management Rep                         David Goldenberg

P&R Science Rep                                Bolek Szymanski

Curriculum H&SS Rep                         June Deery

Curriculum At Large Rep                      Amir Hirsa

Library Election Committee                   Connie Fritz

H&SS Election Committee                   Linda Layne



President Persans thanked everyone for agreeing to serve next year.  He then recognized Linnda Caporael, chair of the Faculty Senate, and expressed his gratitude for her gracious help during the past year and presented her with a plaque from the entire Faculty Senate in appreciation of her tremendous service to the senate over the last three years.  He also thanked Anne DeCelle, secretary to the senate, for her assistance over the past year.  President Persans then passed the gavel on to President-Elect Cheryl Geisler.


One new business issue was introduced.  Vice Provost, and Dean of Graduate Education, Tom Apple, presented a letter from the committee of a Nuclear Engineering doctoral student, who became ill in August of 2002, and passed away this spring.  This student was well along the way on his dissertation, according to the committee it was a matter of a few revisions, however his illness prevented him from finishing.  The student passed all his course work, and his candidacy exam, his dissertation is approximately 90% finished according to his advisor, but it was not completed and not defended.  The question Dean Apple asked of the senate was "should we be allowed to award a Ph.D. posthumously?" 


Provost Peterson added that there were a couple other cases he was aware of where Rensselaer awarded degrees posthumously in the past.  That precedent however established no set guidelines, nor formal process in these instances.  The Provost stated the reason he felt this situation should come to the faculty, is that the faculty makes the determination of what the degree requirements are, and this student falls short of those degree requirements. 


Debbie Kaminski made a motion that the degree should be awarded posthumously, with the recommendation and approval of the Doctoral Committee, and that the dissertation be completed in proper form and submitted to the Library.  Jeff Durgee seconded.  After some further discussion, the motion was approved.


Cheryl Geisler adjourned the meeting at 4:15 and invited everyone to a reception in the Great Room.