Faculty Senate Meeting

4/14/2004

 

Attendees: Henry Scarton, Gary Gabriele, Tamar Gordon, Patricia Search, Tom Apple, Mary Ann Waltz, Christoph Steinbruchel, Jeff Durgee, Terry Blanchet, Achille Messac, Peter Persans, Cheryl Geisler, Sharon Anderson-Gold

 

Agenda

Approval of the Minutes of 3/31 Faculty Senate Meeting

Finalization of the Plus/Minus Ballot

            Feedback from Student Representative

            Discussion on Amended Proposal

            Vote to Amend Implementation

            Vote on Amended Proposal Going to Full Faculty Vote

Results and Ratification of the Election

Closing of the Year Plans

Closing of the Year Assessment

Adjournment

 

Approval of the Minutes of the 3/31 Faculty Senate Meeting

The Minutes from 3/31 were approved:  7 in favor, 0 opposed, 0 abstentions.

 

Finalization of the Plus/Minus Ballot

Cheryl Geisler, President of the Faculty Senate, stated that the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee submitted an amended Plus/Minus grading proposal.  She called on the Senate to determine whether the full faculty should vote on the proposal and if so, how the vote should be conducted.  Since the administration will require full faculty support, she suggested the proposal be put to an email vote of the entire faculty.  Jeff Durgee, Senator, made a motion that the proposal be put to the entire faculty for a vote; it was seconded.

 

Feedback from Student Representative

Cheryl asked Mike Goldenberg, student representative, to comment on the amended proposal.  Mike stated that the Student Senate is opposed to the Grade Modifiers Proposal and that approximately 75% of students are also opposed to it.  He added that the amended version, in which implementation does not begin until Fall 2005 and also phases in slowly, will be more acceptable to the students.  Mike believes that this would be fairer to the new students in the Fall 2004 enrollment since they were unaware of a change in the grading policy at the time of deciding on a college.   Achille Messac, Senator-at-Large, stated that he did not think that most prospective students would make a choice on a college based on whether an Institute had grade modifiers or not.

 

Discussion on Amended Proposal

Terry Blanchet, Senator-at-Large, stated that he was pleased with the new implementation plan and also agreed that most students would not make a college selection based on grade modifiers.   Terry stated that the 2004-2005 Catalog has not yet been published and the updated version could pertain to their four years at Rensselaer.  Gary Gabriele, Vice Provost, stated that it may be possible to include this information in the 2004-2005 catalog since it has not yet been printed.  He said that the production of the catalog can be held up to include this information if it is resolved by the end of this academic year.

 

Terry Blanchet questioned the 4000-level courses transferring to the new grading policy in 2006.  He thought that would affect the freshmen on campus and asked whether there should be a two-year gap.  Christoph Steinbruchel, Chair of the Curriculum Committee, stated that the Committee tried to account for student concerns but they could not be absolutely sure that no one currently on campus would be affected.   For example, seniors who take 1000-level courses would be affected.  They would be graded under the proposed system and not be “grandfathered” because they are seniors.  He added that the amendment is a reasonable compromise.

 

Preceded by discussion, there was concern regarding undergraduate and graduate students in the same course.  Due to this, Jeff Durgee made a motion to include the 6000-level courses to transition in Fall 2006 along with the 4000-level courses; Terry Blanchet seconded the motion.  Christoph commented that he thinks it is particularly important for the 6000-level courses to have Plus/Minus grading due to the range of grades one can assign. Pat Search, Senator-at-Large, stated that her graduate students prefer the grade modifiers.  She does not think it will be a problem to have the 4000- and 6000-level courses operating at the same time under the Plus/Minus system.  None in favor, 9 opposed, 0 abstentions; the motion failed.

 

Sharon Anderson-Gold, Senator-at-Large, stated that it is interesting that the majority of students who evaluate possible grading scenarios always see themselves in the extreme situations and do not see the benefits.  The students are more willing to look at the negative aspects than the positive.  She finds it intriguing that they do not look at how it could positively affect them.

 

Terry Blanchet suggested that when the vote is put to the full faculty it should be pointed out that the implementation plan has changed.  President Geisler believes that the Student Senate voted on the original proposal and not on the amended proposal with the new transition plan.  Mike Goldenberg confirmed that no student vote has been taken on the new proposal.  When asked whether it is fair to say that the Student Senate initiated the amendment with the new transition clause, Mike agreed that it is fair to say so.  Achille stated that he would like the students to know that the Faculty Senate did accommodate student concerns.

 

Achille Messac made a motion to have the Plus/Minus Grading Proposal reflect a starting date of Fall 2005.  Peter seconded.  Cheryl stated that it is her understanding that the amendment responds to students and eliminates the impact on current students.  Achille stated that the reason he wants to move the proposal to begin Fall 2005 is that it is worth going through every effort possible to respond to legitimate, reasonable, student requests.  He added that the new proposed system is better and no harm will be done if implementation is put off one more year.  Gary Gabriele suggested that when impact is discussed, one should state that the new proposal will reduce or minimize impact rather than eliminate the impact on current students. 

 

Vote to Amend Implementation

A vote on the proposed amendment that implementation be delayed to Fall 2005 and later years for upper level course as detailed earlier:  8 in favor, 1 opposed, 0 abstentions.  Motion passed.

 

Vote on Amended Proposal Going to Full Faculty Vote

This was followed by a vote as to whether the new amended proposal should be put to a vote of the full faculty: 8 in favor, 1 opposed, 0 abstentions.  Motion passed.  The ballot will be sent out on Monday April 19, 2004 and voting will close Monday April 26, 2004

 

Gary Gabriele, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, asked whether the Senate will make a recommendation to the Provost about what to do after the vote, taking into account whether there is a close vote or an overwhelming vote.   Peter Persans, Chair of the Faculty, agreed that the proper procedural step is that the Faculty Senate make a recommendation based on the outcome of the vote.  Cheryl Geisler, President of the Faculty Senate, stated that the Faculty Senate will be able to discuss the results at the final Faculty Senate meeting. 

 

Results and Ratification of Senate Election

President Cheryl Geisler presented the Faculty Senate election results.  All ballot amendments passed during the recent election.  Peter Persans, Chair of the Faculty, made a motion to ratify the results of the election, it was seconded; 9 in favor, 0 opposed, 0 abstentions.  The Amendments will now go forward to the President and then to the Board of Trustees for approval.

 

Closing of the Year Plans

President Cheryl Geisler announced that the final Senate meeting of the year will be on April 28, 2004.  She urged all Faculty Senate members to attend and participate.  At the final meeting, the Faculty Senate Committee Chairs will be giving reports as will the Faculty Senate President, Cheryl Geisler, which will need to be accepted by the Senate.  There will also be a deliberation on the results of the Plus/Minus vote. She added that there will be recognition awards and that new members of the Senate will be invited.  The meeting will be followed by a reception with wine and hot hors d’oeuvres.

 

Closing of the Year Assessment

The current Senate began the year with a retreat prior to the beginning of the school year and the incoming Senate will be doing that again this year.  There is time to consider passing along or developing any comments about the assessment of the year’s activities.  Cheryl asked the Senate to consider what things were done well, what could have been done better and what things should be considered for the upcoming year. 

 

Achille Messac, Senator-at-Large, asked President Geisler about the status of the Privacy Policy.  President Geisler responded that when the Senate made the motion to extend the Parking Privacy Policy to areas other than parking, it was no longer in Claude’s purview and had been forwarded to President Jackson.  President Jackson has put together a task force to develop a general Privacy Policy, but no Chair of this Committee has been announced. 

 

Terry Blanchet, Senator-at-Large, stated that there have been several meetings where having a quorum has been an issue and he believes that attendance is not good.  He suggested that the Minutes reflect those members of the Senate who are not in attendance; perhaps those who are absent and those who are absent but excused.   Sharon Anderson-Gold, Senator-at-Large, agreed and stated that it is hard to evaluate the service that Senators do and provide and that attendance would be useful in this evaluation.  

 

Achille Messac stated that it made sense to have Senators come up with agenda items for next year but that student leaders and administrators should be asked as well.  Having the three levels of thoughts and suggestions can be helpful when the Faculty Senate needs to address concerns and items for the upcoming year.  This type of input can be presented and discussed at the retreat.  He then asked Gary Gabriele if he thought it would be useful to solicit the administration on what they feel is constructive for the Faculty Senate to review for the upcoming year.  Gary stated that he thinks it is an excellent idea to contact different constituencies to determine what the issues are and create a plan that can be worked on in unison. 

 

Jeff Durgee added that the general nature of the Faculty Senate has always been toward the negative.  He suggested that the Faculty Senate be more proactive in a positive way and have more creativity than just in the working groups.  President Geisler countered that the quality of life issues and Plus/Minus Proposal both came out of working group discussions. 

 

Terry Blanchet stated that the Senate should encourage more input from faculty constituents.  General Faculty Meetings are held but are not well attended.  President Geisler stated that the Senate should be more pro-active in getting people to attend the meetings.  Many faculty do not know what happens at our meetings and are not aware that they can attend. 

 

Terry added that the Faculty Senate does not get enough input from fellow faculty members.  Tom Apple asked what Senators do to get faculty feedback and whether it would be worthwhile for Senators to sit down with leaders of the schools and go to departmental meetings.  Achille stated he had a problem trying to send emails to the schools.  Cheryl suggested having an email list of department and school heads available to the Senators. 

 

Mary Ann Waltz, Senator, stated that the Middle States Accreditation will be here in Spring 2006 and the administration will need and want input from the faculty.  This has already come up since some standards relate to core curriculum. Gary Gabriele stated that that is a good example of an issue that the Senate and administration need to work on together. The Senate has been invited to a meeting in May which will be an informational meeting.  Don Steiner and Gary Gabriele will be chairing the committee overseeing the preparation of the self study report. Accreditation will begin after the self study is complete.

 

Terry is also concerned with the message that is being sent when there are people running in the election unopposed.  Peter Persans, Chair of the Faculty, stated that it is a difficult task for the Election Committee to locate people and encourage them to run in the elections.  Typically, the Nominating Committee members do the work of identifying candidates.  It is helpful when it is someone from their own school or department doing the nominating and searching.  Faculty are more likely to be involved when asked by someone they know than from someone in another school where there is no reason to accommodate. 

 

Adjournment

Meeting adjourned at 3:22 pm.