Faculty Senate Meeting

4/28/2004

 

Attendees: Cheryl Geisler, Deborah Kaminski, Peter Persans, Achille Messac, Bruce Nauman, Bill St. John, Bob Degeneff, Christoph Steinbruchel, Jim Stodder, Michael Dillon (Student Senate), J. Keith Nelson, Marty Glicksman, Rena Bizios, Bob Block, Henry Scarton, Joel Plawsky, Shekhar Garde, Mike Goldenberg (Student Senate), Matthew Ezovski (Student Senate), Tamar Gordon, T. Abrajano, G.P. Peterson, Sharon Anderson-Gold, Alan Nadel, Ricardo Dobry, Pat Search, Larry Kagan, Terry Blanchet, Randolph Franklin, Tom Apple, Chjan Lim, John Schroeder, Sandy Sternstein

 

Meeting Agenda

Approval of the Minutes of the 4/14 Faculty Senate Meeting

Motion on the Plus/Minus Ballot - Cheryl Geisler, Faculty Senate President

Report of the Faculty Senate Committee on Promotion & Tenure - Ricardo Dobry

Report of the Faculty Senate Committee on Planning & Resources - Randolph Franklin

Report of the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee - Christoph Steinbruchel

Report of the President of the Senate - Cheryl Geisler

            Operations – Infrastructure

            Communication with Administration

            Communication with Faculty

            Agenda Development

            Faculty Rights and Responsibilities

                        Faculty Memorials

                        Faculty Handbook

                        Constitution

                        Grievances

            Specific Issues

                        Hartford

                        Compensation

                        Privacy

                        Performance Planning

                        Benefits

                        Faculty Club

            Curriculum

                        Core Curriculum

                        Graduate Policy           

                        Q&A

Adjourn to Reception

 

Approval of the Minutes of the 4/14 Faculty Senate Meeting

The Minutes were approved with minor changes: 12 in favor, 0 opposed, 1 abstention.

 

Motion on the Plus/Minus Ballot, Cheryl Geisler, Faculty Senate President

President of the Faculty Senate, Cheryl Geisler, presented the Plus/Minus Proposal and announced the results of the recent vote.  She stated that 43.7% of eligible voters responded to the ballot:  74.8% or 151 voted to approve the proposal and 25.2% or 51 voted against.  She also stated that the Senate has some decision-making authority in how or whether to forward this to the administration. 

 

Provost Peterson stated that it is unclear what the next step is, but the Board of Trustees is aware of the Proposal and the results will be forwarded to the President.  The Board of Trustees is interested in the results but he does not believe their approval is required.  The Provost suggested that someone on behalf of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee submit a document to him stating that the Faculty Senate recommends the Plus/Minus Proposal.  The protocol since the beginning has been that the Provost will first determine whether to forward the proposal to the President or not.  Once she makes a decision, it will then be sent to the Faculty Senate and the Board of Trustees. 

 

Mike Goldenberg, Student Senate Representative, stated that the vast majority of students are still against the Plus/Minus proposal even with the new implementation date.  He said that the students do not see a possible benefit, just problems associated with it.  Christoph Steinbruchel, Chair of the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee, stated that he does not think there is any evidence that the vast majority of students are against the proposal.  Students in his class are not overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal.  Debbie Kaminski, Recording Secretary, stated that there is evidence in her class that students are against the proposal. 

 

Mike Dillon, newly-elected Grand Marshal, stated that he is confident in saying that most students are overwhelmingly against grade modifiers.  They feel the faculty might be forcing it on them and if the proposal does go through, the students will blame the faculty, not the administration. He believes that grade modifiers will cause a rift between the faculty and students.  Henry Scarton wanted to provide additional data based on the grade percentages.  He stated that if a 3.67 is an A-, 3.33 is a B+, 3.0 for a B and 4.0 for A, it works out on a percentage basis that a 96% is an A and this will set the curve higher.  He does not believe it is a good idea and is opposed to the proposal and hopes President Jackson rejects the proposal.  Joel Plawsky asked if there is any wording in the proposal that requires the faculty to grade using this system.  President Geisler stated “no.”

 

Marty Glicksman stated that he was against the proposal and most of his students were not necessarily opposed but some of his fellow faculty members have wondered what the advantage of the proposal is. 

 

President Geisler explained that the current question is what the Senate should now do with the results.  Achille Messac, Senator-at-Large, stated that he feels that the Faculty Senate has been accommodating and responsive to the students’ concerns by amending the original proposal.  He added that he does not believe there will be a rift and thinks the faculty will remain in good relations with their students.  He thinks the students will acknowledge that the faculty did implement the proposal in a way the students feel is fair, even to those students who have not yet applied to Rensselaer. 

 

Debbie Kaminski, Recording Secretary, stated that since the Faculty Senate represents the faculty and that the faculty have spoken through the voting process, the Senate has an obligation to bring the Plus/Minus Proposal forward.  Bruce Nauman, Vice President of the Faculty Senate, made a motion to accept the outcome of the Plus/Minus Grading Proposal vote and have it forwarded to the Provost for implementation.  The motion passed: 13 in favor, 1 opposed, 0 abstentions. 

 

Report of the Faculty Senate Committee on Promotion & Tenure - Alan Nadel and Ricardo Dobry

Alan Nadel, Chair of the Faculty Committee on Promotion & Tenure for the fall semester, stated that they reviewed four people who are being considered for associate professor with tenure status, one person considered for full professor and one outside full professor with tenure.  He added that the outcomes were consistent with the recommendations.

 

Ricardo Dobry, Chair of the Promotion and Tenure Committee for the spring semester, said that the spring semester is the most intensive.  There was a Promotion & Tenure workshop in February that was organized by the Provost and well attended, especially by younger faculty.  Ricardo was asked to make a presentation at the workshop.  There were quite a few questions, especially from the younger faculty members.  Ricardo suggested that it be continued in future years especially with so many new faculty being hired.  Ricardo’s presentation from the workshop is attached here.

 

The Committee had discussed and voted on 16 cases from all 5 schools:  10 cases of promotion from Assistant to Associate Professor with tenure, 1 case of Tenure for an Associate Professor, 4 cases of Promotion from Associate to Full Professor and 1 case of Full Professor with tenure for an outside candidate.  The Joint Committee included members of the Faculty P&T Committee plus the Deans.  They met and voted on the 16 spring promotion cases on Wednesday April 28th.  The results were sent to the Provost who will send his recommendations to the President.  This should all occur in the next few weeks, with the administration announcing the final decisions in May.  He added that the process has gone quite smoothly and that in most cases, the votes of the members of the Committee and Deans were not substantially different. 

 

There was a document that outlined 13 concerns which were procedural items, such as needing more information or suggestions for organization.  The committee did give names and specifics, therefore the document is confidential.  President Geisler asked if the concerns could be stripped of identifying information so that the Senate could see the document.  Alan responded that the concerns were instructions on how to put together the best packet.  He said he would poll the committee by email to determine if it was possible.  Senator-at-Large, Sharon Anderson-Gold, stated that although they cannot give votes or names, she asked whether the Committee could share the success rate.  Ricardo said that the majority of cases were successful and it will be public knowledge once the process is complete.  The Committee processed approximately 22-23 cases and the number of cases stopped at the department or school level was less than 5.  The Provost cautioned that it is difficult to report what actually starts or stops a process.  Ricardo stated that of all the cases that officially came to the department level and were voted on, the majority went to the Committee.  Alan added that there were no appeals.  By request, the Provost will notify people as quickly as possible of the outcome after the Board meeting.  The results are announced to the general faculty through Campus News.

 

Report of the Faculty Committee on Planning & Resources - Randolph Franklin

Randolph Franklin stated that Roger Wright, Chair of the Faculty Committee on Planning & Resources, had attended many meetings with various administrators. The Committee helped prepare the Faculty Early Input Reports based on information generated from Faculty Early Input Forums.

 

Some pending items that were not done during the year were to have detailed Rensselaer information put online, such as tax returns and bond prospectus.  Another pending item is to review the resource implications of a new undergraduate biology course.

 

Recommendations for the future besides completing the pending items include more effective involvement with the Faculty Senate and becoming a channel for the faculty to have input in the budgeting process as well as to assess the relevance of the performance planning process.

 

Report of the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee - Christoph Steinbruchel

Throughout the year, there were many course and curriculum changes to review.  The major items approved were revisions to the Masters in Architecture, a new MBA program, and several minors in various schools. 

The core curriculum outcomes were debated and voted down by the faculty.  The Committee then debated the next step and various alternatives.  The Committee passed a motion that the School of Science and H&SS should formulate objectives and curriculum guidelines for their respective 24 credits of the core.  The Curriculum Committee debated the Plus/Minus Grading proposal extensively.  The third and final version included extensive input from students and faculty.  It was voted on recently and accepted by the faculty.

 

The Committee had discussions based on general institute integrity statements to be included in course syllabi and it was concluded that no single statement will fit all.  However, a motion was passed that said that academic integrity statements and course syllabi should contain the following three points: 

 

  • A list of examples of infractions applicable to a particular course with as much detail as possible.
  • A list of sanctions for those infractions.
  • A statement that infractions will be reported to the Dean of Students.

 

The Committee also passed a motion to ask the Faculty Senate to set up a website, accessible only by faculty, where faculty can share information regarding academic integrity, policies and procedures.  This motion will be forwarded to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.

 

The Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee also briefly discussed the question and issue of an Institute-wide honor code, which had come up before but had not been moved forward on.  This may be taken up again next year by the Committee. 

 

A motion was passed regarding communications and writing requirements.  The motion, which will be submitted to Gary Gabriele, suggests the creation of a broad-based task force to produce recommendations regarding communications and writing requirements as well as specify the resources necessary to implement the recommendations, including the creation of the writing assignments.

 

President Cheryl Geisler made a comment on the communications requirement.  She recommended that the Senate set up that task force.  She suggested it be done as a Senate ad hoc committee.  Christoph replied since it will be broad-based, it will include all those who have an interest in it.

 

Larry Kagan asked whether there was any discussion within the Committee about the impact of the 4x4.  Christoph responded that they had formulated a list of items in order of interest and the 4x4 is on the list. 

 

Jim Stodder, Senator from Hartford, stated that as a matter for the part time students at both the Hartford and Troy campus, he questioned whether Christoph and the Committee were aware that there was a change in the catalog this year moving the part time degree completion window from 5 years to 3 years.  The administration’s position on this is there was consultation with faculty.  The Hartford faculty states they were never consulted and are strongly opposed to this change.  From what he understands, this has never been addressed and he feels that it should be.  Christoph stated that this issue has never been raised in the Committee meetings.

 

Henry Scarton noted that, in many core engineering courses, reference is made to the academic integrity statement in the handbook.  Christoph was convinced by his colleagues that one statement did not cover all courses since issues are not the same in different courses, and cheating and plagiarism are not the same.  Students apparently do not know what allowed or disallowed collaboration is. Christoph stated that the Committee could not come up with good general guidelines that should be in the handbook.  Henry suggested there nevertheless be some reference to the handbook. 

 

Annual Report of the President of the Senate - Cheryl Geisler

Operations- Infrastructure

The first task under Operations was to address the infrastructure.  A permanent infrastructure was created that was not available before.  Francine Fredette was hired and she began reviewing the archives.  They are approximately halfway done, but there is remaining work to be done on the website and in indexing the archives.

 

Communication with Administration

In terms of communications with the Administration, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee met with various members of the administration.  Many of the issues that arose were not academic issues and did not fall under the Provost’s office responsibilities.  One of her recommendations is that the Senate work to establish a working relationship with the Vice Presidents in various areas since many issues are not just academic.

 

Communication with Faculty

In terms of communications with faculty, there were major improvements in the frequency and the quality of communications.  The Minutes are now being sent out with hyperlinks and a website has been developed for special issues.  A few things to consider are the establishment of regular communications with Hartford.  Right now it is costly for Hartford to interact with the senate on any regular basis.  The network has now been extended to the Fischbach room in the Folsom library, but it needs videoconferencing equipment. Two General Faculty Meetings were streamed live this year.  She recommended that the faculty have some way to sign in or email or vote during meetings that are streamed live.  She thought that may be one way to increase the participation in General Faculty meetings.

 

It is also important to create a mechanism in which individual Senators can communicate with their constituents.  Work is starting on email group lists for individual Senators.  Recent discussions pointed to this being something the Senators needed.

 

Agenda Development

The Faculty Senate had a retreat in the fall and working groups this year for the first time.  She thought there was a better sense of focus and she recommended that the working groups continue.  Regarding standing committees, there should be closer coordination between the Senate and those committees. 

 

Faculty Rights and Responsibilities

Faculty Memorials

Under Peter Persan’s leadership, the mechanism to remember deceased faculty was improved.  It is an important part of being a Rensselaer faculty member.  Currently there is no device for keeping track of departed and deceased faculty.

 

Faculty Handbook

A lot of headway has been made on the Faculty Handbook.  The results are with the Institute counsel.  It is expected that revisions will come to a vote in the Fall.  It is a large handbook and if serious discussion needs to happen in the Senate, she suggests that the Senators divide it into sections. 

 

Provost Peterson added that feedback was sought from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and Rensselaer Counsel.  Currently the document is being pulled together to take into account all changes and it will then be sent back to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and ad hoc committee with changes outlined.  He stated that with the exception of one or two issues, all changes are minor..  He has hopes of having it available in draft form by June 1, which will allow time for review before the Fall semester vote. 

 

Henry Scarton asked whether the intellectual property aspect is part of the handbook.  The Provost responded that it is not currently part of the Faculty Handbook or in the proposed Handbook.  What is in the Handbook now is the statement that all faculty and employees must sign a statement regarding intellectual property. Henry asked what the status of the intellectual property policy is and when the draft will be presented.  The Provost responded that there is a great deal of work currently being done and that a draft should be available for the Faculty Senate next year for discussion. 

 

Cheryl stated there was an additional handbook issue associated with the Employee Handbook which was brought to the Senate.  A concern was brought up concerning the title of the Handbook and the applicability of the Handbook policies.  As of now, the Employee Handbook has not changed to reflect the motion that was passed by the Senate.  Her recommendation is that it is a Human Resources Vice President issue.  Provost Peterson suggested that the Senate send a formal communication of that to the Vice President for Human Resources on this issue. 

 

Constitution

There was much discussion last year on the Constitution and several amendments were formulated and passed recently which will go on to President Jackson and the Board of Trustees for ratification.  President Geisler noted that the key issue for clinical faculty is their voting status, which remains problematic.  There is a standing Constitutional Committee working on this and she recommends that it continue so that hopefully by next year’s ballot there will be an amendment with support so that it will be addressed.

 

Grievances

There is a grievance procedure in the Constitution.  One faculty member did come forward with a grievance against a member of the administration.  The grievance procedure was followed and it is still in mediation.  Her assessment is that the grievance procedure is a good resource to work out individual differences between faculty and administration.  Grievance procedures can be read in the Faculty Senate Constitution.

 

Specific Issues

Hartford

The status at Hartford has been discussed by the Senate as a whole, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and with the Provost.  The situation after talking to Jim Stodder is that it is improving in terms of some of the outcomes.  The layoffs that were feared are not happening.  Currently there is no one willing to serve as Senator from Hartford for next year due to the current Hartford status, travel time involved and expense.

 

Jim Stodder added that it is not only due to the high cost.  He feels the Hartford faculty does not think Jim has much to show for the cost in terms of the major issues that are important to the Hartford faculty.  Regarding status and tuition and its impact, it is not clear whether any difference has come out of his efforts.  Cheryl added that she believes the videoconferencing capabilities will help.  She added that she thinks the situation at Hartford is improving and that the Senate may have had some bearing on that.

 

Jim stated that he sees things that are improving and new initiatives.  What he does not see is a renewed commitment in resources to Hartford on an Institute-level.  As far as the layoffs, the faculty still does not know what the situation is.  It is not that the layoffs have been stopped, they just have not been announced or decided on yet.

 

Provost Peterson added that he feels the single most important thing the Faculty Senate could do to encourage involvement by the Hartford faculty would be to give them full representation as members of the Faculty Senate.  An important change will be the videoconferencing hookup in the Fischbach room.  It is hoped that it will be ready for the fall semester.  An alternative would be to move the location of the meetings.

 

Compensation

The Faculty Senate did not do a great deal with compensation, but there was a report from the Faculty Advisory Board and the assessment was that their involvement and outcomes were positive.

 

Privacy

In response to the parking access issues, broader issues were discussed by the Faculty Senate.  Provost Peterson stated that the Privacy Policy should be announced shortly.  President Geisler believes that it may be a major issue for the incoming Faculty Senate.

 

Performance Planning

Regarding the Early Input Forums that the Planning & Resources committee mentioned, she felt more could be done to integrate the faculty into the performance planning process.  One possibility, which would involve constitutional reform, would be to re-write the mandate of the Planning & Resources Committee to be more closely aligned to the functions with regard to performance planning.  She suggested that having Planning & Resources better integrated through its mandate is something to consider.

 

Benefits

There were special issues that came to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.  The Senate did not have much success in dealing with benefit issues.  There is a need for some mechanism for regular interaction with the administration regarding benefits.  Currently, the Faculty Senate does not get information about benefits until after decisions have been made.  There has been some discussion on having an ad hoc committee on benefits.  The incoming Faculty Senate Executive Committee can decide whether to proceed or not.

 

Faculty Club

The Faculty Club was an issue that came out of the retreat last fall and has made a fair amount of progress this year.  President Jackson has encouraged the discussion.  The survey was presented in draft form to the Faculty Senate.  One suggestion was a location that would allow for longer hours than the Sage Dining Hall which does not meet the needs of faculty to interact with colleagues and guests.

 

Curriculum

Core Curriculum

The Core Curriculum is still not finalized.  The faculty voted to reject the 22 Core Objectives document.  President Geisler suggested that the Senate consider taking some leadership on the core and be proactive instead of reactive. 

 

Graduate Policy

There were three graduate policies discussed:  the absentia policy, time limits for Hartford, and time limits for Troy.  The working group on graduate policy and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee has been interacting with the Administration this year to suggest that those policies are academic policies and should have been reviewed.  Since they were not reviewed, she suggests they be reviewed in the coming year.  The Senate may wish to establish a special committee on this since they are large issues.  Tom Apple, Dean of Graduate Education, stated that the time limits at Hartford have not been reviewed, but the other two policies mentioned have.  President Geisler responded that they have been discussed but have never been submitted for review or voted on.  She suggests that the incoming Senate pursue this.

 

Q&A

Provost Peterson announced that he received a formal request from the students that no action be taken on the Plus/Minus Grade Proposal implementation until after the student referendum.  Senator-at-Large Sharon Anderson-Gold stated that the Senate already voted to delay the implementation.  She added that many Institutions have Plus/Minus grading and the students adapt.  She feels that grade structure should appropriately be up to the faculty.   She also stated that faculty are not required to use this system which opens up flexibility.  The students are acting as if they have veto power. 

 

 Provost Peterson believes the Faculty Senate took appropriate steps to ensure that the students had adequate input.  He commended the Faculty Senate for the way the proposal process has been handled.  He has a list of the specific actions the Faculty Senate did to encourage discussions including GM week discussions with their professors, student forum participation, and having a student serve as a panel member at the Spring General Faculty Meeting.  He added that the Faculty Senate took student concerns into account when determining a final proposal.  Cheryl reminded the Faculty that two changes to the policy were due to student concern: the delay in the implementation date and the implementation by class level.

 

President Geisler stated that she did invite recently hired faculty to the reception.  President Geisler then handed over electronic files to President-elect Bruce Nauman and passed on the gavel.  President-elect Bruce Nauman stated that he has a hard act to follow.  He added that he has been impressed with Cheryl Geisler’s diligence, organizational skills and communication skills.  He believes her presentation of accomplishments is accurate and under her leadership, the Faculty Senate has accomplished a great deal toward reinvigorating the Faculty.  Bruce added that he agrees with the action items and suggestions she proposed.

 

Adjourn to Reception

At 3:20, Cheryl Geisler adjourned the meeting to the reception.