October 15, 2003


Attendees: Rensselaer President, Shirley Ann Jackson

Troy Campus:

Jun Abrajano

J.E. Flaherty

J.J. Jahng

Peter Parsons

Irving Stephens

Tom Apple

Gary Gabriele

Shekkar Jayanthi

Bill Pearlman

Pamela Theroux

Bud Baeslack

Russell Giambelluca

Michael Jensen

Peter Persans

Jeff Trinkle

Alan Balfour

Mark Goldberg

Deborah Kaminski

G.P. Peterson

H.C. Van Ness

Terry Blanchet

Tamar Gordon

Chip Kilduff

Kenneth Rose

Deepak Vashishth

Bob Block

Ginny Gregg

Ron Kudla

Claude Rounds

Kirsten Volpi

Wilfredo Colon

Ron Gutmann

Robert McCaffrey

Kathleen Ruiz

Sam Wait

Kenneth Connor

Mike Hanna

Robert Messler

Art Sanderson

Gwo-Ching Wang

Jeff Durgee

John Harrington

George Nagy

Henry Scarton

James Watt

Ron Eglash

David Haviland

Jon Newell

Bill St. John

Roger Wright

Fern Finger

Greg Hughes

Robert Palozzo

Jan Stegemann

Yingrui Yang




Don Steiner

Xi-Cheng Zhang


Hartford Campus:




Report on Issues Facing the Faculty                  Peter Persans, Chair of the Faculty       



Report on Faculty Senate Business                    Cheryl Geisler, President of the Faculty Senate

·        Senate Infrastructure

·        First Annual Senate Retreat

·        Faculty Early Input Meetings on Performance Planning

·        Constitution Issues

·        Curriculum Issues

·        Handbook Issues

·        Senate Working Groups


Annual Report to the Faculty                             The Honorable Shirley Jackson            

·        Faculty

·        Research

·        PhD Programs

·        Students

·        Campus

·        EMPAC

·        Government Affairs

·        Fiscal Status

·        Q & A


 Report on Issues Facing the Faculty

Peter Persans, Chair of the Faculty–


10/15/2003 Change- Chair of the Faculty Senate, Peter Persans opened the Fall General Faculty Meeting at 2:05 and reported on Issues Facing the Faculty. Including the overarching issues of speed of change, the process of change and the balance between traditional strengths and short term objectives and long term health of diverse fields.


Other Issues:

·        Space is sparse- FS has worked to clarify some of the principles and to maintain an open process as we allocate this sparse resource.

·        Compensation Initiative- over past year has been actively pursued and will continue to be.  

·        Grading - Changes in how we grade is still active.  No good data on the issue of grade inflation.  This is being addressed. 

·        Core Curriculum Proposals- Needs timely response from general faculty and faculty senate. 

·        Improve Advising- Study shows some changes need to be made.  In the process of putting specifics in place and is a continuing issue.

·        Graduate Policy  there are remaining questions and issues regarding graduate policy, such as what happened to the policy, what is the policy, assessment of the policy.  Faculty needs increased flexibility in implementation of the policy.

·        Status of the Clinical Faculty- Needs more permanent and fewer adhoc adjustments.


10/15/2003 Ombudsperson Announcement- The Faculty Senate created the position of Faculty Senate Ombudsperson who will be an information liaison between individual faculty and the administration.  Ombudsperson is helpful for faculty who may be uncomfortable going directly to Administration and would prefer to speak to a peer for information or straighten out a policy.  The FS Ombudsperson is not intended to act as a grievance representative; there are other processes for that just as Faculty Senate is not a grievance body.  Faculty Senate addresses issues related to groups of faculty.  However, if unhappy, Ombudsperson can help address the problem.  Faculty Chair will be the Ombudsperson for 2003-2004, Peter Persans.


Report on Faculty Senate Business

Cheryl Geisler, President of the Faculty Senate–


10/15/2003 Senate Infrastructure:

Senate Administrative Coordinator position has been redefined and enlarged. Now is a permanent position that will not change with each president as did previously and includes a permanent Senate office in the Folsom Library 352D x8150.  Hours are M-W 9-5.



10/15/2003 First Annual Senate Retreat

First Annual Senate Retreat held on Sept 3.  Dinner was courtesy of Provost.  Senators and committee members met and participated in a school-based brainstorming effort to discover issues of concern.  Committees reconvened to produce agenda items for coming year.


10/15/2003 Faculty Early Input Meetings on Performance Planning

Committee on Planning and Resources brought to the Dean questions that had been submitted in advance by the faculty and then concluded with an open discussion.  Reports by the Planning and Resources on those meetings are being drafted and going to the President, the Dean, the Provost and back to the faculty.  Most significant component developed is that it ends with a set of criteria from the perspective of the faculty; faculty wants to see performance plans addressed.  In future presentations of performance plan make sure it meets your checklist of concerns.




Issues generated during retreat and are on agenda for the Senate for this year:


10/15/2003 Constitution Committee chaired by Peter Persans, will deal with updating constitution and issues relating to Clinical Representation.  The process of amending the constitution will also be reviewed.

10/15/2003 Curriculum Committee- A proposal for a +/-  grading system started last spring and will continue this fall.  Some discussion about the pass/no credit policy as well as grade inflation.

10/15/2003 Handbook Committee- Ad hoc committee, Chaired by Ron Gutmann will be working closely with Provost Office to update handbook and must be approved by faculty senate.  This is the first time it’s been reviewed in over 10 years.




The Senate is experimenting with a new working group system where we will divide into working groups and meet within those groups for part of the meeting time and will work on issues based on each group.  The groups are:

·        Graduate Policy

·        Quality of Faculty Life

·        Faculty Satisfaction

·        Compensation

·        Infrastructure & Space

·        Research and Diversity


Please reach out and contact President Cheryl Geisler or Chair Peter Persans as Ombudsperson or contact your Senators or Representatives. Slides of Peter's and Chery'ls presentations are available at Peter_Cheryl Presentation.


Annual Report to the Faculty 2003

The Honorable Shirley Jackson



There is much taking place within the Institute and it’s an extremely exciting time.  There is a great deal of rapid change and development which is something of a challenge for all.


The Rensselaer Plan- contains 147 “we will” commitments.  We are making serious progress on these commitments.  There is physical evident of change and transformation.


Faculty-127 hired by year end, 71 in entirely new positions, 10% increase in tenure and tenure-track faculty over 3 years.

Research- Pledged to build research program to $100 million annually, Last year grants totaled $68 Million, an increase of 68% over five years.  New laboratories opened including the Social and Behavioral Research, Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center, W.M. Keck Laboratory for Terahertz Science.  Much of this growth is in the target areas- nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology.

PhD Programs- Strengthening graduate program across 5 schools, pending architectural PhD, new PhD programs in Electronic Arts and in Cognitive Science.  56% increase in number of PhD students this year over last year.

Students- Attracting students with SAT score average of 1310, RPI amount top 50 universities, Engineering program in top 20, RPI 29th in “Best Values”

Campus- 76 building project completed or in progress including deferred maintenance, classroom upgrades and laboratory infrastructure.


EMPAC- broke ground last month


Government Affairs- A key goal four years ago was to open an office in Washington D.C. which was accomplished last month.


Faculty Concerns

Fiscal Status- We are better off than we were five years ago despite a faltering economy that began its current decline just as The Rensselaer Plan began its implementation.

Total institute assets have grown by one third while net assets remained the same.  Investment has increased 50%


Details on presentation in attachments.President Jackson's Review


 Q & A



Robert Block, Member of Faculty Senate, heard presentation from the 5 schools on their Performance Plan, is particularly interested in the H&SS plan and how it meshes with the new Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.  What is educational impact of new center and how does it mesh?


Dr. Jackson- EMPAC is a university-wide center and initiative and therefore it is not under the ownership or direction of any given school or department.  Its role is to support at least 3 kinds of thrusts.


·        Activities of faculty in the arts department

·        Activities of students outside the academic curriculum in the creative and performing arts

·        Serve as a World-class creative and research platform at the nexus of technology and arts that will bring world-class visiting artists and scholars to Rensselaer to work with our faculty and staff in a number of creative endeavors.  May commission new works and produce them.


Since the platform will be technology rich, it will allow for research and education in areas ranging from simulation to animation to visualization to acoustics studies.  All of these things play very directly into research and education that go on in our various schools and departments.  Johannas Gerbil, Director of the Center has actually been making outreach effort to various schools and departments and has received tepid response to in fact look at how jointly programs can be developed. 


Jun Abrajano- Earth and Environmental Sciences.  Just to follow-up on the previous question, we are of course all excited about the possibility of campus cultural transformations that could take place as a result of the EMPAC initiative.  Would you care to address the financial impact that this structure would have on Rensselaer?


Dr. Jackson-  The operational costs just as the operational costs of the biotech building or any other new facility we would build is already incorporated into our forward budgetary projections in terms of it’s operating expenses on a year to year basis so we’ve already done that incorporation.  Its programmatic elements will grow according to how it grows educationally as well as the resource growth which will come from various revenue sources that are available in a University.  Gift income, tuition, research revenues as well as the possibility of an operating endowment which we are building in as a component of the new and soon to be announced Capital Campaign.  But whenever we bring a new building on line or renovate an existing building, there is an attendant operating cost that we have to factor into our forward budget projections and we in fact make those projections to the Board of Trustees every year for them to be satisfied that with our revenue projections that the operating costs are appropriately covered.  And because it’s a University-wide center, then it is being treated no differently than Mueller center or an athletic facility or some other facility on campus where as the Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Study Center is a specifically focused research center which has a different financial construct.


Michael Jensen- Mechanical Aeronautical Nuclear.  Relative to this Capital Campaign, what are the goals, what will be the goals?  Is the intent to develop resources for new programs or will there be any effort to shore up any inadequacies in present programs?


Dr. Jackson-  We can’t raise money from people by saying “shore up any inadequacies”.  What one does is have a strategic plan and attendant plans which comes from the various schools and departments.  Those get bundled into various initiatives and priorities for the plan.  We’re in the process of doing that.  A lot of what we do is driven off the Rensselaer plan but in a generic sense we fundamentally seek support for our faculty chairs, for student support.  Particularly financial aid for our undergraduate and our graduate students as well as funds toward new capital projects but  where we don’t look to spend the money directly but to support our overall endowment as we go forward to build new facilities to support programs.  And so the actual types of professorships and programmatic support will include constellations and we’ve raised money toward those constellations substantially and will also include a range of broader support for faculty, students and programs.  As those plans are fleshed out, various Deans and schools are being asked about their forward projections and the question isn’t where there are inadequacies or not, but where there are opportunities and that’s the basis on which we do a Capital Campaign and it will come from that kind of analysis. 


Jeff Durgan - School of Management.  Among our peer schools, there seems to be a ratings mania that has taken over where ratings are going up, it feeds parent interest, alumnae money and endowments.  To what extent are we addressing the ratings issues?


Dr. Jackson- We certainly pay attention to them, we’re not slaves to the ratings but at the same time we have to be cognizant of them.  They do impact what some students and their family’s think about a university in terms of their willingness to come or send their children here.  It certainly often impacts what our alumnae think of us.  It’s kind of a bootstrap.  After speaking to a number of alums they were often disappointed and disinclined to support RPI since they felt the Institute had drifted over the years, that it had declined in the ratings and many of them were those that other institutions had gone after for support and so some of them had been drawn to support other schools who were not necessarily their alma maters.  So we felt that we had to have early progress in implementing the Rensselaer Plan. To put it another way that we had to create belief that we could deliver on what we said we would do.  And we’re beginning to see a change in mind set about the willingness to give to Rensselaer and that’s what makes us positive about our prospects for a Capital Campaign.  So it is kind of a bootstrap because in many ways resources help to position the University net net in people’s minds about the U but what the U does, the distinction of it’s faculty, the kind of students it attracts, also then impacts those who would give to us so we continue to stay focused, work the plan and put the building blocks in place and we continue to see results as illustrated earlier and we’re continuing to raise money.  Even net of the $360 million gift, we’re within 10m of having raised as much money as was raised in the entire previous capital campaign.  We are making progress but we have a way to go and so on of our greatest challenges is to continue to strengthen significantly Rensselaer's financial base both in terms of endowment as well as well as broaden our revenue sources which then allows us to continue our develop programs and hire faculty to continue to educate and attract the kind of students we’re looking for.  But as we move up in terms of academic credentials these students present.  We’ll move up the rankings but we’re coming from way behind.  We’re coming from way behind, but the message is that “we are coming.”


Don Steiner- Mechanical Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering.  I’m sure over the last 4 years, you’ve heard a lot of concerns and frustrations from faculty staff and students, what are your concerns and frustrations as you look back over the last four years.


Dr. Jackson- Presidents don’t have frustrations or concerns, how can you ask a question like that?  Don, I’m just doing the best I can for Rensselaer.  It takes a lot of effort to make the whole thing balance out.  And each group has a lot of pent up desires and needs and I recognize them more than most people give me credit for.  And in the end I have to make my best judgment on how we’re going to move this whole ship we call Rensselaer and it does require making certain bets on certain things as they pan out and that it actually does, and I tried to illustrate that earlier that it increases our overall resource base.  When you hear me talk about a bootstrap that is what I mean.  And those bets can range from a focus in biotechnology and it is the never the only research we’d do at Rensselaer. The question is where do I get money to invest in nuclear engineering if I don’t have more overall resources? Requires a bet on EMPAC, which many in engineering school see less value in, but has enormous value in repositioning the institution and broadening the base of student who we might attract here.  We get very stellar students who apply, admit and attend. But we don’t get enough and part of that has to do with the perception of us and how narrow we are and what alternatives students have when they come here.  This comes from surveys.  The presidents’ job is trying to take a twin size blanket and cover a king size bed and to cover various corners without it ripping and it requires a little elasticity.  But to do it in a way, and I’m an absolute hawk on this, I will not run a deficit operation.  So if it means saying no to keep the budget in balance, I will say no. Because this institution had a decade or more of running in the red, layoffs, the VSP program and I’m not going to have that on my watch and I hope to leave the university in sufficient strength and shape with sufficient financial strength that that does not have to be contemplated.   And in the end a lot of people don’t like me, don’t like what I tell them they can’t have, they don’t like what we choose to do.   But I have to live with that because I’m committed to what we’re trying to do here.  I have belief in faculty and I want you to have belief in what I’m trying to do here. The irony is that there’s a lot of talk inside, but on the outside, people think we’re doing amazing things.


Deborah Kaminsky- Mechanical Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering.   I was interested in understanding if there’s been an official change in the types of undergraduate student that we’re recruiting.  I’ve heard through the grapevine that we’re looking for a different sort of student than in the past, a broader a more entrepreneurial or something.  Have you given marching orders to admissions as to whom we should bring in and who we shouldn’t bring in?


Dr. Jackson- No, I’ve told admissions that we need to bring in the very best students that we can attract, who can benefit from the kind of education we can provide.  It turns out that the students themselves are broader, more entrepreneurial.  They demand more.  That requires that we evolve. It’s not that we say you have to be XYZ other than be excellent, we still look for excellence in math and science.  That’s our fundamental mantra.  These students come to us with a lot broader interests. And many times when they make choices to go elsewhere they think other schools are stronger in engineering and science but many, many times it’s because of what they perceive as a lack of breadth in the overall experience here. The students are driving the need for us to evolve rather than the other way around.


Ken Cox-  ECSE dept This is a longer term question, when are the next buildings to be planned?  The issue comes up because in my department in CS we struggle a great deal to find space for our graduate students and finding a place to co-locate our activities.  At the moment there doesn’t seem like enough space even with the new buildings.  When is the next big building going to be built?


Dr. Jackson- I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you in terms of the next big academic building.  What I’ve said to the cabinet is that our focus on the academic and research side is finding whether we acquire, renovate, add-on, whatever, that we acquire the appropriate space for our activities for science, computer engineering and IT related research.  That’s a commitment that we’re making.  I can’t tell you today what that solution will be, but to show you an example in trying to balance everything.  The beauty is that it doesn’t look like MIT and it’s not crowded.  If you look at the main academic campus, then in some ways short of taking up all the green space, we’re running out of space. Therefore we ask where we expand.  And one would want to expand in a way where there’s some contiguousness to the campus and then you fold into that looking at where a new residence hall may be and where there are opportunities.  You end up with a clash in what faculty wants and what students want.  We’ll work that out, but that is our focus in the next year.  We’re working on a short term solution right now that we’ll implement.  We’ll act on input received from Jeff Trinkle.  On long term, it's a drop in the bucket to what our needs are.  We do have SUMAC and its job is how we consolidate to create groups of contiguous spaces that can be useful.  In terms of a specific date for a full academic or research building, I can’t tell you.  And the reason I can’t tell you is where we have to focus in the next couple of years, aside from the short to intermediate term solutions for IT related research, we have to do more in the student life arena.  We have to finish renovating the residence halls, build a new residence hall, build a sports training locker room and classroom facility on the East campus.  These are absolute musts.  We talked about the relative competitive position. We’re never going to try to make this a country club but we need to bring this up from circa Soviet-block style and WWII barracks and boot camp.  That does not help us.  The students themselves are demanding and are expecting more.  The other alternatives they have to consider for universities, offer them more.  And so, if I’m being honest with you, we’ll work out an intermediate plan solution, but the next new building or buildings will be in the student life-arena.   But you’re going to get multiple-thousands of square feet in all of this.  Don’t worry.


Bob Palazzo- You had a banner year in undergraduate recruitment, very high numbers, quality of life issues that come from that, the desire to expand the graduate program and the handling of all of those people.  I’m just wondering if there is thought on how many undergraduates Rensselaer will have down the road?


Dr. Jackson- Our plan has always been to have 5,000 + or -.  5,000 + or – is where we are today.  We projected a class of 1200 and got a class of 1350.  We are actually having a study done, Teresa and Jack Mahoney, who is in charge of institutional research, on our whole admissions model.  Because something has changed in terms of our yield even as we’re looking to have more students apply we need to think about how it works better in admission and so forth. Having said that, these students are a delight.  They are animating the campus and are exactly the kind of students we want.  For graduate students, we’re probably looking at more off-campus in the community-based solutions with housing we may acquire and renovate. As well as doing more things on campus and encouraging the departments and the schools to do more things on campus to improve the quality of life for graduate students.  A critical need is the one that Ken identified which is space for graduate students on campus relative to their research work. And that is an equal focus to any issue about housing or new housing for graduate students.  And so our success is creating real stress for us in terms of how to handle it all.  That’s what I have the Cabinet for; SUMAC and the Deans are working very hard on.  Any ideas you have, I’d like to hear.  Faculty needs to push the envelope.  May not always be able to do everything in the timeframe requested, but it doesn’t ever drop off the list.


Watch Videostream of entire Meeting.