General Faculty Meeting
Attendees: Cheryl Geisler, Bruce Nauman, Syed Murtuza, George Nagy, Ellen Esrock, Mike Goldenberg, June Deery, Christoph Steinbruchel, Alan Balfour, Randolph Franklin, Joel Plawsky, Ron Eglash, Terry Blanchet, Lester Gerhardt, Lester Rubenfeld, Deborah Kaminski, Jun Abrajano, Peter Persans, Bimal Malaviya, Wolf von Maltzahn, J. E. Flaherty, Gary A. Gabriele, Linnda Caporael, Joe Chow, Patricia Search, Jeff Durgee, Tom Apple, G.P. Peterson, Sharon Anderson-Gold, Jim Stoddard, Alan Eckbreth
Welcome by Chair of the Faculty –
Report on Academic Initiatives – Bud Peterson, Provost
The Process – Cheryl Geisler, President of the Faculty Senate
Discussion: Ellen Esrock, Former Senator from H&SS,
Chair, Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee, June Deery, Faculty Senate
Faculty Senate Election Slate and Call for Nominations – Bruce Nauman
Chair of the Faculty,
The Provost explained that in each of the past several years, in the spring semester, he presents to the Faculty an update on Academic Initiatives. These Academic Initiatives were included in the Performance Plan that was presented to and approved by the Board of Trustees and are actions and issues that he feels will be focused on in the upcoming year.
The academic portfolio comprises more than just the academic schools. It also encompasses the Graduate Education, Undergraduate Education, Office of Institute Diversity and Enrollment Management. The highest priorities are divided into four major areas and there are about 35 key objectives that pertain to the Office of the Provost. He will focus on the most important and the ones that he will be spending the most time on this coming year: expand research enterprise, enhance education, achieve faculty diversity, and redesign and reinvigorate enabling activities.
The goal initially was to complete two Constellations each year for 3 years. If goal had been met all 6 Constellations would have been completed this year. The concept is to provide the Constellation individual support, equipment support, start-up support, a chair account for their individual research, and most importantly provide resources for the Constellation as a group which are funds set aside to support research in a specific area. The Constellations are multidisciplinary in nature and the teams should be across several disciplines.
There was a blue ribbon panel that Art Sanderson chaired. It helped to identify the three thrust areas. They are confident the areas they have identified are the correct areas, even three years later. When the Federal Support is looked at, the support is increasing in all of those areas.
There are 7 Constellation areas if Bioinformatics is included. Provost Peterson then provided the history about where the process is and why the search has not been completed. In the Future Chips area, the Constellation is complete. In the Tetherless world, there were four candidates considered: two withdrew, one declined an offer and one is under consideration.
A Senior Constellation was hired in Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering and they are in the process of interviewing candidates for the Junior Constellation position. The Provost is cautiously optimistic that the Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering Constellation will be complete by July 1.
There are a number of candidates in several areas that will
be visiting campus soon. There are four
Senior Constellation candidates that are fairly far into the process and he is
trying to move forward with the offers. In a number of cases, there are
expectations that either
There are a few things that
Some candidates are happy where they are and their institutions do not want them to move. There is reluctance for some to move lab facilities and start over. Many have large-scale research programs that are very active and very aggressive. It is a major undertaking to move successful senior people.
The good news is that
Overall, this increase emphasis on faculty and the Biotech area has helped facilitate the growth in the last four years. The NIH funding has grown from $480,000 to $24 million and it was good timing to move further into the Biotech area. Overall research proposals, awards and expenditures are up. Engineering awards are up 45% over last year. The faculty working in these areas are being recognized nationally for their work in Biotechnology and IT.
The second major thrust in Research Enterprise is to
transition faculty composition. The goal is to increase the number of
research-active faculty in tenure and tenure-track positions on campus.
The profile of the distribution shows a significant change in demographics of the faculty. There have been 56 faculty resign or retire in the past three years. There is also a downward shift in the average age of faculty due to the rapid increase of hiring.
The Faculty Senate and the Planning and Resources Committee prepared feedback on the Performance Plan and one of the issues that came up was whether or not the strong focus on Biotechnology and Information Technology was resulting or causing a decrease in intellectual diversity of the faculty. The information the Provost provided gave some indication of the breadth and scope of the new positions, the number of filled positions, the number of newly created positions, and the distribution of faculty across various academic schools. He stated that this is not a distribution focused on just one field or department.
Each year, the Provost asks the Deans to look at the historical growth of faculty from Fall 2000, which was after the approval of the Rensselaer Plan, through the actual growth in Fall 2003. There were 399 positions approved and 377 people were actually on-campus on the first day of classes in the fall. The growth is controlled to some extent by the projected growth in research. A dramatic growth in research should correspond with a growth in faculty.
The third initiative in expanding the research enterprise is
the Intellectual Program for the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary
Studies. Faculty will be moving into the
new building in late summer. A symposium
is being planned that will focus on the new initiatives in the field of
Biotechnology and will include some of the work happening at
Each school is incorporating entrepreneurship at some level
within their program.
Alan Eckbreth, Vice President and Dean of Hartford had
recently spoken to the Faculty Senate about enrollment. The goal is to focus the course offerings,
degree offerings and program offerings at
Within Office of Undergraduate Education, strengthening advising is a key focus. There have been faculty and student committees that are looking at a number of ways to improve the advising process. There was a Meet Your Advisor Day in the fall which was well attended. The Student Senate is working on a Brain Bowl which is a competition with faculty and students. A Take A Student To Lunch program was started and the Provost encouraged faculty to take advantage of this program. The program is for faculty to take 2-7 students to the dining hall to try to relate to them in a non-classroom setting.
For Tenure Track, Clinical and Research, the information the
Provost provided showed the distribution among Caucasian, African American,
Hispanic and Asian groups. It also
showed that the number of woman hired in the past three years in tenure-track
positions has increased from 50 to 60 and the number of ethnic minorities has
increased from 12 to 21. The goal set
for this upcoming year, which each Academic Dean is part of, is that half of
the hires this year will be diverse hires.
There was a Tech Awareness Day that had nearly twice as many attendees in the past. Ken Durgans, Vice Provost of Institute Diversity, is actively involved in initiating a number of programs to try to enhance the diversity of the campus community. The Provost added that within his office, the best step to take is to improve the diversity of the faculty.
There are a number of programs to help facilitate the increased diversity of the faculty as a whole. Funds have been set aside to give incentive to the search process for faculty and will continue to be done. This program has been successful and has led to the increased diversity of the faculty. A diverse faculty will help to continue to increase the diversity of the students.
The Provost had initially planned to complete the Faculty Handbook this academic year, but the goal now is to complete the revision by Christmas 2004. The Handbook has not been updated since 1994 and there was a lot of work to be done. The Faculty Senate identified a committee that worked with the Provost over the past several months. They have completely re-written the handbook for academic staff and it is now a faculty handbook. The revised version was sent to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, HR, it is undergoing external legal review and the President has received a copy. The changes from those groups will be incorporated into one version which has to be approved by the Faculty Senate.
One of the upcoming issues that will be of interest or
concern to the Faculty is the Middle States Accreditation. The Middle States Accreditation requires that
RPI have a statement of outcomes. There
are three questions
The Compensation Initiative has been an ongoing discussion. The faculty committee has finished their part and it has been sent to the Deans and the Provost. A criteria and mechanism have been put together by which the compensation for the faculty will be evaluated. It has been forwarded to Curtis Powell, VP for Human Resources, who is putting it into a broader document and proposal that can be sent back to the Faculty Committee for a final review. It will then go on to the President. The Provost hopes to have that done and have it move forward within the next 6 months.
This is a vote of the Faculty Senate on the Handbook.
Dean Baeslack, Dean of Engineering, is returning to
Provost presentation available here.
Provost Peterson responded that regarding the distance
revenue not included in the budgeting process, it is included somewhere. He stated that it is not included in
Alan Eckbreth, Vice President and Dean at
The Provost stated that due to some of the difficulties identified, the Constellation hire goals had not been met. He added that there is no discussion to deviate from the Constellation model. There has been considerable discussion on the mechanisms used to fill the positions and determined that the process was taking too long. From the Provost’s perspective, the faculty search committees work for months to find a candidate and once one is found, an offer has to be turned around within a matter of hours. By the time a Constellation was identified, it had to go to the Department and through the Promotion and Tenure process. Some mechanisms have been put together to attempt to do things in parallel, but not violate the normal processes. There is no discussion to change the model from the Constellation concept.
Linnda Caporael, former Chair of the Faculty stated that regarding the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences fellowships, she has heard that they are not linked to TA-ships or RA-ships. She asked what the rationale for that was and also what impact it would have on the faculty and department. Provost Peterson responded that they are not linked to TA or RA positions and are in fact fellowships which have no specific requirements of the students. TA-ships are to work in a teaching endeavor and a RA-ship has expectations to meet. The HASS fellowships allow students the opportunity to explore and work in any field and allow students to have flexibility and the opportunities to study in a wide range of fields. The greatest impact and one of the concerns was that there was a decrease in the opportunity for departments and schools to make long-term commitments to students for support. This provides an opportunity, because they are 3-year fellowships, to spend time as a TA or RA and then get a fellowship and allows for an opportunity for long-term support and commitment.
Linnda additionally stated that there is a notion that, especially those in Humanities, it is important to have a strong teaching experience opportunity and for those in Social Sciences, to have experience in research. The thought that having those fellowships somehow linked to faculty activities would enhance the opportunity to get more funded research. It seems that when students are given the money and told to find something to do and explore, it does not create a community to be productive. Provost Peterson stated that he and Tom Apple could come and talk about these specific fellowships. They are directed at areas where one would not normally expect there to be a lot of traditional external support. The idea of students having an opportunity to teach is very important. This does not preclude them from doing it; it just is not a requirement.
Tom Apple agreed and added that the goal is to provide students opportunities for dissertation and scholarly activity without having the burden of teaching. But in a 3 year program, they will have the opportunity to teach. The Provost stated that it will not be the situation where the student will just be given money. There will be competitive proposals submitted and they will be evaluated by a panel of faculty members. The exact logistics have not been determined, but it will be in place for the fall.
Linnda thanked the administration for responding to the need. The Provost stated that it is an effort to try to mitigate some of the results and consequences of some of the tuition changes and to address how to support the students in the Fine Arts where it is hard to receive grants.
The proposal to add plus/minus modifiers was developed and presented to the Faculty Senate in spring 2003 by then-Senator Ellen Esrock. The plan and purpose today is to use the General Faculty Meeting to launch an active discussion between faculty and students. In April, a new Student Senate will be elected and the Faculty Senate plans to consult with the new student leadership and hopes to formulate a ballot proposal that can be voted on by the faculty in late April, prior to adjourning for the summer. Cheryl encouraged the faculty to take time during GM week to discuss this issue with their students in hopes of generating ideas about the impact of the proposal and what possible modifications to the proposal are. She added that the next 4-6 weeks of discussion can have a potential impact on the proposal.
June Deery and Mike Goldenberg
Ellen Esrock, Former Senator from H&SS, said that for students around the country, the most important thing about the Proposal was the anxiety of the students. She stated that it was important to identify what type of anxiety was in question. After discussions with Deans, Students and Administrative officers, she concluded there were two types of anxiety.
The first case is the anxiety the student has in working for a grade in the current system and they are anxious as to whether or not they will achieve that grade. If they fail to get the A, the disappointment is great in going from an A to a B. With the Plus/Minus system, the A- will be the backstop. So if this person fails to get an A or B, they will not drop down to next grade, just a smaller incremental decrease of A- or B-. The anxiety will be less for these types of students because the consequence will be less if the desired letter grade is not made. She also added that a plus/minus system will not eliminate all anxiety from the grading system.
The second case is the situation where there is a student who is at the lower end of a grade. For example, a B- student in this system will have anxiety because this student was just doing a minimal amount of work to stay in their grade category. It will create more work in the feeling of having to push harder. For these students, it is the case that if they are always a C- or B- student, they probably will not get a B or C. There is a certain amount of anxiety. The positive side is that the student will be motivated to move up the grade scale.
These two cases should help determine which case of anxiety is better. In the first case, there is a student who is striving to achieve a higher goal but needs a backstop of the plus/minus so they would not fall as low and would be encouraged to strive. In the second case, there is the student who is not striving and is at the bottom of the letter grade. If you look at the kind of values that are held and the kind of anxiety that is most important to respond to, it should be to the student who is striving and allow them to continue to work and strive and not drop down a whole grade.
June Deery, Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee stated that one of the main concerns is that overall GPAs may suffer. She believed that this is not the case. She also felt the concern could be related to grade inflation in that many faculty are aware that most students get As and Bs. There is a big difference between A+ and A- students and when they ultimately get the same grade, it seems inherently unfair. In an era of grade inflation, there is a bunching of As and Bs and it is even more important to distinguish these students. There is a trend nationally to switch to this system and there are major Institutes that have decided to make this transition
Most students feel it will increase stress. With plus/minus, if a student is taking a test worth 20% of their grade and the test has 5 questions, missing one question has a much bigger affect on their grade than if it were graded under the current system and that small mistakes can impact their grade.
He felt that while grade modifiers are more reliable when grades are calculated quantitatively, such as calculating the average on a test, but for grade done qualitatively, when judged on writing ability or artistic ability, it seems more difficult to decipher between grades. In some cases, such as students in Arts or Architecture, there is a big difference between an A or B project and the difference will be more precise if left as the whole letter grade.
He felt that if students were asked to vote, they would vote no, but not because of the policy, but because of the transition. He felt that if the proposal does pass, the transition needs to be smooth and needs to be more gradual. He recommended that the faculty speak to their students about the Student Senate talking points and that he felt it was worth a ten minute discussion in class.
Bruce Nauman stated that the proposal that was shown today was not the proposal that was originally recommended by the Curriculum Committee. He stated that in the initial proposal, the grading for Graduate and Undergraduate students would be the same. Christoph said that he would review that but felt that the Committee did not want to extend the entire grade scale to Graduate students.
Gary Gabriele asked how the Faculty Senate is going to handle proposed changes to the proposal. Cheryl responded that the Student Senate will forward the results of their forum and the actual construction of the ballot question will be done in a Senate Meeting and done through the process of a motion. He suggested that since the proposal was presented by the Curriculum Committee, that any changes be done through an amendment process prior to the final proposal being on the ballot. Cheryl agreed and stated that the proposal will be amended at a Senate meeting based on the information and feedback received.
(William Randolph Franklin suggested there be official QPA
standards for the large courses. When he
Ellen Esrock, former Senator stated that in particular to
the issue of subjectivity, that is how a student is graded, there is no
numerical test. She believes that the
notion of subjective grading makes it nerve-wracking. But to the faculty that are doing the grading
and evaluating, they are professionals and will grade as such.
Sharon Anderson-Gold, Senator-at-Large, stated that Mike had used the phrase qualitative vs. quantitative. She stated that faculty do not grade arbitrarily; they have required criteria. She suggested that what should be provided to the students are the criteria the faculty is looking for. The faculty judgment is based on the way the work looks. If it ends up that there is a significant difference in work, whole letter grades will be assigned, if there are more varieties needed, then grade modifiers will be used.
Linnda Caporael, former Chair of the Faculty stated that she
is concerned about the example
Mike stated that with grade modifiers, smaller differences in performance and effort will be reflected in a student’s grade. That extra effort can raise or lower a grade. One test can make a difference in a positive way or a negative way.
There is a number of positions in which there are no candidates for. There is a need for three nominees for Senator positions from Architecture, Science and At-Large, a Planning and Resources Committee nominee from Architecture, two Curriculum Committee nominees from Engineering and Science, and two Election Committee nominees from Engineering and Management.
The election, in addition to having the normal people succession, will include a number of Constitutional amendments. There are four amendments, three of which are largely procedural. One of the amendments changes is to increase the number of people needed to put Constitutional amendments on the ballot. Another is to regularize the appointment of the Honors Committee as a Standing Committee on the Senate. A Working Group put together a satisfaction survey that the faculty would take to determine whether faculty were happy with the administration that year.
Alan Nadel was nominated by Sharon Anderson-Gold as the H&SS representative for the Promotion & Tenure Committee.
Linnda asked about the satisfaction survey. She stated that since the Faculty Senate will not always have someone on the Faculty Senate or Executive Committee who knows how to write surveys, she asked how to insure that it will always be a well-written survey. Bruce stated it is an authorization and the legislation is up to the Faculty Senate. The specifics including wording on the ballot and the dissemination will be done by Faculty Senate. Linnda recommended that a mechanism be made available on the Faculty Senate website for discussion on the amendments.
The meeting was adjourned at .