General Faculty Meeting

3/17/04

 

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

 

Agenda

Welcome by Chair of the FacultyPeter Persans

Report on Academic Initiatives – Bud Peterson, Provost

            Expand the Research Enterprise

                        Constellation Searches

                        Transition Faculty Composition

                                    New Tenure-Track Positions/Hire Distribution Data

                        Intellectual Program for the CBIS

            Enhance Education

                        Faculty Laptop Program

                        Infuse Entrepreneurship Across the Curriculum

                        Rensselaer at Hartford

                        Strengthen Undergraduate Advising

                        Strengthen Graduate Education

            Achieve Faculty Diversity

                        Strengthen Office of Institute Diversity

                        Funds for Under Represented Minority Recruitment

            Redesign and Reinvigorate Enabling Activities

                        Revision of Faculty Handbook

            Upcoming Issues

                        Middle States Accreditation

                        Compensation Initiative

                        Faculty Handbook Vote

                        Search for a Dean of Engineering and VP for Research

                       

Q&A on the Report on Academic Initiatives

            Hartford Downsizing

            Constellation Hires

            HASS Fellowships

 

Plus/Minus Proposal

            The Process – Cheryl Geisler, President of the Faculty Senate

            Panel Discussion: Ellen Esrock, Former Senator from H&SS, Christoph Steinbruchel,

                   Chair, Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee, June Deery, Faculty Senate  

                   Curriculum Committee, Mike Goldenberg, Student Academics Affairs Committee

            Grade Modifiers Q&A

Faculty Senate Election Slate and Call for Nominations – Bruce Nauman

Announcements

 

Welcome by Chair of the Faculty - Peter Persans

Chair of the Faculty, Peter Persans opened the General Faculty Meeting by thanking all in attendance.  He then introduced Provost Bud Peterson who presented a Report on Academic Initiatives.

 

Report on Academic Initiatives – Bud Peterson, Provost

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.

 

Expand Research Enterprise

Constellation Searches

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 Rensselaer has or the candidate has that do not match.  He stated that these are difficult searches to bring to fruition and it is a challenge to bring candidates in.

There are a few things that Rensselaer has learned during this process.  One is that, particularly in the Bio area, there is an expectation that Rensselaer strengthen some of the undergirding departments. Rensselaer expectations are high and when the candidates understand them, some decide to withdraw.  RPI is making large investments in these Constellations and there is an expectation there will be a return on the investment.  Rensselaer wants to bring in key people that will be productive and will want to do more than just build their individual research program.  Rensselaer is expecting to bring in people that will help develop and grow research in these areas and take a much broader and holistic view of research than one would normally expect a faculty member to take.  They have also been more expensive than anticipated. 

 

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 Rensselaer has raised substantial endowment for the Constellations.  The Future Chips Constellation has been completed, two of which are currently on-campus.  There is a significant increase in the Biotech Constellations as a result of many of the new hires there have been across some of the fundamental undergirding fields, particularly in Biology.  He stated that it is absolutely critical, if Rensselaer is going to move forward in the Biotech area that there is a strong fundamental program in Biology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering and Chemical and Biological Engineering.

 

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.

 

Transition Faculty Composition

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.  Rensselaer started the Fall 2003 year with 39 more tenure or tenure- track faculty than Fall 2000, which is an 11.8 % increase.  Rensselaer has transitioned 12 clinical positions to tenure or tenure-track positions.  In 3 cases, candidates who held the clinical positions were hired in the permanent positions, the others were outside hires.  At the end of this year, if all the positions that have been approved and funded are filled, 127 faculty will have been hired in the past 3 years, 71 of which are new positions.

 

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. 

 

New Tenure Track Positions / Hire Distribution Data

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. 

 

Intellectual Program for the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies

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 Rensselaer.  The Provost stated that they are preparing what the intellectual plan for the building will be, who will move into the building, what type of work will be done and what type of office and lab space will be needed.  There is a lot of planning occurring to determine what the building will be from an intellectual perspective, what type of research will be done and how to get the right people in close physical proximity in order to be successful.

 

Enhance Education

Faculty Laptop Program

Rensselaer will restart a faculty laptop program, which has not been in place for a few years and will be funded through the Provost’s Office.  Proposals will be solicited from faculty who would like to have a laptop.  The assigning of a laptop will be based upon proposed research and educational activities.  This will be an opportunity to upgrade the computers the faculty have access to. The exact number of laptops to distribute has not yet been established, but the program needs to be a continuing process that allows faculty to turn over computers every several years before they are outdated.  One idea is to possibly use laptops turned in from students.

 

Infuse Entrepreneurships Across the Curriculum

Each school is incorporating entrepreneurship at some level within their program.  Rensselaer believes that entrepreneurship has, been, will and should continue to be a distinguishing characteristic of Rensselaer students, particularly undergraduates.  Entrepreneurship is not solely small business startup, but includes a thought process, ways to evaluate options and look at risk, and various other things, that continue to be a value to the students.  The Provost has spent time dispelling the myth that there will be a required 3 or 4 credit hour course in entrepreneurship in the curriculum.  The idea is to expose student to the ten things they should know about entrepreneurship in various programs such as the Venture Forum, Business Plan Competition, the Entrepreneurship Club and courses to take as electives.  The working group believes this is a far better approach than to have a required course and that it also has a better chance of success.

 

Rensselaer at Hartford

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 Hartford and make them more efficient.  The need for this is due to the dramatic changes in distance education, continuing education and web-based education.  Many institutions offer Master’s degrees that previously did not compete with Hartford.  Signature cohort programs and more highly specified degree programs at Hartford are being considered.  Rensselaer is working on streamlining courses in Hartford and making changes in the course offerings since the breadth of options is considerably less.

 

Strengthen Undergraduate Advising

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. 

 

Strengthen Graduate Education

Rensselaer will continue to look at what is being done in Graduate Education, particularly for graduate support, which is an on-going issue.  Tom Apple, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education is working with John Harrington and Alan Balfour on the HASS fellowship program which provides up to 20 fellowships, some externally and some internally, for students in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences field each year, up to 60 in total after 3 years.  A new program with the Lally School has been developed to help support students.  In this program, Rensselaer provides a year of support for the MBA student and then an industry provides a year of support, essentially a matching program.  Unique, novel and new ways are being looked at to support graduate students as Rensselaer continues to grow.  The number of PhD students has increased by 56% this past Fall. 

 

Achieve Faculty Diversity

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.  Currently, Rensselaer’s tenure-track positions are approximately 20% female.  People are working hard to have the diversity of our faculty reflect the diversity of the population in general and diversity of the Capital Region.  This year Rensselaer anticipates hiring 31 tenure or tenure track faculty, 5 of which are confirmed.

 

Strengthen Office of Institute Diversity

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. 

 

Funds for Under Represented Minority Recruitment

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.

 

Redesign and Reinvigorate Enabling Activities

Revision of Faculty Handbook

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. 

 

Upcoming Issues

Middle States Accreditation

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 Rensselaer must answer:  Do you have a statement of what the outcomes that you expect for your various programs or for all of the graduates of the Institution?  How are these outcomes accomplished? How do you measure these outcomes to determine whether they have been accomplished?

 

Compensation Initiative

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.

 

Faculty Handbook Vote

This is a vote of the Faculty Senate on the Handbook.

 

Search for a Dean of Engineering and a Vice President for Research

Dean Baeslack, Dean of Engineering, is returning to Ohio State as Dean of Engineering and is leaving July 1.  Art Sanderson is stepping down as VP for Research and will return to the faculty after sabbatical.  Rensselaer will be conducting searches over the next 6 months for these two important positions. 

 

Provost presentation available here.

 

Q&A on the Report on Academic Initiatives

Hartford Downsizing

Cheryl Geisler, President of the Faculty Senate stated that it seemed from the presentation from Dean Eckbreth recently, that the revenue from distance learning is not included in the Hartford analysis.  She asked the Provost if he had a sense of whether the projected downsizing of the faculty is going to affect their ability to generate revenue. 

 

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 Troy and it is not included in the Hartford campus.  Since it is the Education for Working Professionals, it has to be included in EWP or in Hartford or vice versa, but not both.  He added that he did not think it was a significant issue.  The key issue is that enrollment has been declining between 13-15% each year for the past several years.  With those changes in enrollment, the size of the workforce has to be evaluated.  The Hartford faculty has spent a lot of time reviewing the curricular offerings.  Hartford will continue to offer the courses that need to be offered to be successful, but cannot have a tremendous number of courses with only 5-8 students.  The Provost will be working with Alan Eckbreth, Vice President and Dean at Hartford, to develop the new academic degree offerings, course structure, and a 3-year rolling schedule of classes that are expected to be offered.  EWP students will know what courses are projected to be taught each year. The process now is to determine how many and which faculty will be needed to cover courses during the 3-year rolling schedule.  The Provost expected that there will be some downsizing and Alan Eckbreth stated that any reduction in force will be done consistent with the Handbook for Academic staff and the Human Resources policies.  The Provost wants to make sure that Hartford is strong and can move forward so that Hartford can contribute to the overall mission of Rensselaer.

 

Alan Eckbreth, Vice President and Dean at Hartford stated that Bud Peterson had mentioned that in each of the last two years, two critical faculty members whose contracts were up for renewal were not renewed.  The Provost responded that not all of the decisions to not renew contracts were based on the declining enrollment.

 

Constellation Hires

Jun Abrajano, Secretary of the Senate wanted to understand the status and the future of the Biotechnology Constellation hires due to the difficulty in meeting the time frame.  He understood from the Provost that one of the things learned in the process was the possible necessity to improve some core areas before the Constellation hires can proceed.  The Provost responded that what became apparent was that what was important to the people they were trying to attract, was the strength of the areas.  One candidate wanted a commitment that Rensselaer was going to strengthen a particular department and it was not the department the candidate was interviewing in.  He added that the Constellation searches are not being postponed and much of the strengthening has been done. 

 

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.

 

HASS Fellowships

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.

 

Plus/Minus Proposal

The Process – Cheryl Geisler, President of the Faculty Senate

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.

 

Panel Discussion with Ellen Esrock, Christoph Steinbruchel,

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.

 

Christoph Steinbruchel, Chair, Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee recommended that everyone review the documents on the Faculty Senate website.  He stated that what Ellen mentioned in terms of anxiety is reflective of the current system being inherently unfair and that it would cause more anxiety among students.  He added that he felt the most important point is that the plus/minus system is much fairer.  In the process of discussing benefits of the new system with people on the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, he reviewed a class that he recently taught and re-graded them.  In a class where there were 52 students, the numerical scores are close together.  The Faculty have to draw a line between As and Bs and only one point can make the difference, and the range of scores that would receive a B, varied by 12 points.  He felt that was not fair and that the Plus/Minus system would be a better way of distinguishing performance.

 

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

 

Mike Goldenberg, Chair, Student Academics Affairs Committee began by saying it was difficult to talk on behalf of the entire student body.  The Student Senate has talked to over 300 students and has gotten mixed reviews on the grade modifiers.  He agreed that grade modifiers are a more accurate representation of a student’s performance in class.  However, he thought it was a trade-off between more reliable grading and more anxiety.  The biggest case of anxiety is with 4.0 students or those in range of 4.0 and the goals these students place upon themselves.

 

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. 

 

Mike Goldenberg stated that it is important for the students to know about changes as far ahead as possible.  There were some students who were not yet aware of the proposal.  He is hoping that the Student Forum scheduled for March 23 will provide good recommendations.  When asked how the proposal would be received if it only applied to incoming freshmen, he stated most students would then not oppose the proposal.  He added that if it does go into effect Fall 2004, it would cause uproar.  Based on an idea brought up by the Senate, he suggested that the freshman class be graded with grade modifiers and that the grades are based on the course level, not the student level.

 

Grade Modifiers Q&A

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 was at Berkeley, optional guidelines were issued which suggested that if teachers deviated either way, they could question whether it was justified.  He added that he did not believe the statement made that instructors giving students higher grades was not correlated with students giving instructors higher grades.)  Cheryl Geisler suggested that it could possibly be an agenda item for next year’s Faculty Senate.

 

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.  Mike Goldenberg responded that he felt that in a physics class, for example, an 86 or 87 is close, but distinguishable.  However in grading a project, art or an essay, there must be some limit to the precision in grading and it must be somewhat subjective.

 

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.

 

Peter Persans, Chair of the Faculty stated that grading for Physics had been mentioned.  He wanted to say that just because an exam can be graded as right or wrong, it does not mean it is a measure of the student’s ability.  A very good student could get 85 on an exam and a student who is not quite as good may get a 90 on the same exam, just due to the selection of problems or other details.  This is the reason multiple exams are given. 

 

Linnda Caporael, former Chair of the Faculty stated that she is concerned about the example Mike Goldenberg had used regarding taking one test with 5 questions.  The measurement is not the particular test, but the ultimate measurement is the cumulative grade.  By the time a student graduates, they have about 30-40 different grades.  Some tests a student really struggles and does not receive desired grade, but with another test the student may not do any work and get a better grade than deserved. 

 

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. 

 

Cheryl Geisler thanked the panel and hoped that faculty have these discussions.  She provided the Faculty Senate website location on the grading proposal, which is www.rpi.edu/dept/facsen/2003-2004/issues/grading/htm or that comments can be sent to fredef2@rpi.edu.

 

Faculty Senate Election Slate and Call for Nominations – Bruce Nauman

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.

 

Announcements

Mike Goldenberg of the Student Senate invited all faculty to attend the Faculty/Student Brain Bowl which will be held on 3/31 at 5:00pm in DCC Great Hall.  It will last approximately one hour and will be followed by a one-hour long dinner.  The faculty will be required to bring 5 students to comprise the team.  Any questions can be directed to Mike at goldem@rpi.edu

 

The meeting was adjourned at 3:53 pm.