Faculty Senate Meeting

October 29, 2003


Attendees:  Ash Kapila, Tom Apple, Gary Gabriele, Bob Block, Mark Goldberg, Bruce Nauman, Cheryl Geisler, Peter Persans, Sharon Anderson-Gold, Roger Wright, Shekkar Jayanthi, Jeff Durgee, Patricia Search, Tamar Gordon, Ron Eglash, Mary Anne Waltz, Joel Plawsky, Christof Steinbruchel, Jun Abrajano



Approve minutes of General Faculty Meeting

Approve minutes of 9/17 meeting

Core Curriculum Objectives Proposal- Cheryl Geisler

Report on Interim Appointments – Bruce Nauman

Report on the Staff Handbook – Bruce Nauman

Report on Graduate Enrollment – Tom Apple

Clarification of Misunderstanding of Graduate Policy

At-Risk Students

Impact of the Grad Tuition Policy

Assignment of Working Groups – Cheryl Geisler

Working groups meet – All



Approval of Minutes of 10/15 and 9/17

Approval of Interim Appointments of Mike Wozny (Curriculum) and Joel Plawsky (Senate)

Approval of Motion:  The Senate repudiates the applicability of the Employee handbook to the faculty and asks that any future editions of this handbook be named “staff.”


Approval of the Minutes of the 10/15 General Faculty Meeting and the 9/17 Faculty Senate Meeting

At 2:05 PM, President Cheryl Geisler opened the Faculty Senate meeting. She asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the 10/15 General Faculty Meeting and a motion to approve the Minutes of the 9/17 Faculty Senate Meeting.  All minutes were approved


Core Curriculum Objectives Proposal- President Cheryl Geisler

It came to the attention of the Faculty Senate a couple of weeks ago that any Core Curriculum changes need to be brought to a vote at a full General Faculty Meeting. 


A Four-Part process outlined in the handout (Core Process) is the process we propose to implement: Inform, Survey, Deliberate, and Vote. A Core Proposal has been forwarded to the Faculty Senate by the Curriculum Committee.  The process will be discussed today, not the Core Curriculum Proposal. The Core Curriculum Outcomes are also available.


Inform:  A news bulletin is going out next week to faculty explaining what they will be asked to vote on during next semester.


Survey: The survey will be designed to encourage adequate discussion and to supply faculty with information on the 22 objectives in the proposal.  Feedback on the objectives will be requested, asking both a “should” question and a “can” question. The “should” question is whether the proposed change should be made, and the “can” question explores the potential roadblocks to making the change.  Results of the survey will be posted on the web so that faculty can assess the impact of a particular objective and read the opinions of colleagues who describe the effect of the objective on their programs. The program reps will be asked to complete the survey and to engage faculty in discussion so that more than their own personal opinion will be reflected.


Deliberate:  Based on results of the survey, position statements including pros and cons will be solicited.  Survey results will also be posted to the web.  Contributors of position statements will be identified over the next few weeks.


Vote:  The final stage according to the Constitution is to bring the Core Curriculum proposal to a General Faculty Meeting for a vote.  The next General faculty Meeting was originally scheduled for March, but the Executive Committee thought it would be beneficial to have a vote earlier.  The January 21st meeting will be changed to a special faculty meeting.  The Constitution allows the senate to call general faculty meetings as needed. 


 Report on Interim Appointments

There were two interim appointments that needed to be approved.  Bruce Nauman recommended Mike Wozny for the Engineering Representative on the Curriculum Committee, replacing Mike Abbott, and Joel Plawsky, as the Engineering Representative on the Senate, replacing himself. Both were approved.


Report on the Staff Handbook- Bruce Nauman

Next was an extensive discussion of the employee handbook.  A problem is that the handbook is labeled employee handbook and therefore could be applied to faculty.  A second concern that was raised was the appropriateness of the application of some language for any employee.  Bruce Nauman reports that Curtis Powell has refused to make an unambiguous statement that the handbook does not apply to faculty.  Bruce had hoped that the Provost, Bud Peterson would be in attendance and would make a clearer statement that the handbook does not apply to faculty and that faculty should be governed by a separate document.   


President Cheryl Geisler thought the standard was that if there is a statement in the handbook that says it applies to faculty then it does, but if it there is no statement, then it doesn’t apply.  Bruce Nauman commented that Curtis Powell will not put that in writing.  Mary Anne Waltz said that, as a manager, she attended an HR meeting and was told by an HR rep that the handbook does not refer to faculty.


According to Bruce Nauman, two things need to be clarified:

1)  The administration needs to explicitly state that the employee handbook doesn’t apply to faculty.

2)  We need a recommendation to the administration that future editions of this book remove the ambiguous double language.  It should not say all employees; it should say that it applies to staff. What applies to faculty should be in another book.  There should be two separate books, a staff handbook and a faculty handbook,


Sharon Anderson-Gold, Senator-at-large agrees the issue needs to be addressed because silence can be interpreted as acceptance.  Roger Wright, Chair of the Planning and Resources Committee said that verbal agreements are OK only until there is a problem.  Policy needs to be in writing to prevent future problems.  Ash Kapila, Secretary of the Faculty is in favor of a resolution but wants to have the discussion when the Provost is present.  Jun Abrajano, Secretary of the Senate stated that the Executive committee met with the provost and he said that except where stated, this handbook does not apply to faculty. Jun also said there are several portions where the handbook does apply to faculty; therefore, he doesn’t understand what there is to repudiate.


Bruce Nauman said he does not mind talking to the Provost again if he will come out with a definitive statement.  He objects to the idea that the Provost and Curtis Powell can put in arbitrary statements that something applies to faculty when it may not apply to faculty according to the Faculty Handbook.  Bruce also feels that the language is not acceptable as it refers to faculty. There is a faculty handbook that is now being revised.  That governs our relationship with the institute.  Tamar Gordon, Senator-at-large expressed concern over some of the language in the staff handbook as it applies specifically to employees.  She felt we need clarification on what specific pieces of paper can be circulated by staff and what is forbidden to be circulated.


A motion was made that the senate repudiates the applicability of the employee handbook to the faculty and asks that any future additions to this handbook be named “staff”.  The vote was 14 in favor of the motion, one opposed and one abstention.  The motion was passed.


Handout of Bruce Nauman's presentation on the staff handbook is available.


Graduate Enrollment- Tom Apple

Clarification of Misunderstanding of Graduate Policy

Tom Apple, Vice Provost/Dean of Graduate Education has gotten feedback regarding the graduate enrollment policy.  There are concerns that the graduate policy was not being implemented as written.  The Policy has been in effect for one year and there is some confusion about three areas.


The first confusion has come where the policy states that PhD students can only be supported as a TA for a maximum of two years.  Many believed that these two years had to run concurrently and had to be the first two years of a student’s tenure.  This is not the case.  That may be ideal scenario, but it is not prescribed.


Second, the policy does not say that fellowships (both internal and external) are included in the two year limit.  Students on fellowship are not expending their two-year limit. A student can be an RA in the fall and a TA in the spring.  It is the case that students are not allowed to be paid partially as a TA and partially as an RA in the same semester.  On item 5 of the RA policy, it states that all RAs be provided a full calendar year stipend and full tuition support.  That is how new grants are being submitted, but there have been grants that are grandfathered where full support for a full year was not written into the grant.  In such cases, reconfiguration of the budget has not been required.  Thus there are some students who are on grants and are not supported for the full calendar year.  From now on; however, faculty are required to budget students for the full calendar year including summer.


Finally, Registration in absentia is for those students who have finished all their work (all but the written work), but have not submitted a dissertation and may have one or two semesters more.  Students are allowed to be away on field work or using labs or doing special projects, and therefore register in absentia. There are more students than you might expect in this category.  When students are registered in absentia, they are considered full time students.  The communication of this information to the students to know that they can register in absentia relies on Tom Apple.  Tom said he would put something on the website referring to this.  The Faculty Senate input has taken into consideration. .  A student can stay in absentia for one year.  A student in absentia can defend his or her PhD thesis if the student has full-time status.  President Geisler asked whether the absentia policy is part of the academic regulations of the handbook.  Tom Apple responded that it is.


According to Tom Apple, our reputation is improving, and the tuition policy is helping.  Students are motivated to finish.  There has been an amazing change in the support of students.  Tom claims that this is attributable to the effort of the faculty. 


At-Risk Students

Concern was raised about what will happen to those students if they run out of TA support after 2 years.  Every student’s internal support account went to zero when the policy came online in Fall 2002.  If no one picks them up on a grant or fellowship, there will be 78 students who will have exhausted support by the end of this year.  This is a worst-case scenario.  Each dean has been given a list of these students and will be reporting back to Tom on their status.  There are three categories:


  • Very likely to receive support or graduate
  • May receive support  because a grant is in
  • Unlikely to  receive support


We’ve also had tremendous proposal activity for IGERT and GAANN, some of which could support 25 of these students.


Other efforts include providing more cost sharing than prescribed in the policy.  Tom Apple has worked with Art Sanderson to get a full cost share of IGERT and GAANN proposals.  In fact, all grant programs that have a cap on graduate student support, have been offered a full-cost share.


Impact of the Grad Tuition Policy

The new tuition policy is now bringing in $4 million extra per year. 


Jim Stodder, Senator from Hartford campus asked whether this report included Hartford; Tom acknowledged that it did not.  Jim reported that last year in June, Hartford graduated 376 students.  He suggested that f you average the Hartford numbers in to the numbers in Tom Apple’s report, most of your increases would turn negative.  Tuition policy had dramatic affects on Hartford.


Tom acknowledged that Hartford is an important part of Rensselaer but admitted that almost all aspects of tuition policy have been directed at Troy.  Nevertheless the tuition rate for Hartford is lower than on the Rensselaer campus. Jim said he knows that tuition is not as high at Hartford as at Rensselaer, but nonetheless, there has been a 46% increase in two years, a big jump.


Cheryl Geisler asked whether Tom could be prepared to give a report on the impact at Hartford at a future meeting.  Tom suggested that Dean Eckbreth might be able to speak to these issues as well as he could.


Additional details can be found in attachments of Tom Apple's presentation on Graduate Enrollment.


Assignment of Working Groups – Cheryl Geisler

At the last Senate meeting, members of the Faculty Senate filled out a form asking for their preference of working group.  The president tried to accommodate all requests and make sure there was an Executive Committee liaison in each group.  The Executive Committee liaison’s function is not to chair the group, just to bring any request for action to the Executive Committee.  We will continue to have our Faculty Senate meeting first and then adjourn to work in our Working Groups. 


The working group goals are to:

  1. Generate Senate agenda items, motions, invitations, and reports that will move issues along.
  2. Develop the internal expertise to keep Senate discussions on issues at a high level.


Meeting adjourned at 3:15 pm.