1-26-2005 Faculty Senate Meeting and Memorial

 

Present: Achille Messac, Deborah Kaminski, Bruce Nauman, Jeff Durgee, Patricia Search, Ron Eglash, Chjan Lim, Bob Block, Sunderesh Heragu, Bob Degeneff, J. Keith Nelson, J.L. Plawsky, Rena Bizios, Cheryl Geisler

 

Absent: Ning Xiang, Shekhar Garde, Mary Anne Waltz, Bill St. John, Tamar Gordon, Sandy Sternstein, William Pearlman, Roger Wright, Christoph Steinbruchel

 

Guests: Jun Abrajano, John Woods, Pawel Keblinski, Tom Apple, Michael O’Rourke, Paul Hohenberg, Joe Ecker, Steve Wiberley, Joyce Diwan, Henry Ehrlich, Provost Bud Peterson, Cheng Hsu, Merrill Whitburn, Shep Salon, Marty Glicksman, W.B. Brower, Stephen Derby, Prabhat Hajela, Tom Willemain, Jim Crivella, Joe Hamburg

 

Agenda

Memorials

Approval of Minutes of the 12/1/2004 Faculty Senate Meeting and 12/15/2004 General Faculty Meeting

Discussion on Attendance at Faculty Senate Meetings

Follow-up on Satisfaction Survey

  • Motion 1: The Faculty Senate asks the administration to negotiate revisions to the graduate student policy with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.
  • Motion 2: The Faculty Senate asks the administration to negotiate revisions on the Intellectual Property Policy with a committee to be appointed by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.
  • Motion 3: Retirement benefits once promised should not be reduced. (as proposed by Edwin Rogers)

Vote on Version of Handbook to Forward to Provost

  • Motion:  To formally send the Faculty Senate-approved version of the Faculty Handbook to the Provost and ask for his response. 

Communications Requirement

 

Memorials

Chair of the Faculty, Cheryl Geisler said that it is a longstanding custom to remember colleagues who have passed during the year.  Their memorials are read into the record.  The combined Faculty/Staff Memorial is Tuesday March 8 in the Chapel & Cultural Center from 11am-1pm.  A reception will follow today’s meeting. 

 

Approval of Minutes of the 12/1/2004 Faculty Senate Meeting and

12/15/2004 General Faculty Meeting

With a few revisions, the 12/1/2004 Minutes were approved.  The 12/15/2004 Minutes were also approved after some revisions.

 

Discussion on Attendance at Faculty Senate Meetings

A short discussion was held regarding who could attend Faculty Senate Meetings.  Since the motion that was put on the table was not seconded, a student who is also a reporter from the Poly was allowed to be present.

 

Follow-up on Satisfaction Survey

Motion 1: The Faculty Senate asks the administration to negotiate revisions to the graduate student policy with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.

 

Tom Apple, Dean of Graduate Education requested feedback on what specific problems there are with the graduate tuition policy.  He handed out data compiled from the data warehouse and asked the Faculty Senate Executive Committee (FSEC) to review the data with him.  He added that this data is submitted to the Federal government by auditors.  Tom stated that many measurements are up including the number of PhD students that Rensselaer is attracting.  The number of current students supported by external funding has increased, there are twice as many PhDs graduated this year as compared to five years ago and there are more PhD students than ever before.  Lastly, there has been an increase in student support.

 

Senator-at-large, Bob Block asked what specific items will be negotiated.  President Nauman said that it was the sense of the FSEC that it should be left open-ended.

 

Provost Peterson felt that the three motions being discussed mirror the motions presented by Keith Nelson at the General Faculty Meeting.  According to the Minutes from that meeting, there was discussion as to whether it would be premature to pass the motions or whether they required additional discussion.  The motion that was passed was to remand the items to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.  President Nauman explained that the current discussion is the result of the reconsideration by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.  The most crucial items of dissatisfaction from the survey are represented by the first two motions.

 

Vote on Motion 1:  The Faculty Senate asks the administration to negotiate revisions to the graduate student policy with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.  Eleven in favor, 1 opposed, 1 abstention.  Motion passed.

 

Motion 2: The Faculty Senate asks the administration to negotiate revisions on the Intellectual Property Policy with a committee to be appointed by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.

 

Debbie Kaminski, Secretary of the Senate, stated that there is a recent document regarding a new task force on the Intellectual Property (IP) Policy which she was unaware of at the time this motion was discussed to put forth.  She feels it may be premature to vote on the motion since there is a task force in place and changes to the IP Policy may be forthcoming.  She suggested the motion be tabled.  Bruce asked if there was a new IP policy in place and the Provost responded no.  Bruce was not referring to the IP policy that faculty members sign, rather, the IP policy that contracts and grants implements in negotiating extra funding. 

 

The Provost distributed copies of the IP policy task force memo from President Jackson dated January 14, 2005. This memo talks about a proposed IP policy.  The Provost said that an IP policy is in place and has been for a long time.  There is a proposed IP policy that a new task force is charged to look at and solicit input.  He agreed that prior to moving forward on the action to vote on the motion, the Faculty Senate should invite members of the task force to discuss what their responsibilities, goals and objectives are.  He added that the Committee is on a fast timeline and has hopes of moving forward by April 15.

 

Rena Bizios, Secretary of the Faculty, said that the administration usually asks the Faculty Senate for nominations for a faculty member to participate on these committees which affect the lives and welfare of the faculty.  She wants to request an expansion of the task force to include faculty members suggested by the Faculty Senate.  IP policy is an item where both groups have the same interests and can be worked on together rather than have two separate committees trying to accomplish the same thing. 

 

Debbie Kaminski made a motion that the IP policy be tabled.  It was seconded.  Three in favor, 9 opposed, 1 abstention. Motion did not pass.

 

The Provost suggested, although he is unable to make a motion, that the Faculty Senate consider appointing a committee to interact with the task force.  Bruce said the committee will be appointed and the administration can determine how the two can interact.  When asked for suggestions, the Provost suggested the motion be “The Faculty Senate appoint a committee to interact with the IP policy task force and report back to the Faculty Senate.”  Joel Plawsky, Recording Secretary, feels that two committees represent an “us vs. them” mentality.  If there were faculty suggested by the Faculty Senate on the task force, there would be more collaboration and no need for separate committees.

 

Vote on Motion 2:  The Faculty Senate asks the administration to negotiate revisions on the Intellectual Property Policy with a committee to be appointed by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.  Ten in favor, 1 opposed, 1 abstention.  The motion passed.

 

Motion 3: Retirement benefits once promised should not be reduced. (as proposed by Edwin Rogers)

 

Bill Brower, a retired faculty member, was on the retirement committee that dealt with the administration in 1992-1993 which tried to take the administration to court.  The retirement committee has very limited power.  Based on a Supreme Court decision in a Firestone Company case, the Faculty Senate would have to be show that the Institute acted arbitrarily and capriciously, which is almost impossible.  In his experience, the retirement committee was under the thumb of the Trustee’s lawyer.  He is outraged that the Trustees have decided to take away 15% of the variable annuity benefit.  He hopes that the motion will be supported and that the Institute responds in a positive way.

 

Paul Hohenberg, a retired faculty member, has been elected as Chair of the Retirees Forum.  Since there are many people interested in these kinds of issues, an informal workshop is being planned on issues affecting retirees, pension being among them.  It will probably be in March and he hopes to have Ed Rogers, who knows a great deal about the pension system and its history, speak.  Regarding the motion, he feels it is not always clear whether a change in pensions is or is not a decrease.  It could be a decrease under some circumstances but an increase under others.  It is a very specific and complicated issue.  He also said that if nothing can be reduced it is unlikely that anything will be increased.   

 

Provost Peterson recalled a memo from May 2004 regarding changes in the retirement benefits.  It was his understanding that the decision was delayed and that Curtis Powell, VP for Human Resources, made a presentation about retirement to the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Senate was going to solicit input from the faculty and provide it to him.  Curtis Powell would then return to the Faculty Senate to discuss future steps in the process.  Bruce responded that this meeting is where input is being solicited. 

 

Due to some concern of Achille Messac, the wording of the motion was changed to “Retirement benefits once promised should not be reduced.”  Achille added that extraordinary circumstances may come forward where it is appropriate to change or possibly reduce benefits.  He is concerned that a broad statement that precludes that possibility is going further than the Faculty Senate should.  Achille said he would support the motion if “except under truly exceptional circumstances” was added to the motion.  Bruce thinks that that is understood, but will add it to the Minutes as a codicil.  Senator Chjan Lim thinks that with the wording change from shall to should, it is now not a command, rather a request.

 

Marty Glicksman came to RPI in 1975.  While Chairman of the Materials Science and Engineering Department, he was approached by a number of retirees who were living on the edge of poverty.  The Retirement Committee made their point and the Trustees gave a 75% catch up COLA to help impoverished RPI faculty.  He draws a pension from the US Naval Research which gives a COLA every year.  Unless a pension committee or Faculty Senate can convince the administration that certain things are not good for the retirees or potential retirees in terms of proposed reductions, it has to be argued on the basis of what is good for RPI.  Bill Brower said that in 1991 the trustees passed a COLA but it was not implemented.  During a meeting with the trustees, they were asked why it wasn’t implemented.  The response given by a trustee was that if they don’t want to do something, they’ll find a way to not do it.

 

An additional point from a member of the group said that it is both surprising and interesting that these cuts are happening during a time of unprecedented prosperity.  If these things are happening when things are good, what will happen when things are bad?

 

Vote on Motion 3: Retirement benefits once promised should not be reduced.  Nine in favor, 1 opposed, 1 abstention.  Motion passed.

 

Vote on Version of Handbook to Forward to Provost

President Nauman had sent a version of the Faculty Handbook, which the FSEC had approved, to voting members of the Faculty Senate.  Since there were no comments, the Senate needs to formally approve the version to forward to the Provost.  Once the Provost reviews it, the Provost and the FSEC will meet to discuss any problem areas.  It will ultimately be voted on by the Faculty Senate.  Provost Peterson has reviewed the changes made by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and believes the vast majority are improvements, but there are a handful of issues that will need to be resolved.  Once there is agreement, the final version will need to be presented to the Faculty Senate for approval.

 

Motion:  To formally send the Faculty Senate-approved version of the Faculty Handbook to the Provost and ask for his response.  Twelve in favor, 0 opposed, 0 abstentions.  Motion passed.

 

Communications Requirement

Christoph Steinbruchel, Chair of the Curriculum Committee, sent a memo stating the Curriculum Committee believes the communication requirement to the core needs to be substantially modified and perhaps a two-course sequence is necessary.  Provost Peterson raised questions regarding the resource requirements for such changes.  Others raised concern as to whether or not the Committee is really addressing the written language component because so many of the words pertained to communications in general.   President Nauman requested that Prabhat Hajela, Dean of Undergraduate Education, talk to the Curriculum Committee and review the resource requirements and be prepared to lead a discussion at the next Faculty Senate Meeting.

 

Prabhat said he was only advised of this information last week.  The members of a task force met and came forward with some recommendations and had also reviewed other school’s requirements.  He is pleased to see this kind of issue come forward from the Senate to initiate discussion.  Once it is determined what is needed, he’ll be better able to determine resource needs.

 

Meeting adjourned.