Faculty Senate Meeting



Present: Bruce Nauman, Cheryl Geisler, Achille Messac, Debbie Kaminski, Joel Plawsky, Rena Bizios, Bob Block, Pat Search, Bob Degeneff, Ron Eglash, Chjan Lim, Christoph Steinbruchel, Ning Xiang, Bill St. John, Jeff Durgee, Roger Wright, Sandy Sternstein, J. Keith Nelson, Shekhar Garde, Sunderesh Heragu


Not Present: Mary Anne Waltz, Tamar Gordon


Guests: Provost Bud Peterson, Dan Sperber, Tom Apple



Approval of the Minutes of the 9/22/2004 Faculty Senate Meeting

Discussion on Parliamentary Rules and Procedures – Achille Messac, VP of the Faculty


Discussion on Depth Sequence in the CoreCheryl Geisler, Chair of the Faculty

Reports from Standing Committees

            Faculty Senate Planning and Resources Committee – Roger Wright, Chair

            Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee – Christoph Steinbruchel, Chair


Approval of the Minutes of the 9/22/2004 Faculty Senate Meeting

Subject to two modifications, the Minutes were passed, 12 in favor, 0 opposed, 1 abstention.


Discussion of Parliamentary Rules and Procedures –

Achille Messac, VP of the Faculty Senate

As Vice President of the Faculty Senate, Achille Messac is responsible for enforcing the rules and procedures during the Faculty Senate meetings.  He explained that we should all make every effort to keep discussions cordial, and that he invites everyone to express disagreements respectfully, and in the spirit of collegiality. In administering the guidelines that govern our discourse, there is a 3 minute time limit that each person is entitled to speak.  This will allow time for everyone to speak and express different views.  He asked everyone to please keep these guidelines in mind during future Faculty Senate meetings.


Discussion on Depth Sequence in the Core – Cheryl Geisler, Chair of the Faculty

Joel Plawsky, Recording Secretary, made the following motion:  In order to ensure that the core curriculum provides depth, students must take at least two courses within a single area of H&SS and two courses within a single area of Science other than Mathematics. 


Chair Cheryl Geisler stated that at today’s meeting, the Faculty Senate will not be voting on the motion, rather voting on whether to put the motion to the full faculty for a discussion and vote.  Last year, a revision to the science core was proposed to the FSCC that would remove the depth requirement from the science core and include a new science requirement.  The FSCC approved the revision, but when the FSXC became aware of it, they told the Provost that a change must be approved by the full faculty.  The FSXC received a response from the Provost saying he would not reverse the decision.  The current motion is to clarify the position of what constitutes the Institute core and therefore needs full faculty approval to institute a change as opposed to what is in the domain of specific schools that can change their curriculum by a simple process through their own curriculum committees.


Provost Peterson stated that on May 3, 2004, the FSXC asked him to render the decision to eliminate the two course sequence invalid.  He stated that since the same procedure was followed three times in the past ten years to change this aspect of the core, the catalog was changed without a full faculty vote.  In his memo, he said “In order to clarify this and other similar issues in the future, however, I would recommend that the FSXC direct the FSCC as the body charged with the oversight of the Institute Core Curriculum, to develop more clear guidelines as to what changes require an Institute-wide vote of the faculty, and that these guidelines be reviewed and adopted by the Faculty Senate as a whole.”  The issue he sees is not who is going to control the science core, rather what is the process by which changes to the science core can be made.  The Provost is concerned that the motion only resolves a single issue and he is unsure if this motion addresses the problem.  


Cheryl said there are two kinds of core requirements: the Institute core requirements and school-based core requirements.  For school-based core requirements, the school can grant a waiver but for Institute-based core requirements the waiver request has to go to the standing committee that looks at anomalies and is empowered to grant a waiver.  One of the implications of this motion is that a waiver of the depth requirement would have to go to that Institute standing committee rather than to the school.


Senator Jeff Durgee asked if these matters have been considered in the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee.  Cheryl said not yet, but it would go to them.  The Provost was concerned that these types of issues do not originate in the FSCC and thinks they should.  He thinks the FSCC should forward their motions to the FSXC and they can decide whether it goes to the full faculty for a vote.  He meant to say in his recent memo that the FSXC should make it clear to the FSCC that they do not have the authority, regardless of past practices, to approve things in the Institute core without the approval of the FSXC. 


Cheryl sees two issues:  one is the specific depth requirement and the other is the process issue.  She thinks the FSXC or the Senate as a whole needs to clarify the issue because the process has been irregular.

Christoph said that one thing the FSCC has been considering is the generic question of who can change what, what needs to be approved by whom, or voted on by whom.  The FSCC has it on strong authority that the departments in the School of Engineering are supposed to have a biology course in their templates by fall 2005.  The FSCC is supposed to come up with a plan on how to do that.  He thinks the current motion is only addressing one issue.  Roger Wright asked who made the request and in what capacity the FSCC should respond to the request.  Senator Sandy Sternstein added that since the Curriculum Committee is a standing committee of the Faculty Senate, all charges to the committee should come from the Faculty Senate and all recommendations from the FSCC should go to the Senate.  Bruce said this is true for institute-wide requirements, but Sandy felt that this has not always been the case.  Christoph said that nothing formal has been placed before the FSCC.  He believed that the role of the committee is that it recommends but does not approve anything except for the requests that come from the departments regarding changes in course descriptions.  He never thought the FSCC had the final approval.  Cheryl asked him whether he thought the FSCC voting to approve removal the depth requirement in science and to include the new biological science requirement, which is now in the catalog, was a final approval.  Christoph believed it was approved so that it would go forth to the Faculty Senate.  He feels the process requires clarification.


Cheryl said the Constitution holds the right for a vote of the full faculty to approve core curriculum changes.  It may be the case that the Senate requires the FSCC to not make any significant curricular changes without discussion with the Senate and that the FSCC would become a more advisory group.  Provost Peterson said it is not clear what happens and how changes are made.  The Provost stated that biology in the curriculum has been discussed for a long time and he thought it had been voted on and approved.  Cheryl said it was voted on to approve the course, not to approve it as a requirement.


President Nauman said that there is a memo being circulated in engineering, which essentially states that the Dean, the Provost and the President require that biology be included.  His opinion is that each department is free to include biology if they choose.  The item under discussion for a two-depth sequence seems to be an area that only the individual departments would have the answer to.  The Faculty Senate is saying what the institute core requires.  The credit hours cap of 128 is critical and is suitable for the Faculty Senate to discuss.  The cap seems to be an Institute rule. He added that the letter also stated that it was on good authority that the curriculum committee will not approve an increase in credit hours.  Christoph stated that the FSCC has not discussed the cap.


Provost Peterson said that based on what was conveyed in the last meeting, there is support for life science in the school of engineering.  The issue has been and continues to be, whether it can be done in 128 credit hours.  He was told by the Chairs that if the cap goes to 132 hours, it can be done, if it remains at 128, it will not happen.  Now the issue is how this can best be incorporated into the curriculum and whether there is a need to increase the hours.  The cap was put in place by a previous Dean of the Faculty.  The Provost assumes that if a department presented a degree plan that made a strong case for increasing the cap and it was approved by the curriculum committee, that cap could be changed and it does not require the vote of the faculty.


Senator Keith Nelson said that it seems the motion is intertwined with the issue of biology and feels it is immature to put it before the faculty and that it should be tabled.  In his departmental level discussions on the inclusion of biology, there is a feeling that the only way biology will be included is if something is taken out of the H&SS requirement.  Bruce said the motion is to remedy an ongoing discrepancy on whether or not there is a two-course requirement rather than raise new issues. 


Cheryl stated that the activities last year were suggesting that for the benefit of three schools, the core depth requirement might be waived in order to fit in the biology requirement.  She asked for discussion on whether or not there should be a depth requirement.  She said there are strong reasons for having depth in H&SS and science.  If the only way to accommodate biology is to release the depth requirement, she thinks it should be discussed.


Provost Peterson said that one of the issues that needs to be resolved is where the core curriculum is going to be defined.  The catalog does not require the two-course depth sequence since it was removed last year according to what he thought was the proper procedure.  Cheryl said that if the faculty voted on the motion and passed it, that the requirement would be added again.  The Provost responded that he does not think so and he thinks he would have to ultimately approve it.  He thinks a change should come through the FSCC as opposed to a general vote of the faculty.


Senator Sandy Sternstein thinks it is either appropriate to remand the motion to the FSCC to consider the ramifications and to report back to FS on what their recommendation is, or to table the motion until it can be looked at in further detail.  He believes the way to get the curriculum issues under control is to return the power to the individual departments with their individual curriculum committees.  He suggested that a process be put in place where the outcome of those individual department curriculum committees be filtered into the FSCC for consideration when Institute wide requirements are considered.  Christoph said he thinks it can become something to discuss if it means it will get more input from the faculty and the departments.  Christoph agreed to report back at the Faculty Senate’s next meeting.  The motion is tabled and remanded to the FSCC



Reports from Standing Committees

Planning and Resources Committee – Roger Wright, Chair

Roger has agreed to be chair of the Committee for his third year of the term.  He said there are two items on the agenda for the Committee.  The first is clarifying the rights of faculty to timely information on Rensselaer’s major planning and resource efforts to avoid situations where faculty input is too late or situations where there is a perception that major decisions have been made without proper faculty notification or consultation.  The other item is the development of a “corporate interface initiative” aimed at re-establishing Rensselaer’s traditionally strong interface with the corporate world, including areas such as tuition, fellowships, internships, research funding, university-government-industry programming, education for professional practice, and related university culture issues.  He believes that Rensselaer is at risk of losing visibility and historic leadership in that area.  There will be a more extensive P&R report at a future meeting.


Curriculum Committee – Christoph Steinbruchel, Chair

Christoph stated the Committee is still in the process of addressing the agenda and prioritizing items.  One item that has been discussed is the writing requirement.  The summer task force recommended a communications requirement rather than a writing requirement.  This requirement will eventually go to the Faculty Senate.  The Committee will be working on that as well as the outcomes and the depth requirement issues. 


The meeting was then closed to Senate members only with no recording of Minutes.