Faculty Senate Meeting


Present: Chjan Lim, Bob Block, Pat Search, Tamar Gordon, Joel Plawsky, Cheryl Geisler, Bruce Nauman, Achille Messac, Debbie Kaminski, Ron Eglash, Ning Xiang, Bill St. John, Jeff Durgee, J. Keith Nelson, Bob Degeneff, Christoph Steinbruchel


Absent: Rena Bizios, Shakhar Garde, Mary Anne Waltz, Sandy Sternstein, Margaret Cheney, Roger Wright


Guests: Tom Apple, Bud Peterson, Ron Gutmann



Approval of Minutes from 10/6 Faculty Senate Meeting and 11/3 General Faculty Meeting
Dissemination of Survey Information - Bruce Nauman, Faculty Senate President

Discussion of Faculty Handbook – Bruce Nauman, Faculty Senate President
Depth Sequence Discussion - Christoph Steinbruchel, Chair, FSCC

Approval of Minutes from 10/6 Faculty Senate Meeting and

11/3 General Faculty Meeting

President Bruce Nauman called for the approval of the Minutes from the 10/6/2004 Faculty Senate Meeting.  With a few wording changes, the Minutes were approved: 15 in favor, 0 oppositions, and 0 abstentions.  He then called for the approval of the Minutes from the 11/3/2004 General Faculty Meeting.  With no discussion, the Minutes were approved: 15 in favor, 0 oppositions, and 0 abstentions.


Dissemination of Survey Information – Bruce Nauman, Faculty Senate President

How to disseminate the results of the Satisfaction Survey was initially discussed at the Faculty Senate Retreat in September but were not formally documented.  The Survey will begin tomorrow via email to the voting entities, after which the results will be gathered.


Provost Peterson asked if there would be any discussion on what the purpose, goals and objectives are for the survey and whether they will be identified anywhere.  President Nauman said they would be self evident.  He added that all the Senators have seen the survey and that the results will be disseminated at a special General Faculty Meeting on 12/15/2004 at 2:00pm in CII4050.  Vice President, Achille Messac asked if anyone wished to discuss the issues brought forth by the Provost; no one did. 


Discussion of Faculty HandbookBruce Nauman, Faculty Senate President

President Nauman stated that over a year ago it became necessary to reflect a few changes to the Handbook that had not been revised since 1994 and included correcting titles.  The original intent was to only correct wording and procedures, which would entail minimal changes.  Former Faculty Senate President, Cheryl Geisler, appointed a Faculty Senate ad hoc committee, which worked on the handbook revisions and produced a draft.  That draft went to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee who reviewed it and made comments, and then it was sent to the Provost for his action.  His office made comments and Charles Carletta’s office made comments.  When it was returned to the FSEC, a great deal of content was changed.  The FSEC divided up the handbook into sections and each member reviewed one section.  The revisions of the FSEC were compiled and sent to voting members of the Faculty Senate via email.  The Faculty Senate Executive Committee asked the Senate to review the document and email their comments so that they can be incorporated and discussed at the next Faculty Senate Meeting on 1/26/2005.  It will then be presented to the Provost.


Ron Gutmann, former Chair of the Handbook Committee, said that it was not the intention of the Committee to introduce new policy.  However, no guidelines were given that the changes in terms of structure should necessarily be small.  As the committee proceeded with the Provost, there were changes that had been done administratively throughout the last decade that were not properly described in the handbook.  The Committee looked at revising the structure of the handbook while keeping the policies the same.  In some cases, there were slight changes in actual policy that had taken place but the committee did not feel they were key issues. 


Ron Gutmann stated that the document that initially went to the Handbook Committee clearly indicated an old version and a new version.  It was possible to go to the current handbook to see if it was something in the new handbook or not. The Committee’s work ended prior to the legal commentary because the Committee had done its task.


The Provost added that throughout the process, the Committee and he felt it was extremely important that what changes were made to the old document and why those changes were made, were identified.  The document may read and seem fine, but it is important to identify what has been changed.  He would appreciate seeing what changes were made by the FSEC and the Faculty Senate.  President Nauman said that it was not possible to provide that information.


Vice President, Achille Messac, stated that there were good reasons to address the handbook. Although the original motivation was to just correct titles and other minor outdated language, along the way, other structural changes were made that were a step beyond what was initially intended.  There were policy changes that may have merit, but nevertheless there were policy changes.  Once the handbook came to the FSEC, it was realized the handbook needed to be looked at again.  The tracking capability was lost due to each member reviewing a piece of the document.


Provost Peterson said that the Curriculum Committee requested that the Provost’s office supply the original handbook with every section identified as to where it was in the proposed handbook and a version of the proposed handbook with every section identified with what section it is referred to in the current handbook.  Changes were made in track change mode and a cross-reference was provided to the committee which mapped sites in the old document to corresponding sites in the new and vice versa.


Provost Peterson said that over a year’s worth of work was involved with all the comparisons and changes identified and provided to the FSEC.  When a document is finally converged on, the Provost will try to provide the same comparisons.  The Provost feels it is important to know what changes were made.  If the Faculty Senate cannot provide the changes, the Provost’s office will, but it may slow down the revision process.  He further suggested that the Faculty Senate review the document from his office, with the exception of the red legal comments, since it was a document everyone agreed on, rather than start with a new document that has no indication of where they came from. Bruce Nauman suggested that the FSEC document be read as a reasonable agreement and how that document was arrived at, is not germane.   


Provost Peterson said it was his understanding that the revised handbook would be sent to the FSEC for their comments, then the Provost would respond, then there would be a joint meeting with the ad hoc committee, the FSEC, the Provost and Charles Carletta to discuss.  However, when it was distributed to the FSEC, the FSEC decided to proceed in a different way so the Curriculum Committee received a copy but were not asked for additional input.


Ron Gutmann stated that as Chair, he viewed the charge as much more than just updating titles.  Whether there was disagreement between the Committee and the Provost with the original version that went to the FSEC before legal counsel and FSEC review, those differences were ironed out in good discussion and the final version was favorably received by all members of the Committee. 


The Provost stated that a consensus document from the Committee and him was given to the legal group on campus for discussion.  It was then sent to the FSEC without further review from the Provost.  He believed the process would be to get an explanation from legal on the changes that were made and why.  He stated that had he known there would be no discussion on it, he would have asked legal counsel for an explanation of the changes prior to the document being sent the FSEC.  The Provost believes that some of the recommendations made by legal counsel are things the Faculty Senate should have a problem with, but if a discussion had been held, they could have been resolved.  President Nauman agreed that the Handbook was on a path toward convergence but once the FSEC saw the legal changes and the inappropriate nature of many of the comments, the FSEC felt the need for it to be modified.


Chair of the Faculty, Cheryl Geisler, stated that she reviewed the Promotion & Tenure section.  She said there are three documents on P&T that are active at this Institute: the handbook as it exists, what used to be called the APT guidelines (documents used by P&T as guidelines, which is unofficial), and guidelines about what should be included in a 22 page vitae.  During her review of the P&T section, she looked at it from the perspective of someone wanting tenure.   She felt that it is important for faculty to have one document to refer to.  She doesn’t feel there are any real policy changes, but that there are a lot of changes.


Provost Peterson said there are three documents that describe the P&T process but they are in conflict.  The three documents are distributed to new faculty in the spring.  He added that there is no record of the APT guidelines having been formally approved by the Faculty Senate.  The Committee tried to combine and merge the documents into something that reflected what is currently done and would make sense.


Bob Degeneff, Senator-at-Large said that the next step in the process is important.  It was prudent for the administration to seek legal advice and he suggests that the Faculty Senate have an attorney review it on the behalf of the faculty.  The Provost stated that the legal review that was done was not the Provost’s legal review to protect the Provost; it was not the administration’s legal counsel and not the Institute counsel.  A legal counsel was contacted to provide advice.  The information was presented directly to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.  The legal counsel did not look at it as Institute vs. Faculty rather what items were incorrect or legally indefensible. Tammy Cousins, who was the support person from the legal firm, tried to provide guidance regarding case law on different issues. 


The Provost suggested that the red statements from legal counsel be reviewed.  He is surprised with the statement that legal changed policy since he thought most of the changes were minor wording changes that had some rationale for clarification.  Keith Nelson, Senator-at-Large, has the understanding that there was considerable common ground between the Faculty Senate version and administration version and that most of the legal changes were cosmetic.  He suggested that the fundamental changes be debated rather than reviewing another version of changes.  President Nauman felt the legal changes were more substantial and they should be reviewed by the Faculty Senate.


Ron Gutmann said he has read the changes and there are a small number which are at the core of faculty values and they need to be addressed.  He believes that the faculty who have been at Rensselaer for a while and are familiar with the old handbook will have a number of issues if the new handbook does not have a cross-reference with the old. 


President Nauman said it was decided upon by the FSEC that it was proper to take one new document which is readable and essentially identical and respond to the red comments that were appropriate to respond to.  He added that there were some substantive issues caused by the red changes from legal counsel Senator from the School of Science, Chjan Lim asked whether the document will go back to the same legal team once it is returned to the Administration.


 Curriculum Committee Chair Christoph Steinbruchel asked whether the faculty will be notified on what changes were made once the document is in its final version.  Bruce responded that the next step is for the Faculty Senate to review it and make note of the areas that are of concern.  They should then be reported to the Faculty Senate at the next meeting.


Cheryl Geisler questioned how changes to the actions of the P&T committee will be regulated.  Since the committee has certain traditions and continuity, any shift in practice needs to be pointed out.  Bruce commented that the Handbook would be distributed to the faculty.  Ron Gutmann commented that he has not seen any changes to the P&T section that are different in context or wording compared to the practice of the committee or integrating the unofficial Porosh document.  The Provost commented that care needs to be taken because the Porosh Document has never been approved by any body.  He added that some parts are in direct conflict with the Faculty handbook as it currently exists.  Cheryl Geisler said that once the new Handbook is in place, there will be a move to abolish the Porosh document.


The Handbook will be an agenda item for the 1/26 Faculty Senate meeting.  The input from the Faculty Senate is being sought on the revisions from the FSEC, the Provost document and the document on the Provost’s website.  President Nauman stated that a document will be presented for review the week before the 1/26 meeting so that the Faculty Senate can vote at the meeting.  The Provost requested a copy so that he also has time to review it and respond at the next Faculty Senate meeting.  When the handbook is accepted, it will go to the President and the Board of Trustees for approval and the approval of the full faculty is not required.


Depth Sequence Discussion - Christoph Steinbruchel, Chair, FSCC

Christoph Steinbruchel, Chair of the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee stated that the FS remanded a motion be sent back to the Committee regarding the depth requirement in the core of two courses in science.  The Committee debated the issue again and they reaffirmed what was accepted before which is to allow various programs to introduce biology in their curriculum and relax the depth requirement in science, which is the only way it could fit into School’s curriculums.  It has been accomplished in the School of Science, Architecture, Management, and H&SS.  The School of Science is still in debate on how to accomplish it. 


Bruce reminded the group that the current issue is not whether or not to change it, but whether or not it should be voted on by the entire faculty.  The issue was raised that since it was a change in the core curriculum, it required the vote of the faculty. 


Cheryl recapped that at the 10/6 Faculty Senate Meeting, Joel Plawsky made a motion that proposed to bring the motion to the vote of the full faculty which would reverse the recommendation of the Curriculum Committee.  The motion was: “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.”   It was proposed that the general faculty vote on this motion to either accept it and make it a core requirement or vote it down. 


The motion on the floor is to “Hold a vote of the total faculty 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.”


The Provost said that details on how the science depth affects each school can be found in his memo of September 7, 2004.  When the 4x4 was implemented, the School of Management argued over the objection of the School of Science Curriculum Committee that they could not fit 24 credits of science in their curriculum so they substituted Management 2100 Statistical Methods as part of the required math and science core.  That is one of the math courses taken and it was an exception made by the curriculum committee.


Debbie Kaminski, Secretary of the Senate, said it seems that by requiring the depth sequence in science, the system is being over constrained to the degree that many curriculums cannot include mathematics.  Many schools want math in their programs and have little room left for science.  She suggested depth in either Math or Science. 


Cheryl Geisler stated that according to H&SS Curriculum Committee meeting Minutes, Dr. Gabriele requested that they approve a biology course in H&SS and offered to give them an exemption from the depth requirement in science in exchange for that.   Also, there was a move to make a de facto biology requirement.  The general issue is whether to have depth or breadth.  Since it is so significant, she thinks it should be discussed by the full faculty.  Bruce agreed that there should be a discussion, as well as input through the Faculty Senate website, and then ultimately a vote at the general election.


Provost Peterson stated that if this motion comes to a vote of the full faculty and the faculty agree that a 2-course sequence in science is required, it would require that every curriculum that is currently listed in the catalog be changed except for four in the School of Engineering. 


MOTION: “To hold a vote of the total faculty 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.”

7 in favor, 3 opposed, 1 abstention.  Motion passed.


Troy Clinical Senator, Bill St. John, stated he is the only clinical faculty member allowed to vote since he is a member of the Faculty Senate.  He asked for the support of individual members in order to bring the amendment to a vote at the spring general election. 


Meeting adjourned at 3:46