General Faculty Meeting

5-4-2005

 

Present: Achille Messac, Deborah Kaminski, Christoph Steinbruchel, Ned Woodhouse, Chjan Lim, Peter Persans, Roger Grice, Sunderesh Heragu, Jeanne Keefe, Randolph Franklin, Patricia Search, Paul Hohenberg, Sandy Sternstein, Bruce Nauman, Jim Napolitano, Bob Parsons, Ning Xiang, Jeff Durgee, Chjan Lim, Bob Degeneff, Keith Nelson, Dan Berg, Heribert Wiedemeier, Jim Crivella, Alan Balfour, Sanat Kumar, Virginia Gregg, Tom Apple, Mike Hanna, Joyce Diwan, Bob Block, George Nagy, Bernard Fleishman, Badrinath Roysam, Ivar Giaever, Sam Wait, Jonathan Newell, Nikhil Koratkar, Partha Dutta, Mike Wozny, Murat Arcak, Joe Choe, Minoru Tomozawa, Jan Stegemann, Rich Radke, Carl McDaniel, Frances Bronet, T.M. Hayes, Wolf von Maltzahn, John W. Woods, Pulickel Ajayan, Cheryl Geisler, Joel Plawsky, Jacob Fish, Jong-Shi Pang, Jeff Trinkle, Frank Luk, Lester Rubenfeld, Ron Gutmann, Bill St. John, Ken Connor, Chris Carothers, Cheng Hsu, John Wen, Gary Saulnier, Charles Malmborg, Jun Abrajano, Victor Roytburd, Larry Kagan, Lupita Montoya, Henry Ehrlich, Ishwana Bhat, Shep Salon, Ron Eglash, Martin Glicksman, Euan Somerscales, Wayne Gray, Mark Goldberg, Ted Krueger, Steven Van Dessel, Dave Musser, Ken Warriner, James Lu, Nancy Campbell, Peter Kramer, Selmer Bringsjord, Julie Stenken, Wilfredo Colon, Leanard Interrante, Chris Bystroff, Charles W. Gillies, David Spooner, Fern Finger, John Tichy, Yvonne Akpalu, Lee Odell

 

Absent: Shekhar Garde, Lou Gingerella, Amir Hirsa, Alan Nadel

 

Discussion and Vote on Resolutions Ė Bruce Nauman, Chair of the Faculty

It was determined that the quorum of 50 vote-eligible faculty was met.

 

The Faculty Senate-appointed Governance Committee created a survey and distributed it to the faculty.After which, the Provost told the faculty not to complete the survey.Francine Fredette was ordered to destroy any surveys received and any survey results.Additionally, Bruce Nauman received a letter of reprimand in his file.Bruce said his sole action was to authorize the distribution of the survey.To address some of the items from the survey that the administration did not dislike, the following resolutions were put forth:

 

-          Resolved that one person, elected by and from the faculty, be a member of the board of trustees.

-          Resolved that one person, elected by and from the faculty, be a member of the presidentís cabinet.

-          Resolved that a Dean of the Faculty be elected by and from the faculty.

-          Resolved that the board of trustees requires each board member to routinely spend time on campus in informal discussions with faculty, staff and students.

 

There was a motion to adopt all the resolutions.It was then suggested the items be discussed and voted upon separately.Les Rubenfeld, Director, CIPCE and Mathematical Sciences Professor, thinks it is most important for the faculty to get to the heart of the problem as they perceive it and have firm dialogue with the administration on how to reconcile the problems.He believes the resolutions are a piece-meal approach to the problems.He added that although he does not have a problem with any of the resolutions, he does not think they get to the heart of the issues.He does not think a vote should occur when faculty have not been made aware of the issues.He thinks another issue is that if the motions pass, a sense of complacency will set in.He believes there are real issues on the campus and that neither non-tenured faculty nor staff speak up for fear of losing their job.He thinks the issues need to be put on the table and what action to take should be determined.

 

Bob Degeneff, Governance Committee member, said that the Governance Committee was trying to determine how to improve communication.In his 16 years on campus, he has never seen a Board member on his floor of the JEC.He would enjoy an informal discussion with one of the trustees and thinks they need to spend time with the faculty to get a better understanding of what is going on.He feels the Provostís activities have changed from being the senior faculty member working with administration to being an honored member of the administration charged with keeping the faulty in line.He suggests the need for someone to deliver the faculty message to the administration and that dialogue needs to be opened up.In doing background work, he looked at 33 universities ranked higher than Rensselaer in the School of Engineering.Of the half of those that information was retrieved, about 80% had faculty members on the Board, a large number had students and some have staff on their Board.

 

Paul Hohenberg, Retired Senator, said the current potential solutions do not address the problem.He suggests a consensus of what the problem is needed and a mutual willingness to deal with it.He believes there is a certain amount of faculty unity on what the problem is.

 

Achille Messac, President of the Faculty Senate, said he does not personally have a strong opinion one way or the other.He thinks there are too many little things being addressed rather than big issues.He is hopeful that the new Senate will be able to improve things next year.He feels that communication has broken down.He added that the Faculty Senate Executive Committee has not met with the President in many months and that the formal communication channels have not been working.

 

Ned Woodhouse, Senator from H&SS, said that typically the administration uses summers against faculty and suggests that action be taken now.It seems to him that whatever the deficiency is, the resolutions have the advantage of being something that can be done now and something constructive. Ivar Gaever, emeritus faculty member, made the point that the bringing up of these resolutions now is evidence of substantial discontent regarding communication issues.He believes that the resolutions even have merit individually.He is concerned that currently when a faculty member writes to a Board of Trustee member, no response is received.††

 

Peter Persans, Senator-at-Large, is concerned that faculty are voting on something that originated as an opinion survey.In his experience, issues are discussed in open meetings prior to attending a meeting in which a vote will take place.He thinks time is needed for faculty to have discussions with their colleagues.

 

Cheryl Geisler, LL&C Professor, suggested that, based on what people are saying, a joint committee of the Board of Trustees and Faculty Senate be appointed to consider mechanisms to improve communication between faculty and the Board.Charlie Malmborg, DSES Professor, does not think the faculty have been very good at translating their concerns into workable solutions.He suggests that specific ideas need to be communicated and details of the problems need to be worked out.He suggests it be given to a competent group to work out the specifics based on general faculty recommendations.

 

Christoph Steinbruchel, Recording Secretary, thinks the faculty are reluctant to vote on items that request action.He suggested the Faculty Senate vote to re-issue the governance survey in its original form.Marty Glicksman said that the survey has been declared illegal and if reissued, those results will also be destroyed.Tom Apple, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education, said that if the survey is reissued in its full form, every university officer is required to make sure the university is not at risk or doing anything to break the law. Although he is not a lawyer, he said the survey is considered to contain questions about forming a union by management.As officers of the university, the administration members are compelled to prevent the survey.He added that if the three questions regarding faculty organization were removed, the rest of the survey could be distributed without argument.He added that the survey results were destroyed to protect the faculty.

 

Sandy Sternstein, Senator-at-large, questioned why the administration does not want an independent opinion from another lawyer and does not want to debate the issue in an open forum.Tom Apple suggested that the lawyer contact the Institute counsel.Since the Faculty Senate lawyer was told that representing both the Faculty Senate and Bruce Nauman was a conflict of interest, the lawyer now only represents the Faculty Senate and Bruce Nauman has retained a different attorney.

 

Keith Nelson, Senator-at-large asked for confirmation that the Provost had received the Faculty Senate opinion prior to his meeting with the Deans and the department heads.It was determined that only one opinion, the administrationís counselís opinion was put forth during that meeting.

 

Selmer Bringsjord, Cognitive Science Professor and Department Chair, commented that in search of the underlying problem, the assertion was made that faculty cannot take their message to the administration.He questioned whether the distinction was made between taking the message and expecting a change in behavior.He is confident that messages to the administration have been delivered.Regarding the reference to the ďJackson regimeĒ, some people think the brightest thing to ever happen on this campus is the arrival of President Jackson.One problem is that many junior faculty at Rensselaer are disenchanted with the senior members of the community.

Resolved that one person, elected by and from the faculty, be a voting member of the Board of Trustees.

 

Vote: 44 in favor, 21 oppositions, 20 abstentions; motion passed:

 

Resolved that one person, elected by and from the faculty, be a member of the Presidentís cabinet.

 

Vote: 39 in favor, 23 opposed, 21 abstentions; motion passed.

 

Resolved that a Dean of the Faculty be elected by and from the faculty.

 

Debbie Kaminski, Secretary of the Faculty asked what the responsibilities and duties of a Dean of the Faculty would be and what authority he would have.Marty Glicksman, who was on the Governance Committee said that traditionally the Provost has the duties of a Dean of the Faculty and was accessible and open to discussion of faculty problems.In discussing the issue, the Governance Committee felt this function of the Provost was seriously reduced.The committee thinks the Dean of the Facultyís major responsibility would be to carry out appropriate administrative action concerning faculty and that the motion might address the communication issue between the faculty and administration.

 

Bob Block said the details are unclear and made a motion to table the resolution.†††

Vote to table:76 in favor, 3 oppositions, 4 abstentions; motion passed.

 

Resolved that the board of trustees requires each board member to routinely spend time on campus in informal discussions with faculty, staff and students.

 

Les Rubenfeld thinks this resolution expresses the concern of many faculty.Previously, dinner meetings were held in which faculty and trustees sat at the same table.He suggested that this resolution addresses a need.Bruce Nauman said that the administration discourages interaction with the Board.Prabhat Hajela said that as a former Faculty Senate President, there was communication with the Board of Trustees.Jun Abrajano recalls that while on the Senate, he also communicated with the Board of Trustees.At a retreat, Larry Kagan reported that the trustees were trying to understand what had happened with former President Pipes.It was clear they did not know there was a problem and that the Board needs to know more about what is happening on campus.

 

Achille Messac recommended that the faculty vote no to this resolution.

 

After some discussion, the resolution was changed to:

Resolved that the board of trustees encourages each board member to spend time on campus in informal discussions with faculty, staff and students.

 

Vote:56 in favor, 4 oppositions, 16 abstentions.Motion passed.