Faculty Senate Meeting



Present:  Achille Messac, Bruce Nauman, Jim Napolitano, Christoph Steinbruchel, Mike Fortun, Debbie Kaminski, Ned Woodhouse, Satish Nambisan, Jeanne Keefe, Lou Gingerella, Roger Grice, Paul Hohenberg, William Randolph Franklin, Keith Nelson, Peter Persans, Patricia Search, Sandy Sternstein, Larry Kagan, Dan Berg, Amir Hirsa, Cheng Hsu


Guests: Henry Scarton, G. P. Peterson, Prabhat Hajela, Julia Leusner


Absent: Ning Xiang, Chjan Lim, Bob Degeneff


ATTENDANCE: Administrative and Non-Administrative Faculty, and other parties



-          Approve Minutes from the 5/5/2005 and 9/7/2005 Faculty Senate Meetings, and the 10/12 General Faculty Meeting

-          Election

-          Curriculum Items:

o       Core Outcomes - Christoph Steinbruchel, Former Chair, FSCC

o       Mid-Term Grading – Amir Hirsa, Chair, Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee

-          Advising Update – Debbie Kaminski, Secretary of the Faculty

-          Undergraduate Plan Summary and Discussion – Prabhat Hajela, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education

ATTENDANCE: Non-Administrative Voting Faculty

-          Web-Based Survey Possibilities – Christoph Steinbruchel, Recording Secretary

-          Discussion of Revised Faculty Handbook


Approve Minutes from the 5/5/2005 and 9/7/2005 Faculty Senate Meetings, and the 10/12 General Faculty Meeting

With minor wording revisions, the all Minutes were unanimously approved.



The Engineering Senator recently resigned due to the inability to attend most Faculty Senate meetings.  The candidates, Cheng Hsu and Hanchen Huang, were introduced.  The statements that the candidates provided were distributed for review by the Faculty Senate.  By vote of the Faculty Senate, Cheng Hsu won the election and is the Senator representing the school of engineering.


Curriculum Items

 Core Outcomes - Christoph Steinbruchel, Former Chair, Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee

Last year, the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee was charged with completing the core outcomes objectives.  Although there is no data available on exactly why the faculty did not pass the outcomes, some points of contention included words such as entrepreneurship, ethics and values.  Others were concerned about the number of points in the statement.  The curriculum committee considered many issues before developing another outcomes statement.  Professor Steinbruchel feels that a discussion now may be helpful so when the FSCC has an updated core outcomes statement, the senate can give their approval and the faculty will approve it.  A separate issue is how to assess whether outcomes have been met.  This will be for individual schools and programs to define and implement.  When Professor Steinbruchel was asked what was different in the revised outcomes, he deferred a detailed explanation until a later date.


President Messac said it is helpful to discuss this with the Senate now, but a more comprehensive discussion will need to be held involving the general faculty as soon as we have enough information.  He added that it is premature to have a general discussion with the faculty as a whole at this point. 


Mid-Term Grading – Amir Hirsa, Chair, Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee

Amir Hirsa, Chair of the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee, said that students are interested in mid-term grading and want to know how they are doing in a class prior to the date in which they can drop a class. 


Julia Leusner, student representative on the Curriculum Committee, explained how mid-term course evaluations would occur.  Student’s mid-term grades would be reported through the Student Information System (SIS).  They would be unofficial and not part of a student’s transcript.  Students who are performing unsatisfactorily will be reported to the Advising and Learning Assistance Center (ALAC) for intervention.   


Benefits for Professors from the student perspective is that mid-term course evaluations would help the professor to “pace” the course to determine whether the class is moving too quickly and if the student is interpreting class information.  The benefits for students are that they would have a better idea of how they are doing in a particular class and would know prior to the drop/add date.  She added that it would allow students to know which class to spend more time on and that it would initiate more interaction between faculty and students. 


A list of those who support mid-term grading are:

-          Advising and Learning Assistance Center (ALAC)

-          Office of the Registrar

-          Student Senate

-          Student Advisory Committee to the Dean of Engineering

-          Many other students


Julia's handout

It was questioned by a Senator how different mid-term grades would be for certain courses without labs or lab reports and have only two mid-semester exams.  Professor Hirsa responded that the Committee has had a thorough discussion about mid-term grades.  He said that students want to know where they stand against other classmates.  He suggested a simple distribution of numerical scores, so that a professor would not have to actually assign a mid-term letter grade.


Faculty Senate Vice President, Jim Napolitano, said he would like to know what the student expectation is on how much they will rely on a mid-term grade being a determining factor for their final grade in the class.


President Messac said that students can work with the FSCC, and that the Faculty Senate Executive Committee (FSEC) will determine how best to handle the issue. The FSEC acknowledges that it is an important issue to the students, and intends to lend its full support to addressing it. 


Advising Update – Debbie Kaminski, Secretary of the Faculty

Debbie Kaminski, Secretary of the Faculty, has met with student Donald Pendagast and has formed a committee that consists of 5 faculty, 5 students, Jeannie Steigler from ALAC and Maria Zanotta from the registrar’s office.  The committee will meet three times and will then return to the Faculty Senate with proposals that both students and faculty can agree with.  The proposals will take into consideration the recent task force findings.


Undergraduate Plan Summary and Discussion – Prabhat Hajela, Vice Provost and

Dean of Undergraduate Education

The main initiative for the Undergraduate Plan is to renew Rensselaer’s commitment to undergraduate education.   The Undergraduate Plan will focus on undergraduate research, international experiences and living and learning communities.  In support of the three foci, there are under-girding initiatives that include enhancing academic programs and offerings, academic support and reviewing instructional facilities. 


Undergraduate Research - Professor Hajela feels that any major research university needs to include an undergraduate research initiative since it builds mentoring relationships between faculty and students and encourages entrepreneurship.


International Experiences – where working in an international environment will be rewarding.

It should include new programs to enhance international experience, internships and actively promote summer semesters overseas and technologically facilitated virtual interaction with international partners.  The plan will look at Rensselaer satellite campuses at international locations and investigate international co-op programs.


Living and Learning Communities – Each community will be focused around a specific theme.  Seminars and field trips will be developed around each theme.  The communities will be able to accommodate different learning styles.  Some theme areas under consideration are: biotechnology, electronic media and arts, international affairs and public service and research based learning community.  Professor Hajela will be spending time in each school to get feedback from faculty. 


Professor Hajela said that the implementation of this Plan will require enhanced program offerings and expanded academic support services.  The plan will consider establishing an Honors College to recognize undergraduate students for their research accomplishments or independent work.  Co-terminal programs would allow students to complete both an MS and BS degree in five years or less.  Summer programs may be expanded to give students flexibility for accelerated degree objectives, co-op internships and study abroad programs.   

CIUE will assist faculty in course innovations and development of new instructional tools.  The plan would make assessment practices more pervasive across the campus.  Rensselaer has made considerable investments in instructional facilities.   An immediate assessment will be done to determine how to enhance the teaching laboratories. 


Ned Woodhouse, H&SS Senator, believes that some of the classrooms he has seen are outdated in comparison to the standards of private universities.  He is concerned that research has gotten emphasis instead of the standard day to day teaching.


Paul Hohenberg, Retired Senator is concerned that all the items under discussion, including advising, are time intensive.  He is concerned that more faculty will need to be hired to address all the initiatives being discussed.  Professor Hajela responded that 50 faculty need to be hired.    Provost Peterson added that a discussion regarding faculty and space is underway.


Bruce Nauman, Chair of the Faculty, likes the ideas the Professor Hajela is planning but feels that they appeal to the students who are already somewhat satisfied. He asked whether any of the core problems of the undergraduate program are being addressed. Professor Nauman is concerned that the School of Engineering was rated low , 33rd out of 34 engineering schools on a recent survey given by the SOE. Also, the Institute as a whole rated quite poorly on the website www.ratemyprofessor.com. Professor Nauman stated that there is a problem. Professor Hajela thought they were valid points and asked that the faculty and Faculty Senate suggest ideas on how to promote some of the items presented. Professor Nauman was disappointed that the plan does not address the problems he had mentioned.

Professor Hajela'as presentation



ATTENDANCE: Non-Administrative Voting Faculty


Web-Based Survey Possibilities – Christoph Steinbruchel, Recording Secretary

Christoph Steinbruchel, Recording Secretary, was asked by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee to investigate web-based survey possibilities.  Professor Steinbruchel has contacted John Kolb, Chief Information Officer, for clarity on whether faculty email addresses can be used for offsite survey companies.  He added that possible problems of using a new source for the survey distribution must be weighed against the risks of using RPI licensed software. 


Discussion of Revised Faculty Handbook

Debbie Kaminski, Secretary of the Faculty, made the following motion:   I move that the revised version of the Faculty Handbook dated 3/23/2005 be ratified subject to the following change: 


Parental Leave:  The Tenure Faculty will be granted relief from teaching duties for parental leave for one semester with full pay, and they may elect to take an additional semester of teaching relief at half pay for parental leave.  Faculty members granted relief from teaching duties under this Policy, except as entitled under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), will continue to be responsible for normal non-teaching duties such as research commitments, professional development, advising and committee assignments.   The faculty member’s teaching duties will be assumed by a temporary replacement who will be paid jointly by the Office of the Provost and the school of the faculty member.


Seconded by Jim Napolitano, Faculty Senate Vice President.


Professor Kaminski said that the handbook has been reviewed over the last 2 ˝ years by the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and recently by the entire faculty.  Since the goal was to revise the document without changes to the policy, the only item that came up as being a change, was the above item on parental leave.  She believes the handbook is ready to be ratified. 


President Messac said there is a list of items to address once the handbook is ratified.  Since this is a process that will take place every year, once this initial “cleaning up” is complete, there will be other issues to address in the handbook.


Vote:  14 in favor, 1 opposition, 2 abstentions: motion passed.


Chair of the Faculty, Bruce Nauman, distributed some motions for discussion for possible future changes to the Faculty Handbook.  Any feedback can be sent to Bruce Nauman at nauman@rpi.edu. 


There was some discussion held on the grievance issue and other issues mentioned in the motions.  Professor Nauman said there is an overlap of what is included in the employee and faculty handbooks.  He believes that all policies and procedures relating to scholarly activity of the faculty and all communications among and between faculty are subject only to applicable law and provisions of the Faculty Handbook.


Motion 1

Motion 2