Faculty Senate Meeting



Present: Achille Messac, Jim Napolitano, Christoph Steinbruchel, Mike Fortun, Debbie Kaminski, Cheng Hsu, Roger Grice, Paul Hohenberg, William Randolph Franklin, Keith Nelson, Patricia Search, Sandy Sternstein, Larry Kagan, Dan Berg, Amir Hirsa.


Absent: Bruce Nauman, Ning Xiang, Edward Woodhouse, Satish Nambisan, Chjan Lim, Jeanne Keefe, Lou Gingerella, Bob Degeneff, Peter Persans, Larry Kagan


Guests: Andrew Tibbetts, Wolf von Maltzahn



Approval of Minutes from the 1/25/2006 and 2/8/2005 Faculty Senate Meetings

Research at RPI: Statistics, Successes, and Challenges - Associate V.P. Wolf von Maltzahn for VP Omkaram Nalamasu

Joint Committee on Advising – Professor Debbie Kaminski

Library Resources Update - Senate V.P. Jim Napolitano

Grading Policy for Repeated Courses - Professor Christoph Steinbruchel
Open Letter to Faculty Regarding Communication Consultant - Senate President Achille Messac


Approval of Minutes from the 1/25/2006 and 2/8/2005 Faculty Senate Meetings

After minor wording revisions, both sets of minutes were approved.  Senator Paul Hohenberg is concerned that the Minutes contain some direct quotes and information that should not be included.  President Messac said that there are many opinions on what should and should not be included in the Minutes and he hopes to have further discussion at a future meeting.


Research at RPI: Statistics, Successes, and Challenges -

Associate V.P. Wolf von Maltzahn for V.P. Omkaram Nalamasu

Associate Vice President of Research, Wolf von Maltzahn gave a snapshot of current research at Rensselaer.  He stated that there are some opportunities and challenges.  Strategic research areas focus on biotechnology, information technology and nanotechnology.  More recently, energy has become a focus.  Rensselaer is at the beginning stages in creating a focus on homeland security.  The Office of Research is facilitating activity between arts and technology for EMPAC.


Grants received in the last 12 months include a $20 million grant for Future Energy Systems, a $3.2 million IGERT grant from NSF for Fuel cells, and a $2.1 million grant from NIH to develop virtual patient models for calculating optimal dosage for imaging and cancer.  Others include a $1.15 million NSF Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team award for the growth of 3D nanostructures, $1.2 million grant from DARPA for designing and building intelligent machines that can read, comprehend, and answer queries, a $1.0 million grant from DOE for novel fuel cell membranes, over $3 million in Terahertz Technology and $1.0 million NIH center planning grant for Cheminformatics.


In fiscal 2005, there was over $60 million in research expenditures.  Over 50% of the sponsored research awards came from Federal resources, 25% from state resources, and the remaining 25% from corporate and other foundations and gifts.  NIH awards have increased significantly.  At the end of the 1990s, there were 3 active NIH grants and now there are 34.


He reported that the number of major grants has increased significantly.  He added that the number of faculty with large awards is growing and that the number of faculty who have no grants has stayed constant.   New faculty are producing and are integrated well into the system.


External Challenges:

-          Federal R&D dollars are declining or staying constant.

-          The competition for R&D dollars is getting fiercer.  Rensselaer has invested in the Biotech building, but other schools have also invested in Biotechnology and expect a return on their investment

-          There is a decline in the number of foreign graduate students.

-          National demographic change; the southeast is gaining population and the northeast is losing population.


Internal Challenges:

-    The Constellation positions are not being filled as quickly as anticipated.

-          Rensselaer is still looking for new faculty

-          There need to be some changes made for research-active faculty

-          Compared to peer and aspirant schools, Rensselaer does not have a large pool of research professors.


The Office of Research helps faculty with proposal preparation and provides mentoring as much as possible.  His staff helps review proposals and helps determine how a reviewer would receive arguments made in the proposal.  In some cases, they have arranged and provided support for faculty to meet with program directors.  The office also administers a cost-sharing policy and publishes a weekly bulletin in addition to conducting workshops.  They have also arranged for federal agencies to come to campus to talk about their particular funding programs.


Goals for the next few years include creating partnerships; partnerships with Medical/Biotech Institutions as a priority and creating major research centers that integrate research, technology, policy and innovation.


Professor Nelson noted the impressive growth of expenditures and that it is not being spent on students.  He asked where it is being spent.  Mr. von Maltzahn said he does not know.  He said the flow-through is not included in expenditures.  He would like to discuss this in further detail with Vice Provost Les Gerhardt.  The number of graduate students has not gone up.  The Rensselaer Plan outlines a graduate rate of 250.  However, with the current number of graduate students enrolled, that goal cannot be reached. 


Professor Kaminski thought there was an increase in grants for the Department of Energy.  Mr. von Maltzahn feels there will be funding opportunities and that Rensselaer needs to be prepared.  He suggested that a coordinated effort approach be used.  He added that there is an emerging major awareness regarding what is happening to the health of the nation with respect to nano materials.


Retired Senator Paul Hohenberg stated that for the last few years, the biggest public news in nanotechnology has come from SUNY not Rensselaer.  He suggested that it is hard to find much of a partnership with Rensselaer and asked if that is misleading.  Mr. von Maltzahn said it is not misleading.  Om Nalamasu used to have weekly interaction with SUNY Albany. 

Research PowerPoint presentation

Joint Committee on Advising – Professor Debbie Kaminski

Professor Kaminski distributed the revised motions from the Student Senate/Faculty Senate Joint Committee on Advising.  She explained that there were substantial changes in the first motion.  While considering the feedback, the Committee discussed asking the Registrar to issue CAPP reports for dual majors.  For some majors, the Registrar may need to issue two reports.  If the motion passes, the Committee supports what the Registrar suggests.   Professor Kaminski added that there has been no criticism of the CAPP report from single majors; the complaints mostly come from dual majors.


Professor Kaminski made the following motion which was seconded by Professor Steinbruchel:

“The Faculty Senate urges the registrar to increase the functionality of the CAPP report, so that students who are pursuing dual majors are informed of the requirements for both degrees.”


Professor Kaminski said that although no timeframe was discussed, she expects it to be effective as soon as possible.  She anticipates that the Student Senate will pass the motion without objection.


Vote:  Motion passed unanimously. 


Professor Kaminski made the following motion:

“The office of the Provost, working with the registrar and DotCIO should institute a system by which all students are obligated to meet with their academic advisors at least once per year. A system of checks needs to be put in place so that both advisor and the student verify the meeting occurred and that the student provides feedback on both their advisor and the advising system as a whole before the student can register for classes. The department chair should also be able to remove the hold on student registration.”


The second motion addresses meetings between advisors and students.  This motion drew both criticism and support from faculty and students.  This motion also provides a mechanism for determining the quality of advising.  The motion requires students to see their advisor, which in the past, some students did not want to.  The committee discussed obligating the student to meet with the advisor once a year rather than once per semester.    A student would not be allowed to register unless the student had met with their advisor within the year.  Both advisor and student have to verify that the meeting took place.  Although a friendly amendment was suggested, Professor Kaminski could not accept it since the Committee presented the motion for review by both the Student Senate and Faculty Senate. 


Senator at Large, Professor Sandy Sternstein said that there will be a significant number of students who will not willingly meet with their advisor and is concerned about what type of feedback from the evaluation will be obtained from these students.  He questioned how the information will be used and if the Deans of the Schools will receive the information.  Professor Kaminski responded that each Dean would choose how to use it.  She added that some form of evaluation needs to be present.  Professor Sternstein suggested that a set of criteria be used to eliminate students giving poor feedback solely because they didn’t like what classes the advisor recommended.  Senator at Large, Professor J. Keith Nelson asked if the evaluation information was requested by the students.  Professor Kaminski said it came from the discussions the Committee had. 


Senator at Large Professor William Randolph Franklin said he will vote “no” on the motion due to the increased workload.  He agrees that advising is a problem.  Engineering Senator Professor Cheng Hsu agrees that advising is important but feels uncomfortable with the motion as a solution.  He feels more time needs to be spent to study the problem and to search for a solution.  He feels the previous mandatory system did not work.  He will vote against the motion but not because of the premise, rather because he does not think it is a solution.  Professor Kaminski responded that the motion arose out of a recommendation from a task force that spent 3 years studying it.  Professor Hsu suggests that devising a solution is better than devising a policy.  Recording Secretary, Professor Steinbruchel, said he is not in favor of having a system where advising is attached to feedback.  He feels a system that records some sort of interaction is better than what currently happens.  He added that he feels it should be mandatory given the students’ other priorities; advising is usually at the bottom of the list.


Vote:  Yes: 5, No: 6, Abstentions: 1; motion failed.


Professor Nelson made the following motion:

“The office of the Provost, working with the registrar and DotCIO should institute a system by which all students are obligated to meet with their academic advisors at least once per year. A system of checks needs to be put in place so that both advisor and the student verify the meeting occurred before the student can register for classes. The department chair should also be able to remove the hold on student registration.”


Vote:  Yes: 10, No: 2, Abstentions: 0; motion passed. 


Library Resources – Professor Jim Napolitano, Faculty Senate Vice President

Professor Napolitano pointed out a recent article in the Polytechnic.  The Task Force was put together to collect input from faculty, library staff and academic leadership to review and address the library resources issue and then to make recommendation to John Kolb, Chief Information Officer.  Once John Kolb receives the input, he and Provost Peterson will bring forward the recommendations through the Performance Planning Process.  Most people realize that the library budget needs to be increased.  The Task Force is to provide recommendations by June 15, 2006, prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year.  The hope and expectation is that adjustments in the budget will be made in the summer for the 2007 fiscal year.


See appendix 1.


Grading Policy for Repeated Courses - Professor Christoph Steinbruchel

Professor Steinbruchel said that graduate students are treated differently than undergraduate students regarding repeating courses.  The issue was brought up with the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee, but they have other items in progress. 


When an undergraduate student re-takes a course, only the most recent grade in the course is counted toward their GPA.  However, when a graduate student re-takes a course, their GPA includes the average of the grades for the course.  Professor Steinbruchel has spoken with Sharon Kunkel, Registrar, Provost Peterson, and Associate Dean, Office of Graduate Education, Dennis Gornic.  Professor Steinbruchel feels this is an issue worth discussing.  He suggests that the current policy for undergraduate students also apply to graduate students. 


Professor Kaminski supports Professor Steinbruchel’s suggestion and feels that if students put in time, effort and money to re-take the course, they should get the second grade.  She also noted that the student could earn a worse grade.  Professor Amir Hirsa feels students should be allowed to erase a bad grade and not penalize them.  He supports the idea of a uniform policy.  If it passes, he proposes that the Faculty Senate allow the Provost to make the implementation decision, but anticipates it being effective Fall 2006.


Professor Steinbruchel made the following motion which was seconded by Professor Kaminski.


Move that Graduate Students have the same grading policy for retaking courses as Undergraduate Students.” 


Vote:  Motion passed unanimously. 


Open Letter to Faculty Regarding Communication Consultant –

Faculty Senate President Achille Messac

President Achille Messac believes the work of the consultant, which focused on “communication channels”, has been largely irrelevant to our effort to move forward constructively; and that her work should focus instead on shared governance.  He said that two of the Faculty Senate’s most important regular communication channels are gone; there have been no meetings with President Jackson or with the Board of Trustees President. Some progress was still possible – even with fewer “channels of communication”.  The Faculty Senate Executive Committee has continued to meet with the Provost; and Professor Messac feels the Provost has done everything he can within the constraints of his authority.


President Messac wrote a letter to the faculty with his comments on the Communication Consultant, hereby included in the minutes by reference.  He explained that the Communication Consultant “missed the mark” on both timing and contents.  He believes she should have used her findings and derived some recommendations by this point in time – nine months later.  He asked the Faculty Senate to review the letter that he sent to the faculty, and to provide any comments or feedback to him on how they feel the FSEC should move forward.


Appendix 1


Task Force for Sustainable Research Library Support



The Rensselaer Research Libraries are at a crossroad.  Over the last decade there has been a successful transition from a primarily print-based scholarly collection to a predominantly electronic-based collection.  This has dramatically increased the number of titles (from approximately 2,500 ten years ago to over 40,000 today) of both print and electronic materials available to the Rensselaer community.  This transition strategy had also provided a means to mitigate the inflationary cost pressures in the print publishing world.  However, these cost pressures have migrated to the electronic publishing space and Rensselaer needs to develop new strategies as we move forward.


At the request of the President, the Provost, with input from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, has formed a Task Force to understand these issues and provide an initial set of recommendations to the Chief Information Officer by 15 June 2006.  This will provide an opportunity for these recommendations to impact the Performance Planning process for FY2008.



Specifically the charge to the Task Force is to:


  • Develop a model for strengthening faculty involvement in defining required library resources and achieving consensus in the planning for scholarly materials acquisition and support for the library.
  • Develop a strategic collections acquisitions framework with a particular emphasis on the mitigation of external inflationary pressures.
  • Explore and recommend funding models for long-term support of the acquisition of library materials.
  • Investigate how the impact of new or expanded academic programs on library resources can be better incorporated into the performance planning process.



The Task Force membership is:


  • John Harrington (Chair)

o        Professor of Language, Literature and Communication and Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences

  • Ishwara Bhat

o        Professor of ECSE

  • John Dojka

o        Institute Archivist and Head of Collection Development, Rensselaer Research Libraries

  • Pat Hults

o        Coordinator of Technical Services, Rensselaer Research Libraries

  • Shawn Lin

o        Future Chips Constellation Professor of Physics

  • Andrea Page-McCaw

o        Assistant Professor of Biology

  • Peter Parsons

o        Associate Professor of Architecture

  • Phil Phan

o        Bruggeman ’46 Associate Professor in the Lally School of Management

  • Mary Anne Staniszewski

o        Associate Professor of Arts

  • Chris Steinbruchel

o       Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering