Faculty Senate Meeting

2/8/2006

 

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

 

Absent: Ning Xiang, Lou Gingerella

 

Guests: Henry Scarton, G.P. Peterson, Virginia Gregg, Lester Gerhardt, Michael Hanna, Andrew Tibbets, David Hess, Russ Giambelluca, Mark Shepherd, Prabhat Hajela

 

Agenda

Approval of Minutes from the 1/25/2006 Faculty Senate Meeting

Curriculum Committee Member Replacement (Prof. David Hess)

Faculty Representation on Retirement Committee (Successfully Negotiated with Administration)

Middle States Update (Senate Input Accepted by Committee)

Intellectual Policy Update - Prof. Mark Shephard

Planning and Resources Committee: Library Resources, Budget, Bond Rating and Adherence to Handbook/Constitution – Prof. Dan Berg Report

Curriculum Committee Report: Midterm Assessment, Advising and Other Issues - Profs. Hirsa, Hanna and Kaminski

Health Care for Retirees - Professor Bruce Nauman

Faculty Senate President and Executive Committee Responsibility for Actions by Senators and Committees

New Business

Approval of Minutes from the 1/25/2006 Faculty Senate Meeting

The minutes will not be approved at this meeting due to the need to include additional information from the Communication Consultant presentation.  President Messac explained that this delay was primarily caused by the consultant’s refusal to leave copies of her presentation with the Faculty Senate.

 

Curriculum Committee Member Replacement (Prof. David Hess)

Mike Hanna resigned from the Curriculum Committee after accepting an administrative position.  Professor David Hess has agreed to replace Mike Hanna on the Curriculum Committee.  He was unanimously accepted.

 

Faculty Representation on Retirement Committee

(Successfully Negotiated with Administration)

Although it was initially requested that the Faculty Senate Executive Committee provide three names of faculty with various lengths of service, Al Wallace was submitted as the nominee for representative on the Retirement Committee.  He was accepted by Curtis Powell, Vice President for Human Resources as the representative on the committee. 

 

Middle States Update (Senate Input Accepted by Committee)

President Messac reported that the Faculty Senate has been successful in expressing their concerns and changes for the Middle States Self Study Report.  The Steering Committee has accepted the changes and they have been included in the final report.  The version has been forwarded to President Jackson to review prior to being sent to the Visiting Team.  [The Provost has since informed President Messac that President Jackson has accepted the report with no further changes.]

 

Intellectual Policy Update - Prof. Mark Shephard

Professor Mark Shephard, Co-Chair of the Institute Intellectual Policy Task Force, said their Committee is close to releasing a draft of the Research Administration Finance (RAF) and the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) procedures related to intellectual policy.   (The draft IP policy was shared with the Rensselaer campus in April and May of 2005 in a series of meetings including an open faculty meeting on May 9, 2005,

 

The IP Task Force worked with Research Administration Finance (RAF) and the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) on their procedures.  The Committee discussed what their specific procedures are and then developed goals and requirements to reach their goal, steps of the process, who is responsible for each step, what needs to be completed for each step, the notification process and an indicator of expected time frame for execution.  The procedures above have been developed for RAF and OTC.  The policy also describes the legal regulations that must be considered.  He feels procedures should help in understanding responsibilities and expectations.  The RAF (contracts and grants) procedures are focused on obtaining research grants.  Both procedures also include an appeals process that can be exercised when satisfactory resolution of conflicts is not resolved.

 

Senator at Large Peter Persans asked Professor Shephard if he could comment on any big changes to the policy over the current (1986) policy.  Professor Shephard said that the policy is much the same and explains how the entire Rensselaer community is a part of the policy.  He said that the major differences are in the procedures.  He said that the steps will be more defined and faculty will be notified when there is an issue.    

 

Professor Henry Scarton asked if the percentages are the same.  Professor Shephard said yes, the distribution of monies made from Intellectual Property is the same. 

 

Professor Messac asked when the general faculty will see the latest version of the policy.  Professor Shephard said the policy was shared with the faculty in April and May, 2005.  The Task Force and the Faculty Senate IP Committee met twice.  The Faculty Senate IP Committee made several suggestions that were incorporated into the draft.  The resulting draft policy was presented to various campus groups in April-May 2005 including key faculty group, senior chaired faculty, deans and department heads, the students.  The draft policy was presented at a General Faculty Meeting on May 9, 2005.  The draft procedures will be discussed with the Faculty Senate IP Committee in the near future.

 

Professor Shephard's presentation from today

5-9-2005 Presentation to Faculty

 

Planning and Resources Committee – Prof. Dan Berg Report on Library Resources, Budget, Bond Rating, and Adherence to Handbook/Constitution

Regarding Library Resources, President Jackson sent a memo to President Messac, responding to the Planning & Resources memo.  She agreed that a committee comprised of faculty and administration be put together to review the library budget.   President Messac said that Faculty Senate Vice President Jim Napolitano is working with the Provost to form the committee which will take a look at near- and long-term budget issues of the library.

 

Professor Berg received information from several Deans that budgets have been cut.  He added that budgets will be tight in every academic unit and will impact faculty recruiting as well as other activities. 

 

Professor Berg stated that the bond rating reduction had been recorded a few weeks ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education, but was recorded incorrectly as a drop from an A1 rating to A3, but was actually a drop to a rating of A2.  He added that the Polytechnic provides further information as well as an interview with Virginia Gregg, Vice President for Finance. 

 

Vice President Gregg said that the ratings are investment grades and that Rensselaer has always been A-rated.  She added that 20% of Rensselaer’s debt is at a variable rate and 80% is at a fixed rate and confirmed there is approximately $165 million in new debt. 

 

Senator at Large William Randolph Franklin said that Moody’s website contained the following quote regarding the bond rating change: “outlook remains negative”.  Professor Berg said that the reasons reported by Moody’s for the rating downgrade was due to the Rensselaer operating deficit last year and a projection of two or three more years of operating deficits.  Although the budget was balanced, it was due to the Board allowing permission to use endowment funds to do so. 

 

Ms. Gregg reported that when Moody’s looks at operations for Rensselaer or any school, they do an independent calculation on endowment spending.  They recalculate what the operating results are, which is different than how Rensselaer looks at them for the budget purpose.  She said that Rensselaer’s recurring revenue covers expenses.  She added that Moody’s understands strategically what Rensselaer is doing in using the endowment and borrowing to accomplish tasks on the Rensselaer Plan and that they believe a strategic financial long-term benefit will be achieved. 

 

Before the meeting, when Professor Berg asked for the reasons for the budgetary restrictions, he was told they were due to increased energy cost, current research levels, the tuition discount rate being higher than what is desirable and the contribution necessary to the defined benefit pension plan.  Professor Randolph Franklin questioned whether EMPAC will also receive the budget cut.  He commented that academic segments are bearing the brunt of overruns from the non-academic segments of Rensselaer. 

 

Professor Berg presented for discussion, a section of the Constitution regarding the Planning and Resources Committee.  He said it is of concern to the Planning and Resources Committee.  The Committee shall participate in the formation of the Institute budget and shall recommend Senate action concerning the endorsement of the final budget. During this process, any member of the Faculty shall have the opportunity to examine the budget and to raise questions about it. 

 

Professor Berg has brought it to the attention of Ms. Gregg and Institute Counsel Chuck Carletta.  In response to Ms. Gregg’s comments, Professor Berg read a section of an email from Ms. Gregg regarding their request.  “As I have discussed with your predecessors over the years and as we discussed last fall, the budget methodologies in place since 1996 (and there have been two) include opportunity (and actually a responsibility) for input from the Planning and Resources Committee in the academic planning stages.  The current performance planning and budgeting process is formalized in that regard, calling for review of and input from your committee relative to the academic performance plans and strategic directions contained therein, which process is managed by the Provost.  As you know from past incarnations, the level of resources provided through the budget process is a function, first, of the revenues projected to be available, and second, each dean's priorities.  In the context of initiatives outlined in the Rensselaer Plan, which were deliberated through an extensive campus process when the Plan was first developed, budgeting, financing and pacing of those initiatives is a prerogative of the President and the Board.  It is clear that the wording in the charter does not reflect the realities of the current performance planning and budget process.  The most appropriate course of action appears to be a rewording of the charter to be in sync with the current process.  This will insure that faculty input is included where most appropriate and effective.  As you know, I am more than happy to meet with your committee and provide financial overviews at mutually available times.”

 

Ms Gregg stated that she feels that in the current process, which is a performance planning and budget process, where the Committee has input is in the performance planning process and where they would have the most impact and influence as the plans and priorities are being developed, rather than when numbers are being identified in the plan. 

 

Professor Woodhouse stated that one of the reasons for widespread advice and consent is so that diverse considerations can be brought up.  He feels that if the Planning and Resources Committee had had more to say, Rensselaer would not be in the current budget crisis.  The Provost responded that calling the current budget situation a “crisis” is a misrepresentation.  He added that there is an open discussion with the Planning and Resources Committee with what the Deans are planning, what the academic portfolios are planning and how they will be prioritized.  He believes that establishing priorities can be helpful.  Professor Woodhouse stated that, given the financial “crisis” the institute is in, if it were up to him Ms. Gregg would be “fired.”

 

Secretary of the Faculty Debbie Kaminski said that she has taken part in the performance planning reviews and found them to be unsatisfying since there was more brainstorming than prioritizing.  Professor Henry Scarton found the performance planning reviews to be very useful. 

 

Professor Hirsa thought that the hiring freeze in engineering might not be reflected in all engineering departments or in other schools.  Professor Randolph Franklin commented that it is reflected in Computer Science, except for Constellation hires.  Provost Peterson responded that Rensselaer is not in a hiring freeze and anticipates hiring 18 faculty in the next year.  He added there are 19 additional Constellation positions that are open and can be filled.  Lester Gerhardt, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education, Acting, stated that many of the comments being made are made on the basis of only partial information. 

 

Professor Berg concluded his presentation by noting other activities of the Planning and Resources Committee including reviews of new degree programs before submission to NY State, and the forthcoming review of the Graduate Program to be presented by Vice-Provost Gerhardt.

 

Curriculum Committee Report – Profs. Hirsa, Hanna, and Kaminski

Midterm Assessment, Advising, Other issues

Professor Amir Hirsa, Chair of the Curriculum Committee, said they are meeting weekly to work on course and curriculum changes and additions to be included in the new catalog.  His Committee will begin working on a statement that will more clearly define the Mid-Term Assessment initiative. 

 

Although Professor Mike Hanna had to resign from the committee after taking an administrative position, he continues to take an active role in the initiative.  He said the subcommittee reviewing the student-driven mid-term assessment is comprised of 3 faculty members and 3 students.  Several students did research on mid-term assessment and brought it forth to the Faculty Senate Committee, and then a subcommittee was formed. 

 

Professor Hanna stated that the students don’t consider it to be a grading policy, rather an assessment.  Currently there are many courses that provide some form of assessment and the subcommittee does not want to impact what some faculty are already doing.  The committee suggested that since some faculty are providing feedback, that mid-term assessment not be made mandatory.  89% of students support a non-mandatory policy, but faculty opinion is mixed. 

 

Senator at Large Sandy Sternstein asked what sampling method was used to get 89% support from students and to solicit faculty opinion.  Professor and Associate Dean, Mike Hanna said that significant polling was done in an engineering department as well as prior discussions in the Faculty Senate.  Professor Hirsa said that student support numbers came from the student senate discussions with students. 

 

Chair of the Faculty Bruce Nauman asked what the mechanism is for the initiative becoming policy.  Professor Hanna said the subcommittee will present their findings to the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee and they will present it to the Faculty Senate.  Professor Nauman thinks it requires a faculty-wide vote and should be part of a general election.  Professor Hirsa added that for the plus/minus vote, it had been discussed for over a year before a recommendation was presented the following year and that this is the first year of discussion of mid-term assessment.  President Messac is concerned that the general faculty do not yet know anything about the initiative.  He stated that he will want to send preliminary information to the general faculty shortly to apprise them of what is being considered – before it is in final form.

 

Recording Secretary Christoph Steinbruchel requested a straw poll:  Do you favor some sort of mandatory mid-term assessment, the form being at the discretion of the professor?  14 yes, 6 no.

 

Professor Hirsa's Mid-Term Assessment slides

 

Health Care for Retirees – Prof. Bruce Nauman

Professor Bruce Nauman, Chair of the Faculty, presented a motion for health care for retirees; it was seconded by Professor Peter Persans, Senator at Large.  Curtis Powell, Vice President for Human Resources had consulted and is willing to review it.  After some discussion, the motion passed.   Whereas The Rensselaer Health Plan for is of high quality and provides good benefits to employees  and continuation of this plan is extremely expensive for retirees (e.g. ~$12,000 per year for a couple over 65), to the point that it becomes an inappropriate disincentive to retirement and a burden to those who have retired, the Faculty Senate requests the Administration to develop an alternative plan that provides a similar level of benefits, including drug and dental coverage, but that takes economic advantage of Medicare benefits available to persons over 65.  The Faculty Senate has no inherent objection to this plan being applied to employees who are 65 or older as well as to retirees. 

 

Vote: 17 in favor, 0 opposed, 0 abstentions

 

Faculty Senate President and Executive Committee Responsibility for Actions by Senators and Committees

President Messac questioned to what extent the Faculty Senate President would be responsible for actions taken by any of the Senate committees, or of the Senate; as well as to what extent the Faculty Senate Executive Committee is responsible for actions of the Faculty Senate or any of the Committees.  He stated that in a managerial environment, if a subordinate errs, the supervisor is indirectly responsible for the subordinate’s actions.  Professor Nauman, Chair of the Faculty, said he was reprimanded for actions of a Faculty Senate Governance Committee.  Senator Robert Degeneff, Chair of the Governance Committee, stated that Professor Nauman had no role in the actions of the committee for which the reprimand was given. Senator at Large Sandy Sternstein thinks it is pathetic for anyone on the Faculty Senate to feel paranoid about actions of the administration attempting to prohibit faculty revolution on the campus.   He thinks that most people will agree that the reprimand was illogical, undeserved and wrong.  He added that he thinks this issue will continue until the letter of reprimand is rescinded.   Professor Nauman said that a clear statement is needed from the administration on how they view the responsibility of Senate leaders.  President Messac explained that he did not have direct control over the decisions of the Senate Committees.  He further explained that he clearly did not have control over how the senate votes and that leveling responsibility for committee actions on the shoulders of the senate president might have a chilling effect on some future senate presidents.

 

It was suggested that Institute Counsel, Chuck Carletta, be invited to an upcoming Faculty Senate Meeting to discuss the issue. 

 

New Business

H&SS Senator Edward Woodhouse brought up several concerns that faculty have but are unsure where to go for assistance.  Concerns range from Mueller Center and game room hours to ceiling leaks, broken blinds and various other maintenance issues to travel budgets and parking issues.  He suggested the need for an ombudsperson function within the Faculty Senate.  Provost Peterson said that several of Professor Woodhouse’s issues can be sent through the FIXX service and that the Handbook has processes to address issues of salary inequities.  President Messac recalls an ombudsperson position being discussed several years ago.  He said that the Faculty Senate Executive Committee would discuss it further to determine what a solution might be.