General Faculty Meeting



Attendees: Mike Fortun, Ning Xiang, Cheng Hsu, Fern Finger, Lee Ligon, Carlos Varela, James Lu, Paul Hohenberg, Jeff Trinkle, Jeanne Keefe, Christoph Steinbruchel, Peter Persans, John Harrington, Lester Gerhardt, Ken Connor, Ned Woodhouse, Steve Breyman, Bob Parsons, David Spooner, Bill Siegmann, Sam Wait, Randolph Franklin, Bill St. John, Daniel Berg, Roger Grice, Patricia Search, Richard N. Smith, Peter Wayner, J. Keith Nelson, Debbie Kaminski


Faculty Senate / Provost BBQ

President Achille Messac announced information regarding the Faculty Senate / Provost sponsored BBQ.  All faculty are invited to volunteer time to serve food to the students.  If they are unable to attend, he encouraged faculty to attend the event and interact with the students in an informal environment.  The event will be held outside the student union.


Faculty Senate Election

In the absence of the Vice President, Jim Napolitano, President Messac presented the slate for the upcoming election. 


President Messac presented a Constitutional amendment that will be included on this year’s ballot.  Due to an administrative error, the amendment was not included on last year’s ballot.  The reason clinical faculty are not currently included is because there was no clinical faculty classification at the time the Constitution was drafted.  The amendment has the support of the Provost. 


When asked whether clinical faculty could then participate on all committees, President Messac responded that there was some debate on that by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.  Professor Kaminski thinks that the clinical faculty have as much to contribute as other faculty and added that there are currently clinical faculty on some committees and ad hoc committees. 


President Messac presented the mid-term initiative item that will be included on the ballot.  He stated that the Grand Marshal, representing the Student Senate approached the Faculty Senate for help in the mid-term assessment initiative.  Although most faculty do provide adequate feedback, there are cases where students do not receive feedback from tests and homework prior to the mid-term.  The Student Senate proposal would not go beyond what most professors already do.  The ad hoc committee of the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee that reviewed the issue had student, faculty, Senate and administrative participation. 


The resolution is supported by the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee ad hoc committee (Committee on Mid-Term Assessment), the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and unanimously supported by the Student Senate.  Professor William Randolph Franklin said he does not support the initiative and will vote against it.  He feels the Faculty Senate’s work should support the concerns of the faculty and will vote against anything he feels is not the purpose of the Faculty Senate. 


Election Timeline

3/29/2006        General Faculty Meeting- Tentative Slate Presented
3/31/2006        Last day to accept nominations
4/3/2006          Ballot distributed via email
4/10/2006        Voting Ends
4/12/2006        Faculty Senate Meeting- Election Results Announced


President Messac's Presentation

Academic Initiatives and Academic Performance Plans Update –
G.P. Bud Peterson, Provost

Provost Peterson provided a summary of activity of the Office of the Provost.  Completed leadership searches include the Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship, Robert Chernow; Dean of Engineering, Alan Cramb; Dean of the Lally School, David Gautschi; Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education, Mike Hanna; and Department Chairs for Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear, Tim Wei; and Biomedical Engineering, Natacha Depaola.  Leadership searches that are underway include Vice President for Enrollment Management, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education, Dean of Science, Associate Dean of Graduate Education, and Department Chairs for Chemical and Biological Engineering, Civil Engineering, Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems, and Biology.


Expand the Research Enterprise

One of the Provost’s goals continues to be to fill the constellation positions.  Only 5 of the 24 constellation positions have been filled.  The focus will be on the constellations that have an endowment and those that have a senior constellation in place.  The process for an oversight committee to lead the searches has been streamlined. 


The Provost aims to attract, develop and retain the highest quality faculty possible.  The size of the faculty has grown and the search for more faculty continues.  One hundred thirty three new faculty have been hired; 73 in new positions.  The student to faculty ratio has dropped from 17:1 to 14:1.  Many peer school ratios are much lower, so work will continue in an effort to decrease the faculty to student ratio.  There will be 18 replacement positions in the budget year for 2007 and funds for “opportunity” hires will be retained.  He anticipates increasing the number, quality and role of research professors.


Along with the Vice President of Research, a focus will be to continue to expand and develop the Intellectual program in biotechnology.  Nine faculty have been hired into new positions in Biology and 2 additional searches are underway.  State approval for a PhD in biochemistry and biophysics is moving forward. 


Of the many outcomes completed to date, the first phase of the faculty compensation initiative has been completed.  In addition to the opportunity for deans and department chairs to submit the faculty through the normal merit review process and special faculty salary adjustments, there were three situations where faculty were reviewed and found to not be paid at the level the Dean thought appropriate.  Measures have been taken, along with Human Resources, to correct these.  The funds for 2 of these 3 have come from Human Resources through the Faculty Compensation Initiative which, is an ongoing process, not a single event. 


Although it has been successful in the past, the Research Revitalization Program will not continue next year.  The funds from this program will be redirected.  However, Om Nalamasu, Vice President for Research, will continue to provide funding for the Seed Funding Grant which promotes interdisciplinary research for faculty in separate schools.


Enhance Education

The Undergraduate Education Plan is a natural extension of the Rensselaer Plan.  The Undergraduate Plan will continue to focus on undergraduate research experience.  Individual schools are developing plans for providing an international experience to students prior to graduation.  Living and learning communities provide for education and residential living to work in parallel, rather than separately.  There are classrooms located and classes taught in residence halls.  The Undergraduate Plan will also focus on enhancing academic programs and offerings, and academic support services. 


Rensselaer will continue to focus on undergraduate advising.  Freshmen students are surveyed prior to starting classes and then again after completing their first year of classes, and finally just prior to graduation.  This is the second year survey feedback was gathered from seniors after having completed the survey as freshmen.  Rensselaer is doing a better job of advising due to many of the initiatives in place.  Advising is now part of the faculty performance evaluation in the teaching category.    


One of the biggest challenges Rensselaer faces is whether the number and quality of graduate students that are needed to support the ever-growing research of faculty can be attracted.   Under consideration is transferring the principal responsibility of recruitment of graduate students from Enrollment Management to the Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education.   The third year 50/50 cost sharing for TAs will be eliminated.   


The Rensselaer Plan includes entrepreneurship as one of the 6 overarching goals.  The institution goal is to incorporate entrepreneurship across the curriculum.  The hope is to do this in a similar way the communication requirement was incorporated.  Freshmen will be given the fundamental principles of entrepreneurship and will be followed with various clubs, elective courses, and other programs.  It needs to be explained that entrepreneurship is not just about starting small businesses; rather assessing risks and evaluating opportunities.


Rensselaer is looking to expand the summer programs.  Over the last several years, the summer offerings have dropped off due to other priorities in each school.  This summer there will be twice the offerings from last year including traditional, required, and unique ideas such as the Computer Games Development Academy.  The Provost would like a more robust list of activities and opportunities on campus during the summer. 


Rensselaer at Hartford, in conjunction with the Vice President and Dean of Hartford, will continue to strengthen and improve the quality of the academic programs at Hartford.  They have completed a critical review of the faculty.  The Provost is trying to enhance the connection between the academic deans in Troy and the Vice President of Hartford.  Rensselaer has a process where all the faculty appointments in Hartford are processed through one of the academic schools.  Hartford enrollments have increased.  This is the first time the number of new students in Hartford will exceed the number of students graduating.  This is due to the time, energy, and efforts of Hartford faculty and John Minasian’s leadership. 


Achieve Diversity

Rensselaer has grown the number of women from 50 to 72 in tenure/tenure-track category and the number of under represented minorities from 12 to 25.  This does not include the 10 faculty hired this year starting between July 1 and Aug 15, of which 5 are women or under represented minorities.  The diversity goal is that half of new hires will be women or under represented minorities.  Diversity workshops will be held again for new faculty and support will continue for programs such as the Family Technology Awareness Day and the Garnet Baltimore Lecture series.


Redesign and Reinvigorate Enabling Activities

The Provost feels that the change in the increase of the applicant pool is probably the most significant change that has been made in the past year in how it impacts the institution.  This year, 75% of the students that applied to Rensselaer were accepted.  It was determined that the size of the applicant pool needed to be increased.  The biggest change is making extensive use of the search process.  Rensselaer can purchase lists of names of students and their PSAT scores.  Two years ago, a list of 50,000 students was purchased and contacted in May by Rensselaer.  Most recently, Rensselaer sent information to 350,000 students in November.   The Provost reported a tremendous response.  A candidates choice program was instituted where a student can apply and get an admission decision within 21 days. 


Rensselaer has invited 27,000 freshmen, sophomores and juniors to visit in April.  Programs will talk about how to apply to college and explain the application process.  This will also offer the opportunity to talk about Rensselaer and what is happening on campus.  The undergraduate student applications have increased 24%. 


Current Initiatives

The Middle States Reaccreditation Team will be on campus for several days.  They will meet with faculty, administrators and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.  The chair of the Team is Jared Cohon, President of Carnegie Mellon University.  The Provost has asked the Deans to review and benchmark Faculty Teaching Loads.  He is working to formalize the department chair review process.  There may be a change in terminology from Department Chair to Department Head as well as a review of their responsibilities.  John Harrington, Dean of H&SS, is chair of a committee that is exploring Rensselaer membership in AAU.  A review will occur to address the problems associated with the timeliness of Report Submission on Federal grants.  A Library Sustainability Committee was put together along with input from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.  Dean Harrington is chairing this committee and an initial report is expected in the May/June timeframe.  Electronic dissertations have been previously discussed.  Students can now submit their dissertations electronically.  By having electronic dissertations in electronic form, access increases and provides more attention to the research of the student.



Professor Carlos Varela - Regarding the 50/50 cost sharing, I think this policy came to place because of the undergraduate cost of tuition and faculty were trying to transition students.  Maybe one way to phase it out is to allow the faculty to propose an alternate percentage, rather than 50%. 


Provost Peterson - I understand and appreciate your suggestion.  The funds have not left, but are being redirected.  The problem with the 50/50 is that it is not accomplishing the goal it was intended to do.  We continue to reevaluate the cost share. 


Les Gerhardt, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education, Acting - When that policy was put in place, in order to get that type of incentive, you had to convert from a TA to an RA to a fully overheaded research contract after two years.  The number of people who were able to do that was minimal. 


Retired Professor Paul Hohenberg - You talked about increasing the number of faculty.  Have you tried to quantify the instructional resources available, particularly for undergraduates?  There are a number of things you talk about that decrease the effective amount of instruction.  One is the emphasis on research, another is the transformation of clinical to tenure-track positions which cuts in half the amount of teaching, and third, the sharp control on who gets to teach (grad students, emeriti).  It seems to me that particularly if you get some big classes, there may be a shortage of instructional resources as opposed to the number of faculty.


Provost Peterson - That is a big issue and there are a lot of things that factor into that.  The biggest one that affects the deans and the department chairs is if a faculty member retires, that member may be teaching a number of courses.  However, a new faculty member replacing them may have a reduced load.  That particular issue, in terms of the resources available, is one of the motivating factors behind requesting the deans to submit benchmarking regarding teaching assignments, loads, and expectations compared to peer and aspirant schools.  In terms of student credit hours, we have often said that the reason we have so many TAs is because have so many students and so few faculty.  We have transitioned 12 clinical positions to tenure track positions. 


Professor J. Keith Nelson – What is the future of distance education at Rensselaer on the Troy campus? 


Provost Peterson - It is part of the performance plan in Graduate Education and it is not being phased out.  Several things related to distance education have been put into place.  Courses that do not include face to face contact with faculty will not be offered.  The whole realm of distance education has changed with the use of the web and online degree programs.  We had an active distance education program.  We have moved to cohorts since the competition in that arena has increased dramatically.  We weren’t certain we could offer the type of degree and educational experiences through pure distance programs. 


Les Gerhardt - Information will be available on the office of graduate education website.  Part of the performance plan is not only to grow the PhD numbers but to grow the part-time education and distance learning component.  We’re looking to grow from 300 to 500 students in distance learning and to significantly grow the master’s program on a part time basis as well.  We hope to regain a lot of the clientele base.  We have always maintained part time education. 


Provost Peterson - The decline in enrollments for distance education at Rensselaer track closely with the increase from the national workforce commission data for courses offered through the web. 


Professor Mike Fortun – Can you elaborate on the “conduct interim review of all tenure-track faculty” item. 


Provost Peterson - As part of the annual performance review of all untenured tenure-track faculty, they will be placed into one of four categories by their Dean:  1) great progress and doing well, 2) doing pretty well, 3) adjustments will have to be made in order to achieve success, and 43) there are some problems to work on.  For faculty placed in category 3 or 4, recommendations on immediate action will need to be made rather than waiting until the end of the 3rd year of the contract.  This will identify what action the dean and department chair need to take to intervene in a timely fashion to ensure the success of the faculty; assign mentors, provide assistance through ALAC.


President Messac - There is a 5-year plan under consideration for the school of engineering.  Is it across the board?  Can you comment on the objective?


Provost Peterson - It is part of the evaluation process.  Each faculty member will develop a career path or career plan.  Instead of coming in and having your chair say what you did and did not do, you can raise your goals.  Perhaps a 5-year plan means writing a book; it will be important to know for those who are evaluating you.  It helps people think about where they are going and what they want to accomplish. 


Jeanne Keefe, Librarian – Can you comment on the progress of the Library Sustainability Committee? 


John Harrington, Dean of the School of H&SS - The ad hoc committee requested by President Jackson and put together by Provost Peterson and CIO John Kolb, began meeting in early February.  The committee, which overlaps with the Faculty Senate Planning and Resources Committee, will be putting together factual information and the acquisition policy.  June 15, 2006 is the deadline for presenting their recommendations.  Provost Peterson added that the committee was a joint effort with the Faculty Senate and will report to John Kolb.  The committee is looking not only at resources but what periodicals should be subscribed to.


The Provost thanked the faculty for everything they do.  With the Middle States Visiting team and prospective donors visiting the campus soon, he believes that “if you want people to be impressed with the programs, let them have access to the students.”  The Provost believes that the students are a reflection of what the faculty do and he thanked them for their efforts.


Provost Peterson’s complete presentation is available.