Faculty Senate Meeting



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


Absent: Jeanne Keefe, Lou Gingerella, Roger Grice


Guests: Mike Hanna, Bud Peterson, Prabhat Hajela, Lester Gerhardt, Heinrich Medicus, Jeff Durgee, Alan Cramb



Approval of Minutes from the February 22, 2006 Faculty Senate Meeting

International Program for Undergraduates in the School of Engineering – Prof. Alan Cramb, Dean of Engineering

International Studies at Rensselaer - Prof. Prabhat Hajela, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education

Mid-term Assessment - Julia Leusner, Student Representative on Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee

New Business


Approval of Minutes from the February 22, 2006 Faculty Senate Meeting

Without changes, the minutes were approved; 11 approvals, 4 abstentions.


International Program for Undergraduates in the School of Engineering

Prof. Alan Cramb, Dean of Engineering

The Dean of Engineering, Alan Cramb, is in the process of developing a program that would enable students to have an international experience.  The program will arrange exchanges with other schools around the world with strong engineering programs.  The School of Engineering would help organize the international experience and most would be a semester in length at another institution abroad.  He anticipates partnerships with similar institutions that teach in English and that will accept 50 to 100 students with Rensselaer accepting the same number of students in return.  Rensselaer anticipates over 700 students per year having an international experience; beginning with 200 in the initial exchange.  The first university willing to participate in the program is Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.  The program cannot begin until the class of 2011 is in their junior year. 


Dean Cramb said that much will have to be learned in order to make the program successful and many details still need to be reviewed.  Currently, the departments are evaluating the curriculum in order to make it possible.  The program will not add an additional semester of school for graduation.  He wants to make sure that every student has the opportunity to have an international experience.   He is committed to the international experience program and feels that it will make the Rensselaer students better, make them more successful in the workplace, and will make them ambassadors for RPI.  He hopes that faculty will want to participate in the program.  There are many people looking at all aspects of the program to make it run smoothly including academics and places for students to live here and abroad.  When asked about the financial aspects, Dean Cramb said that the Rensselaer student will pay the Rensselaer tuition during their international experience.  However, details on living expenses have not yet been determined.  Provost Peterson added that there are other issues that need to be reviewed such as meal plans offered and health fees.


Professor Tamar Gordon asked if a summer term abroad will be offered.  Dean Cramb said that he is willing to set up the program in a way that will work well.  President Messac asked if this program is unique to Rensselaer or if there are other schools with similar programs.  Dean Cramb said it is not unique, but what is different is that it would be geared for the school of engineering students. 


Retired Senator Paul Hohenberg is concerned about the large number of students going to each location and that it could create an RPI group which would make the students less likely to interact with local students and could dilute their international experience.  Dean Cramb said that faculty support is needed to encourage their students to interact with other students abroad.  The program should succeed not only in quantity of students but also in the experience. 


President Messac asked if Dean Cramb views it as an RPI signature program.  Dean Cramb responded that he feels it can be a signature program.  He does not think that any engineering program of Rensselaer’s level currently has such a program.  He believes others will follow.  He also feels the program will be driven by industry as globalization occurs.  Cheng Hsu, Engineering Senator suggested it become a strategic program by selecting several universities that are similar to Rensselaer and build a consortium to create a synergistic program that benefits many.  Les Gerhardt, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education, Acting stated that 96% of humanity lives outside the continental borders of the United States.  Additionally, of the 14 million U.S. native born Americans studying in higher education in the U.S., only 1% have an international experience.  An international experience will help students acknowledge other cultures and interests. 


International Studies at Rensselaer - Prof. Prabhat Hajela, Vice Provost and

Dean of Undergraduate Education

Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, Professor Prabhat Hajela, said that the School of Architecture currently has 75-80% of their students taking part in an international experience.  The Schools of Management, Science and H&SS are also developing plans for an international experience.


The Office of Undergraduate Education wants to promote an international experience for all students.  Vice Provost Hajela plans to create a range of different international opportunities for students with partner institutions; not just exchange programs.  The program will focus on developing international programs with educational institutions that are considered a peer school.  There are a number of institutions moving forward aggressively with well-formed programs. 


The Office of Undergraduate Education is arranging faculty-lead summer programs at international destinations.  These programs will involve students from Rensselaer and other universities.   Some programs will include special arrangements with faculty from other universities with common research interests.   In some cases, classes could be co-taught to students at two universities by faculty members from different universities.


Rensselaer has been invited to participate in the Research Winter Academy which gives out research projects to undergraduate students who will work on a project for a full semester.  Along with faculty mentors, they will meet at a common place to discuss the ideas they have researched.  Participating is anticipated during the winter of 2006 or 2007.

Vice Provost Hajela does not believe that the outsourcing of education is in the near future, but believes a global movement in education is possible.  In some countries, the cost of educating engineers is 20-30% of what it costs in the United States.  He added that there are universities in the United States that are setting up institutions in Singapore and China.  He thinks that Rensselaer should look at opportunities for a physical presence in other countries. 


Professor Cheng Hsu asked for clarification on how human resources issues such as faculty loading will be determined.  Vice Provost Hajela believes that if Rensselaer has a physical presence at an international location, there may be the opportunity to hire local faculty.  Vice Provost Gerhardt said that it is an exchange program so faculty going abroad will be replaced by faculty coming to Rensselaer.  Professor Hsu is interested in how performance evaluations would be handled.  Professor Hirsa asked if faculty at a satellite university will be held to the same RPI promotion and tenure standards.  Provost Peterson said there is a clinical associate professor from the School of Architecture that is located in Rome and was appointed through the normal process.  He said that important issues have been brought up but all the details have not been resolved. 


Professor Bruce Nauman asked for a comment on the School of Engineering program targeting English-speaking universities.  Vice Provost Hajela thought that might make a smoother transition, but added that there are students who take several semesters of a foreign language.  Professor Nauman asked whether Rensselaer is prepared to offer support to students in their freshmen and sophomore years to prepare them for an international experience.  Vice Provost Hajela said that in Asia, there is a strong influence for education taught in English.  Vice Provost Gerhardt added that there is an abundance of schools in Hungary, Budapest, Germany and France that teach in English.  Professor Steinbruchel feels that the language difficulties are overestimated and as soon as local students know someone is American, they want to talk in English.  Unfortunately, the Rensselaer students could miss out on what the locals talk about, which could be more important to their experience.  Faculty Senate Vice President, Jim Napolitano, suggested that students have an “advisor” to suggest language and cultural courses to help make it a smooth and enjoyable experience.   


Professor Chjan Lim commented on a program in Malaysia where students spend 2-3 years at a university taught by local faculty making local wages.  The students are then sent to a “twinning” college in Australia.  He is concerned that the quality of education is not very high.  The students from the “twinning” university never see bona fide faculty from the parent university.  He suggested that a slightly different business model be developed. He said, however, there are places like Singapore that view the National University of Singapore as one of the top 10 in the world, and would view RPI as lesser caliber but would accept arrangements with MIT.  He thinks there are difficulties with this sort of arrangement.  Vice Provost Hajela agreed that there are details that need to be worked out. 


Professor Tamar Gordon is concerned about the state of language learning at Rensselaer.  Currently Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish and French are taught.  She wonders to what degree, at the school level, will students will be encouraged to take a foreign language in preparation for an international experience.  Vice Provost Hajela responded that there is interest from the students.  He added that students could take language courses, if necessary, somewhere other than Rensselaer.


Mid-term Assessment - Julia Leusner, Student Representative on

Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee

President Achille Messac stated that over the past few months, the Student and Faculty Senates have worked on the issue of mid-term assessment.  The Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee created a subcommittee with graduate student, undergraduate student, faculty and administration representation to review the issue.


Julia Leusner, Student Representative, said that the initiative was not designed to penalize faculty who are currently providing timely feedback.   In many cases, students never received feedback on homework assignments prior to taking an exam on the material.  By the faculty providing a “standing”, students would know their grade relative to the rest of the class.  This would not imply a letter grade or official grade; it does not involve the registrar or any notation on a transcript.  It is also not an indication of the final grade in the class.   Ms. Leusner also said that work and assessment does not necessarily have to focus on the mid-term as long as tests and homework are returned within a week or two.  The students felt the mode used is up to the Professor, such as WebCT, as long as the mode is happening. 


Ms. Leusner’s final comment was that it was a joint effort between the Faculty and Student Senates.  She added that it is not entirely up to the professor to do all the work and the students need to take the assessment received to calculate their own grade and where they stand.   The Student Senate approved it unanimously. 


Professor Hirsa feels it will be very useful in reminding faculty to give feedback.  He feels most faculty do this for exams and mid-terms and provide averages and distribution, but this initiative will be a good reminder for graded homework assignments.  Senator at Large Sandy Sternstein asked for an explanation of “class standing.”  He asked if a student is on the high side of the class standing, will that signify to the student they are getting an A?  He believes class size will impact this.  Wally Morris, Graduate Student Representative said it will be up to the professor to state how to interpret “standing.” 


Professor Larry Kagan suggested that it would be worthwhile to revisit the issue if it is instituted to see how it is working.  Professor Hanna said it will help students determine which class to spend more time on based on their received assessment. 


Professor Nauman feels the Faculty Senate should not impose things on the faculty.  Professor Sternstein believes the motion is flawed since it requires it be part of the Handbook and there are times when the Handbook is selectively not followed.  Professor Hanna stated that if it were in the Handbook section 3.2.1, it would be included in the memo that the Provost sends to faculty prior to each semester.  Professor Napolitano is confused why some people would not want to include it in the Handbook.  He feels it should be in the handbook that students have some way to receive progress.  Professor Kaminski supports the motion.  Professor Woodhouse believes the full faculty should have a vote.  Provost Peterson supports the intent of the initiative. 

A straw vote was taken to determine whether the motion should go to the full faculty.

Results:  10 yes, 4 no.


The following motion was made and proposed to go to the general faculty for a vote. 


“Resolved that: Each course syllabus will identify the mechanisms that are used to provide students with assessment of their progress during the semester.  By mid-semester, students should receive some form of assessment that indicates their standing in the class.  The mechanism of assessment can be determined by each faculty member and does not imply a letter grade.”


New Business

Provost Peterson received a memo from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee regarding the repeat grading motion passed by the Faculty Senate.  It was suggested that President Messac send a follow up memo requesting the Provost to implement the motion.  The Provost pointed out that the issue did not receive input from faculty or students and has not been put forth for a vote by the entire faculty.