Faculty Senate



Present: Sunderesh Heragu, Paul Hohenberg, Debbie Kaminski, Larry Kagan, Jim Napolitano, Isom Herron, Dan Berg, Henry Scarton, Ned Woodhouse, Patricia Search, Jeanne Keefe, Bob Parsons, Peter Persans, Jeff Durgee, WR Franklin, Amir Hirsa, Bill Pearlman, Bob Degeneff, Keith Nelson, Christoph Steinbruchel, John Newell


Absent: Bruce Nauman, Ning Xiang, Shekhar Garde, Chjan Lim, Roger Grice, Sandy Sternstein



Personal Remarks – President Achille Messac

This Past Year: What Worked, What Did Not

Getting Ready for Next Year – Complete Senate Membership

Communication Mechanisms

Tone of the New Senate: Constructive Assertiveness


President’s Personal Remarks

Faculty Senate President, Achille Messac, said he is humbled in a sincere way to represent the 400+ faculty and guide that will lead through the upcoming year.  He added that it is a real honor and that he will work tirelessly with the Senate to find solutions to problems.  These may be difficult times, but he believes accomplishments can come our way with everyone’s participation.  Assertiveness will be needed for things that are unacceptable and disagreements need to be handled constructively.  The Faculty Senate will form a vision together for the upcoming year.  The past year will be assessed and the senate will continue to do what worked and stop doing what did not work.  The Senators will get to know one another better by working together and doing something that matters to Rensselaer’s future.  He believes the key is “results with stability” and if the Senate is unstable, results will be difficult to get.


This Past Year: What Worked, What Did Not – Achille Messac, Faculty Senate President

President Messac said that when certain things work, the senate will stay the course but when they do not work, the course will have to be changed.  He hopes to have everyone’s support.  He believes less time should be spent on stalemate and more time on solutions.  He believes that the Senate has gotten the Administration’s attention.  The question is what to do with it. 


Getting Ready for Next Year – Complete Senate Membership

  • Approve at large member for Promotion and Tenure:  Pulickel Ajayan
  • Approve Ken Warriner as representative from the School of Architecture on the Curriculum Committee
  • Move to elect Bob Parsons to the position of Secretary of the Senate
  • Approve Nancy Campbell as H&SS member for fall semester while June Deery is on sabbatical

The above four items were approved by the Faculty Senate.


FSEC vote to approve:

  • Chair of Promotion and Tenure Committee: Sunderesh Heragu in Fall semester and Larry Kagan in spring semester.
  • Chair of Curriculum Committee: Amir Hirsa
  • Chair of Planning and Resources Committee: Dan Berg

The above three items were unanimously approved by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.


The following motions were adopted on 4-6-2005

  • Move that the Faculty Senate obtain independent legal representation.
  • Move that Harvey Randall, Esq. be invited to represent the Faculty Senate and its committees, both ad hoc and standing.


Bob Degeneff, Senator-at-large and Governance Committee member, said that the attorney agreed to serve at no cost to the faculty.  The attorney is now only representing the Faculty Senate, and Bruce Nauman has retained a different attorney.


President Messac suggested the following motion, which was moved and seconded:

Move that legal representation be terminated to allow for the possibility of a cooperative paradigm to emerge between faculty and administration.


President Messac suggested passing the motion.  He is concerned that if it does not pass, the Senate will be less effective in the upcoming year.  He added that if he does not get sufficient results by January 2006, he will resign as President of the Faculty Senate.  Larry Kagan suggested that he take time to meet with the attorney to find out what he had advised Bruce Nauman and the former Senate before a decision is made.  President Messac is concerned that if action is delayed, the situation will further degrade over the summer.


Bob Degeneff said the attorney is a former colleague of Senator-at-large Sandy Sternstein.  When the survey was seized and the legal reasons given, the Senate did not feel qualified to understand the details.  The purpose of the attorney was to provide knowledgeable advice.  It was important to the Governance Committee to understand all the information.


At-large Senator, Peter Persans, said it is possible to consult with a lawyer without them becoming an individual’s legal representative.  Christoph suggested that the word “representation” is wrong since no action is being taken against the Faculty Senate.


Sunderesh Heragu, P&T Committee Chair, was at the meeting when the motions were voted on.  One of the issues was that the letter of reprimand in Bruce Nauman’s file could set a precedent for other faculty.  He also mentioned the letter regarding having an attorney.  President Messac agrees about the reprimand and said he was a signatory of a letter sent to the Provost asking him to remove the reprimand.  He has told the Provost that he is offended by a reprimand in the Faculty Senate President’s file in the course of senate business.  He is concerned that the administration will not be flexible if the senate still has a lawyer.  Achille does not mind getting advice from the attorney or meeting with him, but the senate should do the communicating with the administration, not an attorney.


Ned Woodhouse, H&SS Senator, said that is it well known that in any legal matter there are various possible interpretations.  But he questions whether the Senate has the resources to mount a legal challenge, so is not clear on what will be gained through legal consultation.  Dan Berg, Planning & Resources Committee Chair, thinks the senate should have legal access of their own, not just for advice, but to work for the senate and represent the senate.


Jim Napolitano, Faculty Senate Vice President, is concerned about being represented when there is not a particular case.  He urged that the motion passes since he would prefer the senate have more direct contact with the administration rather than the lawyer acting as a mediator.  Randolph Franklin, Senator-at-large, suggests that the lawyer would help the senate negotiate and advise the senate on what is and is not legal.  Bob Degeneff thinks it is important to have an attorney’s advice since the senate cannot understand all the nuances.  He suggests the relationship with the attorney stay intact, but the administration should have no contact with him.  Achille is concerned if the Senate has official representation, it could hinder the cooperation and communication with the administration.


Christoph suggests the Senate seek advice rather than representation.  Bob Parsons, Secretary of the Senate is concerned the attorney will represent the senate.  Amir Hirsa, Curriculum Committee Chair, said that even with legal representation, the senate is in charge of the lawyer’s actions.


Vote:  7 in favor, 6 oppositions, 2 abstentions; motion passed.


Move that the Governance Committee be ended, and that the new executive committee be charged with offering to the Senate its new solution approach.


Paul Hohenberg, retired senator, thinks the entire senate should discuss it.  Although it is the summer, he suggested a group of people meet with the Governance Committee.  Randolph Franklin suggested the motion be tabled to give the administration a chance to make a concession.  Bob Degeneff said the committee’s responsibility is over.  He thinks it is appropriate to disband the committee and at some point have another group take a different approach.  Recording Secretary, Christoph Steinbruchel, reminded the group that the Governance Committee only makes suggestions to the Senate.  They drafted the governance survey but did not do anything the senate did not approve.


Vote:  11 in favor, 0 oppositions, 3 abstentions; motion passed.


Communication Mechanisms

President Messac thinks the administration failed to communicate with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and vice versa.  He thinks having a faculty representative on the Board of Trustees needs to be given more thought to determine if it should be done and how it should be done.  Serious consideration should be given to the joint task force that was proposed.


He added that the faculty feel ignored and it needs to change.  The administration feels it is doing the right things and that the faculty should be happy.  This also needs to change.


Tone of the New Senate:  Constructive Assertiveness

H&SS Senator, Ned Woodhouse, expressed concern that the number of incoming graduate student numbers declined to an unacceptable level.  President Messac thinks the senate needs to talk to the administration about serious problems such as that.


Senator-at-Large, Peter Persans, recommended that the Senate continue to meet over the summer on a regular basis along with the committees.


President Messac said that there were many Faculty Senate members who did not attend the senate meetings.  He asked that everyone make every effort to attend all senate meetings.


Achille's presentation