Faculty Senate Meeting

September 7, 2005


Present: Achille Messac, Jim Napolitano, Christoph Steinbruchel, Debbie Kaminski, Edward Woodhouse, Jeanne Keefe, Lou Gingerella, Roger Grice, Paul Hohenberg, Bob Degeneff, William Randolph Franklin, Keith Nelson, Peter Persans, Patricia Search, Sandy Sternstein, Larry Kagan, Dan Berg, Amir Hirsa


Absent: Bruce Nauman, Ning Xiang, Chjan Lim


Guests: Bud Peterson, John Harrington, Mike Fortun, Pamela Theroux, Martin Glicksman, Ron Gutmann, Satish Nambisan, Connie Fritz, Don Steiner, Max Yates, Julia Leusner



·        Present Status and Prospective View – Achille Messac, Faculty Senate President

·        Approve Minutes from the 4/20/2005 and 5/4/2005 Faculty Senate Meetings and 5/4/2005 General Faculty Meeting

·        Vote on Open Faculty Senate Positions

o       P&T replacement - Eng: Charles Malmborg, Linda Schadler

o       P&T replacement - Arch: Mark Rea

o       Management Senator- Satish Nambisan

o       Secretary of the Senate: Jerry Korenowski, Mike Fortun

·        FY 06 Issues and Challenges – Provost Peterson

·        Student Senate Interaction with Faculty Senate - GM Max Yates

·        Report on Middle States Progress – Professor Don Steiner

·        Handbook Update – Report from Bruce Nauman

·        Discussion of Board of Trustees Finance Committee Faculty Representative

·        Setting Faculty Senate Priorities for this Year


Present Status and Prospective View – Achille Messac, Faculty Senate President

The Faculty Senate Executive Committee for 2005-2006 was introduced.  All who were present were welcome to the meeting.  President Messac said that difficulties this year need to be addressed in a constructive way.  He asked for the support and cooperation of everyone.  He knows there are many frustrations and he hopes that doing the right thing will bring results.


Since no one benefits when there is undue friction, there have been several steps taken regarding the governance committee and the governance survey.  The Faculty Senate approved ending legal representation.  President Messac had hoped that a more cooperative overture toward the administration would be beneficial.  Over the spring and summer, he submitted several memos to the administration and received responses over the following weeks.  He would like to be as open as possible so that the Faculty Senate is kept abreast of the details.  He asked for everyone’s support and urged them to provide their input.


He wants everyone to interact in a civil manner.  Views should be expressed in a respectful and collegial fashion.  He urged everyone to attend the Faculty Senate meetings in order to fulfill the quorum requirements in order for Senate business to be conducted.  He will be in touch with anyone who is routinely absent.  The attendance of the Committees and Chairs is also needed.

President Messac expressed the senate support and congratulations for the Institute initiatives for the Hurricane Katrina disaster.  He requested that faculty be mindful of those students who may be entering classes after the first day of the semester.


The Faculty Senate needs to nominate three people of which one will be chosen for the Retirement Committee.  Suggestions should be sent to Jim Napolitano.  Also, suggested names for a speaker for the Trustee Celebration on Faculty Achievement should be submitted immediately.


Approve Minutes from the 4/20/2005 and 5/4/2005 Faculty Senate Meetings and

5/4/2005 General Faculty Meeting

The minutes from the 4-20-2005 and 5-4-2005 Faculty Senate Meetings were approved.  After a small revision, the 5-4-2005 General Faculty Meeting minutes were also approved.


Vote on Open Faculty Senate Positions

By secret ballot, Linda Schadler was elected as the School of Engineer representative on the Promotion and Tenure Committee, Mark Rea as the Architecture representative on the same committee and Satish Nambisan as the Management Senator.  Since Jerry Korenowski was no longer on the ballot, Mike Fortun won the seat as Secretary of the Senate.


FY 06 Issues and Challenges – Provost Peterson

Provost Peterson addressed items that he felt were issues and challenges.  He provided an update on the current leadership searches that are underway:  Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education, Dean of Enrollment Management, Dean of Science, Associate Dean of Graduate Education, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education and several Department Chair openings.


Key Challenges

Many of the key challenges have been discussed before including attracting the best faculty, developing the infrastructure to support a major research university and completing the Constellation hires.  There are 24 fully funded and Board of Trustee approved constellations positions.  Five of them are filled.  The composition of the constellation committee is currently being restructured.  Another key challenge is to increase the size of the undergraduate inquiry and applicant pool.  Rensselaer accepts 75% of the students that apply to Rensselaer which is very large compared to peer and aspirant schools.  It is necessary to expand the way Rensselaer recruits students.  The goal is to increase the number of qualified applicants by 50% in three years.  Other key challenges are to attract quality graduate students to support the expanding research programs, continued development of academic leadership and implementation of the Core Communications requirement.  In addition, he would like to examine the salary administration and consider paying faculty for 9 months for the 9 months worked. Provost Peterson would like to discuss the advantages of this change.  He added that he sees no changes in the benefits if a change was made to the salary payment schedule.  In addition to the current pay schedule affecting people who resign during a semester, it affects those on sabbatical, parental leaves and leaves of absences.  The Provost’s final challenge is to stabilize enrollments at Hartford.


Current Initiatives

·        Revision of Faculty Handbook- the Handbook has been forwarded to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee for approval by the Senate.  Language from the current handbook was used for items that could not be resolved.

·        Conduct regular formal review of department chairs

·        Conduct interim review of all Tenure-track faculty- The Provost asked Deans to do a review of tenure-track faculty and rank them in 1 of 4 categories. 

·        Address problems found with the timeliness of report submission on federal grants.


Provost's complete presentation


Student Senate Interaction with Faculty Senate - GM Max Yates

President Messac has opened the first 10 minutes of all Faculty Senate meetings to students to discuss whatever issues they wish to be addressed.  Grand Marshal Max Yates was asked to discuss how the students and the faculty can work together. 


Items to Help Protect Students

·        Launching a shuttle tracking system so students will know where the shuttle is

·        Legal downloading service- Reviewing legal alternatives for the student body. 

·        Privacy rights will be reviewed

·        24-hour building access control for students is being discussed with Chuck Carletta

·        Develop a student advocacy group


Student Senate Initiatives

·        Go Be Red is a pride and school spirit initiative.  Capital region initiatives are also being reviewed in an effort to get students involved in the entire region rather than just the campus.

·        Considering a midterm progress reporting proposal.  It may require more work for faculty.  Support has been given from the registrar.  It would be an unofficial report. Students are supportive of midterm progress reports.

·        A push for mentoring/networking and advising.  The advising task force document is slowly being implemented.  Mentoring is successful at other high-ranking schools.  Since only 50% of the learning and education is found in the classroom, guidance and experience from faculty are critical for the success of the students.  The implementation of a better feedback system or mandating students to see advisors a certain number of times are considerations.

·        There is a prescription drug abuse problem on campus.   Although illegal drugs are declining, prescription drug use for students to pull “all-nighters” is increasing.

·        The Take a Student to Lunch Program is great for open discussions, but not many students or professors are aware of it.  A committee to promote and publicize the event may help.

·        Grade modifiers- They will be following up to make sure the requirements are being followed and it is being implemented well.

·        Other smaller topics include the test schedule during GM week, Undergraduate research projects, involving the Rensselaer Alumni Association more, altering the final exam schedule and a shift in start times of classes.


President Messac stated that the Faculty Senate is fully supportive of what the Student Senate is doing and are willing and eager to help when necessary.


At this time, the meeting moved to the phase that only included non-administrative voting faculty members.


GM's complete presentation


Report on Middle States Progress – Professor Don Steiner

Information has been sought from all portfolios.  The focus of Middle States is to assess the status of the Institute in regard to the 14 areas ranging from mission to finance to governance. 


Documents presented by the committees are forwarded to portfolios for approval.  Seven of the reports have gone through revision.  A professional editor is working to put the final document together.  There will be 14 stand alone reports which will be available to members of the community and the evaluation team. Middle States requested a summary of all the various findings which is called the self-study report.  The editor will be condensing the individual reports to create the self-study report.  On October 14th, the Chair of the evaluation team, Jared Cohon, President of Carnegie Mellon University will meet with people on campus.  It is expected that the final report will be ready near the end of the academic semester.  The final version will be sent to Middle States at the beginning of February in preparation for the visiting team arrival in March.  Professor Don Steiner said that it is not a report on the administration.  The portfolio managers can comment about the reports and changes can only be made through the subcommittees. 


Handbook Update – Report from Bruce Nauman, Chair of the Faculty

Bruce Nauman’s statement on the faculty handbook was read.  


Senator-at-Large Sandy Sternstein expressed concern that the administration is not following the handbook procedures.  He suggested that if the grievance process is not being followed, legal action should be taken.  He is concerned that if the administration does not follow its own grievance procedure, one can argue that there is no grievance procedure.  Ron Gutmann, former Chair of the Handbook Committee, stated that the handbook is not a legal document, only a guideline.  It has never been recognized as a legal document; rather it is an understanding of the rights and privileges of faculty.  Once the document is posted, President Messac suggested that faculty suggest their recommendations for changes to the Faculty Senate.


Discussion of Board of Trustees Finance Committee Faculty Representative –

Faculty Senate President, Achille Messac

The Chair of the Planning and Resources Committee is usually the representative on the Finance Committee.  In this particular case, the Board of Trustee President has elected to not allow the proposed representative be part of the Finance Committee since he had been removed as President of RPI by the Board in the past.  President Messac said the choice is to either have representation or to not have representation.  If it is decided that representation is needed, someone needs to be proposed. 

It was commented that it would be a mistake of the Senate to acquiesce and send another representative.  During the rest of the discussion of the Finance Committee and vote, Dan Berg left the meeting.


Faculty Senate Vice President, Jim Napolitano, asked what is lost by not having a representative.  It was suggested that all material would be available through Ginny Gregg, but the loss would be the opportunity for faculty to interact with the trustees.


Senator at Large Sandy Sternstein commented that Dan Berg has served as President and Provost of the institute as well as being a faculty member for 18 years.  He feels that Dan has the experience to serve on the Finance Committee.  He added that Dan is recognized as an outstanding authority in many areas and is probably the most knowledgeable person on the faculty with regard to matters pertaining to finance and the budget.  He recommended that the Faculty Senate support Dan as the representative.


Senator Ned Woodhouse voiced concern about the possibility of a tradition being interrupted and then discontinued which would not allow for a Finance Committee Representative.  Senator at Large J. Keith Nelson suggested that if no representative is present, the Minutes of the meeting should be requested.  President Messac was denied on his first request for information but will make a second formal request.





Sandy Sternstein made the following motion: 

I move that we convey to the Board of Trustees that our representative is the chairperson of the P&R committee and that Dan Berg be reaffirmed as chairperson of that committee.


Yes:  17, No: 0 Abstention: 1


Setting Faculty Senate Priorities for This Year- Faculty Senate President, Achille Messac

One of the issues extremely important is the reprimand of the Faculty Senate President.  President Messac has not yet met a professor on campus who does not object to the reprimand.  It was commented that it would not reflect well on the Institute if there were major problems between the faculty and administration for the Middle States reaccreditation visit.  The complaint Bruce filed with the National Labor Relations Board has been resolved, and Rensselaer faculty are considered management. 


The meeting then went off record for several minutes.


Secretary of the Faculty Debbie Kaminski senses that Middle States may find out that the Faculty Senate and the administration are having a struggle over the reprimand of the Faculty Senate President.  However, the pension plan modification was never enforced.  She believes the Faculty Senate opposition was a factor in administering the change and she does not want to close the lines of communication.  Senator-at-Large Bob Degeneff feels that proper emphasis needs to be in place to remove the reprimand. 


Sandy Sternstein heard of several non-tenured assistant professors who think President Jackson is doing great things and that older faculty are senseless for causing trouble for no particular reason.  Sandy thinks the reason for this is that the Faculty Senate is failing to portray exactly what the real issues are.


Larry Kagan, Chair of the Promotion & Tenure Committee thinks the items being discussed are symptoms but not the real issue.  He suggested that rather than fighting small battles about memos and communication, a strategy where the Faculty Senate should go should be developed.  He feels a strong Chief Academic Officer is necessary. Retired Senator, Paul Hohenberg said that it is not just a problem with the Provost, but also with the Vice Provosts, Deans and Chairs.  It was added that no one can deny there is a widespread perception that the provost is on a short leash.  President Messac ended the discussion by saying that the issue will continue to be important in the Faculty Senate. 


Senator-at-Large J. Keith Nelson said that the satisfaction survey is to take place annually and the Faculty Senate is committed to do it unless it is decided otherwise.  President Messac stated that he has heard both positive and negative feedback about the survey. 


President Messac asked for comments on the issue of governance.  Paul Hohenberg stated that the governance survey needs to be thought through given the response of the first survey.  President Messac added that more discussion needs to take place.


President Messac said that the pension policy changes have been tabled, but for an unknown time period.  He added that Curtis Powell may be able to talk more about it when he is invited to speak at a future Faculty Senate meeting.


President Messac stated that several resolutions were passed that were simply ignored by the Administration until recently.  He is disappointed that the answers received were mostly negative. 


Keith Nelson stated that the Faculty Senate represents the faculty.  Things that are bugging the faculty include the graduate tuition policy and intellectual property.  He suggested that the FSEC explain to Sam Heffner all the damage that has been done to the Institute’s relationship with industry. 


Larry Kagan proposed not getting Sam Heffner involved in internal matters; rather have one topic of concern.  Since the faculty does not feel they have a clear channel of communication with the administration, he suggested having a group of administrators and faculty meet to discuss how the structure could be transformed to make it work.


Issue of Legal Representation – Faculty Senate President, Achille Messac

According to the administration, the Faculty Senate cannot have legal representation, but did not comment on obtaining legal advice.  The next question is whether the person sought for legal advice can come on campus.  Senator-at-Large Bob Degeneff said it would be difficult to keep people from reviewing help in a library book or keep people from consulting a friend or colleague.  President Messac questioned whether it can happen on campus.


Reference was made to a grievance that is currently on the desk of President Jackson.  A report was written and was forwarded to the grievant, the aggrieved and the President.  From that point on, the President has 60 days to respond.  This is the first time in 30 years at RPI that a grievance has gone that far.  After 90 days, there was still no response from the President.  It is a problem when the President chooses to ignore the Handbook.  It was suggested that the Faculty Senate refuse to vote on the new handbook until the administration can prove the handbook will be abided by.  Additionally, if the Faculty are bound to do what is in it, the administration should be, too.


Suggested Items for FSEC Meeting with Sam Heffner

·        The pervasive sense of the powerlessness of the faculty

·        Pension Plan

·        The cancellation of the standing meetings with the President

·        The non-responsiveness on the grievance, due process not being followed

·        If RPI is to be a top-tier university, it must operate as one rather than as a “hometown” school

·        Ask if he is satisfied with the financial position of the University