Faculty Senate Meeting Minutes



Present:  Julie Stenken, Satish Nambisan, Patricia Search, Jeanne Keefe, Larry Kagan, Christoph Steinbruchel, Achille Messac, Jim Napolitano, Mike Fortun, Steve Breyman, Roger Grice, Paul Hohenberg, Ning Xiang, Peter Persans, Malik Magdon-Ismail,

Absent: William Randolph Franklin, E. J. Woodhouse, Lou Gingerella, Jacob Fish, J. Keith Nelson

Guests:   Acting Provost Robert Palazzo, George Nagy, Deborah Kaminski, Prabhat Hajela, Nancy Campbell, Audrey Bennett, Bram Van Heuveln, Cheryl Geisler


Approval of Minutes from 10/4/2006

Minutes were approved with minor changes:  11 approved, 0 Opposed, 0 Abstentions  


“Implementation of Communications Requirement”

Postponed:  Lee Odell, Associate Dean, H&SS & Professor


‘Women’s Issues at Rensselaer

Presented by: Julie Stenken, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Cheryl Geisler, Professor and Department Head, Language, Literature and Communication

Linda Layne, Professor, Science and Technology Studies


Professor Cheryl Geisler, Professor Debbie Kaminski and the Provost are co-principle investigators on a grant from the National Science Foundation Advance Program for Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers, for institutional transformation.  They call their project Reform of AdvanceMent Processes through University Professions.  Two studies (one in 2000 and the second in 2002) utilizing complete data as obtained from the Rensselaer lists were completed.


This initiative from NSF has been in effect for ten years and is now in the third round of funding.  The initiative looks at advanced institutions around the country such as Rensselaer. Rensselaer is first study that looks at women in the senior ranks.  Looking at data of those women who were thirteen or more years since dissertation (or the 13+ club) found at Rensselaer women were 2.2 times less likely to be promoted to full professor, in other words women are less than 50% as likely to become full professors as men.


The problem is a nationally recognized ‘pipeline’ problem in which women are increasingly getting PhD’s but not continuing into the academic careers.  One concern is that at Rensselaer there is a fairly weak tradition of mentoring and an inadequate feedback loop to encourage people to engage in mentoring.  As a result of the study four major activities are planned.  At the school level the will be an implementation of faculty coaches to help with mentoring and help with oversight and feedback in the promotion and advancement process.  At the department level there is a commitment from Rensselaer to try a “Pipeline Search”, hiring woman from industry to address the fact that there is a lack of women in the senior ranks.  On an individual level “Faculty Workshops and Career Campaign Grants” will be offered for individual faculty to assist with plans for advancement in general.


National data shows women academics face certain challenges as they advance through the ranks to full professor.  The data shows that men typically have access to information, resources and opportunities as they grow in their careers.  Although the start up packages are similar for both men and women as they begin their teaching careers, opposite trends evolve over time.  Women find later in their careers they tend to become more isolated, over looked, and forgotten, contributing to the challenges of advancing women into the senior ranks.


At Rensselaer an extensive survey matched pairs of men and women.  The data showed that women are more uncertain about what it would take to be promoted.  Women were not getting same level of information that men received thereby leading to more tenuous feeling.  Additionally, women feel they are lacking formal and informal information.  Issues with the advancement process at Rensselaer are not gender specific as men also experience stalled careers.  However, if the advancement process is improved it is likely to help both genders.


Professor Geisler stated that at eight years past dissertation there are male full-professors at Rensselaer; however there are no female full-professors.  What is happening is that there is a difference of five years on average between women and men in the full professor rank.  It doesn’t matter where the line is drawn the distribution does not change.  The average amount of time is a five year gap historically at Rensselaer as well as nationally.

Professor Napolitano asked if there was any field specificity to this trend for example is there a difference in terms of women in arts vs. engineering?  

Professor Geisler said that NSF data was taken from science, engineering and the social sciences however there are also issues in fine arts and humanities.  The data shown includes professional and liberal arts schools.  There are sometimes more severe differences some disciplines such as psychology where 70% of graduates are women, but only 30% of faculty are women.

Professor Messac commented that some other universities have ‘Industry Professor’ in which they hire a person who has had a long career in industry.  He asked what is being done to validate this against what other organizations are doing.

Professor Kagan asked if there was any effect of child-rearing on this data. 

Professor Geisler responded that in terms of the Rensselaer survey respondents were asked about relationship between parental leave and promotion, the results showed no correlation.  Although, nationally the data indicates a large effect of child-rearing as women in academia are having fewer children.

Professor Magdon-Ismail asked for clarification about the shrinking access for promotion and opportunities.

Professor Kaminski stated that women are not being included on others grants, not being nominated for awards, not included in major efforts when a center brought together.  Moreover, women are more likely to be devalued more rapidly than men as they age.  Women feel increasingly isolated, whereas men feel they are at the top of their game for much longer.


Julie Stenken presented the following six (6) motions for discussion: 

Motion #1: Senior Search Committees 

The Faculty Senate requests substantive representation of women on all senior

  • Senior searches are those seeking candidates for full professor, constellation professor, endowed professors or dean
  • 2005 Report shows ~18% of faculty are women. 

        Request equivalent demographics on senior search committees

Note, Junior Faculty searches appear to be more representative of demographics in terms of committees as well as recent hires

VOTE:  14 in favor; 0 opposed, 0 abstention


Motion #2:  Administrative Positions 

 The Faculty Senate expresses concern about lack of women in administrative positions at Rensselaer, in particular, at the lack of new women hires in administrative roles in last five years, and at the significant losses of women from senior administrative positions in the same time period.

VOTE:  14 in favor; 0 opposed, 0 abstentions


Background: non-faculty administration positions held by women have decreased; at one time there were two women deans and several women associate deans however; many positions have been refilled with males, although women have been present in the search pools.


Motion #3:  Harassment

 The Faculty Senate shall immediately establish a Task Force on Harassment, to investigate procedures for handling harassment complaints and develop appropriate reporting mechanism concerning their outcomes.

VOTE:  14 in favor; 0 opposed, 0 abstention

Harassment is defined as physical, verbal or sexual and is not a gender specific issue. 


Professor Kagan suggested tabling this motion to allow time to ask the Provost what the process is for handling harassment issues as well as asking the Administration what steps are being taken to address the harassment issue.

Professor Geisler said that this motion is aimed at women as they do not currently know disposition of harassment cases from several years ago.  She added that women felt most strongly about this motion.

Professor Persans suggested establishing an ad hoc committee charged with finding this information and reporting to Faculty Senate.

Professor Kaminski stated that women were concerned because they are hearing about problems but not hearing what the outcomes are.  Informal information that is shared raises concerns that such issues are not being handled.

Acting Provost Palazzo said that the issue of harassment begins with reporting, if people are not reporting harassment there is not much that administration can do.  This appears to be an issue of compliance, by law harassment must be reported.  The focus should be on why people are not reporting and what mechanisms need to be added to get them to report. 

Professor Geisler asked what the penalty for harassment is if someone is found guilty?  All women at Rensselaer know of someone who feels they have been harassed.  However, what determines whether they will report this harassment depends on whether they feel it would jeopardize their career.

Acting Provost Palazzo said that the outcome is de-tenure which has happened.

Professor Campbell agreed that the real issue is why people are not reporting harassment and agreed that an ad hoc committee to determine the campus climate would be a good way to proceed.

Professor Hohenberg stated that it is possible that one reason for non-reporting is that there is no feedback, not even statistical information is provided to show that something is being done about this issue.  Women have no reason to believe that effective action has been taken where it is warranted.

Professor Persans agreed that establishing a task force to look at these issues would be good idea as this smaller group could get the information about the current process and report back to the Faculty Senate for continuing discussions. 

Professor Messac added that the task force may find that there is an issue of timing in terms of reporting the incident.


Motion #4: Salary Inequity Report 

 The Faculty Senate requests that the Provost report on the gender equity in salary for the Institute during his/her annual address to the Faculty.

VOTE:  14 in favor; 0 opposed, 0 abstention


Acting Provost Palazzo confirmed that this report is already being prepared.

Professor Geisler said that only twice in last twenty years women have received salary adjustment, but have not received one in the last fifteen or so years.  She stated that there is no formal requirement for gender inequities to be reported and is thankful that the Acting Provost has plans to do so this year.

Professor Persans said that the actual salary information has been computed but a comparison to actual performance criteria has not been computed.


Motion #5A & 5B: Family and Child Care

5A. The Faculty Senate fully supports efforts to increase child care opportunities for Rensselaer Faculty and to provide snow day and holiday childcare.
VOTE:  14 in favor; 0 opposed, 0 abstention


Professor Kaminski stated that the School of Engineering undertook a survey looking at an ad hoc snow day and holiday child care for faculty.  The Dean is taking the survey results to the President recommending this and it would good to have the support of the Faculty Senate to produce a family friendly campus for all Rensselaer faculty. The School of Engineering is now looking into agencies such as New England Nannies, which is an ad hoc service to provide childcare for snow days.

Professor Breyman suggested adding ‘affordable and quality’ to the motion.  He also asked whether it was appropriate for the Faculty Senate to request that this motion include staff and graduate students. 

Professor Geisler said that what is extended to faculty is extended to staff by law.  She added that ad hoc childcare is a routine benefit that is now provided in industry.

Professor Messac was concerned about how realistic and reasonable is it is for a large organization like Rensselaer to make arrangements for childcare on a last minute basis.  He encouraged obtaining data to determine what other organizations do regarding this issue.

Professor Campbell said that RPI Samaritan runs a day care, but in the summer RPI Samaritan runs a camp, there might be a possibility of sub-contracting with them to do something on campus for which the parents would pay.

Professor Persans asked for clarification of the meaning of the word “fully” in the motion as he doesn’t want to obligate Faculty Senate to pay for this or be responsible for this benefit.

Professor Xiang asked if this included those days that are holidays for various school districts.  Additionally, he reminded everyone that child care must be licensed.

Professor Kaminski responded that it would have to be general snow day where at least Troy School District is out.  There are two separate issues snow days and holidays.  It may be feasible to do only holiday childcare, or just snow days or both.  She reminded everyone that these issues are being reviewed in the School of Engineering and that the Faculty Senate is not being asked to work out the details, but simply support this motion.  The question is, will RPI be willing to commit space that faculty (parents) would pay for? 

Professor Hohenberg said we are supporting the efforts and not asking for commitment to move this forward. 

Professor Kagan asked if it were possible to ask HR to work with this committee to develop this proposal.

Professor Van Heulvan asked if motion would include Clinical Faculty.

Professor Layne thought that it would include Clinical Faculty.

Professor Geisler thought that it would affect staff also.


5B. The Faculty Senate requests that, in accord with the Faculty Handbook, parental leave be made available to all eligible faculty, including those situations in which both parents work for Rensselaer.

VOTE:  14 in favor; 0 opposed, 0 abstention


Professor Fortun for clarification read an excerpt from the Faculty Handbook “…tenure faculty will be granted relief from teaching duties for parental leave for one semester...”

Professor Magdon-Ismail asked who HR reports to who holds HR accountable. Response from the group was that HR reports to the President.

Professor Keefe asked when does it occur that other benefits are not given because both people work for Rensselaer, what about policies and procedures. 

Professor Napolitano only allowing it to one member of the couple is something that HR decided.  There are questions as to how such decisions are made as there are different ways to address issues, this motion is a positive way to deal with this specific issue.


Motion #6: Targets for Senior Searches

 The Faculty Senate endorses a target of bringing at least one woman candidate to campus for each senior faculty search.

VOTE:  12 in favor; 0 opposed, 1 abstention


Professor Geisler reported that the Provost said that this was a target and that search committees could stop the process to find more female candidates.

Professor Kagan thought this was addressed earlier by asking for a significant portion of women be in the pool, by doing that attention will be paid to that initiative.  Should we not wait to see if one works before we endorse this?

Professor Kaminski said that this motion makes all responsible for trying to achieve this target.