Faculty Senate Meeting Minutes
Present:  Randolph Franklin, Jeanne M. Keefe, Julie Stenken, Larry Kagan, Achille Messac, Jim Napolitano, Christoph Steinbruchel, Mike Fortun, Steve Breyman, Ned Woodhouse, Patricia Search, Peter Persans, J. Keith Nelson, Bruce Nauman, Ning Xiang
Absent:  Paul Hohenberg, Jacob Fish, Satish Nambisan, Lou Gingerella, Roger Grice, Malik Magdon-Ismail
Guests: Bram Van Heuveln, Prabhat Hajela, Morris A. Washington, Linda S. Schadler, Acting Provost Robert Palazzo, Erica Sherman, Joe Hamburg 

Approval of Minutes from 10/18/2006

Minutes were approved without changes: 12 approved, 1 Abstention, 0 Opposed


"Implementation of Communications Requirement"

Presented by: Lee Odell, Associate Dean, H&SS & Professor and Barbara Lewis, Clinical Associate Professor and Director for Center for Communication Practices.


Communications Intensive memo to faculty.doc


Lee Odell thanked the Faculty Senate for their help with the Implementation of the Communications Requirement (see resolution wording below).  The goal is to have the program fully implemented by the 2009-2010 academic year. A review committee consisting of one representative from each of the schools will review the new courses at three year intervals.  Currently, fifteen new courses at the 100 level, as well as all of the WRIT courses have been approved by a review committee. Rensselaer students must be able in communicate in writing and verbally. 



Replacing the Current

Writing Requirement


Resolved that Rensselaer replace the current writing requirement with the following requirement:


Beginning with the entering class of the fall of 2006, all Rensselaer undergraduates will take at least two communication-intensive courses.  At least one of these courses must be in the students’ major and at least one of the courses must be writing intensive and taught in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.


Professor Nelson reported that he had received the list of the titles of the approved courses.  He asked whether the courses were approved on the basis of content of communication practice for the student regardless of what the subject matter is.

Professor Odell said that the goal is to teach students how to write and communicate effectively, as well as post exemplary papers on the web as resources for students.  Any WRIT courses will also be counted as writing courses.  When communicating in writing students should provide clear cues to organization and answer the questions that audience will ask.  Unfortunately, Rensselaer cannot offer a freshman writing course.


Professor Nauman shared his concern that Rensselaer cannot offer a freshman writing course.

Barbara Lewis shared that the Center for Communication Practices goal is to broaden help that is available to students, including assistance with preparing for oral presentations and writing.   The centers’ consultants are available for assistance in any stage of students’ project.  She said the Center for Communication Practices is a teaching resource not an editing shop.

Professor Hajela shared his thoughts stating that once students arrive here they have already had some writing classes.  Therefore, it is best to teach communication within the subject matter than merely teaching writing classes.

Professor Messac said when students know that their papers will be reviewed by someone knowledgeable in writing they will put forth more effort to improve their papers. 

Professor Odell suggested that professors explain to students as he does, that if a paper is not edited properly it will result in a lower grade by one letter.  In anticipation of any concerns about being challenged by students, he added that in twenty five years of teaching he has had only one student challenge him on this policy. 

Professor Napolitano added that the Faculty Senate could revisit this a year from now.



“Benefits Presentation and Discussion”

Presented by: Curtis Powell, Vice President Human Resources and Louis Padula, Manager of Benefits and Retirement


Curtis Powell announced a new medical plan for Rensselaer retirees that was a direct response to the Faculty Senate motion dated February 8, 2006:


Whereas The Rensselaer Health Plan for is of high quality and provides good benefits to employees  and Continuation of this plan is extremely expensive for retirees (e.g. ~$12,000 per year for a couple over 65), to the point that it becomes an inappropriate disincentive to retirement and a burden to those who have retired,


The Faculty Senate requests the Administration to investigate alternative plans that provides a similar level of benefits, including drug and dental coverage, but that takes economic advantage of Medicare benefits, Parts A and B, that are mandatory for retirees over 65.  The Faculty Senate has no inherent objection to this plan being applied to employees who are 65 or older as well as to retirees should this be legally possible. 


Highlights of the New Medicare Advantage Plan - Retirees (active employees are not eligible for this plan)


_ Partnered with CDPHP to create new medical plan

for retirees

_ Created Integrated Group Medicare Advantage Plan

– Comprehensive medical, Rx-with no gap, vision

– No Medicare card required

– Affordable - $199/mo less Rensselaer subsidy

• Effective January 2007 $196/mo

• $600 hearing aid/3 yrs & $80 vision hardware/1 yr

– Total savings:

• $2,100 per individual

• $7,400 per couple


If 65 and still employed individuals need to continue with Rensselaer primary health benefits and then Medicare for secondary.


The Faculty Senate applauded Human Resources for implementing this new plan for retired faculty. (Applause)


Curtis Powell continued to share that Rensselaer’s overall program benefits costs budget is $32 million (this does not include Defined Benefit Plan).  The Rensselaer benefit package is an additional 33% of employee’s base pay.  His goal is to strengthen communications to share benefits information with all Rensselaer employees.


His entire presentation can be viewed at the following link:

BENEFITS PRESENATION - 2007 Faculty Senate Committee v2.pdf


Questions & Answers


Professor Messac asked for clarification about Rensselaer’s Parental Leave Policy and how it compares to the Federal Family Medical Leave Act.

Curtis Powell responded stating that Rensselaer’s guideline for administering the Parental leave for faculty is mirrored after the guidelines of the Federal Family Medical Leave Act.  The Federal guideline states ‘twelve weeks unpaid leave in a 12-month period as selected by the employer in an FMLA’.  Rensselaer has extended its Parental Leave Policy for one full semester. Additionally, the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) addresses the issue of two partners employed for the same organization, in this case only one family member may avail themselves to this benefit.  The FMLA does not require an employer to offer both spouses parental leave.  It also does not disallow it, offer this benefit to both parents employed at Rensselaer it is a resource issue.

Professor Fortun suggested that the HR department reconsider offering the FMLA to both parents.

Acting Provost Palazzo invited Curtis Powell to discuss this issue at further length.



Professor Woodhouse asked if there was any venue for discussion of benefits such as a Faculty Committee for Benefits. 

Curtis Powell responded that there was currently no committee to discuss benefit issues.

Acting Provost Palazzo said that even though the Faculty Handbook may not address an issue, it is addressed through the Human Resources policy.

Curtis Powell said that under the new academic handbook Clinical Faculty are not covered; however under the HR guidelines they are covered and would be paid for leave.   The Clinical Faculty is eligible for Family Medical Leave Act as it is Federal law which allows for 12 weeks leave. 

He reminded everyone that no employee will lose any time that they have earned and accrued.  Additionally, he invited employees to share their ideas and suggestions for improvement.

Employees are invited to visit the HR department at its new location. 

HR Relocation:

Historic Gurley Building

21 Union Street

Troy, NY  12180

Questions & Answers


Professor Messac asked clarification about the process regarding extending the tenure clock.

Curtis Powell responded that he would need to meet with the Provost regarding this issue to review the policy and then respond to the Faculty Senate. 

Professor Schadler shared that currently the policy is not implemented consistently across the schools and that a clear policy in this area is important.  In addition, policies like this are critical to recruiting faculty. 

Professor Magdon-Ismail asked what happens if someone falls sick for six months.

Curtis Powell responded that such a situation would fall under the FMLA.

Acting Provost Palazzo commended Curtis on the benefits package improvements he has facilitated in the last six years since he [Curtis] came to Rensselaer.



Any Other Business: 


Professor Messac announced the Student Handbook Sign Policy on which the Faculty Senate then voted.

Vote: 10 in favor, 2 abstentions, and 0 opposed

To view the policy and supporting document please click on the links below:

Revised Sign Policy.doc

Sign changelog.doc




Professor Woodhouse announced that he is going on sabbatical leave next semester and will need to be replaced as Senator. 

He asked the Faculty Senate Executive Committee (FSEC) to take the benefits issue under consideration.

The FSEC agreed to look into it.


Professor Nauman made a motion of Appreciation of President for restoring $180,000 to library budget ($327,000 cut).


Professor Napolitano added that even though the President did restore the $180,000, Bob Mayo was responsible for finding another $25,000 by juggling other things and took into account feedback from faculty to restore certain journals.  He wanted to note that there were many other heroes’ involved with this issue.


Motion vote:  14-0-0 unanimously approved


Professor Achille Messac, Chair of the Faculty, made a motion to "commend Curtis Powell, Vice President of Human Resources, for positively responding to an important Faculty Senate request of last year on Medical Benefits for Retirees."


Vote:  14-0-0 unanimously approved