General Faculty Meeting                    
Wednesday November 8, 2006 – 2:00pm
Biotech Auditorium, Troy Campus
Room Sh23, Hartford Campus
Present: Jim Napolitano, Achille Messac, Paul Hohenberg, Bob Mayo, Irving Stephens, Joseph Warden, Andrea Page-McCaw, Fern Finger, Lee Ligon, Curt Breneman, Heidi Jo Newberg, Sang-Kee Eah, Fran Scott, Jeanne M. Keefe, Erica Sherman, Don Steiner, J. Keith Nelson, Bram Van Heuveln, Mike Hanna, Ning Xiang, Eddie Ade Knowles, Gerald M. Friedman, Roger Grice, Jose Holguin-Veras, Paul Schoch, Leonard Interrante, Randolph Franklin, Julie Stenken, Ken Connor, Chuck Stewart, David Spooner, Sam Wait, John P. Harrington, Matt Oehlschlaeger, Jeff Miner, John Kolb, Allison Newman, Morris A. Washington, Virginia Gregg, James Nondorf, Lester Gerhardt, Christoph Steinbruchel, Larry Kagan, Steve Breyman, Mike Fortun
  • Report from Achille Messac – Chair of the Faculty
  • Q & A -- Discussions and Questions are welcome
  • Report from Shirley Ann Jackson, President of the Institute
  • Q & A -- Discussions and Questions are welcome


Report from Achille Messac – Chair of the Faculty

Professor Messac’s Speech - See attachment #1


No questions were asked.


Report from Shirley Ann Jackson, President of the Institute

Dr. Jackson’s Speech can be accessed at the following link:


Q & A


Question #1:  How much of the financial situation is something we need to get past in the short-term and how much has to do with a complete restructuring of finances?


President Jackson:  What Rensselaer is experiencing is a moderation of the scope of the trajectory; it is not that we are not continuing to grow.  The budget did not shrink, it actually grew a little.  We have absorbed additional costs and made decisions to direct more resources into certain key areas such as growing and broadening our applicant pool which requires investment.


We have put money into Institute Advancement.  When raising money through a capital campaign the money can be received in a variety of ways such as gifts that are outright and made in cash. However, there are commitments and pledges that come in many forms such as bequests or pledges that are paid out over multiple years.  Therefore it is back end loaded rather than front end loaded.  Gifts can be labeled for general use or for restricted use.  The same is true of the existing endowment half of which is restricted, and it is only the unrestricted that plays into the E & G budget that supports the broad general activities of Rensselaer.  Pension costs, energy costs and completing the various capital projects all play into decision making. 


We have made a lot of investments over the past several years and we want to make sure that the revenues keep pace with where we are going.  When we started down this pathway there was a projection as to what the research road would be and we have hired one hundred and seventy two faculty and people are coming up on tenure. 


I apologize if this redirection has caused discomfort in some arenas but in the end it is ensuring that the overall end product is helpful.  This is just prudent fiscal management.  It is not that the budget overall has shrunk; it has just been redirected.  There have been balanced operation budgets the entire time I have been here, and we are making sure we can pay as we go.  Every year when I present the budget to the board, it is with a sustainability review, something I instituted.  Sustainability looks at the confidence rate and plays that against the fixed expenses, of which 80-90% is salary and benefits.


Professor Franklin:  Reallocation is more than discomfort. Routine parts of Rensselaer are not working routinely anymore.  Bills are not being paid on time and then time is wasted to track down the problem.


President Jackson:  Things are not working as routinely not only as result of budget cuts, but in some cases it is due to the attrition we have experienced. We all have things that irritate us, but we also have to have good will, nothing will work as we would like all the time.  We are making improvements in that particular arena; there may be a glitch that is not due entirely to a budget cut.  Some of the problems are inherent in Banner and its architecture.  I understand what you are saying and we are working on closing the gaps that cause the problems. 


Professor Messac:  In terms of the traditional give and take between traditional engineering and non-traditional or newer type of engineering, although there are a lot of resources going into traditional engineering there is a sense that resources are being allocated toward non-traditional engineering.  This may not be commensurate with resources they are bringing in or their amount of teaching requirements.    


President Jackson:  The only way we will have more resources is to grow that resource base.  Everyone here has a role in that growth.  We need to develop strategies on how to create umbrella structures that allow people to come in.  An example would be Nanotechnology and how it plays into creating new concrete, the nanotechnology innovation is obviously important to the semiconductor industry.  If we get a major computer center like IBM that allows us to get $33 million dollars from the State of New York to create it, that kind of computational facility will serve any field that has computation at its root.  That is the kind of strategy we need and we do not have the money to give to every single thing.  The types of strategies that I have seen work would create these umbrella type of thrusts within which a broader range of activities can be supported.   Some involve how people pool and share their own resources, some involve coming under an umbrella, and others involve brining in people from the outside to try to help develop new strategies.  Hopefully out of that will come even newer ideas and ways to allocate resources.


Professor Heidi Newberg: I wanted to ask about faculty salaries. I had gotten somewhat official words over the last several years telling us what the average faculty increases were.  And the last couple of years faculty salary increases have been maybe on average about the same as inflation but what we have been told is that they were supposed to be in a range…in fact I think there was one quote from previous Provost in a School of Science meeting that the average faculty member should get no raise.  I know we are not based on a COLA here, but it is hard for the average faculty to understand that your costs are rising, but our costs rise, too. 


President Jackson:  Our raise approach is based on performance and merit.  We look at what type of merit pool we can sustain in any given year.  That is good fiscal management.  I have asked the Acting Provost to look at faculty salaries and equity particularly as it relates to women, and to look at certain categories across the schools.  We are not contemplating changing the merit approach to raises, but every year we do a review relative to the market, to people who are hot properties in the market and we make adjustments and set aside money for equity, special merit and promotional increases.  We are not going to disclose this information as it relates to people’s personal business.  Would I like the merit pool to be larger, absolutely.  But then again it relates to this issue of the merit pool that we operate.  In the old days we had merit pools that actually ran ahead of what most other universities had.  In the recent years it’s been smaller, but it is not out of line relative to the raise pools other organizations may have had.  On top of that we do make market and equity adjustments when we see there is a need.  We also set aside money for promotional increases and that sort of thing.


No other questions were posed.


President Jackson:  If you have other questions please pass them through FSEC, through the Provost, or communicate directly to me.  I don’t get many direct emails and would appreciate hearing from you.  You may not hear back from me directly because I may delegate to someone else to address the issue, however you will receive a response.  I would rather you tell me what is on your mind so we can work on a solution rather than go away with something on your mind that could be clarified and resolved.


I hope that we can all move forward toward our goals with good will.  The real message is that Rensselaer is in good shape and the world is paying attention to what is going on here.  Is it perfect for every single individual is everyone here happy…every administrator, every student, every faculty member?  No.  I choose to be optimistic and even though I was hurt last year by what happened I am not giving up.  You are excellent people and we all are very smart and we should be able work things out together, I look forward to continuing discussions.  Thank you for your time this afternoon.