General Faculty Meeting Minutes
Wednesday April 4, 2007
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Biotech Auditorium
Present:  Achille Messac, Mike Fortun, Henry Scarton, Prabhat Hajela, Robert Palazzo, Wei Zhao, Lester Gerhardt, John Harrington, Irving Stephens, Paul Hohenberg, Jim Napolitano, Larry Kagan, Ken Rose, David Rainey, William Siegmann, Jeanne M. Keefe, Bram Van Heuveln, Roger Grice, Tamar Gordon

Constitutionally Mandated Annual Report -- Achille Messac, Chair of the Faculty


Achille Messac, Chair of the Faculty, began the program by stating that according to the Faculty Senate constitution two general faculty meetings are mandated. In the fall the Institute President speaks, and in the spring the Provost makes a presentation. 


The FSEC had a meeting last week with the President that was very productive and engaging.  The definition of Clinical was a part of the discussions we had. In very specific instances, there are changes that the Board of Trustees has mandated regarding this issue. 


The Faculty Senate committees have worked hard this year resolving many issues. 


Some of the items that were addressed this past year by the various committees were:


  • The Curriculum Committee revised the Ph.D. requirements, which has been included in this year’s ballot for approval by the faculty.


  • The Promotion and Tenure committee revised the Guide to Promotion and Tenure at Rensselaer.


  • The Planning & Resources committee worked very hard with the administration on a number of issues.


  • The Elections committee has had challenges this year in its ability to offer a complete election slate. The person responsible for the election is the FS Vice President who chairs the Election committee.  Some positions are still open, the most important being the Vice President position.  Names can be written in on the ballot, those names will be considered nominations.  The individuals who are nominated will then be contacted to see if they are interested in serving.


  • The FSEC meets every other week, when the full senate does not meet.


In the past year many items were resolved, through the Faculty Senate, including a resolution regarding defined benefits.


The library budget is one item that created a lot of anxiety at one time.  However, the President reallocated funding to increase the library budget, partially alleviating the problems. 


Middle States is an item that we have worked on quite a bit over the last couple of years.  As a result of that activity there were several recommendations, resulting in the formation of several committees to look at items that need to be addressed.


In terms of the undergraduate program, Rensselaer has been quite successful in attracting a tremendous number of new students of ever higher quality. For this we can thank, among many other people, the Vice Provost for Education, Prabhat Hajela.


On a more challenging front is the issue of graduate education.  Vice Provost Gerhardt has worked very hard and has reviewed the practices of other universities resulting in some solutions for Rensselaer. 


The issue of diversity is a challenge here as well as everywhere else. Faculty Chair Achille Messac stated that he has initiated discussions with the Senate as did Provost Peterson, who had some success – especially in the area of women at Rensselaer. This is an area in which Rensselaer will hopefully continue to make progress.


Overall, the meeting we had with the President was positive — during which we had the opportunity to personally congratulate her on receiving the prestigious Vannevar Award.  The Faculty Senate passed the following motion to formally congratulate President Jackson.


The motion reads:  


“Resolved that the Rensselaer Faculty Senate, representing the Faculty of the Institute, congratulates our President, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, on the occasion of her receiving the Vannevar Bush Award from the National Science Board. President Jackson joins a long list of distinguished Bush award recipients, including Linus Pauling, James Van Allen, and David Packard, and brings honor to our University and community in the process.”


State of the Institute - Robert Palazzo, Acting Provost


Please click on the link for the Provosts State of the Institute Address




How do we involve faculty and students in EMPAC?  Acting Provost Palazzo responded that there has been discussion about expansions of faculty recruitments in alignment with EMPAC progress.  For example, H&SS is seeking to align recruitments with EMPAC.  John Harrington said that the program planning didn’t evolve exactly as planned it will catch up by reaching out to the faculty.


Bram Van Heuveln referred to the slides showing that Rensselaer was attracting students.  He then raised a question about Rensselaer’s aim to get the best possible instruction for these students. 


Acting Provost Palazzo responded that the key to high quality education is high quality faculty and in a science and technology institution the best scholars are typically involved in research activity.  As we continue to recruit a number of new faculty, the vibrancy and opportunities for the undergraduates should increase.  Certainly the quality of instruction should improve and emphasis needs to be maintained in the evaluation process on teaching quality.  Rensselaer has been an extremely innovative institution offering small classes, hands-on experience, entrepreneurship and more.  Other institutions are using Rensselaer’s innovations as benchmarks.


Prabhat Hajela commented that we need to continue to innovate on the undergraduate level in order to maintain and improve the quality of our programs.  With new technologies on the horizon in all fields, we need to give students the opportunity to do research.  The Acting Provost added that there will be more funding redirected for work-study programs.  These funds can be used to support research which would be more aligned with the interest of the students providing them with laboratory opportunities, possibly independent activity which are more aligned with the capstone experience. 


Les Gerhardt said that it would be hard to find another university that has been so much in the forefront of undergraduate education as Rensselaer. Professor Messac commented that in visiting another university he found that Rensselaer was far ahead of what that university could offer its students. 


The Acting Provost commented on the view toward international experience, the scale that we are going to do this, will require innovation. 


The Acting Provost said that President Jackson visited the labs this year and as a result there will be a significant increase in the budget for laboratory renovation. 


Larry Kagan said that the 4x4 has not achieved the kind of goals that we had for it and it might have limited the kind of curriculum innovation we wanted to see.  Additionally, it doesn’t push our students to round out their experience as it offers less course opportunities.



Sam Wait said he has sat on the FSCC and in the past year, the 4x4 was taken out of the curriculum with the blessing of the FSCC.  However, other departments have not brought forward proposals to eliminate 4x4.


Acting Provost Palazzo said that in speaking with student representatives he learned that students want to have more offerings. He continued to say that the migration needs to happen and he understands that this is a departmental challenge.  He said now is the time to make these changes as we get faculty numbers up to where it needs to be to do what we need to do. He promised Larry Kagan as incoming FS President, that he will commit the Provosts office to assist FS to advocate for the changes and get the migration off the 4x4.  Prabhat Hajela said that some departments never went to the 4x4, such as engineering which stayed with 3 course distribution.  Les Gerhardt said that Larry raised a good point and that Rensselaer needs a regular mechanism for a regular review of our curriculum. 


New Business



Need candidates for VP of Faculty Senate.


Any suggestions on how to resolve the Clinical issue are welcomed.


Meeting adjourned at 3:43 p.m.