Faculty Senate Meeting

9/6/2006

 

Present:E. J. Woodhouse, Julie Stenken, Jeanne M. Keefe, Ning Xiang, Randolph Franklin, Mike Fortun, Jim Napolitano, Christopher Steinbruchel, Larry Kagan, Satish Nambisan, Roger Grice, Lou Gingerella, Paul Hohenberg, Peter Persans, Patricia Search, Bruce Nauman, J. Keith Nelson

Absent:Achille Messac, James Adams, Connie Fritz, Linda Schadler, Jacob Fish, Curt Breneman, Steve Breyman, Mike Wozny

Guests:Acting Provost Bob Palazzo, John E. Kolb, Lester Gerhardt, Bob Mayo, John Harrington, Kathy High, Tamar Gordon

 

Approval of Minutes from 5/4/2006

Minutes were approved unanimously.

 

Election Item:Jeff Durgee, Management Representative on Faculty Senate Election Committee

Larry Kagan moved; Peter Persans seconded; 16 in favor, 0 opposed. Motion passed.

 

Election Item: Two candidates for Senator at Large.Vote: Malik Magdon-Ismail elected

 

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo address to Faculty Senate

 

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo stated that he will continue with the current direction, and maintain positive momentum while working to remedy any negative aspects of the current circumstances.Any long-term agendas should start with the new Provost when in position.

 

His concerns include:

 

Scholarship:Scholarship includes Faculty and students as it is a measure of us both as faculty and collectively as an institution.The most important part of enabling scholarship is appropriate infrastructure, high quality library, support for students, wise use of sabbatical, communication, interaction, and collaboration.Scholarship is something administration, faculty and students all need to strive for.

 

Communication and Transparency:Acting Provost Palazzo shared his concerns about communication and transparency on all levels. He believes there should be no fear of reprisals for communicating and sharing of ideas regardless of where one stands on an issue.He wants to do what he can to strengthen the credibility of faculty and administration. Strong alignment between administration and the senate is needed to improve communication and to engage and empower the chairs.We all need to deal from facts and will focus on getting the facts out to the people who are affected by them.

 

Recruitment and Recognition:RPI has experienced considerable and costly recruitment in the last four or five years.Much of this recruitment has come at the junior levels resulting in some departments becoming overloaded on the junior levels thus raising a concern about mentoring.Some schools are very polarized; having very junior and very senior faculty but few intermediate-level people.Associate Professors and junior level professors at schools such as RPI are sought after aggressively for their talent by other institutions.We need to ensure opportunities for younger professors, who can be coaxed away if they feel they can compete better at another platform.We need to retain the professors we have, we need appropriate and specialized reward systems with mechanisms for response.

 

He believes that faculty recognition needs improvement to acknowledge performance in areas that are in alignment with areas that the institute values.Currently we have very few awards for outstanding scholarship and research, a large number of our faculty could be recognized in the National Academies of Engineering and Science and others.Additionally, he would like to see a community faculty recognition event which would include family to celebrate and present awards based on the issue of spirit and recognition.

 

He feels that Rensselaer needs to identify and promote leadership at all levels including recognition in National Academies. RPI has a significant number of individuals who are already members, but the faculty needs to be rewarded individually while benefiting the institution.Endowed chairs are often viewed as recruitment devices.Some faculty merit endowed chair status and more needs to be done to increase number of endowed chairs.

 

Competition:Harsh and competitive climate for NSF and NIH as proposals have doubled, thus dropping success rates.The average time to first award is three to four years.Rensselaer needs to consider formal mentoring of the junior faculty including reading and critiquing proposals.Otherwise a whole generation of scholars could be at risk.Rensselaer has moved from 49 to 42 in ranking but the real measure is the opinion of Rensselaerís peers.Acting Provost Palazzo believes a mechanism of periodic peer review to give advice to departments needs to be established. Rensselaer needs to develop ways to identify and package programs (i.e., Biophysics and Biochemistry Ph.D.) to enhance graduate programs that align with what national agencies are moving towards

 

Curriculum: Encourages earliest possible independent Undergraduate Research experience.

 

Graduate level: Acting Provost Palazzo is concerned about ensuring the security of graduate students and how to provide secure opportunities for students to explore and be creative while they are at Rensselaer.In the Office of Graduate Education, he would like to see more cross-school interdisciplinary programs as he believes this is where opportunities will come from.Rensselaer needs to work hard for humanities and arts as they do not have the same research potential as science and engineering

.

Indirect cost and indirect cost return structures and mechanisms:Regarding the status of library and electronic journals, Rensselaer faces challenges and pressures from international publishers.In some cases, they are gouging academics by selling products in high cost packages which often contain only a few desirable journals in each package. He is pleased that President Jackson had asked the previous Provost to review the long-term health of the library.††

 

Since history cannot be changed, a new history can begin with what Rensselaer has control of, such as continuing to grow faculty to keep student/faculty ratios low.Rensselaer needs to work with colleagues to find solutions.While solving one component, it is sensible not to damage another component elsewhere.

 

He promised clarity and truthfulness and to work hard to help build a community of wise and trusted scholars.Rensselaer has an extraordinary group of intellectuals who have chosen to become RPI faculty because they believe that they could make a difference and have an impact at this institution.

 

Q & A

 

Professor Paul Hohenberg: The Rensselaer Plan is now six years old and it was a five year plan.Is there any new plan or update on the current plan?

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:Many of things within that plan have been achieved and some things may need more emphasis.We do not expect any major shifts, but we do expect new conversation on what do we need to do to achieve those goals.

Professor Ned Woodhouse: What about pay equity?

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:We ran an analysis of peer and aspirant salary comparison (MIT, Carnegie Mellon, etc.). Regarding full professors, the School of Engineering is close to Carnegie Mellon, but below MIT.In terms of all faculty throughout the whole university, Rensselaer is a little below the mean but ahead of others in this analysis.RPI has made significant gains.Pay equity, for example, was much worse five years ago, but still needs more work.

Professor Woodhouse: What about pay disparities between faculty?

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:Over the last five years improvements have been made, this problem is recognized by Curtis Powell and Human Resources.

Professor Woodhouse:Can we get data?

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:Yes, letís get the facts and pass them out.

Professor Woodhouse: Is there any mechanism that we could nominate individual colleagues whom we feel are being treated unfairly for special review?

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:We could design a confidential mechanism to bring awareness.

Professor Rick Radke:Said his department has been hit hard in terms of library resources and asked what is being done.

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:Rensselaer administration recognizes the library problem as serious, however the answer is not yet clear at to where the resources will come from.Promising to do his best he recognized this is an urgent concern where prioritization is required.

Professor William Randolph Franklin: What is the status of the search for a permanent Library Director? Not having someone permanent sends the message that the Library isnít that important.

John Kolb, Chief Information Officer: Currently there is no active search because that position is not currently funded. Bob Mayo is an excellent Acting Director of the Library.

Professor Jim Napolitano:When he was VP of Faculty Senate Jim met with Bud, John and Loretta.John and Bud were asked by the President to create the Task Force by the end of May 2006.John and his committee did a great job looking at the issue and making recommendations, but there has been no update since. The faculty needs to see that the time they invest on such Task Force committees is valued in order to become engaged in Rensselaerís larger mission.

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:I began in the Provost Office on July 21, 2006.A report dated May 22, 2006 was submitted to the President.I have been discussing the library issue with John Kolb and Bob Mayo .In reality it is a mechanistic problem; therefore, the solution is not obvious.We are suffering consequences from a serious historic neglect and we need to come up with a short-term solution which includes effort to maintain what we have while we correct long-term problems.

Professor Napolitano:If this continues, faculty will find another way to find AAA journals.

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:Getting the facts is important to all.He agreed with Professor Napolitano that it is important that facultyís time and effort is valued, if not there is a danger of faculty disengaging.RPI along with other universities have financial realities and restrictions when making decisions about their libraries.

Professor Bruce Nauman: The entire faculty feels reprioritization of dollars for the library is needed and that the administration needs to address this issue.

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo: Agreed that a reprioritization of funds may be necessary.
Professor Julie Stenken: What is the library budget this year and what percent has it increased over last year?

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:The current total institute budget is $350 million and the current total library budget is $3.6 million overall.

John Kolb, Chief Information Officer:Last year the library budget was flat.This year there was a library budget cut along with the rest of the campus.To keep all journals, the budget would have to increase 20%.

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:If we are going to keep scholarship a priority, we need to have access to the minimum scholarly materials needed, while we look for a longer term solution.

John Kolb, Chief Information Officer:We need the investment of faculty time, (i.e., task force) to review the changing fundamentals of business.It is very difficult to keep pace with publisherís inflation.

Professor Lou Gingerella: What is the percentage of library budget versus 5 years ago?

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:Building the library into the formula of the overall performance of the institution is not something that has been done before at Rensselaer.

John Kolb, Chief Information Officer:Rensselaer has been very aggressive in changing from print titles to electronic titles. We now have 40,000 electronic titles and 800 print titles which is a huge shift from years past.As a result of these types of changes nationally, publishers have greatly increased prices on electronic journals.

Professor Linda Schadler: We need to have journals in many areas, such as medical journals.There is a consortium at Duke and others, what about RPI?

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:It would be precedent setting if we can convince New York State to agree to a statewide consortium. New York remains third or fourth in federal R & D returns, which is a lot of leverage.He would personally like to see a National and Federal consortia.

Acting Library Director, Bob Mayo:There are about a dozen schools who agree to share books via a book consortia and that consortia is now looking at electronic journals which is more complicated.Rensselaer is trying to drive the growth of the consortia.

Professor Larry Kagan:Maybe Eliot Spitzer and New York State can be shown how serious the library issue is and the State can see benefits of supporting and subsidizing R & D.

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:Performance Planning allows for Faculty discussion with Chair, and the Chair with the Deans.The Deanís portfolios develop as a result of that discussion and that should have a feedback loop.That is how it is supposed to work.

Professor Linda Schadler:Is the library in the performance planning loop?

Professor Bruce Nauman: Improving communication skills is an issue that was raised by the students.Is that something youíll be addressing? Also, what about the graduate tuition policy?

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:He would like to discuss the communication issue with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee so that he is completely apprised of the situation.Regarding the graduate tuition policy he reported that there has been a minor modification.

Les Gerhardt, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education, Acting:He stated that there has been a change in the policy that allows start up RAís (SRAís) to combine with one year TA to follow which gives three-year support rather than two-year support.

Acting Provost Bob Palazzo:We need to provide the junior faculty with more flexibility over their start up to cover their personnel.Continued by saying that not all of our problems will be solved today, but he promised to do his best.

Professor Napolitano:Thanked Acting Provost Bob Palazzo.