GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

 

SCHEDULED MEETING OF THE ACADEMIC SENATE & GENERAL FACULTY ASSEMBLY
COMBINED WITH A CALLED MEETING OF THE GENERAL FACULTY

 

Tuesday, February 6, 2007, Student Center Theater

 

MINUTES

1.      The President opened the meeting at 3:05 P.M. and offered the following comments on matters of interest to the Georgia Tech community:

a.       He started by introducing some special guests, beginning with Dr. Karen J. L. Burg, a visiting faculty member and distinguished biomedical engineer (Hunter Endowed Chair and Professor of Bioengineering) from Clemson University.  She is here on an American Council on Education Fellowship.  He also introduced Dan Radakovich, Georgia Tech Director of Athletics, and Mollie Mayfield, Senior Associate Director of Athletics (for finances).

b.   The State Legislature is in the middle of considering both the amended budget and the budget for next fiscal year.  The former is needed to allocate any residuals left over from last year.  The Governor is recommending that much of this surplus be used to replenish the State’s depleted “rainy day” reserves and so there is no bonus there to be used for university purposes.  The University System’s proposals to the Governor were pretty well followed in his budget.  The University “formula” is proposed to be fully funded, which covers the costs of enrollment growth.  There are capital projects in the budget but Georgia Tech does not have any in this cycle.  Georgia Tech is pleased that the Governor did boost maintenance and renovation funds because this will help with some of Tech’s smaller projects.  In addition, the Governor has proposed to stop the process of using bonds to pay for this, choosing instead to use operating funds.  With moneys from last year, Tech is just about to start on renovations of the old Civil Engineering building.  This is part of ongoing activities to renovate the historic district of campus.  The Governor has proposed $30 million in base funding for the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) and has allocated an additional $10 million for a new initiative to develop new vaccines.  There is a potential for GRA funded research here at Tech to contribute to this program, in areas like systems biology.  Provost Gary Schuster and Vice Provost Charlie Liotta have been working with GRA to help put this program in place.  The State budget also includes a 3% salary increase that can help Tech start to get salaries back where they should be.

c.   Tech is doing everything it can to supplement resources from the State, and in particular the capital campaign continues to go well.  It remains in the quiet phase, having raised at least $355 million through the end of last year.  It is projected that the figure will reach about $500 million by the end of this year, on the way to the goal of at least $1 billion.  The President reported he is devoting a lot of time to this campaign and recent trips have gone very well.  The campaign will eventually go public once about half of the goal is realized.

d.   Another program that Tech announced recently is the Georgia Tech Promise Program.  This will provide scholarship assistance to in-state undergraduate students.  It was previously believed that financial aid needs were pretty well covered by existing programs because Georgia Tech’s in-state tuition is low (compared with peers); entering students have typically earned a HOPE Scholarship; and students have recourse to the Co-Op program and to other scholarships.  But Tech leaders began hearing that some students were holding back from pursuing a Tech education because of limited funds or they were graduating with a significant debt load.  One should remember that even though in-state tuition is around $4K, living expenses are another $12K or so.  Study of the rolls showed that as many as 10% of the student body qualified for Pell grants, which was a signal that those family incomes were $30K or below.  Further analysis showed that a significant fraction of these were minorities.  It is a good thing that Tech is reaching a broad spectrum of the state population, but it is now apparent that more financial aid resources are needed.  An idea was born to create the Georgia Tech Promise Program along lines similar to those begun by as many as ten other state university systems around the country.  It is estimated that an increase in scholarship expenditures of about $2 million per year will be needed, which would require an endowment increase of about $50 million.  So this is an integral part of the capital campaign, and early expressions of interest have been received in support of this program.  One of the additional benefits of this program would be more effective recruitment of highly qualified students across the state.  It is believed this program will enable Georgia Tech to continue to be the kind of institution where young people who have the talent and motivation, but not the money, can go and get a great education.

e.   Construction projects on campus continue to go well, notably with the building of the new Nanotechnology building.  One may observe that its foundations are especially robust.  This will reduce vibrations within the building, an important thing for fabricating the very fine scale features which are part of the promise of nanotechnology.  Reports indicate the building is on schedule and on budget – a $92 million project.  As mentioned above, renovation of the old Civil Engineering building will also begin shortly.

2.   The President called for approval of the minutes of the previous meeting of the General Faculty, General Faculty Assembly, and Academic Senate held on November 28, 2006. He indicated that the minutes had been posted on the faculty governance web site and that a link was provided from this meeting’s agenda. The minutes were approved without dissent. See Attachment #1

3.      The President called on Tom Akins, Chair of the Faculty Governance Nominating Committee (appointed by the Executive Board).  He made a brief presentation (in Attachment #2) showing the ballot openings the committee is working to fill for election to the Executive Board and to standing committees of the faculty.  He also listed contact information for the members of the committee and asked that faculty members let them know of willing candidates.  He encouraged those present to promote the opportunity with their colleagues.  Tom reminded the faculty that two candidates are needed for each open slot.  To qualify to run for the Executive Board a person must currently serve on the General Faculty Assembly for 2006-07.  Some committees have special constraints but most do not.  Tom indicated that he had contacted all school chairs to seek their input.  Ron Bohlander said that he would be contacting the faculty units concerning their nominations and elections of members to fill openings in the General Faculty Assembly and the Academic Senate.  Concurrent service on both the General Faculty Assembly and a committee is allowed.

4.      The President then introduced potential needs to add two types of Georgia Tech professionals to the ranks of the General Faculty.  From time to time in the past, the faculty has voted to add members and one of the motivations has been to provide access to certain benefits such as retirement plans.  In Georgia, one must be a member of the General Faculty to have a choice between the Teacher’s Retirement System (TRS) plan and the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP).  For other fulltime employees TRS is mandated.  There has been some discussion in the Chancellor’s Office about the possibility of changing these rules to permit any salaried employee to elect to participate in either plan.  The Chancellor formed a group, which Chuck Donbaugh (Associate VP for Human Relations) participated in, to study the matter and make recommendations.  Some of these will require legislation to implement, which means they probably cannot be accomplished until the 2008 meeting of the legislature.  In the meantime, Georgia Tech has adapted to the present restrictions by creating such titles as Professionals with General Faculty Status.  This is very important to make Georgia Tech competitive in hiring the very best professionals in any field.  Many candidates already have portable retirement plans where they now work and will not consider joining Tech unless the same can be offered here.  The TRS plan with ten-year vesting is unacceptable to many candidates because, should they stay less than ten years, they will only get their own contributions plus interest and not the employer’s contributions.  So in today’s meeting, two new groups of professionals are considered to be added to the rolls of the General Faculty mainly because of the situation with retirement plans. 

Should the laws be changed in the future, President Clough suggested that membership in the General Faculty be re-evaluated to see if it is still appropriate for groups added on account of the retirement programs.  The Executive Board has looked at both of the cases before the faculty at this meeting and has voted in support of both.  The steps to be taken in this meeting are 1) to hear the cases and decide on the general policy question of whether to add these groups to the faculty and 2) to remand the matter to the Statutes Committee to draw up specific language to implement the policy.  When the Committee comes back to the General Faculty in subsequent meetings, there will be first and second readings with votes to finally decide the matter.  The vote today is based on a simple majority but the final votes on amendments to the Statutes will require two-thirds majorities.

The first group under consideration comprises the professionals who now work in the Georgia Tech Athletic Association (GTAA).  Many of these individuals already qualify for membership in the General Faculty.  That has not been consummated in the past because technically they have been employees of a separate corporation.  GTAA is a 501 (c)3 corporation that has its own personnel and retirement system.  The NCAA is working hard to upgrade the academic performance of student athletes and to create a solid system of institutional control of athletics programs.  Thus, having athletics personnel in a separate corporation is looked on less favorably today.  Georgia Tech already has achieved much that is admired by other schools in the way GTAA is governed.  Tech is one of a very few schools that has a Board of Directors over the athletics program in which a majority are members of the faculty.  No employee of the GTAA is a voting member of this Board.  In addition to faculty, three students and three alumni are also voting members of the Board. 

So the proposal today is to move a number of the professionals in GTAA over to full employee status in Georgia Tech, thereby eliminating unnecessary duplication of systems and effort.  This has the added benefit of furthering Tech’s efforts to better integrate the control of the athletics program within Georgia Tech and better support preparation for NCAA recertification.  It is noted that the University of Georgia and Georgia State have already granted faculty status to athletics professionals for access to ORP, because they face the same constraints.

The second group to be discussed is Post Doctoral Fellows, a growing cadre of people who contribute much to Tech’s academic success.  They are not now treated appropriately, considering their stature, with PhDs from highly respected institutions, and considering their probable length of service at Tech. 

President Clough then called on Chuck Donbaugh to present details of the proposal for the first group, Athletic Affairs Professionals.  Chuck presented the case using PowerPoint slides in Attachment #3a.  His message followed very closely the text found in these slides so will not be repeated here.  In addition, details of the proposal and its rationale were supplied in advance of the meeting as an attachment to the agenda, and these notes are found in Attachment #3b.  Chuck mentioned that the proposal to grant Athletic Affairs Professionals General Faculty status would apply to about 50 persons, of which about 37 would be coaches.  The objective is to replace the current GTAA retirement plan, with its immediate vesting, by providing access to ORP.  He noted that the average tenure for assistants is about 3-4 years, and so this proposed change would be crucial in allowing Tech to continue to recruit the finest coaches and assistant coaches.  Other University System of Georgia Schools have already taken the proposed steps on behalf of their coaches and athletics administrators.  Chuck acknowledged that this is an imperfect solution but is simply the best one available at the present time.  He reiterated that the Chancellor has asked for the study that Dr. Clough described and the study group has recommended that the membership criteria for ORP be revised.  The Chancellor has agreed to take forward a proposal that ORP be extended to all salaried employees.  There is optimism this can be brought about but not in the next twelve months, so this does not solve Georgia Tech’s immediate needs.  (One should remember that once a retirement plan is elected by an employee, it cannot be changed, so employees moving from GTAA to GIT this year will be faced with a decision that cannot be amended later.)

A question was asked from the floor about the privileges of the General Faculty: are they able to vote on faculty matters and can they serve on committees and on the Executive Board?  The President responded that they can serve on the Executive Board [and do the other things that were asked] as they do today.  Examples include people who work for GTRI or the Office of Legal Affairs.  Members of the General Faculty cannot vote on academic matters unless they are also members of the Academic Faculty.  The latter is a distinct subset of the General Faculty and is not proposed for Athletic Affairs Professionals.  Anything that is academically oriented (curriculum approvals, course approvals and the like) cannot be voted on by non-academic members of the General Faculty.  Obviously granting General Faculty status simply to solve problems with retirement options is uncomfortable but it is absolutely necessary at this time to be able to recruit the very best professionals to work in non-academic responsibilities at Georgia Tech.  It also would not be fair to block access to immediate vesting.  If the Chancellor can accomplish the desired changes, then the faculty can revisit this issue and get better focused on who really should belong to the General Faculty.

A follow up question was whether this would mean that those granted General Faculty status now would later be disenfranchised?  President Clough indicated there were different ways one could accomplish later adjustment.  People granted General Faculty status now could be grandfathered in and one could decide not to grant such status to any new hires after a certain date.  In time the arrangement would be righted by attrition. 

A question was asked whether the State of Georgia will be paying the employer’s share of the retirement when the Athletic Affairs Professionals become GIT employees?  President Clough answered that the State makes a contribution whether an employee participates in TRS or ORP so the proposal today does not affect materially the size of the State’s contribution.  There is a formula that determines the exact amounts.  Now if a person has no choice but the TRS plan and then leaves before ten-year vesting, then they do not get access to the State’s contribution.  So that is not a very good system and is not fair.

A question was asked about the Board of Directors of GTAA.  In particular, now faculty form the majority of the board and no member of GTAA sits on the Board.  Once Athletics Affairs professionals have General Faculty status, will they now be able to sit on the Board?  The President responded that he thought the faculty members of the Board were defined to be academic faculty so that would not be a problem.  [Note added by the Secretary: The Bylaws of GTAA provide that eight members of the Board will be faculty, of whom six must be academic faculty.  They are appointed by the President in consultation with the Chair of the Executive Board, so controls are in place to ensure that conflict of interest is avoided in these appointments.  See also Section 15.2.2 of the Georgia Tech Faculty Handbook.]

Further clarification was sought whether the state would then be contributing a share of the retirement packages of employees who would move from GTAA to GIT, unlike the current situation where the state contributes nothing while they are employees of GTAA.  Chuck Donbaugh affirmed that they would be new state employees and so, yes, the state would contribute as for all other state employees.  That would be true independent of the proposal on the table.  The only question is which retirement plans are accessible.

A question was asked whether all GTAA employees would move to GIT and whether GTAA would go out of existence.  The President responded that GTAA will continue to exist, as it must do under state law.  But it does not have to operate in the same way as it does now.  The GTAA will not receive budgeted state money from us, other than some fees that are collected.  Current GTAA employees will still be paid by GTAA. Only their retirement will be handled through the State.  A follow-up question was whether the funds for their retirement would come out of GIT’s state allocation and the answer was, no, there is not an allocation for this but something that is done statewide for state employees.  It does not come out of Tech’s allocation.

[Note added by the Secretary.  The administration has since clarified that athletics salary and fringe benefit costs will be handled like other restricted/sponsored accounts where GIT initially incurs the costs and is reimbursed on a routine basis, in this case by GTAA.]

Hearing no further questions, the President then called on Joe Hughes to bring a motion from the Executive Board.  Joe moved, on behalf of the Executive Board, that the General Faculty endorse the proposal contained in Attachment #3b and direct the Statutes Committee to propose language a) adding Athletic Affairs Professionals to General Faculty membership as defined in Section 5.1.1 of the Statutes in a way similar to that for Professional Classified Staff and b) making additional modifications to Section 13.2.1 of the Faculty Handbook and others as needed.  The motion was seconded.

The President called on Dan Radakovich for comments.  Dan thanked the faculty for the preceding comments and questions.  He said the overriding theme since he began as AD in April 2006 was the drive toward better integration of athletics with the rest of the Institute in operations and philosophy.  It is important for athletics to be part of the whole.  This step will be of very significant importance to the current GTAA employees and to the recruitment of additional high quality professionals.

Joe Hughes reiterated the distinctions between General Faculty and Academic Faculty.  Athletic Affairs Professionals would not be voting on curriculum matters and the like, but there are many other parts of the life of the Institute where their input is warranted and mutually beneficial; e.g. in the committees of the general faculty noted by Tom Akins earlier in the meeting.  Carrying out the proposal will have the affect of adding 2-3 members to the General Faculty Assembly, but since they would be part of the block allocated to Central Services and Administration, these seats would not necessarily be filled by Athletic Affairs Professionals themselves.

A concern was raised by a faculty member about giving Athletic Affairs Professionals a title of General Faculty as it seems to dilute the meaning of this term ordinarily associated with the university’s mission in academics and research.  This is not to detract from the importance of athletics or of these professionals in the life of the students and the Institute.  It is just a problem of the dilution of meaning and a line needs to be drawn.  The President acknowledged this as a good point and reiterated that if this step were not absolutely necessary it would not be proposed.

The question was raised again about what happens if the Chancellor gets the criteria for ORP broadened.  Chuck Donbaugh indicated there would be several options.  People could be grandfathered in who have been given the privilege of General Faculty membership, but such membership could be withheld from new employees.  Alternatively, General Faculty membership could be rescinded for all proposed to be added today.  The President added that a third option was possible where the language of the proposed Statutes amendment could include the option of dissolving membership in the General Faculty if the appropriate retirement changes were passed.  Joe Hughes commented that, in principle, this could be done but there are potential practical objections.  It would tie the hands of future faculty and create complications in the formulas for governance representation and the like.  There also would be transitional questions that should be addressed, such as whether persons serving on committees would continue to serve after the time when the dissolution would take effect.  He advised that a bullet proof set of sunset terms is impractical and the language of the Statutes should be kept as simple as possible.

Hearing no further questions or comments, the President called for a vote and the motion passed with minority dissent.

The President then called on Chuck Donbaugh to present a proposal concerning Post Docs.  Chuck made his presentation using PowerPoint slides in Attachment #3c and prior to the meeting, details were provided as an attachment to the agenda, as found in Attachment #3d to these minutes.  Today Post Docs are appointed with benefits equivalent to those offered classified staff and this means they are only eligible for the TRS retirement plan.  Their average stay here is around two years, and so when they leave, they only get the amount of their own contributions plus interest and do not get anything from the employer’s contributions.  They are not highly compensated in salary so the poor retirement program is a further disincentive to come.  The proposal to provide a retirement option with immediate vesting, like ORP, is thus advantageous to Post Docs beginning careers which will often be in academe.  In order for Tech to be competitive and to treat them fairly, there is little choice but to offer them General Faculty status at this time.

A question was raised how this would apply when various units on campus choose to call Post Docs other things?  Chuck answered that some persons may be given special operational titles and yet be appointed as Post Doctoral Fellows in terms of official rank.  In other cases, units may appoint such persons as Research Engineers or Scientists, in which case these titles are already members of the General Faculty and there is no problem.  Otherwise, each unit will have to look at its options in making best use of the titles available.

Another question was raised about how big the recruitment problem is.  How many post docs have gone elsewhere due to the unfavorable retirement plan here?  The answer is not known.  There are about 200 Post Docs on the rolls now.  Unfortunately this proposal will not affect or benefit any Post Docs already here because they are already enrolled in TRS.

Joe Hughes commented that before this issue came to the Executive Board, the proposal had already been studied and strongly endorsed by the Faculty Benefits Committee.  [See for example their April 27, 2006 minutes in Attachment #4a.]

A comment was made by a faculty member that post docs are still early in their career and are sometimes grouped with students for some forms of program reports and so they are not as established in their careers as others who are recognized as General Faculty.  The comment was that there are other aspects of their being recognized as General Faculty than just their retirement package.  With this proposal they would be able to participate in standing committees and influence how Georgia Tech operates.  Chuck responded that if the Chancellor accomplishes the hoped for changes, the retirement package objectives could be accomplished another way in the future.  But in the meantime, Tech is competing with others for the best.  Another responder commented that virtually all Georgia Tech faculty committees already have student participation by design because input from the whole community is a good thing.  Given that Post Docs are only here for one to two years, the amount of impact on governance may not be very great anyway.

President Clough commented that although Post Docs may only be here a short while, it is well understood that early contributions to retirement have a big impact on the end result.  So it is consistent with our best wishes for their success that Tech be able to treat them fairly and with professional encouragement.

A faculty member commented that he felt Post Docs to be legitimate members of the faculty contributing to teaching and the development of research and graduate students while they are here, so this is a proposal he very much favored.  Another faculty member observed that some post docs are later offered appointments in the tenure track (as Assistant Professors).  If they have to start with TRS, they would then be locked in and not be able to elect ORP as members of the Academic Faculty either.  Chuck Donbaugh confirmed that understanding.

Hearing no further questions or comments, the President called on Joe Hughes for a motion.  Joe moved, on behalf of the Executive Board, that the General faculty endorse the proposal in Attachment #3d and direct the Statutes Committee to propose language adding Post Doctoral Fellows to General Faculty membership as defined in Section 5.1.1 of the Statutes.  The motion was seconded.  Hearing no further questions or comments, the President called for the vote.  The motion passed, with minority dissent.

The President thanked those in attendance for their participation and promised the Statutes Committee will get to work on these charges and get back with first readings soon.

5    The President addressed the need to approve minutes of Standing Committees of the Academic Faculty which need approval by the Academic Senate.  He indicated that these minutes were published on the faculty governance web site and that a link was provided from the formal agenda for this meeting. (All committee minutes have been posted on the web -- see Attachment #4 below).

a.   He called first on Prof. Jeff Streator who moved that the minutes of the Student Regulations Committee of Nov. 16, 2006 be approved.  He noted that the action items from these minutes had already been approved when the faculty approved the new Student Code of Conduct at its November 28, 2006 meeting.  The motion was seconded and approved without dissent.

b.      Paul Benkeser, Chair of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, indicated that there were five meeting minutes to be approved (11/29/06, 12/06/06, 12/13/06, 01/08/07, 01/17/07) and with action items in the last one.  All have been posted on the faculty governance web site.  Highlights of the action items from the January 17, 2007 meeting include:  In LCC a new Minor will be added in Film and Media Studies and LCC will participate in the Research Option; BS degrees in the College of Architecture will change to BS in Architecture (as it once was a number of years ago); in Pub. Policy three courses will be added and six deactivated; in Co-Op program seven courses will be added and seventeen deactivated, overall to simplify the coding scheme for these courses; in HTS, course requirements for the degree will be changed (including a new cluster of courses required outside the School), along with four courses added to the catalog, one replacement, and one renumbered.  (See details in Committee meeting minutes – Attachment #4b below).  A motion to approve each of the action items and the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee meeting minutes of 11/29/06, 12/06/06, 12/13/06, 01/08/07, and 01/17/07 passed without dissent.

8.      The President called for approval of the minutes of Standing Committees of the General Faculty, which do not contain any action items, all of which have been posted on the web (see Attachment #4a and b below for web site listing of minutes of all Standing Committees)

a.       Academic Services Committee meeting of 11/14/06.

b.   Faculty Benefits Committee meetings of 3/30/06, 9/11/06, and 10/11/06. 

All minutes were approved without dissent.

10.  The President called for any other business and Ron Bohlander reminded attendees that the next meeting of the faculty would be held on February 27, 2007 from 3 to 5 P.M. in the Global Learning Center.  He shared the hope that a first reading of changes in the Statutes could be heard at that time on the matters covered today.

Hearing nothing further, the President closed the meeting at 4:05 P.M.

Respectfully submitted,

Ronald A. Bohlander

Secretary of the Faculty

February 7, 2007

Attachments to be included with archival copy of the minutes:

  1. Minutes of the November 28, 2006 meeting of the General Faculty, General Faculty Assembly, and Academic Senate:
  2. Presentation by the Nominating Committee.
  1. Proposed additions to the General Faculty.

a.       Presentation of Proposal to add Athletic Affairs Professionals.

b.      Formal Proposal to add Athletic Affairs Professionals.

c.   Presentation of Proposal to add Post Doctoral Fellows to General Faculty

d    Formal Proposal to add Post Doctoral Fellows to General Faculty.

  1. Minutes of Committee Meetings   
    1. 2005-06: http://www.facultysenate.gatech.edu/CommittMin005-006.htm
    2. 2006-07: http://www.facultysenate.gatech.edu/CommittMin006-007.htm