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SSE Faculty Meeting Minutes

212 Lavin Bernick Center
December 10, 2009
4:00 PM – 5:30 PM

Attendance:   Ahsan, Altiero, Alvarez, Ashbaugh, Aung, Blum, Boudaba, Christenson, Colombo, Corey, Cortez, Cronin, Cunningham, Dancisak, Daniel, Darwin, Dawers, Di, Didier, Dohanich, Dotson, Flowers, Gasparini, Gaver, Godbey, Golob, Ha, Hall, Hebert, Heins, Herman, Hopkins, Jacobsen, Jayawickramarajah, Johannesson, John, Kaplan, Khismatullin, Kim, Koplitz, Lacey, Lockman, Mao, Martin, Mitchell, McPherson, Molix, Mullin, Muneoka, Murfee, Nelson, O’Connor, Overstreet, Parrish, Parsley, Pesika, Pratt, Prindle, Reed, Rice, Richards-Zawacki, Ruscher, Schmehl, Schrader, Schuler, Shakov, Sherry, Tasker, Thien, Varela, Vasudevan, Walker, Wee, Wietfeldt, Wilson, Wyland

Guest:  Cowen

Approval of Minutes

The minutes of the meeting of 27 August 2009 were approved without change.

President Scott Cowen

President Cowen’s remarks were focused on the following topics: academic planning, leadership and people, university relations and development, and financial position.

Academic Planning:
The University is on pace to exceed the 40,000 undergraduate applications received last year.  In addition, applications to the professional schools are running high (the School of Medicine, for example, received 10,000 applications for only 200 available slots).  The retention rate is also improving with 91% of freshmen returning for their sophomore year.  Research funding was down in fiscal year 2009 (at $126M) but fiscal year 2010 research funding is running significantly higher.  The university will be investing in much needed facilities in order to stimulate research growth.  There are three new doctoral programs: French Studies, Linguistics, and Aging.  The School of Science and Engineering is a major participant in the Aging program.  Tulane is expanding activities in civic engagement, including in the areas of  social entrepreneurship and social innovation.  It is probable that in the second half of this year the  hiring freeze will be relaxed.

Leadership and People:
The search continues for a dean of the School of Law.  The faculty salary enhancement plan is being revived but the School of Science and Engineering was already included in the first round which was completed prior to the salary freeze.  Tulane continues to invest in campus and neighborhood safety with enhanced lighting, street patrols, and strategically-located police substations.  There is also a very strong commitment to becoming a “greener” campus.  Tulane completed a very successful capital campaign in the summer of 2008 despite losing more than half of the development staff after Hurricane Katrina.  The next capital campaign will be more than $1B and it is important to begin rebuilding the development office immediately.  An external consulting firm was hired to advise on the best way to proceed and their recommendations are now being implemented.  This will involve hiring 70 additional development staff over the next 4 years.  Yvette Jones has been named Executive Vice President for External Relations and Development and this change in her appointment has triggered a number of other changes in the administrative structure of the institution.  In the first round of hiring, a second development officer will be assigned to SSE and a second officer for corporate and foundation funding of the sciences and engineering will also be hired.  Additional hires in the central development office will provide significant support to the SSE.

University Relations and Development:
Fundraising in the current economic climate has been extremely challenging.  The University goal for fundraising in FY10 was set at the relatively modest level of $50M.  We are now assured of surpassing that goal as we are about to announce the largest single gift in the University’s history.  [Note: Subsequent to the meeting, the University announced a $50M pledge from the Weatherhead Foundation to support distinguished faculty positions.  This gift surpassed the previous record high gift of $30M.]  Investments in the infrastructure are being planned for the short, medium, and long term.  The University has already committed $150M to capital projects and anticipates a $1.3B investment over the next ten years.  Among the projects are the Dinwiddie Hall upgrade, a residential college project, new facilities at the Tulane University National Primate Center, and major upgrades to the downtown facilities.  Ultimately the University would like to have all new residential and dining facilities on the uptown campus and a downtown campus with many new facilities and expansive green space.

Financial Position:
The administration tracks the University’s operating margin and its bottom line.  While the bottom line has been showing a surplus, the operating margin has been negative since Hurricane Katrina.  Under the Tulane Plan for Renewal projections, the operating margin deficit was to be reduced to $22M by fiscal year 2010.  It now appears that the University will do significantly better than that and it is anticipated that the operating margin will be positive by fiscal year 2012 if not before.  Once the operating margin has returned to a positive number, the University will return to a decentralized budget management model similar to the pre-Katrina budget structure.  In the face of the recession, the University has laid off no faculty or staff, ordered no furloughs, and this year will pass on no health care cost increases to its employees.  It is anticipated that there will be a raise pool for faculty and staff this coming year.

Q&A:
How much of the increase in applications is due to the ease of applying on-line?  It is true that applications are up significantly nationwide but the increase in applications to Tulane is far higher than the national average.  It is believed that about 50% of the growth in applications at Tulane is due to the general increase nationally but 50% of the growth is because Tulane has become a very attractive choice.  The biggest factors are strong academic programs and the public service requirement.
 
Does the Center for Public Service have adequate resources to support faculty in the delivery of the undergraduate public service course components?  The University is committed to supporting the public service requirements in the undergraduate curriculum and the necessary resources will be provided to the Center for Public Service.
 
What is the status of Project 2020, the plan to invest in the research enterprise with the goal of doubling external research funding at the institution?  That plan is currently on hold because of economic conditions.  Bridge funding provided to faculty after Hurricane Katrina has shown an excellent return on investment.  Additionally, the University is planning to invest significantly in the research infrastructure, particularly on the downtown campus.
 
There were a number of questions pertaining to maintenance and security.  Among these were the state of the elevators and the restrooms in Stern, accessibility in a number of buildings including Stern and the Science and Engineering Lab Complex, and unlocked doors at night and on weekends.  President Cowen said that he would bring these problems to the attention of Facilities Services but urged the faculty to convey all such complaints, including any other safety and maintenance concerns, through Dean Altiero.
 
There were also a number of questions pertaining to adequate staff support in areas such as accounting, technical, etc.  President Cowen acknowledged that the University suffered large staff losses after Katrina and has yet to recover.  He has been made aware of specific SSE needs and assured the faculty that these will be addressed as soon as economic conditions allow.
 
What is the status of the J Bennett Johnston building?  The University has committed funds to upgrade the building infrastructure and has submitted a $15M proposal to NIH to convert three floors of the building into interdisciplinary biomedical science and engineering research space.  The Health Science Leadership Council (consisting of Provost Bernstein, ASVPR Levy, the deans of SSE, SOM and SPHTM, and the director of the TUNPC) will be meeting soon to determine the criteria for allocation of this space to faculty investigators.
 
In addition to renovation of the Frances Taylor lab, will any of the other envisioned capital projects directly benefit the School of Science and Engineering?  In particular, will Stern Hall ever be renovated?  The list of capital projects is evolving.  The interdisciplinary space in the J Bennett Johnston building will certainly benefit SSE as will envisioned new facilities targeted to the future downtown health sciences campus.  The estimated cost of renovation of Stern is $25M and this would have to come from operating funds.  Changes are being made in Stern, such as expansion of the vivarium and other targeted lab renovations, but they have been incremental.
 
A question was raised regarding a recent memo from the Office of Research on targeted gifts being subject to indirect costs.  President Cowen was not familiar with this memo and said that the question would need to be addressed to ASVPR Levy.

Executive Committee – Altiero


Admirably, to keep the meeting within projected temporal bounds, Dean Altiero decided to postpone his presentation until the next faculty meeting.  He noted that the minutes of all Executive Committee meetings are posted on the web.

Promotion and Tenure Committee – O’Connor


Promotion and tenure reviews are ongoing and should be completed by the February 1, 2010, deadline.

Graduate Studies Committee – Tasker/Schmehl


Committee Chair Jeff Tasker noted that the minutes of Graduate Studies Committee meetings are now being posted on the web.  He further reported that 59 doctoral students and 45 master’s students were recruited to SSE for the fall 2009 semester.   In addition, 25 undergraduate students entered the 4+1 master’s program.  There is a new 4+1 master’s program in Computational Science and a new doctoral program in Aging that has strong SSE involvement.
 
Associate Dean Russ Schmehl reported on the new Hobson’s software package being used by SSE that has a recruitment component, a curriculum management component, a retention component, and an alumni component.  Senior Program Coordinator Elizabeth Keith is working with the departments to fully implement this electronic management system.

Undergraduate Studies Committee – Wee/Prindle


Professor Beth Wee, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs, noted that all Undergraduate Committee minutes are posted on the web.  On behalf of the committee, she moved approval of a new minor in Environmental Science.  The motion was seconded and, following brief discussion, was passed unanimously.  She then, again on behalf of the committee, moved approval of a new minor in Environmental Biology.  This too was seconded and passed unanimously following a brief discussion.
 
Professor Wee urged all faculty to submit news items, photographs, accomplishments, events, etc. for posting to the new SSE web site.

Grievance Committee – Thien


There have been no grievances filed this year.

Nominating Committee – Sherry


There are currently no vacant committee positions.

Alumni Committee – Schuler


Professor Tim Schuler has been elected Chair of the SSE Alumni Relations Committee.  He reported on the activities of the committee and referred the faculty to the new alumni web site at http://tulane.edu/sse/alumni/.   The committee is currently setting up standard practices for what departments should work on, how to share information, email lists, newsletters, etc. He urged faculty to nominate alumni for one of the three annual awards: Outstanding Alumnus/a; Outstanding Young Alumnus/a; and Outstanding Service Alumnus/a.  Nomination forms can be found on the web site.  Dean Altiero stressed the importance of alumni affairs and alumni giving, both Annual Fund and targeted gifts.

Non SSE Committees – SSE Representatives


There were no reports from representatives to university-wide committees.

Other Business


There was a general discussion about core facilities.  A number of faculty members expressed concern about the availability of such facilities, adequate staffing, and affordability.  Dean Altiero referred the group to a web site on which all Tulane University core facilities are listed (http://tulane.edu/research/researchers/core-facilities.cfm).  He and Coordinated Instrumentation Facility (CIF) Director George Flowers are currently reviewing that operation to better position it to serve faculty needs, including reconsideration of the pricing structure.  A staff hiring plan was submitted a year ago but this is currently on hold because of the University staff hiring freeze.

Adjourned


The meeting was adjourned promptly at 5:30 PM.
Minutes by Wayne Reed.

School of Science and Engineering, 201 Lindy Boggs Center, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5764 sse@tulane.edu