Copy of message I sent to faculty re union reps and unionization of grad students

below is a verbatim transcript of the note I sent to our field faculty re unionization. I sent this to faculty because I presume they have not been following unionization discussions on campus and to make sure they know the grad school’s description of the situation.

This note basically amounts to (a) a description of the grad school’s interpretation of its agreement with union representatives about access to campus facilities and students and (b) recommendations to faculty on how to interact with students on the topic of unionization. These are the two issues that directly impact faculty in the immediate future. As will be obvious if you read it, there is no information or commentary about unionization itself.

I am copying students just for transparency, so you know the instructions I have given to field faculty. My instructions are of course just good-faith instructions; I am not a labor lawyer nor an HR professional; I do not represent Cornell or the grad school in this regard; I am just trying to be helpful.

*** begin note sent to faculty***

all-

some brief bits of info that I have received from grad school and legal counsel re unionization:

1. an organization of students CGSU has aligned with two different unions and is pursuing unionization of grad students. This last happened in 2002 when a student vote re unionization happened, at that time the proposal for unionization was defeated.
2. cornell has been subpoenaed to provide info regarding students to union representatives and will do so (in a way that is consistent with FERPA and allows student opt-out). separately, cornell has entered into an agreement with students/union to provide access to students. This agreement essentially means that union representatives have the same access to students that the public has–i.e. they can meet with students the same way a reporter would or a family member or a consumer sales representative or any random person off the street. I find the “VWR salesperson” analogy very useful when I think through these scenarios.
3. The general tone is that union representatives are (a) not to be mistreated or actively separated from students, and (b) not to be given special treatment or access beyond that of the public.
Some examples of things union representatives can and can’t do are listed below. This list is explanatory and does not imply that any of these things have happened to date or are expected to happen.
a. CAN meet with students, individually or in groups, on campus or off, in conference rooms or offices or other
b. CANNOT meet with students in a way that is disruptive (can’t enter a shared office and prevent work from continuing by “taking over” the room.
c. CANNOT enter restricted areas (for example swipe accessed or key-accessed areas) unless escorted by an authorized party. So to a first approximation, union representatives CANNOT enter labs without permission of PI, CANNOT enter shared grad student space without permission of PI or DGS (depending on who controls the space). Union representatives CAN enter hallways, open spaces, atria; if students want to meet with them in a general-use breakout or conference room they can do that. A union representative can’t use a conference room on his/her own; our students, though, can use conference rooms and they can invite union representatives to join them. Union representatives CAN go to a restricted area, knock on the door, and ask to come in. They CANNOT demand entry or imply that they have special access privileges. A student can invite a union representative into their workspace; their right to do so is analogous to inviting the VWR sales rep in. Can students talk to the VWR rep? yes. Could a group of them meet with the VWR rep in a conference room? yes. Can the VWR rep go into labs without PI authorization? no. Can the VWR rep knock on the door and ask to come in? yes. Would we kick the VWR rep off campus or otherwise harass or obstruct them? Not unless they were being specifically disruptive.
4. interacting with students re the union:
a. We are obligated by law to act in a way such that no reasonable person would think that students are being threatened, cajoled, intimidated, interrogated, etc re this topic. The same is true, of course, for many other topics; threats and intimidation are of course not supposed to be part of our academic interactions. The power imbalance between faculty and students, though, means that what we might find reasonable is different from what students might find reasonable. so caution is indicated.
b. because of this, it is safer to err on the side of not discussing unionization; to first order it is not really a faculty issue– it is a grad school and grad student issue. If discussing, it is better to discuss these issues with students (a) in a way that makes it clear you are giving your personal opinion and not representing cornell (b) only if they ask (c) only if you know what you are talking about (most of us do not know labor law or what consequences of unionization would be or the details of what is going on at cornell) (d) only in spaces and in ways that remove or attenuate the perception that faculty have power over students (i.e. not in your office or lab or behind closed doors). I find the discussion of students’ personal lives to be a useful analogy. If my students want to tell me what they did on the weekend, I of course enjoy discussing that. But I don’t ask my students who they went out with last friday because it isn’t my business and they might think that if I keep asking this that what they do on the weekend is under professional scrutiny when it isn’t and shouldn’t be. Similarly, if students want to talk about unionization with faculty it is appropriate to engage. But we should approach it as something that is the students’ business and not something they are expected to discuss with faculty–we should not be querying the students re their position on this matter or their involvement.
5. In conclusion, in most cases, this means it is generally better for faculty to not comment on unionization. If you are convinced that you know what you are talking about, if students ask, if you can ensure that students (who largely are terrified of us and fear that we have almost absolute power over them) don’t feel pressured by your comments, AND if you can be clear that your opinions are not cornell’s opinions, then this is OK to discuss.

*** end note sent to faculty***

Physics Colloquium–Folding Paper: Visual Art Meets Mathematics

The next General Physics Colloquium and Kieval Lecture, “Folding Paper:  Visual Art Meets Mathematics”, will be given by Professor Erik Demaine, MIT, on Monday, March 7 at 4:00 pm in Schwartz Auditorium, Rockefeller Hall.  Refreshments will be served at 3:30-3:50 on the second floor of Rockefeller Hall.

Prof. Demain’s website is at http://erikdemaine.org/

Graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduate physics majors will have an exclusive opportunity to meet with the speaker immediately following the colloquium in 403 Physical Sciences Building.

 

Abstract:  My father Martin Demaine and I like to blur the lines between art and mathematics, by freely moving from designing sculpture to proving theorems and back again.  Paper folding is a great setting for this approach, as it mixes a rich geometric structure with a beautiful art form.  Mathematically, we are continually developing algorithms to fold paper into any shape you desire.  Sculpturally, we have been exploring curved creases, which remain poorly understood mathematically, but have potential applications in robotics, deployable structures, manufacturing, and self-assembly.  By integrating science and art, we constantly find new inspirations, problems, and ideas: proving that sculptures do or don’t exist, or illustrating mathematical beauty through physical beauty.  Collaboration, particularly as a father-son team, has been a powerful way for us to bridge these fields.  Lately we are exploring how folding changes with other materials, such as hot glass, opening a new approach to glass blowing, and finding new ways for paper and glass to interact.

 

 

The Colloquium schedule may be found on the Physics Department website at:  http://www.physics.cornell.edu

21 Jan 2016 ME Graduate Field meeting minutes

Meeting started 12:17 ended 1:09

Paul Dawson was elected Graduate School Professor in ME.

Nicole Benedek was elected as a member of the ME field.

Votes on two motions were tabled pending additional information to be provided to the field.

A motion from Professor Kirby to amend the Field rules passed. Its wording is as follows:

PhD students matriculating in the graduate field of Mechanical Engineering starting Fall 2016 must pass MAE7999 at least six times before completion of the PhD degree. The DGS may reduce this requirement at her/his discretion when student tenure is short or other classes, teaching requirements, or enrollment in absentia terms repeatedly preclude enrollment in MAE7999. Students desiring a reduction should petition the DGS explaining why enrollment in six terms was impossible or onerous.

faculty search workshop

WORKSHOP: The Faculty Search Process

Info re workshop below.

* there is a short (30 sec) poll at https://cornell.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_7a1WNYbqsMW5anP to gauge interest and identify best time to do the workshop if interest is high enough. If interest is high, I will most likely start the workshop in the next 3-4 business days. If low, I will not do it.

* I am sending notes by email and blog and slack now. However, future information about the workshop will only be on the slack channel #faculty-search-workshop at http://sibleyphd.slack.com. To sign up, go to http://sibleyphd.slack.com, click on “create an account” at bottom and create an acct with your cornell.edu email address. You should immediately be allowed to join the slack team. Spyros Maniatopoulos (sm2296) and Elizabeth Case (ehc77) are administers of the slack team and can help you get started if you have trouble. If you are not a regular slack user, setting up email notifications in slack will ensure that you are aware when there is action on the slack channel.

WORKSHOP AUDIENCE

* PhD students possibly interested in faculty careers. Focus is Sibley School PhDs, and that is who I am advertising to, but all students welcome

* Seniority is not relevant

* Topical overlap with current Sibley School faculty searches is not relevant

WORKSHOP GOALS

* familiarize students with how tenure-track professors are hired, starting with director negotiation with dean for permission to hire and ending with director negotiation of salary/space/startup with successful candidates.

* inform students about our current searches (we have two of them!) and engage them in the process

* give information about and practice in generating one’s own faculty application and evaluating those of others

HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE

* level 1: show up for some of the meetings

* level 2: show up for meetings; make practice faculty applications; review applications of your peers; submit evaluations of the dept’s faculty candidates to the search committee

* level 3: be on an ad hoc student committee that plays an active role in the search, presents summaries of incoming faculty to the workshop participants

When I last did this in 2012, 6 people were on the level 3 committee, about 20 did level 2, and about 55 students participated in some way.

WHAT I NEED FROM YOU NOW

Please fill out the poll at https://cornell.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_7a1WNYbqsMW5anP if interested, and please get on the slack channel to receive further info.

 

HHMI Student Research Fellows Program–materials due to me via slack on 7 Oct 2015

Below is information about the HHMI Student research fellows program for international students in 2nd or 3rd year of graduate study.  ME students, if eligible, may apply.  I can nominate up to 3 students from ME.  For TAM and AE students, I don’t know if those fields are eligible, you can ask your DGS if you are interested.

If you want to be considered, I will need  a letter of recommendation from your advisor and from you I need from you items 2 through 5 from the list at bottom. I will need these by Oct 7.  If I receive more than 3 applications, I will pick the top 3 based on my estimate of likelihood of success.

Students sending me materials: PLEASE SEND BY DIRECT MESSAGE ON SLACK VIA THE GRAD STUDENT SLACK TEAM AT http://sibleyphd.slack.com; if you are not already on the grad student slack you should be able to sign up by going to that URL as long as you register with a .cornell.edu address. Please do not send by email.

cheers, BK

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The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has invited Cornell to submit the names of 10 nominees to the International Student Research Fellowship program. Fellowships are designed to facilitate the research training of outstanding international predoctoral students (who are ineligible for fellowship or training grant support through federal agencies) in the biomedical or related sciences, including physical and mathematical sciences.

HHMI will award 50 three-year fellowships to students while they are engaged in their doctoral dissertation research. Students must: a) have demonstrated exceptional talent for research; b) are currently in the second (or third) year of graduate study; c) have entered a laboratory in which they will conduct their dissertation research; and d) are not U.S. citizens, noncitizen nationals, or permanent residents of the U.S.

HHMI will provide each Fellow with an annual stipend of $30,000. Fellows are not generally allowed to be employed, engage in consulting services for pay, or receive significant funds from another external fellowship, scholarship, or similar award. In addition, HHMI will provide an annual allowance of $3,000, which may be used for health insurance, health care expenses, books and supplies, journal subscriptions, computer-related expenses, travel to scientific meetings, professional fees or dues, tuition for special courses, and other purposes relevant to a fellow’s study. This allowance may not be used by the institution to pay for any institutional fees or research costs.

HHMI will provide an annual institutional allowance of $10,000 in lieu of all tuition and fees. Cornell has agreed that fellows and thesis advisors will be exempt from paying tuition and fees normally charged to graduate students of similar academic standing, even if tuition and fees exceed the amount provided by HHMI.

Fellows will be chosen based on their promise as a scientific investigator. The most influential factor will be the candidate’s summary of his or her proposed thesis research and the level of innovation and creativity demonstrated by the student. Complete program information can be downloaded from: http://www.hhmi.org/programs/international-student-research-fellowships. In addition, you are urged to read the “Application Feedback” and “FAQ” documents.

 

Cornell Internal Selection Process:
Cornell, including Weill Medical College, is limited to submitting 10 nominations. […]Each nomination should contain the following information:

  1. One page letter from the nominee’s DGS briefly describing why the applicant was nominated, specifically addressing the applicant’s potential to be a scientific leader and innovator.
  2. From the nominee, a maximum two-page description of the intended research, including a brief discussion of the significance and innovation of the intended project, a limited bibliography of key references, and a list of publications and presentations with the nominee’s role in the publication described. Do not exceed the two page limit.
  3. One page personal statement reflecting career goals in relation to the nominee’s thesis work and how the fellowship will affect attainment of the goals;
  4. Curriculum vitae (maximum two pages). Include the following information: contact information including Cornell email address, research experience, including dates, graduate degree information, name of department/program, date of entry into the graduate program, and name and email address of the dissertation advisor(s); list of publications, presentations, and posters; educational history, including names of all colleges and universities attended, dates of attendance, and degrees obtained; honors, awards, and professional activities; Cornell graduate course grades and both undergraduate and graduate GPAs; scores on the GRE or MCAT and TOEFL (if applicable).
  5. For the last entry on the CV list and describe any funding the applicant is receiving from Cornell, the government of his/her home country, and/or other external awards. State if no funding is being received. Do not create a separate page for this information.

Child Care Grants for Students

From the Grad School
********************
Increased Funding for Child Care Grants
Funding for students’ child care grants has been dramatically increased to $250,000 per year. Please encourage your students with families to apply for these funds! The application form is here: http://studentparents.dos.cornell.edu/

Maximum grants are as follows:

o Infant/Toddler/Preschool – Maximum of $3800

o School-Age – Maximum of $2500

o Summer Camp – $400

· The Deadline for applying is October 16th, 2015

Equalization of GRA and TA university minimum rates

See below a note from the graduate school sent to DGSs by email.  This doesn’t apply to you in an immediate sense because the rate we paid was already above this.  However, I think this is worth being aware of the dynamics of how grad stipends are set at cornell.  GRA and TAs were historically paid the same minimum rate.  Recently (I think last year), the grad school separated the minimum rates and allowed the two rates to become different.  The argument (at the time) was that fields that paid primarily TAs were competing in an employment market different from those that paid primarily GRAs.  Anyway, from below it is clear that grad students opposed the separation of these two pay rates, and the new president/provost have acted to bring them together again.

Again, we pay students in our field more than this anyway, so it doesn’t directly affect you, but good to know what is going on at the university.

****************************

Jason Kahabka
Aug 28 (2 days ago)
Dear DGSs and GFAs,

As you may know, the minimum stipend rate for Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) and Research Assistants (RAs) has been slightly lower than the minimum rate for Teaching Assistants (TAs) for the past year. For 2015-16, the published differential was $324/semester. This disparity has raised strong objections from students and their elected representatives on the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. In response to these concerns, President Garrett, Provost Kotlikoff and Dean Knuth have approved equalizing the RA and GRA rates with the current TA rate of $24,658/year, effective this fall. We expect that President Garrett will publically announce this news next Monday but I am writing now to alert you of this impending change. (Please don’t share this message until Tuesday, 9/1)

In a survey conducted last spring many fields reported that they had already planned to pay RAs and GRAs at or above the minimum TA rate. An evaluation of current appointment records indicates that approximately 130 doctoral students will be impacted and will receive a higher stipend. We are working directly with those fields and faculty PIs to adjust their stipends and reissue appointment letters.

If you have any RA or GRA appointments in your field that are currently below $24,658/year ($12,329/semester) please contact me immediately for information on how to make the necessary changes. The new rates have been posted online. Thank you for your understanding as we work through this adjustment.

From all of my colleagues at the Graduate School, we hope you and your students have a great semester.

Sincerely,
Jason

__________________________________

Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration
Cornell University
The Graduate School

20 Aug 2015 ME field meeting minutes

This is a draft of the minutes from today’s ME field meeting. We ran out of time and thus the ME field review of students will commence next week at an ADDITIONAL field meeting.

  • Item #1: By unanimous consent, the field rules, under section “Minor in Mechanical Engineering” were changed as follows:

old version:

Minor in Mechanical Engineering

Ph.D. students majoring in other graduate fields may take a minor in Mechanical Engineering. Usually four graduate courses in Mechanical Engineering are taken for credit to fulfill the minor.

new version:

Mechanical Engineering Minor Subject

Ph.D. students pursuing a Ph.D. in other graduate fields may study Mechanical Engineering as a Minor Subject. Faculty serving as Minor Committee Members representing the ME field usually require that students take four graduate courses in Mechanical Engineering are taken for credit to complete study of ME as a Minor Subject.

 

  • Item #2: Malte Jung’s application for field membership was approved by vote.
  • Item #3: Itai Cohen’s application for field membership was approved by vote.
  • Item #4: A motion was passed by vote that the Field Rules be amended regarding the MS program as follows:

old version:

Master of Science (M.S.)
Registration Units
Two registration units are required for an M.S. degree with a Thesis, and four registration units are required for a M.S. degree without a Thesis.

Time-to-Degree
All requirements for the M.S. degree must be completed within four years.

The field of Mechanical Engineering does not admit students into an M.S.-only degree program. The Field may grant an M.S. degree in any of the following circumstances.

Non-Thesis M.S.
A Non-Thesis M.S. degree may be awarded to a doctoral student who has earned at least four registration units and one of the following:
1. has successfully completed the A-Exam,
2. has withdrawn from the Ph.D. program after failing the A-Exam, but performed at a level commensurate to a passed Final Exam for an M.S. degree,
3. has successfully completed a Final Examination for the M.S. degree, but will not continue in the Ph.D. program.
M.S. with Thesis
An M.S. degree (with Thesis) may be awarded to a doctoral student who has earned at least two registration units, and either:
1. with the approval of the Special Committee, writes an M.S. Thesis and successfully completes an M.S. Examination before continuing on with the Ph.D. program. (The M.S. Examination may be combined with the A-Exam.)
2. submits a “Change of Program” to an M.S. degree, submits a Thesis, and takes a M.S. Examination. The student does not continue in the Ph.D. program.

Subjects
One major and one minor subject are required for the M.S. degree. If the minor is within the Mechanical Engineering Field, it must be chosen in an area that is substantially different from that of the major.

Special Committee
A minimum of two faculty members compose the committee. The chairman represents the major subject and another appropriate faculty member represents the minor subject. A thesis advisor, not representing a subject area, may be added.

Examinations
A final examination conducted by the Special Committee is required for an M.S. with thesis. At the committee’s discretion, this examination may be entirely oral or both oral and written, and a portion of the examination may be opened as a public presentation of the thesis. At least two faculty members must be present at the final examination.
Thesis
Candidates for the M.S. degree (with thesis) are required to submit a thesis based on the work in their major subject. Each candidate must provide one bound copy of the thesis to be held in the Sibley School collection, in addition to those copies required by the Graduate School.

Other
There is no language requirement or teaching requirement for an M.S. degree.

new version:

Master of Science (M.S.)
Registration Units
Four registration units are required for a M.S. degree.  Students may petition the DGS to reduce MS degree registration unit requirements to three if they begin their MS study while completing their BS degree in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.  The DGS may approve this petition at his/her discretion.  The DGS may also reduce MS degree registration unit requirements to two if a student transfers from the PhD program to the MS program.

Time-to-Degree
All requirements for the M.S. degree must be completed within four years.

The Field may grant an M.S. degree in any of the following circumstances.

Terminal M.S. with thesis
Students may be admitted directly to terminal MS program with thesis.  These students must meet the following requirements:

  1. four registration units
  2. completion of an MS thesis and successful completion of an MS examination.  The collective expectations of the field, as interpreted by the MS thesis committee, is that the MS thesis should be publishable as independent research or should be a significant secondary author contribution to a publication with another researcher as first author.
  3. 48 credits total
  4. at least 20 credits of MAE 8900
  5. at least 2 credits of MAE 7999
  6. at least 15 credits at 5000 level or higher
  7. at least 6 credits at 6000 level or higher (not including 7999 or 8900)

Non-Thesis M.S.
A Non-Thesis M.S. degree may be awarded to a doctoral student who has earned at least four registration units and one of the following:
1. has successfully completed the A-Exam,
2. has withdrawn from the Ph.D. program after failing the A-Exam, but performed at a level commensurate to a passed Final Exam for an M.S. degree,
3. has successfully completed a Final Examination for the M.S. degree, but will not continue in the Ph.D. program.
M.S. with Thesis
An M.S. degree (with Thesis) may be awarded to a doctoral student who has earned at least two registration units, and either:
1. with the approval of the Special Committee, writes an M.S. Thesis and successfully completes an M.S. Examination before continuing on with the Ph.D. program. (The M.S. Examination may be combined with the A-Exam.)
2. submits a “Change of Program” to an M.S. degree, submits a Thesis, and takes a M.S. Examination. The student does not continue in the Ph.D. program.

 

Subjects
One major and one minor subject are required for the M.S. degree. If the minor is within the Mechanical Engineering Field, it must be chosen in an area that is substantially different from that of the major.

Special Committee
A minimum of two faculty members compose the committee. The chairman represents the major subject and another appropriate faculty member represents the minor subject. A thesis advisor, not representing a subject area, may be added.

Examinations
A final examination conducted by the Special Committee is required for an M.S. with thesis. At the committee’s discretion, this examination may be entirely oral or both oral and written, and a portion of the examination may be opened as a public presentation of the thesis. At least two faculty members must be present at the final examination.
Other
There is no language requirement or teaching requirement for an M.S. degree.