Faculty Senate briefed on Master Plan, institutional progress

At its first meeting of the aca­d­emic year, the Fac­ulty Senate was briefed on plans that could add up to 3 mil­lion square feet of addi­tional space over the next decade and the university’s improve­ments in areas such as stu­dent admis­sions, fac­ulty hiring and resources to enhance research opportunities.

As part of Northeastern’s Insti­tu­tional Master Plan, about two-​​thirds of new space would be ded­i­cated to aca­d­emic pur­poses and most of the devel­op­ment would be focused along Columbus Avenue and in more effi­cient uses of Northeastern’s main part of campus.

“We’ve tried to think big, we’ve tried to think con­cep­tual and we’ve tried to ful­fill the broadest uses pos­sible for this campus,” Ralph Martin, the university’s senior vice pres­i­dent and gen­eral counsel, said during his pre­sen­ta­tion on Wednesday, which focused on the broad poten­tial uses for the campus and cen­tered on improved aca­d­emic facil­i­ties and spaces that foster inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research and collaboration.

The Master Plan is a once-​​a-​​decade doc­u­ment the city of Boston requires major insti­tu­tions to com­plete to doc­u­ment their plans for growth and devel­op­ment over the next 10 years. The process engages mem­bers of the North­eastern com­mu­nity, local offi­cials and a city-​​appointed task force, all of whom shape the final doc­u­ment, which is due to the Boston Rede­vel­op­ment Authority by the end of this year.

The new space would come on the heels of North­eastern adding 2.2 mil­lion square feet of space — most of it res­i­den­tial — since 1998.

The Fac­ulty Senate meeting also marked the first for Richard A. Day­nard, Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Law, in his new role as Senate Agenda Com­mittee chairman. Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, also spoke about the impacts of Northeastern’s Long Range Plan, the roadmap for real­iza­tion of its Aca­d­emic Plan.

In his pre­sen­ta­tion, Director noted improve­ment across the board, with many goals set for 2014 — in areas like admis­sion rates, SAT scores, the number of stu­dents from out­side the Boston area and increasing the diver­sity of the stu­dent body — already real­ized. He also noted improve­ments in the hiring of tenure and tenure-​​track fac­ulty and resources that enhance research oppor­tu­ni­ties for fac­ulty and students.

“We’ve made tremen­dous progress,” Director said, “but we still have more to do.”

Among Northeastern’s myriad improve­ments was the advance­ment of its ranking in the listing of top Amer­ican col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties by U.S. News & World Report, at No. 56 this year, moving up on the list from No. 96 when new long-​​range plan­ning began during the 2009-​​10 aca­d­emic year.

“Most of you will remember that it wasn’t so long ago when the top 100 was our goal,” Day­nard said in his remarks at the start of Wednesday’s meeting. “Part of our ongoing goals here as a Fac­ulty Senate is to make sure the reality of the uni­ver­sity con­tinues to meet and exceed out­side expec­ta­tions and perceptions.”

As the Senate Agenda Com­mittee chair, Day­nard said he was eager to work with the Senate and university’s senior lead­er­ship to con­tinue improving the university’s standing.

“I think the rela­tion­ship between the Agenda Com­mittee and the admin­is­tra­tion is off to a good start, and I think we have a good chance for a pro­duc­tive and mutu­ally ben­e­fi­cial rela­tion­ship this year,” Day­nard said.

The Senate also voted unan­i­mously to approve a new Master of Sci­ence in Sus­tain­able Building Sys­tems offered jointly by the Col­lege of Engi­neering and the Col­lege of Arts, Media and Design‘s School of Archi­tec­ture. The body also began a dis­cus­sion, led by Mary Loef­fel­holz, the vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, on the way the uni­ver­sity can better pre­pare its tenured fac­ulty for their new roles as asso­ciate pro­fes­sors and their advance­ment to the rank of full professor.

“This is both a chal­lenge for many uni­ver­si­ties and an oppor­tu­nity for us to do better by fac­ulty mem­bers in these ranks,” said Loef­fel­holz, who noted that of the more than 200 asso­ciate pro­fes­sors at North­eastern, about 60 reg­is­tered for a work­shop specif­i­cally for their rank. “Clearly there is interest and demand for con­ver­sa­tion about this topic at Northeastern.”