University Council Minutes

October 16, 2000

Present:  Dennis Cochrane (for Bob Bates), James Bohland, Landrum Cross, Ben Dixon, Margaret Zelinski (for Elizabeth Flanagan), Eileen Hitchingham, Janet Johnson, Max Stephenson (for Paul Knox), Kim O’Rourke, Leonard Peters, Jennie Reilly, Lisa Wilkes (for Minnis Ridenour), Raymond Smoot, Hap Bonham (for Richard Sorensen), Bill Stephenson, Andy Swiger, Tom Tillar, Pat Hyer, James Martin, Leon Geyer, Virginia Buechner-Maxwell, Irene Leech, Marquea King, Joe Hunnings, Tim Pratt, Kamal Rojiani, Mitzi Vernon, John Hillison, Jack Davis, Sam Hicks, Pat Devens, Dan Dolan, Bernard Feldman, Rodney Gaines, Ashley Marshall, Althea Aschmann, Delbert Jones, Benjamin Poe, David Fowler, Chris DelVecchio, Kylie Felps, Peter Logan, Brian Montgomery (for Candace Wiltshire), Mac McCreery, Christina Coukos

Absent: Earving Blythe, Gregory Brown, Peter Eyre, Charles Steger, Terry Herdman, Steven Thompson, Wayne Durham, Skip Fuhrman, Jeryl Jones, Bob Tracy, Rebecca Crittenden, Suzanne Murrmann, Pete Martens, Donna Cassell, Debbie Wilson, Tracey Slotta, Brandy Ellen Cowing,

Guests: David Ford, Carole Nickerson, Fred Lee, John Wilson

1.            Adoption of Agenda

            A motion was made and seconded to adopt the agenda.  The motion carried.

2.            Announcement of approval and posting of Council Minutes of

            October 2, 2000

Dr. Bohland noted that the minutes from the October 2, 2000, University Council meeting have been voted on and approved electronically.  Once voted upon, University Council minutes can be publicly accessed on the Governance Information System on the WEB.  (/)

3.                  New Business – First Reading

Commission on Research Resolution 2000-2001A,

Resolution Regarding “Regular” Appointments for Special Research Faculty

Pat Hyer introduced the resolution in the absence of Terry Herdman, Chair of the Commission on Research.  The resolution came forward from the Task Force on Special Research Faculty.  There are 350-400 employees at the University who are called special research faculty.  These employees carry titles such as research associates, senior research associates, research scientists or post-doctoral candidates.  The vast majority of these faculty are on restricted contracts (contracts that have a beginning and ending date) primarily because they are funded by sponsored grants or contracts.  The grant or contract is not a permanent source of income to the University; it is a temporary source and it may or it may not be renewed.

The Task Force was approached by one of the center directors and asked to help resolve problems associated with the recruitment of highly skilled talent, particularly in the high technology field. Recruiting employees for fields where there were many openings and few people to fill them was often difficult due to the beginning and ending dates of contracts, which were never more than one year, and the restrictive language in the contract that made continuous employment seem tenuous.  The center director also indicated that often the desirable talent is foreign-born and that the opportunity to be able to help support an application for permanent residency or a green card was negated by the language of our contracts.  A permanent residency application must designate that the job is a secure, permanent job in order to gain approval by the INS. 

The resolution proposes that under certain circumstances a research center or program, which has a stable, varied source of funding, could gain permission to conduct a search for a “regular” (or renewable) position.  There are several areas where salary obligations may be incurred for regular employees that are not incurred for restricted employees; especially sick leave and annual leave payout.  A “regular” employee earns six months of paid sick leave from the time of entry.  Restricted employees earn sick leave on an accrual basis.  “Regular” faculty members are entitled to receive payment of accumulated annual leave upon termination of employment while restricted faculty do not.  Additionally, “regular faculty members who have been at Virginia Tech for a minimum of two years receive one year’s notice of non-reappointment.  For financial reasons, this resolution proposes that these special research faculty would receive a maximum of six months’ notice instead of one year.

Under special circumstances, the proposal would allow a center or program that is able to financially afford to support these conditions to request permission to conduct a search for “regular” faculty members.  Determination of whether resources are available to support this request would be by application submitted through the department head, the dean and the research division.  The presumption is that there would only be a few of these types of searches.  A center or program could have a mix of “regular” and restricted faculty.

A center director spoke in favor of the proposal but requested clarification of the wording which states, “…the international faculty member must have been selected as the ONLY qualified candidate in a national search; no other minimally qualified U.S. worker was available.”  He indicated that wording he received from the INS regulations stated that the individual must be “more qualified than any U.S. worker who applied for the job.” He thought that the language used in the proposal was unnecessarily stringent.  Dr. Hyer will add a clarifying sentence that suggests that given current INS rulings, this is our interpretation of the policy.  There is no intent for Virginia Tech to be more stringent than the INS in this regard.

A question was raised whether this would impact the maximum employment level that the state imposes on the university.  Dr. Hyer stated that it would not since the vast number of employees are on sponsored dollars.  In rare instances, there might be a situation where a center or program might have to move a “regular” faculty member temporarily to state salary funds if there is a brief lapse in sponsored funding.

4.                  Ongoing Business – Second Reading

Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies Resolution 2000-2001A,

Resolution Regarding New Degree Programs: M.S. and Ph.D. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering

Virginia Buechner-Maxwell, Chair of the Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies, presented the resolution for second reading.  Judy Riffle and Garth Wilkes spearheaded the effort.  The proposal notes that the creation of new graduate programs in macromolecular science and engineering would enhance the recruitment of outstanding graduate students, increase institutional competitiveness for major polymer research contracts, and enhance employment opportunities for graduates and research associates.  

A motion was made for approval.  The motion was seconded and approved by unanimous vote.

5.                  Council approved the following Commission minutes:

*        Commission on University Support

September 11, 2000

6.                  Discussion

Oak Ridge National Lab Consortium

Leonard Peters

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), founded in 1942 during the Manhattan Project, is the largest of the U.S. Department of Energy’s five multi-program energy laboratories.  With a staff of approximately 4,500 employees, its current annual budget is in excess of $550 million.  Virtually all of the work that goes on at ORNL is non-classified.  Classified work takes place away from the main part of the laboratory.  This discussion centers on the non-classified activities.

ORNL has special competencies in six research areas:

*        Neutron science and technology

*        Advanced materials synthesis and characterization

*        Energy production and end use

*        Biological and environmental sciences

*        Computational science and advanced computing

*        Instrumentation, control and measurement science.

ORNL was originally operated by the University of Chicago and then by several major companies.  The most recent management and operation contractor was Lockheed-Martin.  The Department of Energy (DOE) wanted a closer alliance with the university community.  Under the assistance of Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), six universities were selected to be “core universities.”  The core universities include Duke University, Florida State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, NC State University, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.  In addition to the university partners there are also corporate subcontractors.  They are Duke Engineering, BWX, and Lockheed-Martin Energy Systems (Y-12).  A five-year contract began on April 1, 2000.  The corporation is set up to protect the core universities from any liability that would result from potential legal action against the overall corporation.

Opportunities associated with involvement in ORNL include:

*        Advice on research direction – committees and Board of Governors (President Steger is the University’s representative to the Board)

*        Joint faculty positions

*        Oak Ridge Center for Advanced Studies (ORCAS)

-         Intensive research in topical areas

-         Courses on research-emergent topics

-         Courses to grow and extend ORNL capabilities

-         Shared courses among universities

*        Streamlined business model for funding

*        Short faculty visits program

*        Student internships and graduate student appointments

*        Joint Institutes – Materials Synthesis, Biological Sciences, Computational Sciences

*        Tech transfer enhancements

ORNL – Realistic Strategy

*        Use ORNL as catalyst for building collaborative programs internally, across core universities and with ORNL staff

*        Use unique facilities and expertise at ORNL to enhance capabilities and attract new people

*        Bring programs to ORNL and let them help build upon and expand what we have

*        Use entrée to Battelle and other universities to develop and “sell” research; Battelle is involved in the operation of several other laboratories in the DOE system (Brookhaven and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

*        Use ORNL to strengthen academic programs; to provide opportunities for students to participate in the laboratories

ORNL Activities to Date:  Just after the announcement of the award, a briefing was given to research administrators at the ORNL in May 2000.  A number of Virginia Tech faculty attended workshops held in August 2000.  Last week the ORNL management team (including the director of the laboratory, who is an alumnus) visited Virginia Tech.  They were interested in the way Virginia Tech has structured the Corporate Research Center.  ORNL is initiating a $200 million renovation and building expansion program that is a combination of private funding from Battelle, state funds from the state of Tennessee, and federal funds from the Department of Energy.  They are looking for unique and novel ways to accomplish this task.  Initial contacts have been made in several research areas and joint faculty appointments are beginning to emerge.  Core universities participated in Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) review teams at ORNL.

Common research interests between ORNL and Virginia Tech are very critical.  Research at ORNL includes:

*        Neutron science and technology

*        Advanced materials synthesis and characterization

*        Energy production and end use

*        Biological and environmental sciences

*        Computational science and advanced computing

*        Instrumentation, control and measurement science

Virginia Tech’s corresponding cross cutting initiatives include:

*        Materials

*        Environmental sciences and energy systems

*        Transportation

*        Biosciences and biotechnology

*        Computing, information and communications technology

When asked how much money is involved in this project, Dr. Peters indicated that our rewards would emerge in terms of opportunities and advantages.  For example, the University of Tennessee (not a “core” university, but located in close proximity to ORNL) has realized sponsored projects in excess of $20 million.  Outreach components include VT transfer opportunities through the Oak Ridge Center for Advanced Studies in the form of credit and non-credit work.  Additionally, some of the outreach activities that Oak Ridge has been involved with in the past have been K-12 math and science education.

Management at ORNL is very pleased with Virginia Tech’s involvement in the activities.  We are looking forward to new opportunities and other ideas.  Any suggestions, comments or questions may be directed to John Wilson, the liaison between ORNL and Virginia Tech.

Dr. Bohland adjourned the meeting at 3:35 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Kim T. O’Rourke

Assistant to the President

/jcd