Faculty Senate holds first meeting of 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- At its first meeting of the spring semester, Penn State’s University Faculty Senate on Tuesday (Jan. 29) held a forensic session on the work of the Senate Self-Study Committee, received reports on Penn State World Campus and the ISIS replacement project, and heard updates from student organizations on THON and diversity awareness at the University.

Will Martin, overall chair of the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON), and Cat Powers, THON public relations chair, gave an update on several new initiatives implemented for 2013 that prioritize student safety, including requiring participants to attend workshops and moving all canning weekends to fall semester. THON 2013 will be held the weekend of Feb. 15-17 at the Bryce Jordan Center on the University Park campus.

Brian Aynardi, Graduate Student Association Faculty Senate representative, and other members of the newly formed student Diversity Awareness Task Force discussed the group’s vision to improve cultural diversity awareness at the University.

“Cultural awareness, in our vision, should be a more integral part of the general education requirement for all students," said Aynardi. "In essence, we are asking the Senate for more education … Teaching students our past history as an institution and as a nation will allow students to utilize that knowledge in future endeavors, to raise their awareness in an increasingly diverse workforce, one they will certainly encounter when they leave Penn State.”

The task force has proposed several changes, including examining current diversity education courses for effectiveness; adding new courses; and increasing multicultural events and adding further diversity awareness training to the first-year seminar. The group has asked that a joint task force within the Senate be created to look into addressing these general education requirement issues.

Senate Chair Larry Backer introduced the forensic session of the Senate Self-Study Committee. He expressed concern about attendance and participation in Senate business by its members, suggesting that both "might be symptoms of Senate operations, cultures and practices that alienate and devalue member activity." He also warned against "cultivating cultures of cronyism that might threaten the legitimacy of the Senate." He urged faculty to get involved in the Senate’s self-examination efforts. (Backer's remarks can be read online at http://lcbpsusenate.blogspot.com/2013/01/statement-of-senate-chair-made-at.html online.)

Senator Mohamad Ansari, associate professor of mathematics at Penn State Berks and Senate parliamentarian, led the forensic session. The self-study committee was charged last fall to find ways in which it could improve Senate structure and effectiveness.

The committee report raised a number of questions regarding organization, communication, and membership and engagement. Senators discussed issues related to the current committee structure and its positives and negatives in terms of expediting action; increasing the use of technology to facilitate action and improve dissemination of information to members between meetings; revising how meetings are currently conducted; and drafting clearer responsibilities for senators in the constitution. Backer noted that the discussion would continue and an online survey will be disseminated to senators in the future.

The forensic report is available at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/jan2013/appb.pdf online.

Wayne Smutz, associate vice president and executive director of Penn State World Campus, presented an informational report. Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2013, the World Campus currently enrolls nearly 12,000 students studying more than 90 undergraduate, graduate and professional education programs. Course enrollments have been growing at a rate of about 20 percent a year, said Smutz, exceeding 55,000 enrollments as of spring 2013. Since 1998 nearly 64,000 students have taken an online course through the World Campus. The report is available at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/jan2013/appc.pdf online.

University Registrar Karen Schultz and David Salvia, assistant professor of electrical engineering, reported on the ISIS replacement project, providing background regarding the decision process, an overview of the project, and the role of the Faculty Senate. ISIS, accessible to faculty and staff, is the centralized student system that manages the records for all Penn State students at all Penn State locations. ISIS manages student records from admission through graduation, including billing, course scheduling, student aid and transcripts.

Schultz said that the 30-year-old ISIS is outdated technologically and no longer adequately serves the needs of the University.

“We’re not the same University we were in 1980,” she noted. “With the help of external consultants, we have begun the process to replace ISIS with a modern, 21st-century system."

A vendor has not yet been selected, but Schultz said that it is a priority for Penn State to be able to use the new system “out of the box,” minimizing customizations wherever possible in order to control costs and upgrades, adopt best practices and ensure greater consistency. A great deal of participation will be required and broad input will be solicited from faculty on what could be included in a new system, she said. Schultz and Salvia expect a three-year implementation period. The presentation is available at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/jan2013/appe.pdf online.

The Senate also received informational reports on ScholarSphere, a repository which will enable research sharing and discovery, and PIVOT, an online resource for researchers; as well as annual reports on the reserved spaces program, the University faculty census, and the Senate officers’ fall 2012 campus visits.

The full agenda for the meeting, including reports, is available at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/jan2013/jan2013agn.html online. Meetings also are video archived via Mediasite, instructions for which are available at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/mediasite_guests.html online. 

The Faculty Senate will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, in 112 Kern Graduate Building, University Park.

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Last Updated February 01, 2013