Faculty Senate discusses NCAA sanctions at first meeting of 2012-13

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State’s Faculty Senate on Tuesday (Aug. 28) held its first meeting of the 2012-13 academic year. As part of the meeting, a forensic session to discuss the NCAA sanctions levied against Penn State was held and senators passed several pieces of legislation.

Presiding over his first meeting as Senate chair, Larry Backer, professor of international affairs and law, said, “We are living in extraordinary times -- times that will require from us not merely that we do our jobs exceedingly well, but to contribute to the remaking of this University into what Board of Trustees Chair Karen Peetz has described as 'a University with the best governance structures in the world.'

"We can’t make shared governance a reality, we can’t hope to be taken seriously as a critical component of shared governance, unless we contribute," he added. "That does not mean that we’ll always agree; indeed, we have a duty to be true to ourselves as the representatives of the Penn State faculty, to speak our truth even though it might not be what people want to hear. But it also means that our engagement must be constructive."

Backer's opening remarks may be read at http://lcbpsusenate.blogspot.com/2012/08/statement-of-senate-chair-made-at-aug.html ("Statement of Senate Chair Made at the Aug. 28, 2012 Meeting").

In his remarks Penn State President Rodney Erickson noted he was "pleased with the opportunities that are now available for the Senate to have much more concrete dialogue with the Board of Trustees through the various committees where representation is now available…where the Senate voice should be heard, and I’m very welcoming of that voice as we go forward."

The forensic session on the NCAA sanctions was held at the request of Senator Keith Nelson, professor of psychology. Nelson provided a statement to consider sending to the NCAA's Board of Directors and infractions committee critical of the process and rationale used to impose the sanctions, along with questions to facilitate discussion. The comments and questions are available at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/aug2012/forensic_statement_questions.pdf.

An additional statement, written and endorsed by a group of 30 former chairs of the Senate and critical of the sanctions as well as some of the conclusions of the investigative report by Louis Freeh, also was provided as part of the discussion (http://senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/aug2012/pastchairs_statement.pdf).

Nelson explained that the statement and questions were intended to be a starting point for the Senate to express in detail its perceptions about the sanctions, and would be essential to inform the University's efforts as it works with the NCAA to move forward.

Backer raised the issue of the authority of the Senate to send any communication to the NCAA that might demand action by them on behalf of the University. He will look into the issue further and it will be discussed at the next Senate meeting in October. He noted, however, that the Senate was free to publish and publicly distribute any statement on issues considered by the body.

In legislation, Senate members voted to revise Senate policies dealing with provisional students and advanced standing admission. Formerly, students who wished to be admitted to the University with advanced standing would be considered for provisional status on the basis of all graded coursework they had undertaken previously, at all colleges and universities, regardless of how long ago those courses may have been taken.

Policy changes allow advanced standing applicants to be considered for admission to degree status rather than provisional status provided that their recent (four years prior to admission) coursework meets advanced standing admissions requirements. Applicants who have not taken courses in the four years prior also may apply for advanced standing with forgiveness. A provision also was added for advanced standing applicants who are active members of the military. The amended policies are available at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/aug2012/appd.pdf.

The Senate approved two advisory/consultative reports at the meeting:

The Educational Equity and Campus Environment (EECE) and Student Life committees provided a report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) resources for Penn State students. Based on a fall 2011 survey of 22 Penn State campuses, the EECE made several recommendations for minimum standards of support for LGBTQ students, faculty and staff on each campus, including assigning identified liaisons, establishing central locations and websites for LGBTQ faculty, staff and students, dedicating space to LGBTQ student organizations, and conducting individual campus climate surveys. Further details are available at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/aug2012/appe.pdf.

The Committee on Research reported on the status of research initiatives and faculty perceptions on campuses other than University Park and Hershey. A unified theme expressed by many faculty members was the need to increase intercampus research connectivity. Committee recommendations included expanding, adding and connecting resources that aid in the search for faculty expertise across the University, such as the existing Penn State Profiles database (http://profiles.psu.edu) and the Eberly College of Science's database (pivot.cos.com); enhancing opportunities for researchers to gather through University-wide meetings and festivals; increasing the availability of resources such as help with navigating the grant proposal process and access to shared research equipment and expertise; and identifying opportunities for recognizing research excellence at campuses other than University Park and Hershey. Details are available at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/aug2012/appf.pdf.

In addition, the Senate received several informational reports:

David Lieb, associate vice president of development, reported on the progress of the University's capital campaign, For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students, including information on how faculty can become engaged in the fundraising process. The presentation is available at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/aug2012/appk.pdf.

Linda Caldwell, Division 1 NCAA faculty athletics representative, presented an update on academic eligibility and athletic scholarships in the 2011-12 annual report from the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics (http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/aug2012/appi.pdf).

The Senate also received 2011-12 annual reports from the Joint Committee on Insurance and Benefits and the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, as well as an annual report on High School Students Enrolled Nondegree in Credit Courses from the Committee on Admissions, Records, Scheduling and Student Aid.

The full report is available at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2012-2013/aug2012/fullagenda.pdf.

The next meeting of the Faculty Senate will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 16 in 112 Kern Graduate Building.


Last Updated August 30, 2012