Faculty Senate recaps 2011-12 activity for Board of Trustees

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Daniel R. Hagen, immediate past-chair of the University Faculty Senate, reported to the Board of Trustees Friday (May 4) on the activities of the Senate for the 2011-12 academic year.

Hagen noted that the year was "likely to be remembered as one of the most unusual and stressful Senate years ever," because of the issues surrounding the child sexual abuse allegations surrounding Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant coach.

In response to the Sandusky scandal, the Senate held several special meetings this past year, he reported. In addition, the administration and the Senate officers agreed to increase the frequency of meetings of the Faculty Advisory Committee to the University president.

The Senate established a number of committees, working groups and task forces to look at topics such as student internship experiences; the purpose of general education from a macro view; the academic integrity policy and the concept of developing a University-wide honor code; and the structure, function and purpose of the Board of Trustees as its members relate to interactions with the various constituency groups of the University.

The External Matters Subcommittee of Senate Council met with the Office of Public Information to identify ways for the Senate to collaborate on emphasizing academic and research accomplishments of faculty, students and staff. A new standing committee, Global Programs, reported on the extensive involvement of Penn State faculty and students in worldwide initiatives.

The Senate considered legislation on courses with a travel component, and is holding follow-up discussions with the Office of the Registrar, Undergraduate Education and the Graduate School to implement changes in course offerings that involve travel and courses that extend beyond the end of a semester.

In addition, the Senate last year implemented several plans to increase efficiency and decrease costs. New and enhanced videoconference equipment in the Senate suite improved videoconferencing capability for meetings and decreased both the direct costs of travel and travel time, while increasing the flexibility of scheduling meetings. Meetings of Senate Council and, when feasible, meetings of various committees and task forces that involve faculty from other campuses are held via videoconference and/or audioconference.

Over the past year, the Senate also reviewed several reorganization proposals that were developed in response to Core Council recommendations, involving the colleges of Agricultural Sciences, Arts and Architecture, and the Liberal Arts, and Penn State Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies. Officially known as the Academic Program and Administrative Services Review Core Council, the process was overseen by a 13-member group charged with analyzing and examining programs and operations to identify efficiencies and determine how to maintain the University's excellence in an era of declining state revenue and mounting fiscal challenges.

During the year, Senate officers visited several colleges, units and campuses to discuss programs, culture and issues of concern. Officers visited the campuses of Penn State Altoona, Fayette, Hazleton, the College of Medicine in Hershey, Schuylkill, Wilkes-Barre, Worthington Scranton and Penn College, as well as five University Park colleges and units – the School of Law, the Graduate School and the colleges of Education, Earth and Mineral Sciences and Engineering.

The University Faculty Senate is the representative body of Penn State's faculty with legislative authority on all matters pertaining to the educational interests of the University and all educational matters that concern the faculties of more than one college. In addition, the Senate is recognized by the University as an advisory and consultative body to the president on all matters that may affect the attainment of the University's educational objectives.

The Faculty Senate will hold its first meeting of the 2012-13 academic year on Aug. 28. Larry C. Backer, professor of law, will serve as chair for the coming year.

Last Updated May 11, 2012