Faculty Senate receives reports on First-Year Engagement, new benefit

University Park, Pa. — Informational reports on the implementation of First-Year Engagement Plans and academic integrity efforts, as well as a special report on a new faculty and staff benefit, were among the items presented to Penn State's University Faculty Senate Tuesday (Oct. 20).

The Senate passed legislation in April 2008 mandating First-Year Engagement programs, including first-year seminars at University Park colleges and either seminars or a combination of small courses and supplementary activities at other campuses. A joint Senate/administrative review committee tracked the development of the plans and reported 100 percent compliance across the University.

While most University Park colleges are offering a one-credit first-year seminar, some are offering two or three-credit courses. The First-Year Testing, Consulting and Advising Program (FTCAP) plays an important role in all University Park college plans, and each will offer a variety of other activities related to first-year engagement.
Several Commonwealth campuses have adopted the first-year seminar, while others are offering small courses taught by full-time faculty. Each, like University Park colleges, plans a number of other activities while also utilizing FTCAP.

For summaries of each college and campus plan, read the informational report here.

Karen Feldbaum, associate director of judicial affairs, and Yvonne M. Gaudelius, assistant vice president and associate dean for undergraduate education, presented a report on academic integrity by the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education. The report noted 452 reported violations of academic integrity policies, most of which involved copying or plagiarism, in 2008-09. Feldbaum noted that it is likely that not all cases are reported. The report found that the number of violations rises with class standing.

Additionally, the report addressed impacting factors and the academic integrity policy and process at Penn State. For more details, view the presentation here.

Robin Oswald, employee benefits manager in the Office of Human Resources, offered a special report on the new long-term care insurance benefit for employees through John Hancock. Enrollment for employees to select the benefit is going on now through Nov. 25. Faculty, staff and their extended families are eligible to receive the group rate. And during the current enrollment period, employees can receive coverage without proof of good health. Spouses and extended family members, as well as retirees and their extended family can receive the benefit with proof of good health.

Oswald encouraged faculty and staff to decide what options are best for them by attending presentations from John Hancock representatives at all campus locations, and visiting http://www.ohr.psu.edu/Benefits/benefits.htm for details, access to the John Hancock site for the Penn State plan and a toll-free number to contact a representative. For more on the benefit, visit http://live.psu.edu/story/41592.

Among other actions and reports at the meeting:

• The Senate received a report on Faculty Senate scholarships awarded to undergraduates. In 2008-09, 248 students received a total of $243,000 from the 21 endowments and one annually funded source that generate support for the Faculty Senate's undergraduate grants. For more information, view the report here.

• The Senate Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities issued its annual report for 2008-09. Twelve cases were taken up by the committee last year, with 11 citing procedural fairness and another alleging a violation of academic freedom. The committee accepted seven cases and found insufficient evidence to support five complaints of procedural fairness in negative sixth-year promotion and tenure decisions. In another, the committee did find evidence and recommended the case be reviewed again. In the case concerning allegations related to academic freedom, the committee found the petitioner's guarantee of academic freedom was violated.

• The Senate passed a revision to its bylaws to allow alternates for student senators in the event the student senator is unable to attend a Faculty Senate meeting. The alternate senator's name must be provided to the Senate office prior to the first full meeting of the Senate year.

• An addition to the policy on deferred grades was passed to make clear that students with a deferred grade on their transcripts are not eligible for graduation.

The next Faculty Senate meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8 in 112 Kern Graduate Building on the University Park campus.

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Last Updated October 22, 2009