University Park, Pa. — Dawn Blasko, immediate past chair of the University Faculty Senate, told Penn State's Board of Trustees Friday (May 16) about initiatives undertaken by the Senate in the past year, including action to change the First Year Seminar general education requirement, addressing student binge drinking and establishing a Faculty Senate Trustee Scholarship.
Blasko noted that after years of discussion, the Senate passed recommendations in April to eliminate the University-wide First Year Seminar requirement. Instead, colleges at University Park will maintain at least one credit of first-year seminar and other campuses will have the option to do so. All academic units will now submit engagement plans describing how they are meeting the needs of first-year students.
For more on the First Year Seminar changes visit http://live.psu.edu/story/30564.
The Senate also passed in April a resolution condemning high-risk drinking and encouraging access to education and treatment at all Penn State locations.
"The Student Life committee (of the Senate) has been very concerned about the issue of high-risk drinking on our campuses and in March presented a report examining the rates of problem drinking and its disciplinary consequences," Blasko said. "Recent data at Penn State as at other colleges and universities shows that a large number of students binge drink, often multiple nights a week and have experienced problems studying and going to class, hangovers, relationship problems, and even blackouts."
In an effort to help students meet the rising cost of college education, the Senate endowed the Faculty Senate Trustee Scholarship, which currently has pledges of $54,000. Blasko said the endowment is expected to grow over time, with a long-term goal of offering a scholarship to a student at every University location.
The Senate Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics gave a report in the fall focusing not only on Division I sports at University Park, but also Division III and intercampus sports at Commonwealth campuses. In the coming year, the committee will turn its attention to club sports.
The Senate received a report this year on the growth on the World Campus, and Blasko noted that as enrollments increase, the Senate has commissioned task forces to work with important issues that result, including ensuring that faculty teaching online are integrated into their academic colleges, making sure students are prepared to handle the challenges when there is no regular class time and that students are not cheating. John Nichols, past Senate chair, will chair a task force to examine issues of instructional intellectual property, Blasko said.
Finally, Blasko noted that the Committee on Outreach this year revisited the national UNISCOPE report, which discussed the notion of "engaged scholarship," reflecting a mutually beneficial exchange between university and community.
The report makes many recommendations, including fostering a university culture that supports engaged scholarship by broadening the nature of scholarly activities. One of the greatest challenges to the report's implementation, the committee found, is that engaged scholarship is not taught in graduate education. It often plays only a minor role in faculty evaluations with tenure-track junior faculty sometimes actively discouraged from community engagement by their peers.
"Many faculty do not know how to document and disseminate outreach or engaged scholarship," Blasko said. "The report makes many recommendations, including most importantly, fostering a university culture that shows support for engaged scholarship in part by redefining and broadening the nature of scholarly activities."