Faculty Senate considers president search questions at last meeting of 2012-13

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In its final meeting of the academic year, the University Faculty Senate on Tuesday (April 23) held a forensic session in which members had the opportunity to offer input on the search for the next Penn State president. The Senate also announced election results for 2013-14, passed several pieces of legislation and received numerous informational reports.

Larry Catá Backer, W. Richard and Mary Eshelman Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law and International Affairs, completed his term as Senate chair. "This was something of an unusual year," he said. "My top priority was governance, and especially the governance role of the Senate in a changing environment. I was particularly concerned that the Senate was becoming a dinosaur, increasingly irrelevant as the functional realities of administration and governance changed around us."

He noted the successes and failures during his year as chair and offered a view of future challenges.

"One of the things I’ve appreciated the most this year is the way in which the Senate, the faculty, the administration and the Board of Trustees began coming together more effectively, more seamlessly," he said. "It was an extraordinary year in which we increasingly began to work together, to trust each other more, and to understand and realize that we all serve the University with the same objectives."

Visit Chair Backer's blog for his full remarks.

Chair Backer invited Stephanie N. Deviney, vice chair of the University's Board of Trustees, to address the Senate. She noted in her remarks the importance of seizing unexpected opportunities and improving communication "not just top-down but collaboratively, among all of us," and hoped that this would be the first of many visits between board members and senators.

Dan Hagen, vice chair of the University Presidential Search and Screen Committee and immediate past chair of the Senate, led a forensic session to solicit members' input on what qualities the presidential search committees ought to be seeking in potential candidates to consider for Penn State's 18th president.

These recommendations will be shared with the consulting firm of Isaacson, Miller to assist in the presidential search process.

Senators recommended that the new president be committed to Penn State as a multi-campus institution and be a leader in valuing diversity. They also recommended that he or she have academic and administrative understanding and expertise, be committed to personal and institutional integrity, accountability and transparency, and increase engagement with students through social media. Senators put forward several measurements for success, including improvements in diversity, shared governance, interdisciplinary collaboration, state funding levels and salary inequities among University disciplines and ranks.

Senators also voted on several pieces of legislation. At the Senate’s March 12 meeting, the Self-Study Committee proposed eight recommendations to improve the structure and organization of the Faculty Senate, and passed five amendments to the standing orders pertaining to meetings, communication and dissemination of information.

The Senators voted to pass the remaining three recommendations, which amended the bylaws pertaining to informational reports, the secretary's duties, and attendance expectations of senators and standing committee members.

Senators also voted to revise several Senate 34-00 policies related to course scheduling to streamline language and improve organization.

Senate Council submitted a report on officers’ visits to University Park units in Spring 2013.

Senators also heard several informational reports:

--Vice Provost for Global Programs Michael Adewumi gave an update on the University’s progress in realizing Penn State’s potential as a global university, one of the main goals of its strategic plan.

--The Task Force on Undergraduate Research presented an extensive report on the scope of undergraduate research at Penn State.

--The Committee on Faculty Benefits provided a long-term care insurance update about expected changes in the University’s program administered by John Hancock.

--The Committee on Libraries, Information Systems, and Technology presented a report on “Open Access” research literature availability, dissemination and funding, and a report on the current state of computer security at Penn State.

--The Committee on University Planning reported on the number of administrative versus faculty positions at the University’s colleges and campuses.

--The Senate also received annual reports on high school students who are enrolled nondegree in credit courses, and on grade distribution data for baccalaureate students.

Chair Backer reported the Senate election results. Brent Yarnal, E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Professor of Geography, will serve as Senate chair for 2013-14. Jeffrey A. Laman, professor of civil engineering, was elected secretary, and Jonna M. Kulikowich, professor of educational psychology, was named chair-elect. In addition, Thomas O. Beebee, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Comparative Literature and German, was elected to the Faculty Advisory Committee to the President.

The election results are available online. Senate Council members elected but not listed in this document include William Carlsen, College of Education, and Roger Egolf, University College.

The full agenda for the meeting is available on the Senate's website. Meetings also are video archived online via Mediasite.

The University Faculty Senate will hold its first meeting of the 2013-14 academic year at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, in 112 Kern Graduate Building, University Park.

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Last Updated April 25, 2013