University Faculty Senate meets for first session of 2013-14

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – At its first meeting of the 2013-14 academic year, Penn State’s Faculty Senate held a question-and-answer session on the “Take Care of Your Health" initiative,” heard various reports and passed several pieces of legislation.

Faculty Senate Chair Brent Yarnal, the E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller professor of geography, in his opening remarks spoke about the “rapid changes” that the University has been undergoing and the senate’s role in helping to navigate these changes.

He noted several initiatives that the senate will be undertaking over the next academic year, including a task force charged with envisioning and planning possible changes to general education at Penn State, and the formation of a joint task force with the University administration on the “Take Care of Your Health" program.

“Significant changes are inevitable given the context of today’s Penn State,” said Yarnal. “The senate is poised to work with our partners in the administration to embrace these opportunities to make this the kind of Penn State we want it to be.”

President Rodney Erickson addressed the senate with brief updates on enrollment, salary increases, the “For the Future” fund-raising campaign and Penn State’s recent U.S. News rankings.

In an extended session, David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business/treasurer, and Susan McGarry Basso, vice president for human resources, along with representatives from Highmark and WebMD, made a brief presentation and opened it up for questions regarding the “Take Care of Your Health" initiative.

Erica Smithwick, associate professor of geography, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, addressed the senate on the issues surrounding child care program management at Penn State. She reported that the University administration has extended all Penn State child-care employee contracts through June of 2014. A child care task force also is being formed to recommend child-care solutions to all campuses and reconsider outside management options. In addition, the senate passed a motion to consider a recommitment to on-campus childcare as a core mission of the University, which will be placed on the Oct. 22 meeting agenda.

Regis Becker, director of University ethics and compliance, gave a presentation on “Understanding Penn State’s Culture and Values: Overview of a University-wide Survey.”

Becker explained that the University has been working with the Ethics Resource Center an independent nonprofit research organization based in Arlington, VA, to conduct a survey of the Penn State community, designed to gather input on the University’s shared values in order to understand more about Penn State’s ethical culture. The confidential survey will be disseminated Oct. 1 to all current students, faculty and staff at all campus locations. From there, Becker said, he and others will collaboratively work with faculty and the broader community to articulate the shared values that have been identified through the survey process. The information will be presented in a statement of University principles and values.

In legislation, the senate passed several revisions to standing rules and policies.

-- Senators voted to revise standing rules to no longer require a tentative agenda for the next meeting to be published in the Senate Record one week following the preceding meeting.

-- Senators approved changes to Policy 42-23, Types of Instruction, to update the existing policy to reflect current practices including modern delivery methods (electronic, for example).

-- Revisions to Policy 42-50, Credit by Examination, were approved to clarify the situations whereby credit by examination would be acceptable as a method of obtaining course credit and by what students (degree- and certificate-seeking students only).

-- The senate approved changes to Policies 43-00, Syllabus, and 47-20, Basis for Grades, relating to time limits for distribution of syllabi by faculty and additions of mandated items to be included in syllabi, in order to assist students with course scheduling and understanding of requirements.

-- Lastly, senators voted to revise Policy 44-20, Final Examinations, to include an official mandate of study days, depending on semester length, for final exams.

The 2012-13 annual report from the Joint Committee on Insurance and Benefits was posted on the Faculty Senate website for review before the meeting and placed on the agenda for discussion on the senate floor. As part of a new approach to reviewing mandated informational reports, the annual reports from the Senate Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities and the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics Annual Report of Academic Eligibility and Athletic Scholarships were published as part of the full meeting agenda but were not discussed on the floor. Senators may send questions about these reports to senate@psu.edu, which then will be forwarded to the respective committee chairs.

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

The University Faculty Senate will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, in 112 Kern Graduate Building, University Park.

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Last Updated September 11, 2013