University Faculty Senate meets for first session of 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- At its first plenary meeting of 2014, Penn State's University Faculty Senate received an update on engaged scholarship and participated in a session about part-time employee status at Penn State as it relates to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In addition, Penn State President Rodney Erickson introduced new Nittany Lions Head Football Coach James Franklin, who discussed his priorities and recruitment efforts, and stressed the importance of players receiving a well-rounded education.

During his remarks Erickson said that overall applications to Penn State were up by more than 14 percent from last year at this time. Baccalaureate applications are up 17 percent, with University Park showing and increase of 19 percent and the campuses averaging a 9 percent increase. Pennsylvania resident applications have risen 11 percent, out-of-state applications 22 percent and international applications are up 21 percent.

A forensic session was held to discuss issues raised as the University attempts to comply with the ACA, specifically defining “part-time” and “full-time” faculty and their eligibility for benefits.

Larry Backer, the W. Richard and Mary Eshelman Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law and International Affairs, noted that among the major challenges for Penn State and other institutions of higher education is the difficulty of determining part-time status, since many faculty who are considered part-time are not tracking their hours efficiently, nor does the University have a tracking system in place. The policy changes to clarify definitions and requirements currently being considered by the University will have a major impact on who is or is not eligible for benefits. Senators were encouraged to raise questions about the policy changes with University administrators, before changes are finalized.

Senators voted on and passed three motions presented at the December 2013 meeting:

-- Sen. Matthew Woessner, associate professor of political science and public policy at Penn State Harrisburg, presented a motion on concerns that have been raised about the process used to appoint the Healthcare Task Force, specifically about the University administration’s and Senate leadership’s commitment to transparency and respect for shared governance. Before the vote Woessner said the intent was not to question the president’s or the senate leadership’s integrity, but to make clear the senate was entitled to be consulted.

-- Sen. James M. Ruiz, associate professor of criminal justice at Penn State Harrisburg, presented a motion that the results of senate officer elections should be posted on the senate website and include the names of the candidates and the number of votes cast for each.

-- Sen. Maria R. Truglio, associate professor of Italian, presented a motion that the senate express to the Healthcare Task Force and the University administration that "any coerced participation by any Penn State employee in any questionnaire or survey that calls for the disclosure of private medical information or lifestyle information" is unacceptable.

In legislative business, the senate approved revisions to the bylaws to include expansion of the delegation of authority to approve Penn State College of Medicine courses and their content taken by medical students.

Faculty Senate Chair Brent Yarnal, the E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Professor of Geography, presented nine informational reports. The reports, said Yarnal, present nine perspectives on Penn State’s engaged scholarship initiative from the University Faculty Senate. The chairs and vice chairs of the nine standing committees will now work together to integrate the nine reports into a single, shorter senate advisory and consultative report, which will be presented at the senate’s April 2014 plenary meeting.

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

The senate office piloted a new voting system during the meeting to allow senators who are participating via Mediasite to vote by using Instructions for using this voting system are posted at

The University Faculty Senate will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, 2014, in 112 Kern Graduate Building, University Park.

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Last Updated January 30, 2014