President Barron addresses Faculty Senate at first meeting of 2014-15

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – At the University Faculty Senate's first meeting of the 2014-15 academic year, on Sept. 9 -- and his first opportunity to address the Senate as Penn State's president -- Eric Barron shared his ideas for a new approach to state funding requests and affirmed his commitment to fostering civility and open discourse at the University.

President Barron outlined plans for a "very different approach" to requesting state funding for the University — a move he described as a more targeted approach.

"My thought is, let's put something specific on the table," he said. "My view is to put our role in promoting economic development and student career success as the budget request. Then, we're doing something that we know the members of the state Legislature and the governor are all keenly interested in. We have the capability to have this impact across the Commonwealth. We're always talking about economic impact -- I'd like to talk about us as economic drivers."

Barron spoke to the Senate about the recent lifting of the NCAA sanctions, saying that the lifting of the ban "both suggests that this institution has taken this issue very seriously, but also that the focal point is on our students and our student-athletes. Because specifically, what has occurred is that we have seniors who stayed, and they could have left. They knew there weren't as many scholarship opportunities coming up behind them, and so they knew they were going to struggle, but they were committed to a Penn State education. This is the way you want it to be.

"From my viewpoint, this is the best of all possible outcomes that could have occurred," he added. "We should be very proud as an institution that we've taken this so seriously and that our focus is on students."

Barron also shared the recently released U.S. News and World Report "Best Colleges" rankings, and introduced senators to Penn State's new athletic director, Sandy Barbour, who began her tenure on Aug. 18.

The president closed his remarks by sharing his thoughts on civility and open discourse at the University, inviting senators to ask questions of him on any topic.

"When I'm talking about civility, I'm talking about it because I'm desperate for people to have discourse," he said. "Great universities ought to be able to talk about anything. That's important to me. I'm going to stand up for free speech every single time that I can possibly stand up for it, but at the same time, point out there's no solution if we don't get to talk about it. There's just none."

Senate Chair Jonna M. Kulikowich, professor of education, announced the formation of a Special Committee on Shared Governance and Communication, to be chaired by Senator Dennis Gouran, professor of labor studies and employment relations, and communication arts and sciences.

"At a time in Penn State history when there is significant fluidity and transition, I see a special role for the University Faculty Senate as we work toward goals of shared governance and seek to improve ways to communicate within our University," said Kulikowich.

The Senate passed a resolution honoring the late Vice Provost for Educational Equity W. Terrell Jones, expressing appreciation for his many contributions to the University as a champion of diversity initiatives for students, faculty and staff at Penn State.

Senators approved a response to Pennsylvania State Senate Bill 1240, "Reorganizing the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania State University," which supports Board appointment of Academic Trustees and a Student Trustee, and to keep the president of the University as an ex-officio member of the Board.

Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer Regis Becker, and Vice President and General Counsel Stephen Dunham presented a forensic report on proposed policies AD88 (Code of Responsible Conduct) and AD86 (Acceptance of Gifts and Entertainment), inviting senators' input and discussion on the wording and implementation of the new policies. Becker explained that the new policies represent an effort to bring Penn State policy in line with best practices, provide guidance and structure to these issues, and enforce the University’s commitment to ethics and compliance.

Ethics Specialist Timothy Balliett in the Office of Ethics and Compliance, and Schreyer Honors College Dean Christian Brady led a forensic session on the proposed Penn State Values and solicited recommendations for their implementation. The Penn State Values were developed using direct feedback from the community, received as part of the Penn State Values and Culture Survey conducted last October. The full results of the survey, along with a summary of major findings and other materials, will be released to the entire Penn State community on Friday, Sept. 19.

In other business, a motion to revise policies regarding students' academic progress, and a Standing Rule regarding the reporting of Senate election results, were passed by the Senate. A proposal to establish an extra-senatorial Committee on Athletics Searches was returned to committee, and a resolution on faculty contracts was forwarded to a Senate committee for further study.

The full agenda for the meeting is available on the Senate’s website. Meetings also are video archived via Mediasite. Meeting minutes will be posted approximately three weeks following each meeting at http://www.senate.psu.edu/agendas-records.html.

The University Faculty Senate will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21, in 112 Kern Graduate Building, University Park.

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Last Updated September 11, 2014