Faculty Senate holds first meeting of 2011-12

August 31, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's University Faculty Senate held its first meeting of the 2011-12 academic year on Tuesday (Aug. 30). Senators received a special report on the University budget and strategic planning, voted to send a curricular affairs policy back to committee and received numerous informational reports.

Rodney Erickson, executive vice president and provost, updated the Senate on the University's 2011-12 operating budget and discussed the budgetary challenges facing the University. For details on the University's budget for the current fiscal year, visit http://live.psu.edu/story/54149.

Erickson also reported on the progress of the Academic Program and Administrative Services Review Core Council, which is tasked with identifying millions of dollars in savings while finding new efficient and effective ways to maintain a quality education. The Core Council is part of the implementation process for Penn State's five-year strategic plan.

Though efficiencies have been recommended in academic areas through difficult decisions such as merging or eliminating some programs or departments, Erickson said the majority of identified savings are in administration and operations. To date, the Core Council has identified $10 million in permanent cost-savings for the University. For a recent update on the Core Council's work, visit http://live.psu.edu/story/54733.

For complete information on the University’s overall strategic plan, see http://strategicplan.psu.edu.

Senators referred back to committee legislation to create a new policy on courses with a travel component. The policy was developed to define what had previously been known as "embedded courses," identify semester constraints within which such a course should be delivered, propose justifications and objectives for such courses and develop guidelines for these courses.

Senators did not vote on the legislation and asked the committee to address issues related to implementation and providing for exceptions.

"Embedded courses" were renamed as "courses with a travel component," and defined as those which include course-related activities requiring an absence from campus of at least one night. Such activities must be conducted under the direction of the course instructor, the legislative report said.

The report recommended that all courses with a travel component must occur within the semester calendar as determined by the University Registrar. The semester limitation was included to adhere to federal guidelines for student aid eligibility. Courses overlapping semesters have the potential to impact the student aid eligibility of an entire program. Additionally, limiting such courses to one semester ensures a student is enrolled in the course at the time of the travel, addressing University risk management concerns.

Senators also received numerous informational reports.

• A report on employee health care benefits was issued by the Committee on Faculty Benefits. Changes made earlier this year to the University's health plan coverage included a deductible and co-insurance payments for some services, moving the cost of insurance closer to those who use it. The committee found the change reasonable in comparison with other Big Ten university plans.

The Office of Human Resources is working with Highmark on strategic initiatives to continue to redefine the University's healthcare plan. One initiative is a new employee contribution strategy that would be salary-based and include more coverage tiers. The committee said savings for many employees would be significant. Employees at or below a certain base salary threshold would contribute a flat percentage. Employees earning over that threshold would also pay a flat percentage of salary, but contributions would capped at a certain salary level.

As health care utilization declines, both nationally and at the University, moving to a salary-based approach is appropriate to create savings for the University and employees, the report stated.

Individual and family health self-management also will be strongly encouraged to contribute to maintaining employee costs. The University also is exploring offering individuals and families who engage in health management activities monetary rewards that can be used to fund individual health care expenses.

For the full report, visit http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2011-2012/aug2011/apph.pdf.

• The Joint Committee on Insurance and Benefits presented its annual report for 2010-11. The report summarized issues from the past year, including changes to long-term disability insurance, life insurance, health insurance and health benefits for retirees, as well as changes to the State Employees Retirement System policy on voluntary phased retirement. For the report, go to http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2011-2012/aug2011/appl.pdf.

• The Committees on Faculty Benefits and University Planning, offered an update on Health Matters, the University's wellness initiative. The committees reported on nutrition labeling at campus eateries and approaches used to share nutritional information for food items. The reported stated that currently nutritional information is posted at or included in notebooks near eateries. In the future, flat-screen monitors may be used to display information and an application for mobile devices also may be used.

The committee also reviewed walking and bike paths available and planned at campuses. For the committee's update, see http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2011-2012/aug2011/appg.pdf.

• Sharon Shriver, assistant director for educational programs in the Office for Research Protections, provided a report on Penn State's Scholarship and Research Integrity (SARI) program. The first program of its scope, SARI educates all graduate student in all disciplines and at all locations about the responsible conduct of research. Introduced in 2009, the program now is launching its next phase, SARI@PSU, which will apply to all new faculty, postdoctoral fellows and undergraduate researchers.

To view Shriver's presentation, visit http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2011-2012/aug2011/appf.pdf.

• The Senate received annual reports on Penn State athletics, including statistical data on numbers of athletes, student-athlete enrollment data, academic performance, eligibility information and information on Graduation Success Rate (GSR)and Academic Progress Rate (APR). University Park Faculty Athletic Representative Linda Caldwell noted that the average multi-year APR for all 29 Penn State NCAA Division I teams in 2010 was 12 points above the national average, and that five teams were recognized for perfect APR scores. Additionally, Penn State's four-year GSR is 90 percent, compared to a national average of 79 percent.

Tramble Turner, Faculty Athletics Representative for Penn State Abington, reported on campus athletic programs and activities. Five campuses participate in NCAA Division III athletics and 12 compete in the Penn State University Athletic Conference.

For the full reports by Caldwell and Turner, visit http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2011-2012/aug2011/appj.pdf.

Russell Mushinsky, director of the Morgan Academic Support Center for Student-Athletes, provided an informational report on the center's operations. The center aims to ensure a well-rounded educational experience and provide academic support services to student-athletes. It also communicates eligibility information, assists student-athletes in balancing athletic and academic goals while progressing towards a timely graduation, promotes academic integrity and provides equal opportunities to all student-athletes.

The center provides academic counseling and advising, tutoring and mentoring, as well as freshman programming, life skills programs and sports psychology services. Mushinsky said some challenges include working with student-athletes to make up class time and coursework missed due to competition, compiling academic progress reports, scheduling difficulties for afternoon classes and evening exams, addressing special academic needs of some students, and increasing responsibility and work for staff as national academic requirements change.

For Mushinsky’s full report, visit: http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2011-2012/aug2011/appk.pdf.

• The Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities gave its annual report for 2010-11. Eight petitions by faculty members were brought to the committee, one fewer than the previous year. One was withdrawn shortly after it was submitted and two had been carried over from the previous year. For the report, see http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2011-2012/aug2011/appi.pdf.

During his opening remarks, Senate Chair Daniel Hagen said that Maria Truglio resigned this summer as Senate secretary for personal reasons. Pamela Hufnagel, assistant professor of education at Penn State DuBois, was elected secretary in a special election earlier in August.

The next Faculty Senate meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, in Room 112 Kern Graduate Building at University Park.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 01, 2011