Presidential search, general education among reports at Faculty Senate meeting

October 24, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In its second meeting of the fall 2013 semester, Penn State’s University Faculty Senate on Tuesday (Oct. 22) received an update on the presidential search, voted on a resolution concerning child care at Penn State, and heard several informational reports.

Faculty Senate Chair Brent Yarnal, the E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller professor of geography, in his opening remarks gave an update on the Senate’s Sept. 24 resolution regarding the Take Care of Your Health Initiative, and Penn State President Rodney Erickson’s response. Yarnal reported that a joint task force, chaired by a faculty member and composed of faculty, staff and administrators knowledgeable about health care matters, will be formed and launched in the next two to three weeks to consider the issues surrounding the future of health care benefits. The task force will be charged to prepare a report for presentation at the April 2014 Senate meeting. The report will be advisory and consultative and its recommendations considered in the context of the calendar 2015 benefits year.

Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas P. Jones addressed the Senate with brief updates on the University’s enrollment, bond ratings with agencies Moody’s and Standard and Poor, five-year capital investment plan, and strategic planning process. He also noted the recent appointment, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees at its next meeting, of Amr Salah Elnashai as Penn State’s next dean of the College of Engineering, who will start in his new position Jan. 13, 2014.

Board of Trustees Chairman Keith E. Masser gave senators a brief update on governance reforms, and then an overview of the presidential search process thus far. "The search has been moving on a very positive trajectory, and has attracted a large, qualified pool of candidates," he said. "Currently, the Presidential Selection Council is continuing its work, and as we have said before, we’re hoping to name the next great president of Penn State by the Nov. 21-22 Board meeting – although that date is certainly not set in stone."

Masser emphasized the University’s need to respect confidentiality for the candidates and the search committees, explaining that there would be no public presentation or posting of potential candidates nor how many there were.

“This approach is allowed by law in Pennsylvania and is used by most universities if their local states permit,” said Masser. “It has been shown over and over that a confidential search process for an executive position at this level attracts the most qualified and desirable candidates. It’s a protective measure for the candidates themselves who request confidentiality to protect and preserve their current careers. We realize it’s difficult to strike a balance between the candidates’ need for confidentiality and the community’s need for openness, but we sincerely hope that our representative and participatory process and our efforts to engage the community have provided a degree of transparency. I assure you that the input we’ve received has contributed immeasurably to the process.”

In legislative matters, the Senate voted on and passed a motion for consideration from Erica Smithwick, associate professor of geography, concerning child care at Penn State. The motion called for a recommitment of on-campus child care as a core mission of the University, a request by the Senate that equitable benefits be provided to all faculty and staff of child care centers on campus to prevent high staff turnover, and a commitment from the Senate to work with the president and the administration on the child care task force to maintain financially responsible and high-quality child care programming on campus.

Senators also heard three informational reports.

-- Ford Stryker, Penn State’s associate vice president for physical plant, presented a report from the Senate Committee on University Planning on the University’s Five-Year Capital Plan, 2014-2018. The plan’s emphasis is on capital renewal of Penn State’s existing structures across the Commonwealth, explained Stryker, and is designed to strike several balances -- between whole building renewal and building system upgrades; between University Park and Commonwealth Campuses; and among investments in new and renewed facilities as well as infrastructure, enterprise data systems and major maintenance. Stryker said the plan’s total cost of $2.7 billion is funded by various sources, including capital plan reserves, borrowing, unit reserves, state capital funding and major maintenance funds.

-- General Education Planning and Oversight Task Force co-chairs Mary Beth Williams, professor of chemistry and associate dean for undergraduate education in the Eberly College of Science, and Robert Shannon, associate professor of agricultural engineering, presented an informational report on general education at the University and answered questions about the task force’s initial progress. The task force was charged in May to examine the process by which the general education curriculum can be revised for Penn State across all campuses and modalities.

Williams said that the task force’s implementation deadline has been extended to 2016, providing the opportunity for the group to engage in a “robust dialogue” with all of the units across the University on this topic. A website has been launched to facilitate these efforts and encourage input from the University community.

--An informational report on the engaged scholarship initiative was given by Careen Yarnal, associate professor of recreation, parks and tourism management and representative from the Council on Engaged Scholarship; Barry Bram, senior associate director of union and student activities; and Janet Connor, director of strategy, planning and faculty/student engagement.

Yarnal said the initiative is a University-wide effort to provide at least one out-of-classroom academic experience -- such as opportunities for undergraduate research, internships and study abroad -- for all undergraduate students at Penn State. Among current initiatives are the formation of a University-wide Council on Engaged Scholarship, a 2014 symposium and the 15th annual conference of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, which Penn State will host in 2015.

Annual reports appearing in the agenda only and posted on the Senate website include the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education’s Summary of Petitions by College, Campus and Unit, 2012-2013.

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, Dec. 10, in 112 Kern Graduate Building, University Park.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 10, 2015