University Faculty Senate gathers for final meeting of 2013

December 12, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In its final meeting of 2013, Penn State’s Faculty Senate on Tuesday (Dec. 10), discussed reports on Project LionPATH and the future of MOOCs (massive open online courses) at the University.

Faculty Senate Chair Brent Yarnal, the E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller professor of geography, in his opening remarks outlined the challenges facing the Senate.

"Among the many matters we're tackling, we've started the arduous process of revising general education," said Yarnal. "Nine of our standing committees are examining engaged scholarship. We're working closely with the LionPATH team to create a smooth transition from ISIS. We're piloting the Program Submission and Consultation System. We're re-examining workload policies. We're looking at the welfare and services provided to international students. We're studying credit for prior learning. We're considering resources for faculty who teach online. I'm asking all of you in the Senate to put the turmoil of the past semester behind you, to roll up your sleeves, and to put your energies into these responsibilities."

Yarnal welcomed Daniel R. Hagen, professor of animal science, as the Senate's new executive director, starting Jan. 1, 2014. A faculty member in the College of Agricultural Sciences for 35 years, Hagen previously completed three terms on the University Faculty Senate, serving as chair in 2011-12 and immediate past-chair in 2012-13.

Hagen will replace Susan C. Youtz, executive director of the Senate since 2001, who will  retire from the University at the end of December after more than 30 years at Penn State. The Senate and University President Rodney Erickson recognized Youtz at the meeting with a standing ovation and a resolution granting her emerita status.

President Erickson noted in his remarks that applications University-wide were up from this same time last year. To date, undergraduate applications total about 55,000, about 8,500 more than last year. Baccalaureate applications are up 20 percent, or 7,500 more. Out-of-state applications rose 30 percent at University Park and 12 percent at the campuses. International applications went up 33 percent at University Park and 34 percent at the campuses. African American and Latino applications also rose 21 percent from last year.

Keith Crocker, chair of the Healthcare Task Force and the William Elliott Chaired Professor of Insurance and Risk Management, gave an update on the process and progress of the task force to date. Five subcommittees have been formed to address benchmarking, general trends, academic studies, communications, and health spending use. Crocker noted that the subcommittees have initially been formed with task force members but those members expect to reach out soon to faculty with expertise in the various areas.

"Our basic goal of the health care task force and our guiding mission is to produce a dispassionate and comprehensive examination of the various paths forward for the University," said Crocker, "with analyses not only on the benefits to the University of various possibilities, but also explicitly examining the costs to the employees of the various alternatives."

Crocker said the task force welcomes input from faculty and staff members at large, who can contact him or any task force member. The task force's target date to provide a complete report to the Senate is April 29, 2014.

New business for the Senate included three motions for consideration:

-- Senator 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. The motion addresses concerns about the University administration’s and Senate leadership’s commitment to transparency and respect for shared governance.

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

-- Senator 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.

All motions will be placed on the agenda for discussion and vote at the Senate's next meeting on Jan. 28, 2014.

In legislative business, the faculty of the College of Medicine requested revisions to the bylaws to include expansion of the delegation of authority to approve courses and their content taken by medical students. Chair Yarnal opened the floor for discussion and placed the vote on the agenda for the Jan. 28 meeting.

Michael Büsges, director of Project LionPATH and the Enterprise Project Management Office, presented an informational report on the University's plans for its new student information system, which will replace the current ISIS. Büsges brought Senators up-to-date on Project LionPATH's history, scope and implementation.

Vice President for Outreach and Vice Provost for Online Education Craig Weidemann presented a report on MOOCs (massive open online courses) at Penn State. He outlined the University's strategic goals concerning MOOCs, noting that about 43 percent of Penn State students have taken a course online in the past year.

As of Nov. 18, Penn State has offered five MOOCs, with 341,524 enrollments. Kathryn W. Jablokow, associate professor of mechanical engineering and engineering design at Penn State Great Valley, and Anthony C. Robinson, lead faculty for online geospatial education in the department of geography, shared their experiences and insights teaching MOOCs in the fall semester. Jablokow taught "Creativity, Innovation, and Change," and Robinson taught "Maps and the Geospatial Revolution."

Reports appearing in the agenda only and posted on the University Faculty Senate website include a report on Faculty Senate scholarships awarded to undergraduates. Senators with questions about this report may send their questions to and they will receive a response from the committee chair.

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, Jan. 28, 2014, in 112 Kern Graduate Building, University Park.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 12, 2013