Thursday, August 23, 2012

Faculty Senate Welcome Message

Set out below is our standard form-welcome message in anticipation of our first full Senate Meeting of the 2012-13 Academic Year.

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2012))

This message is being sent to 2012-13 elected faculty, student, and administrative senators from Larry Catá Backer, Chair, University Faculty Senate and Susan C. Youtz, Executive Director, Office of the University Faculty Senate.

Welcome to the 2012-13 Senate year.  We look forward to working with you and to your contributions to shared governance at Penn State.  We anticipate a productive year.

The Faculty Senate, as a representative body of faculty from all colleges and campuses, is a unifying body that is key to making Penn State and all its campuses one university.  Your involvement in, and contribution to the work of the committee to which you have been assigned and your participation in Senate Plenary meetings are essential to the educational mission and success of the University.

The Faculty Senate is comprised of representatives of more than 5,600 full-time faculty at 23 Penn State campuses.  Senate seats are allocated proportionately by unit, based on the ratio of full-time unit faculty to the total number of full-time University faculty, with a fixed-size of 200 elected faculty seats.  Also, there are undergraduate/graduate student senators and administrative senators appointed by the President who all contribute to shared governance at Penn State.

Since 1921, the Senate has served as the body representing the University faculty as a whole with authority for many educational matters, including curriculum, academic policies, admissions, and graduation requirements.  The Senate has delegated the authority for these matters to the Graduate School, College of Medicine, and Law School for their respective students.  The Senate also acts as an advisory and consultative body to the President on a wide range of other issues, such as faculty affairs, student life, intercollegiate athletics, University planning, and faculty benefits.

All Senate committee and plenary meetings are conducted according to the procedures described in Roberts Rules of Order.  Orderly meetings and respectful discourse are the norm.  The Senate officers and the staff of the Senate office work diligently to prepare for each meeting and to manage the business of the Faculty Senate.  Please keep us informed about your thoughts and ideas that pertain to the business of the Faculty Senate, including any planned actions.

You are encouraged to visit the Senate website at, a resource for senators and the University community.  Following are a few examples of the available resources:   
• Web pages for all 15 Senate committees, including links to reports
• Senate Agendas and Records (1997-present)
• Senate Constitution, Bylaws, and Standing Rules
• Curriculum Information
• Student Policies and University Undergraduate Advising Handbook
• Senate meeting dates and information on fall campus visits
• Links to other University resources include Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment; Faculty Handbook; University policies (HR, administrative, finance, research, travel, etc.); ombudsperson information; First-Year Engagement Plan resources; diversity resources; FERPA, etc.

Like many units across the University, the Senate continues to identify a variety of cost savings measures to respond to these difficult economic times.  For example, we continue to urge campus senators to carpool, rather than travel independently.  We welcome any suggestions and ideas that you may have for managing Senate costs more effectively. 

In spring 2011, the Senate Committee on Committees and Rules recommended that attendance at Senate plenary and standing committee meetings be posted to the Senate website.  Beginning with the August 2011 Senate meeting, all attendance is accessible on-line.  We encourage your full participation in all Senate meetings.

Starting this year we will be emphasizing "green" initiatives.  Among the first is a move to paperless agendas for Senate meetings.  We will also be emphasizing greater transparency and communication.  We hope to engage all senators more directly in the work of the Senate.

If you are unable to attend a Senate plenary meeting in person, please participate instead via Mediasite.  For information on the use of Mediasite, see or contact the Senate office at 814-863-0221 in advance of the meeting.

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