Thursday, August 16, 2012

Informal Notes of August 14, 2012 Senate Council Meeting

On August 14, 2012, the Penn State Faculty Senate Council held a regularly scheduled meeting.  This post provides an informal summary of the meeting.  In the event of conflict the formal minutes will be regarded as authoritative. 

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2012))

My thanks to my colleagues for the great job of organizing the informal notes from which this summary was prepared. The slides of the PowerPoint Presentation made by Chair Backer at the meeting may be accessed HERE.

Senate Council Meeting (Informal Notes)
14 August 2012

Introductions. Chair Larry Backer opened the meeting by introducing all new and continuing members of Senate Council.

The Senate Council Minutes from the last Spring 2012 and from the July 18, 2012 meetings were approved. The minutes of the July 18, 2012 Special Senate Council Meeting Minutes was approved with corrections.

Announcements by the Chair:

Aug. 27th, 4:30 p.m. will be the New Senators Orientation. For new Student Senators, an orientation is scheduled for 11 a.m. on the 28th; Senate Officers’ visit on 12th of Sept. Abington (Brandywine on the 11th) was announced. 

On the 25th of September, the DUS Conference. “Deconstructing Decision Making” will be held.

The Chair announced an initiative, the Transparency Project: Ways to post committee priorities and to promote “grass roots” involvement of members; committee charges have been encouraged to consult with the leaders of unit faculty governance organizations and incorporate their  their suggesitons as appropriate before finalizing any report that comes to the Senate Council.  The project was discussed during Charge meetings so that unit level consultations will occur. The Chair also requested that Senate Council members provide reports to and serve a conduit function for Senators within each unit. The Chair also indicated that there will be further initiatives to better use technology to enhance engagement at Senate meetings.

Presidential approval of HR-29 (Phased Retirement) was also announced

Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC) topics were summarized from prior meeting, including NCAA Sanctions, Forensic Report, Senate Initiatives & from today: update on Freeh Report and NCAA Sanctions, Middle States Commission, Procedures for Reporting those who may a threat to others, Background Checks updates, Faculty Standing on BOT Committees [some items to be carried over]. The next FAC meeting is scheduled for 2 October 2012.

Comments from Interim Provost Rob Pangborn touched on matriculation numbers, efforts to refine recruitment methods and practices, and possible salary increases.

Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Blannie Bowebn then reported on the accreditation warning issued to Penn State by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  He explained the specific areas of concern highlighted by Middle States and the University's plan of response.  Vice Provost Bowen noted that the “warning status” evidenced an expectation that the institution can come into compliance. He expressed his concern about the impact on faculty and students. Middle States will be making a site visit after receiving the 30 September 2012 letter from PSU. “Full disclosure” was stated as the goal by Vice Provost Bowen.

Questions: One Senator asked how Middle States “Standards and Enforcement” style compare with other bodies. He noted ABET & A CSB as “strong form” standards while IST and others seem to be more “weak form.” Vice Provost Bowen responded that Middle States reviews the university as a whole rather than the programmatic focus of ABET, et al. The 10 year Middle States cycle, with a five-year update was then summarized. Another Senator asked about transparency in the process of reponsee.  The Vice Provost explained that the goal is to have all the Middle States information at one site; for now information would likely be posted to the Vice Provost's web site. 

Another Senator asked about the extent of exposure to the University if liability was found for violations of the Clery Act. But any answer would be speculative at  this moment. 

Vice President Bowen restated his goal of getting information, and the truth about the status of the review out as quickly as possible. He noted that “matching up” the Freeh recommendations with the Middle States review will need to be completed. 2015 is the next full review date by Middle States.

[At 2:28 p.m. the meeting moved to Action Items; unit constitution review]

Pam Hufnagel, Secretary, summarized the Berks Constitution change as focused on establishing an Athletics Committee. Immediate Past Chair Hagan raised a question as to whether the Berks Constitution was referring to a Berks Senate or a UFS committee. The Berks Constitution change was withdrawn for clarifying or removing any references to “university” rather than to Berks college.

Hufnagel then summarized the proposed changes to the DuBois Constitution, focusing on editorial changes such as “campus” and “Chancellor.” Representation of part-time faculty was also included and ad hoc committees shifted to regular committees.

Ratify Unit Constitution Subcommittee: Secretary, Parliamentarian and Bob Ricketts approved.

Ratify External Matters Subcommittee: Immediate Past Chair Hagan as Chair. John Bagby, Jim Ruiz, Fuller + 2 nominated and approved.

[Noting the time of 2:42 p.m. with guests in the room, the agenda moved to the Forensic Business Item—LA Senator Keith E. Nelson’s motion to have forensic about the recent NCAA sanctions . Various Council members expressed their concerns about what the purpose of such a forensic would be, whether the goal was a catharsis, or how the Senate would move to any actionable steps.

After discussion, Senator Turner moved that the discussion item be limited to no more than 15 minutes. The motion passed.

The next guest being the ARSSA Chair, discussion turned to placing onto the Agenda the Informational Annual Report on the High School Students Enrolled Nondegree in Credit Courses. With editorial additions from Senator Eckhardt, the report was approved for posting to the Senate website. There will be no discussion other than questions on that report. Next the ARSSA Report on Revisions to Senate Policies Dealing with Provisional Students and Advanced Standing Admission was approved for adding to the agenda.

The Chair of the Benefits Committee then joined the meeting by phone. The Annual Report from the Joint Committee on Insurance and Benefits was then approved and placed on the Senate Agenda for 28 August 2012.

The Representatives from the Educational Equity and Campus Environment and Student Life Committee then stood for questions regarding the Report on LGBTQ Resources. The Report was approved for inclusion. Rob Loeb then joined by phone for approval of the Research Committee’s Report on Inter-Campus Research. That report was approved for inclusion in the agenda.

The IAC Report was then presented by Dr. Linda Caldwell (Division I FAR), approved on a  motion for inclusion on the August 28th agenda.

The University Planning Committee’s Report on Campaign Update and the Role of Faculty in For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students. That report was approved for inclusion in the agenda.

[At 3:14 p.m., discussion turned to the Senate Council Task Force Draft Charge] Updates included the Membership change (including Turner, removing Eckhardt) and editorial changes suggested by Chair-Elect Bret Yarnal. Discussion of the Task Force and its charge will be posted by the Chair.

Review and Endorse the Special Senate Council Task Force membership and Charge:

Item E. Discussion Items

Role of Senate Council—the Chair reviewed the Bylaws handout. His perspective is to rely on all to provide advice, and to speak up during meetings in order to “get things done right.” The object is to avoid sterile and wholly scripted meetings.

Councilor Comments—Turner asked for an update on whether there will be a later BOT ratification vote. Egolff asked if the Senate representative could release their synopsis. Chair Peetz had asked that the minutes of the BOT be the basis for any summaries rather than individual Senate representatives summaries. UFS Chair Backer noted that the 4 Senate representatives have been welcomed into the Board’s committee’s discussions. The BOT will have a Retreat on “Culture” this summer. Chair Peetz has also offered to have Board members visit with units within PSU.

Vice Presidents’ and Vice Provosts’ Comments (covered previously)

Graduate Council Report—Carey Eckhardt reported that PSU will be one of a number of institutions in a pilot study of research integrity.

John Nousek’s proposed resolution from the 18 July 2012 then came up for discussion. The motion would designate the Freeh Report as the resolution to the November 18, 2011 UFS motion calling for an independent investigation and that “the recommendations of the Counsel have been operationalized, and "Be it also resolved that the University Faculty Senate pledges to work with the University Board of Trustees and Administration to address the recommendations of the Counsel to improve procedures and policies, adopt a greater level of transparency throughout the University, and develop a University culture that is characterized by a spirit of openness, and foster the reporting of suspected wrong doing without fear of retribution.”

Discussion centered on whether to reword the third of the four paragraphs in the “Resolution of the University Faculty Senate,” to table the motion for now and to await further developments, or excise the third paragraph. The vote to table the resolution passed.

The approved reports and agenda were then voted on to establish the 28 August 2012 University Faculty Senate Agenda. The meeting adjourned at 3:55 p.m.


  1. Joe Paterno's Private Journal. The notes on the incident in 2001 contained in the private journal of Joe Paterno, that stated, that McQueary heard sounds of sexual assault coming from the shower room, were in the journal, because I advised Mr. Paterno to make a note of the incident. The sounds in 2001 not 2002.
    McQueary saw Sandusky in the shower room in 2002 not 2001. McQueary testified that he didn't hear any sounds, of that nature, the night he walked into the shower room in 2002.
    The Grand Jury made it sound like the sexual assault sounds came at the same time that McQueary walked into the shower room. They convinced people that the sounds went along with the incident, but the two incidents were a year apart.
    This action made Sandusky seem more guilty.

  2. Where did the grand jury investigators get the information concerning the sounds of a sexual assault coming from the shower room at Penn State, in 2001?

    There was no record of the incident, except in Paterno's private journal.

    The incident did not concern Sandusky.

    The Sandusky incident was a completely different incident. There were no reports of sounds of a sexual encounter, or assault, concerning the Sandusky incident. The Grand Jury had information that was gathered concerning the other incident, where we heard sounds and said it was the Sandusky incident.

    It made it sound like there were sounds of a sexual nature, possibly an assault, right before McQueary walked into the shower and saw Sandusky with a child.


  4. First, the investigators said the Sandusky incident was in 2002. Then they said 2001. I was going on the change in the dates. I took it for granted that the information on the incident in 2001 was mistaken for the Sandusky incident. Although I can't be certain that the Sandusky incident happened in 2002 I have no other information about the date. The entry in Paterno's journal concerning McQueary telling him he heard sounds coming from the shower was in 2001. As far as I know there was no other recorded information on that incident in 2001 except what was written in Paterno's journal. There was also a typewritten page that had notes on the incident.

  5. Ultimately, this is what I believe: I believe that information that paterno wrote in his journal concerning the (sounds heard) incident, was found and used by investigators to make Sandusky and Penn State seem guilty .
    It would be easy for someone to be mistaken about information that came from two such simular incidents. I think that is what happened.
    The fact that (sounds heard) of a sexual assult before McQueary walked into the shower room, seeing Sandusky, was mentioned in court, basically confirms that the prosecutors had some evidence to that effect. But, they didn't get that information from Mcqueary. McQueary deneied hearing any sounds, like the sounds reported to Paterno in the sounds incident, before he entered the shower.
    If information gathered about another, completely different incident, was used as evidence in the Sandusky investigation , I suppose that is where the mistake was made. If, it was just a mistake. If it wasn't.......

  6. Thank you for posting my comments. This is a serious matter to me. I truly believe that a mistake was made in the mix up of the two seperate incidents. There was only one incident in 2001 concerning Paterno, McQueary and the shower room. I was there when it happened. The Sandusky incident was a different date, probably 2002- march. Information from the 2001 incident could only be obtained from the journal of Coach Paterno.