Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Informal Notes of October 2 2012 Faculty Senate Council Meeting

On October 2, 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)

The slides of the PowerPoint Presentation made by Chair Backer at the meeting may be accessed HERE.  

The meeting was called to order at 1:30 PM. The Minutes of the August 14, 2012, meeting  were approved without opposition.

The Chair made the following remarks:

The Faculty Advisory Committee met this morning with Interim Provost Pangborn and discussed the following topics: Admissions Update, Penn State Network of Child Maltreatment, Sustainability Institute, CyberScience Co-hires, Agricultural Sciences Interim Dean/Dean Search, Moody’s Update, Blue & White Council/Vision Council, Middle States Update, Budget Planning Task Force Update, Report on Committee Charges, General Education Forensic, Textbook Access Codes, and A PSU STEM Moon Shot Program.

The next FAC meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 13. If you have items you want FAC to address, contact one of the Senate officers or one of the elected members: Mike Chorney, Jeff Laman, or Rod Troester.

The Senate officers have completed visits to Brandywine, Abington, Great Valley,

Harrisburg, and DuBois and will visit New Kensington on October 17 and Greater Allegheny on October 18.

I recently charged the following new committees: External Matters Subcommittee, chaired by Dan Hagen; Senate Self-Study Committee, chaired by Mohamad Ansari; Task Force on Student Research, chaired by Brent Yarnal; Student Conduct Code Task Force, chaired by Keefe Manning; and the Senate Council Task Force, chaired by Lee Coraor. Committee charges and membership are posted on the Senate website. Senate Student Conduct Code Task Force, chaired by Keefe Manning. The charges for each of these committees will be posted to my Senate Chair website in the next several days.

The Special Committee on University Governance, chaired by John Nichols, continues to meet. We are all looking forward to the report, and a critical analysis thereof.

The Advisory Council for the Freeh Group Recommendation Implementation has just met for the first time. This group is meant to provide a place where major university stakeholders may meet to discuss progress on the implementation of the Freeh Group Recommendations and compliance with the NCAA Sanctions.

There followed comments from Interim Provost Pangborn, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Blannie Bowen, Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses Madlyn L. Hanes and Associate Vice President and Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Jeremy Cohen.

The Council then considered two actions items, involving the approval of changes to the unit governance constitutions of Penn State Berks and the School of Nursing. The Berks constitution amendments were approved after some discussion about the scope of the authority of campus athletic committees and members. The School of Nursing Constitution was sent back for further consideration of a provision permitting an individual faculty member to call a special meeting of the unit governance organization. Letters will be sent to the Berks chancellor and the School of Nursing dean with copies to the chairs of the unit faculty organizations.

The sole discusison item was the Ombudsperson Report for 2011-12.  University Ombudsperson Deborah Atwater presented the 2011-12 report which was included in the Senate Council agenda. This report will be posted on the Ombudsperson website and included in the Senate agenda. CLICK HERE for Ombuds Training Materials. The most interesting part of the discussion centered on the issue of confidentiality.  Discussions between Ombudspersons and faculty are confidential, in a loose sense--that is they will not be disclosed at the instance of the Ombudsperson, nor will the ombudsperson report on the conversation to anyone in the department.  However, the conversations are NOT confidential in the strict legal sense: the university retains the full authority to ask the ombudsperson for both recollection of conversations and any written materials produced in the course of the ombudsperson's duties. Neither conversations nor written materials are protected against discovery by University counsel or other university personnel.  That means that if the university's counsel asks, an ombudsperson must produce both recollections of conversations and any written materials made in the course of conversations or other interactions with faculty making use of the service.  Ombudsperson Atwater emphasized the training that specified the need to avoid taking notes and related matters or to take notes that are not intelligible except to the writer--but university officials are always free to both request such notes and to demand an explanation of their meaning. All of this was something of a surprise to Senate Councillors, who worried that faculty may not understand the limited nature of confidentiality. A request was made for the Ombuds office to make sure that they inform faculty thinking about using the system about the limits of confidentiality and the rights of the university to access both conversations and writings produced in the course of the use of an ombudsperson. Faculty, in particular, should be cautioned about making admissions or other statements that might be used against them in further and more formal proceedings.

The Graduate Council minutes from the September 19 meeting are posted on the Graduate School website. Carey, is there anything you would like to add?

The Senate Council was asked to add the following ityems to the Senate meeting agenda:

1.  Placed on the agenda is the following: a Forensic Business item entitled Presentation of “Report Based on an Invitation from the President, Provost, and the Chair of the University Faculty Senate to Examine General Education, August 2012."  The Chair made the following remarks:

It was my very great pleasure to distribute to all of you the "Report based on an invitation from the President, Provost and the Chair of the University Faculty Senate to Examine General Education - August 2012." It is the product of the work of a Committee, headed by Jeremy Cohen and including Cynthia Brewer, Cary Eckhardt, Tanya Furman, Cynthia Lightfoot, Tom Litzinger, Mark Munn and Mary Beth Williams.

I distributed this Gen Ed Report widely for discussion and feed back to Senate Officers; Senate Council members; Senate Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs; and Unit Faculty Leaders for circulation, study and comments. Because of the importance of General Education and the role of faculty in its development and implementation, I thought it useful to do what I could to begin to fully engage the faculty in the discussions of both approaches and the structuring of modifications to General Education as these might develop. I am hoping to encourage robust deliberation among our university stakeholders from out of which Penn State might produce proposals that affirm our role as a national leader in university education.

I also invited Jeremy Cohen to formally present this Gen Ed Report to the Faculty Senate at its October 2012 Meeting, for which purpose I proposed a forensic with the hope that it may consist of a presentation by Jeremy (perhaps of 10 minutes or so) followed by a discussion (perhaps of about 20 minutes or so), timing of course subject to discussion by the Senate Council. Jeremy is here to answer questions.

It is my hope that after the Senate meeting we might be able to begin discussion of the formation of a joint Administration-Senate Committee with the task of developing a set of proposals for implementing the ideas and principles of the Gen Ed Report.
The Senate Council approved the item for the Senate agenda, allocating 10 minutes for a  presentation by Jeremy Cohen to be followed by a 20 minute question and answer period.THE REPORT MAY BE ACCESSED HERE.

2. A motion to place on the agenda an Informational report from Faculty Benefits entitled Dependent Eligibility Verification Program was approved.  Ten minutes are allocated for presentation and questions. Susan Basso, Associate Vice President for Human Resources, will present this report at the Senate meeting.

3. A motion to place on the agenda a special Informational report from University Planning entitled University Budget and Strategic Planning Report was approved. Interim Provost Rob Pangborn will present this report at the Senate meeting.

4.  Two motions made at the August 28 Senate meeting during New Legislative Business will be voted on at the October 16 Senate meeting. The motions are printed in the Senate agenda under Unfinished Business.

In addition, and as a point of information, a draft amendment to the motion seeking Senate endorsement of the Statement by a Group of Past Chairs of The Pennsylvania State University Faculty Senate Regarding the Freeh Report, NCAA Consent Decree, and Their Academic Implications August 28, 2012 made by Senator Patricia Koch.  The motions are included on the October 16 Senate agenda. The amendment reads as follows:
and to note the importance of ongoing questions about the process used by the NCAA Executive Committee for decision-making.  In addition, we call for further analysis of the decision-making processes at Penn State that led to the issuance of the Freeh Report in order to ensure that future shared governance decisions involve consulting with representatives of key stakeholders (e.g., the Board of Trustees, the University Faculty Senate, and Senior Administration). 
The meeting was thereafter adjourned until the November 13 meeting of Senate Council.

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