Last, I think the lessons of governance reform ought to be applied to the Senate as well. To that end, I have charged a Senate Self-Study Committee, chaired by Mohamad Ansari. Periodic self-study is a vital part of institutional renewal. It is an exercise that helps maintain an institution’s relevance and connection with its members. It provides a chance for reflection on the large issues of governance and the institutionalization of the faculty voice within the context of university shared governance. Self study also provides the Senate with an opportunity to take a hard and dispassionate view of itself and to reorganize itself so that its organization complements those of the administration (and its operations) and is consistent with the priorities of university strategic planning in ways that most effectively provides voice to issues of greatest concern to faculty. This is expected to be a major task. Everything is on the table: including the current organization of the Senate whose work is now split among 15 standing committees and a Senate Council, the production of altogether too many informational reports, the effectiveness of the Senate processes for engagement with its members and the faculty at large, and the organization of the administrative offices of the Senate—its budget, autonomy, and operations.
(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)
SENATE SELF-STUDY COMMITTEE
A Review of Structure, Communication, and Organization of the University Faculty Senate
STATEMENT OF THE CHARGE
Periodic self-study is a vital part of institutional renewal. It is an exercise, which helps maintain an institution’s relevance and connection with its members. It provides a chance for reflection on the large issues of governance and the institutionalization of the faculty voice within the context of University shared governance. Self-study also provides the Senate with an opportunity to take a hard and dispassionate view of itself and adjust its organization so it effectively provides voice to issues of greatest concern to faculty, is consistent with the priorities of University strategic planning, and complements the operations of the administration.
In November 2001, Senate Chair John Nichols constituted the last Senate Self-study Committee with George Franz as chair. This Committee was charged “To do some blue sky thinking about how the Senate can do a better job and seek ways to give the faculty at large a greater sense of ownership in what the Senate does.” Chair Nichols additionally charged the committee, “To Make specific recommendations about how to improve Senate organization and procedures.”
Dr. Franz presented a Forensic Report to the Senate on April 22, 2003 (http://www.psu.edu/ufs/agenda/apr22-03agn/apr22-03agn.html#AppendixB) and an Advisory and Consultative Report on October 28, 2003 (http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/oct28-03agn/oct28-03agn.htm#appendixb).
On September 17, 2012 the Senate Self-study Committee was charged by the Senate Chair Larry Backer. The Committee's charge is divided into two parts. First, the Committee is charged to do a substantial amount of creative thinking about the ways in which the Senate could do a better job in its shared governance role and provide faculty with a greater sense of engagement. Second, and more specifically, the committee is charged as follows:
• How effective is the role of the Senate Council as outlined in the
• University Faculty Senate Constitution? Priority
• To what extent the committee structure and jurisdiction are consistent
• with the priorities and administrative operation of the university,
• including those set out in the university strategic plan; that is to
• what extent does Senate organization align with administrative
• organization of the university? Priority
• To what extent is there overlap and duplications among the structure
• of Standing Committees in form or function?
• Informational reports: (a) to what extent are each of them necessary;
• (b) to what extent are they necessary every year?
• Does the Senate use its Advisory and Consultative Function effectively?
• How can the Forensic Function be made more effective?
• How can the Senate streamline its Legislative Function as it relates
• to the curriculum?
• To what extent are faculty informed about Senate committee actions,
• and Senate action as a whole and to what extent are faculty engaged
• in that process?
• To what extent are the Senate and unit faculty governance
• organizations connected; and how can that connection be made more
• To what extent does the Senate serve to effectively protect shared
• governance at the unit level?
• To what extent can the Senate’s connection with the Board of Trustees
• be made more effective and open?
• To what extent do the responsibilities of the Executive Director and
• Administrative Staff' of the University Faculty Senate optimally serve
• the Senate?
• To what extent can Senate leadership be more effectively involved in
• the setting of the Senate budget?
• To what extent do the current mission, operations, and organization of the UniversityCONSULTATION
Since the charge meeting, the Committee has been engaged in an open communication with the University Community for seeking innovative ideas, concepts, and recommendations. To be specific, the Committee has convened the following meetings:
• Executive Director Youtz and Staff Member Poorman; September 21, 2012. Ansari attending.
• Officers and Standing Committee Chairs; October 15, 2012. Ansari and Shapiro attending.
• University Park Unit Governance Leaders; October 16, 2012. Ansari, Vice Provost Bowen, Chair Backer, Past Chair Nichols, and Shapiro attending.
• Executive Director Youtz and Staff Member Poorman; October 23, 2012. Ansari attending.
• Commonwealth Unit Faculty Governance Leaders; October 25, 2012. Ansari, Vice President Hanes, and Shapiro attending.
• Commonwealth Chancellors; October 25, 2012. Ansari, Vice President Hanes, and Shapiro attending.
• Executive Director Youtz and Staff Member Poorman; November 7, 2012. Chorney and Vandiver attending.
• Senate Council; November 13, 2012. Ansari and Vice Provost Bowen attending.
• Focus Group Discussion with the Past Chairs of the Senate, November 27, 2012. Beverly Vandiver (Facilitator), Ansari, Blasko, Kretchmar, and Shapiro attending.
• Focus Group Discussion with Standing Committee Chairs, November 27, 2012. Dawn Blasko (Facilitator) and Shapiro attending.
• Commonwealth Caucus Faculty; December 3, 2012. Ansari, Chair Backer, and Shapiro attending.
• Commonwealth Caucus Faculty; December 4, 2012. Ansari, Chair Backer, Chorney, and Executive Director Youtz attending.
• Committee on Committee and Rules, December 4, 2012. Ansari, Chair Backer, Shapiro, Van Meter, and Executive Director Youtz attending.
• Student Senators, January 15, 2013. Ansari, Chorney, and Kretchmar attending.
The Senate Self-study Committee has been charged to address the structure, communication, and organization of the University Faculty Senate. For that purpose, and among other things, the Committee seeks guidance and input from the Senate on the following topics:
Senate Organization. The Senate is currently organized around 15 standing committees, a Senate Council, four elected Senate Officers, and an Executive Director appointed by the Executive Vice President and Provost.• Should the Senate operational structure be changed to mirror the division of administrative function? For example, Campuses, academic affairs, global programs, human resources, student affairs, research, world campus.
• Should the Senate adopt a different organizational structure to increase its efficiency and effectiveness?
• What changes would make the Senate a more effective representative body of the faculty with a greater positive impact on the University?
• How could the Senate become more nimble? A mechanism by which the Senate is able to act more quickly and decisively in response to matters of serious concern.
Senate Administrative Offices. The Executive director is appointed by and reports to the Executive Vice President and Provost who also allocates the budget of the Senate. The Senate office staff provides support for administration of the work of the Senate.• To what extent do the responsibilities of the Executive Director and
• Administrative Staff' of the University Faculty Senate optimally serve
• the Senate?
Senate Reports. The Senate produces four types of reports (i) Legislative reports pertaining to curricular matters, student policies, and Constitutional revisions, (ii) Advisory and Consultative reports pertaining to University policy matters, (iii) Informational reports including mandated reports and presentations by administrators, and (iv) Forensic reports for seeking guidance and input from the members of the University Faculty Senate.• Should the Senate consider alternatives to the reports that it now produces? For example, is the Senate producing too many reports in general or too many informational reports in particular?
• What would the Senate consider to be an optimal balance of reports? For example, what is best mechanism to communicate informational reports?
Communication. For some Senators, there is a lack of communication between the Senate and the faculty in their departments and units. Communication among all Senators, beyond the Senate meeting itself, is rare. However, there are group engagements within some of the unit caucuses and the Commonwealth Campus caucus.• How could the relationships between Senators and their Unit Governance be made equally strong in all Units across the University?
• How can the flow of information from and about the Senate reach the faculty at large in all Units across the University?
Membership and Engagement. There is a sense that due to a four year term commitment with additional travel time for the Commonwealth Campus Senators, the Senate is viewed as less likely to attract faculty members that are highly engaged in research.
• How could the Senate be modified so more faculty will aspire to become actively engaged Senators? For example, by being active on committees, by attending and staying for the full Senate meetings, and by communicating more effectively with unit's constituencies.
• Should the Senate reconsider the Senate term? For example, the Senate term be decreased from four years to three years.
Transparency. There is a sense that decision making processes by the Officers and sometimes by the committees are not collaborative and transparent.• How could the Senate become more transparent and collaborative in its work?
• How could the Senate use technology more effectively to reach out to the faculty across the University? For example, establishment of a Senate Newswire.
Senate Meetings. The Senate meetings are open ended with a tremendous amount of time expended in generating conversation that might have been better developed prior to meetings.• Should the Senate meetings be structured around a fixed time?
• Should Senate plenary meetings be held in the morning and committee meetings be held in the afternoon?
• Should the Senate hold an additional meeting during the academic year or during the month of June?
Mohamad A. Ansari, Committee Chair
Blannie E. Bowen
Peggy Noel Van Meter, Structure Sub-committee Chair
Keith Shapiro, Communication Sub-committee Chair
Beverly Vandiver, Organization Sub-committee Chair
Susan Youtz, Resource Member