Sunday, February 24, 2013

Report of the Special Committee on University Governance: Improving the Governance of Penn State, Revising the Structure of its Board of Trustees, and Furthering the Academic Mission of the University: Report and Recommendations

The Pennsylvania State University Faculty Senate Committee on University Governance was formed on March 15, 2012 with the following objectives:
--Examine the structure, functions, practices, and responsibilities of the Penn State Board of Trustees vis-à-vis interactions with constituent groups (students, alumni, staff, faculty, and administration);

--Compare and benchmark those attributes with peer institutions;

--I-dentify and recommend ways to improve and enhance interactions, including flow of information, and the interface of the University Faculty Senate, students, staff, and Administration with the Board of Trustees;

--Prepare and submit a report of findings and recommendations to the Faculty Senate officers 

The  SCUB charge may be accessed here.  SCUB presented its report to the Senate Council on February 19, 2013.

This post presents the executive summary of that report.  The FULL REPORT SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON UNIVERSITY GOVERNANCE Improving the Governance of Penn State, Revising the Structure of its Board of Trustees, and Furthering the Academic Mission of the University: Report and Recommendations of the Special Committee on University Governance (February 2013) MAY BE ACCESSED HERE: SCUG_Final_Report.

Informal Notes and MInutes of the February 19, 2013 Senate Council Meeting

On Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 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)

I thank to Tram Turner for excellent note taking.

MOOCs at Penn State; An Update

The following is from my colleague Mary Miles about Penn State's entry into the MOOC business.

Professor Miles serves as a Faculty Senate representative on the steering committee for Penn State's recently released MOOCS. She, along with several other Faculty Senators, have been actively involved in developing, selecting, and analyzing the current MOOC offerings, and will continue to be engaged in the evolution of MOOCS at Penn State. Her principal charge as the representative is to keep the Senate apprised and involved in this exciting project.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Agenda for Upcoming Senate Council Meeting of February 19 2013

The agenda for the Penn State Senate Council meeting scheduled for February 19, 2013 has been finalized. It is set out here.  
(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)
The agenda includes consideration of a number of important informational reports.  In an effort to make our work more transparent I have included many of them here as well, or will posy them shortly.  It would be useful for stakeholders to read these before our meeting and send comments either via this post or directly to the Senate officers ( ).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Recommendations on Structure and Organization of the University Faculty Senate

On September 17, 2012, I charged the Senate Self-Study Committee to creatively think about mechanisms by which the Senate could improve its role in shared governance and enhance faculty engagement. (Senate Self-Study Committee Charge 9/17/12). Through open communication, the committee received innovative ideas, concepts, and recommendations from the University’s primary stakeholders.
(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)

I wanted to thank the Self Study Committee, and its chair, Mohamad Ansari, for producing what in my opinion is an excellent report.  Their collective and collaborative efforts shows what can be done with a group of dedicated faculty and administrators who operate in an open, transparent and cooperative way.  The Committee's recommendations are intelligent, reasonable and modest.  They are respectful of the Senate's culture and of the core objectives of shared governance. As important,  they appear to conform very well to the sense of the Senate that they have worked tirelessly to incorporate into their  work over the past several months.  I could not be more pleased. 

I am happy to post here the Advisory and Consultative Report prepared by the Self Study Committee, along with its recommendations.  It is my hope that the Senate membership embraces these first steps toward the reorganization of this body so that it may emerge better prepared to engage usefully in shared governance within the modern university.  Please send comments to Professor Ansari . The report follows:


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Law of Shared Governance--A Thin Reed Indeed Without a University's Human Resources and Policy Commitment

The University values shared governance.  And most stakeholders--administration, faculty, and Board--speak to the value and place of shared governance within the operation of the university.  Because of that commitment of the current holders of administrative and board leadership roles, it is sometimes easy to forget that the privileges of shared governance, especially for faculty, are not guaranteed as a matter of law, but only as a matter of policy, tradition and in the most enlightened institutions--contract.

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)

This post suggests the narrowness of the legal protection of shared governance.  It  is offered to suggest, first, that legal protection is a secondary guarantee that derives from legal protection of speech by individuals in matters of public interest, and second, that beyond the good will of our administrators, it may be prudent to safeguard shared governance (that is the protection against retaliation and disciplinary action for conduct directly tied to engaging in shared governance) in the human resources policies of a university.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

In Memoriam Dr. Joseph Dixon, Penn State University Senate Chair 1982-83

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Dr. Joseph Dixon, Chair of the Penn State University Faculty Senate 19882-83.

Joseph A. Dixon

Joseph A. Dixon
(November 4, 1919 - February 7, 2013)

  The obituary follows.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Student Statement of Solidarity With Duke University Student Body

This from our marvelous students at Penn State.  It is a communication addressed to the students at Duke University.  Please join them in supporting Penn State's core integrity principle of doing the right thing.  
(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)

Dear all,

I read about the unfortunate, insensitive party that occurred at your university recently. I am writing because we had a similar incident happen at Penn State where images of a "Mexican themed party" surfaced and were all over the news. After the link to the incident at your campus was shared with me, I shared it with the Chair of our Faculty Senate, Professor of International Law, Larry Backer. He asked if I had reached out to you - and I found his question to be an excellent idea.

Chair Backer gave students the privilege of the floor at our recent Faculty Senate meeting (Jan 29) to allow another student and myself to address the need for more diversity education and multicultural interaction among students at Penn State. He strongly promotes diversity education and awareness. We have a newly student organized Diversity Awareness Task Force, and our statement was well received by the Senate and administration. A Joint task force of students, senators, and administrators is in the process of being developed. Chair Backer has two blogs you might want to see, and the links are below:

Tragically, our society has fooled itself into thinking racism doesn't exist, but in the last two months I've gained knowledge from my peers (now good friends) from various multicultural groups, just how rampant it still is. I have attached a copy of the statement we read to the Faculty Senate to give you an idea how the students went about addressing this issue.

You are not alone in your efforts to stop bigotry and racism, and know that you have friends at Penn State willing to help you.


Brian Aynardi
Ph.D. Student and GSA Faculty Senate Representative
Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology
The Pennsylvania State University

Diversity Awareness Task Force: Statement to the University Faculty Senate January 29, 2013

The Penn State University Faculty Senate held its fourth meeting of this academic year on Tuesday January 29, 2013 (e.g. Faculty Senate January 29 Meeting Agenda).  

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)

For that meeting I invited representatives from the recently formed Diversity Awareness Task Force. The task force was formed in mid-December following the Chi Omega Mexican theme party and photo. In my capacity as Senate Chair I have spoken to that issue as well. Sadly those comments never made it to our website, but may be found on my Senate Chair blog—The Faculty Voice (Statement From the Penn State University Faculty Senate Chair ).  
Speaking on behalf of the task force were graduate student senator Brian Aynardi and Melissa Creely. This post provides a transcipt of their statement. Both the Senate Chair and the University Interim Provost responded positively to the call for a task force and we can hope that it is constituted in short order and begins its work.