T H E S E N A T E R E C O R D
Volume 40 ----- January 30, 2007 ----- Number 4
The Senate Record is the official publication of the University Faculty Senate of The Pennsylvania State University, as provided for in Article I, Section 9 of the Standing Rules of the Senate, and contained in the Constitution, Bylaws, and Standing Rules of the University Faculty Senate, The Pennsylvania State University, 2006-2007.
The publication is issued by the Senate Office, 101 Kern Graduate Building, University Park, PA 16802 (telephone 814-863-0221). The Senate Record is distributed to all University Libraries and is posted on the Web at http://www.senate.psu.edu under “Publications.” Copies are made available to faculty and other University personnel on request.
Except for items specified in the applicable Standing Rules, decisions on the responsibility for inclusion of matters in the publication are those of the Chair of the University Faculty Senate.
When existing communication channels seem inappropriate, Senators are encouraged to submit brief letters relevant to the Senate's function as a legislative, advisory/consultative, and forensic body for possible inclusion in The Senate Record.
Reports that have appeared in the Agenda for the meeting are not included in The Senate Record unless they have been changed substantially during the meeting or are considered to be of major importance. Remarks and discussions are abbreviated in most instances. A complete transcript and tape of the meeting is on file. Individuals with questions may contact Dr. Susan C. Youtz, Executive Secretary, University Faculty Senate.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Final Agenda for January 30, 2007
FINAL AGENDA FOR JANUARY 30, 2007
Minutes of the December 5, 2006, Meeting in The Senate Record 40:3
Senate Curriculum Report of January 16, 2007
C. REPORT OF SENATE COUNCIL – Meeting of January 16, 2007
A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of
Presentation by Executive Vice President and Provost Rodney A. Erickson
Committees and Rules
Revision of Policy HR-21 Definition of Academic Ranks (Report postponed until next Senate meeting March 20, 2007)
Revision of Administrative Guidelines for HR-23: Promotion and Tenure Procedures and Regulations
Admissions, Records, Scheduling, and Student Aid
Computing and Information Systems
The University Faculty Senate
Tuesday, January 30, 2007, at 1:30 p.m.
The University Faculty Senate met on Tuesday, January 30, 2007, at 1:30 p.m. in room 112
Chair Floros: The December 5, 2006, Senate Record, providing a full transcription of the proceedings, was sent to all University Libraries and is posted on the Faculty Senate Web site. Are there any corrections or additions to this document?
Seeing none, may I hear a motion to accept?
Senators: So moved.
Chair Floros: Second?
Chair Floros: All in favor of accepting the minutes of December 5, 2006, please say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed say nay. Ayes have it, motion carried. The minutes of the December 5, 2006, meeting have been approved.
Senate Curriculum Report of January 16, 2007. This document is posted on the University Faculty Senate Web site.
Also included in the Communication to the Senate, Appendix A, is an update on the implementation of the Uniform Course Abbreviation legislation. Page two of the appendix is a status sheet giving an overview of where we stand consolidating disciplinary abbreviations. The Senate Committee on Curricular Affairs will accept proposals through spring 2007.
At the end of the Senate agenda are the minutes from the January 16 meeting of Senate Council. Included in the minutes are topics that were discussed by the Faculty Advisory Committee to the President at the January 16 meeting.
Chair Floros: Out of courtesy to our presenters, please turn off your cell phones and pagers at this time. Thank you.
The Senate Officers will begin
I would like to encourage your
support of the annual dance marathon taking place at the
Nominations for Senate Officers and Special Committees are ongoing. Contact Jamie Myers, Deidre Jago, or your Caucus Chair with your nominations.
The work group charged with examining academic issues associated with on-line courses and programs has submitted its final report. The work group was co-chaired by Senate Chair-elect Dawn Blasko and ACUE Chair Dave Christiansen. A meeting was held on January 23 to review the report with Provost Erickson, Vice President Pangborn, Associate Vice President Jeremy Cohen, and Susan Youtz. At today’s Senate Committee meetings you all received copies of the final report. The report will also be posted to the Senate Web site. The Officers and I will be asking Senate Committees to discuss the report at the next Senate meeting and provide feedback to us on next steps. I also believe ACUE will be having similar discussions.
is a correction regarding a recent Senate Legislation. On January 24, 2007, an advertisement in the
Daily Collegian, Know your Rights,
claim that as a result of the Pennsylvania Academic Freedom hearings the
Faculty Senate at
Chair Floros: At this time I would like to invite President Spanier to come forward to make some remarks.
President Spanier: Thank you
very much. Because of the Senate agenda
today, time does not permit a long magic show.
There is a wonderful magic show that is taking place at 7:30 p.m.
tonight at the new State Theatre downtown.
I am going to be the warm-up act for a fabulous show by two recent
I want to mention to all of you
Many of you here are involved in that process. Jeremy Cohen is over-seeing that process for the University and if any of you have any questions please feel free to contact him. We have a wonderful team of people working on this project.
Next Tuesday is the day the
Governor will announce his budget recommendations for
Applications continue to roll into
We are in the process of searching
for three Deans and one of those has now been completed. We are very pleased to say that we have hired
a fabulous person to come to
Last night at the U.S. Congress,
Democratic leaders proposed some new measures that will affect higher education
in a very positive way. They are
proposing a six percent increase in the Pell Grant which will be the largest
increase that we have had in some time. That will be some very welcomed news
because the Pell Grant is the Federal Grant that goes to the neediest students
and our students have significant needs for student-aid. If this can make it
through the process it will be very welcomed.
There is a proposal for new dollars that would improve funding for the physical
sciences and biomedical research. That will also be welcomed news for
I am very please to have seen on the way in, a door handout about two different recommendations that will be discussed and coming before you today concerning FYS. I had mentioned my concern about this last time. There are two alternatives proposed and I’m very pleased to see that you are taking this up and will have some options. If I understand what the two communicate I personally am attracted to Substitute Recommendation 2, but we will see what the rest of you think.
Finally, let me reiterate what
Chair Floros: Are there any questions for President Spanier? Please stand and wait for the microphone before you give your name and unit.
President Spanier: I think right now, on this campus, we are probably at our peak enrollment and everyone has a place to live. We would expect to begin to see the demand for student housing decrease slightly and every year there is more student housing being built. This gives students more options, and the more housing being built leads to more number of vacancies, which we hope will keep the cost of housing down. There is plenty of student housing and more are being built, all of our students have a place to live, so I don’t think there will be a housing crunch going forward. I don’t think the Borough’s action on that particular property was unreasonable because they are concerned about the density of housing, and the character of the downtown area in the Borough, the idea of taking something that now has a certain density and turning it into a huge apartment complex. The Borough is encouraging additional housing downtown that would bring professionals, faculty, staff, and others who are going to live there on a long-term basis. We talk to the Borough Council all the time and the lines of communication are wide open. I think they know what we are up to, and I think the directions are about right.
Chair Floros: Any other questions for President Spanier? Please stand and wait for the microphone before you give your name and unit.
President Spanier: No more name changes this year, please.
Chair Floros: Any other questions for President Spanier? I don’t see any.
President Spanier: Thank you very much
Chair Floros: As we begin our discussion of reports, I remind you to please stand, wait for a microphone, and identify yourself and the unit you represent before addressing the Senate.
Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of
Executive Vice President and Provost Rodney Erickson presented this report.
Chair Floros: I invited Provost Erickson to make a presentation on the final report from the Commission on the Future of Higher Education (also known as the Spellings Commission report). Dr. Erickson gave a similar report to the Board of Trustees in November. The final report covers such topics as the value of higher education, student access to college, cost and affordability, and financial and institutional accountability.
Provost Erickson will also answer any questions you have on the budget and planning report from the October agenda.
Provost Erickson: Good
afternoon everyone. I want to thank our
Chair for providing me with the opportunity to present some brief comments
about the report, A Test of Leadership:
Charting the Future of
The slide presentation is posted on the Senate Web site at: http://www.senate.psu.edu/agenda/2006-2007/jan30-07agn/appb.pdf.
We have four Legislative reports from the Senate Committee on Committees and Rules. The first report appears on today’s agenda as Appendix C, entitled Revision to the Constitution, Article II, Section 5 (c) (3) (Student Representation). Since this report proposes an amendment to the Constitution, it appeared in the December agenda and has been tabled until today. Committee Chair Deidre Jago will respond to questions.
Revision to the Constitution, Article II, Section 5 (c) (3) (Student Representation)
Deidre E. Jago, Chair
Chair Floros: This report has been brought to the floor by the committee and needs no second. Are we ready to vote? All those in favor of this report, please say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed nay. The ayes have it. The motion passes. This report will be sent to the President for his approval. Thank you, Deidre. The next report appears on today’s agenda as Appendix D, entitled Revision of Senate Council, Standing Rules, Article II, Section 3. Chair Jago will present this report.
Revision of Senate Council, Standing Rules, Article II, Section 3
Deidre E. Jago, Committee Chair
Deidre Jago: This report is a little bit different. First of all I would like to thank Jean Landa Pytel for her hard work in putting this together and I think it explains what we are trying to do. It is a way to try to equalize the length of terms that people can serve and six years is what we are suggesting for Senate Council. Are there any questions?
Dennis Gouran, College of the Liberal Arts: If this passes when does the clock start ticking? That could have some implications for who gets elected to represent their voting units in Senate Council next year at least in some voting units.
Deidre Jago: It would be implemented in 2008-2009.
Dennis Gouran: If someone had six years now and this passes, does this mean that this person can go six more years because that is the effective operational date or that it is retro-active and six years up to that point indicates the person shouldn’t stand for election.
Deidre Jago: We have not talked about that particular part of it.
Dennis Gouran: Well it seems to me that the clock starts ticking when it’s passed and you ignore previous years of service in that capacity, but that should be clear.
Deidre Jago: It doesn’t affect a lot of people and what we are trying to do is look at the Senate Constitution to find out in terms of representation on different committees. We have limits on how long a person can serve on a given committee, how long they can serve as Chair. The committee thought by limiting the Senate Council term to six consecutive years, then it would give a greater impact for individuals who have been on Senate Council to serve in other capacities, perhaps with leadership positions.
Dennis Gouran: I understand what the legislation does, but that does not answer my question of when the clock starts ticking, and that should be made clear, so let me go on to the comment. When one looks at the Constitution Bylaws and Standing Rules, it comes across at least to me that Senate Council is a different kind of animal, in which it is not another standing committee. The functions and rules of the standing committees are particular and operate within limited domain, and Senate Council has a much broader mandate and cuts across domains of activity, so to treat it as if it were another standing committee seems to be inappropriate. It is the one body to which voting units have the right to send whom they wish, and if they wish to send someone for more than six consecutive years that right should be honored.
Deidre Jago: We did consider that, and if the body of the Senate feels that there should not be a term limit of six consecutive years for Senate Council they should vote against this legislation.
Chair Floros: Deidre, do you want to make a friendly amendment to the first question about having the clock ticking from the time that this is going to be put into effect.
Deidre Jago: Should we take it back to committee and then bring it back next month?
Jean Landa Pytel,
Chair Floros: To talk about implementation in the future and if it passes we can come back with further clarification.
Donald Rung, Retired Senator: When you say no more than six consecutive years, could you serve five, then get off a year and then come back and serve five more?
Deidre Jago: Yes, one year off and then come back on if your unit decides to elect you.
Donald Rung: So what is the point of the legislation if I can do that?
Deidre Jago: It is that way with any of the other committees. You can be on Curricular Affairs for five years, go off and then come back on. It was a way to add consistency.
Jean Landa Pytel: The reason the Committee on Committees and Rules voted for this is because the nature of Senate Council is a little different; it is a leadership type of a group and therefore leadership should be perhaps encouraged to be shared. I have been on Senate Council myself and there are people on Senate Council who are contributing and who have been there for eons. The leadership or the knowledge that is gained by sitting on Senate Council should be shared among Committees as well, where the work of the Senate is being done. This is a way of encouraging people who have served on Senate Council to get out and get some grass-root experience, and create policies, reports that come to Senate Council for a vote. We would like to encourage people who do get on Senate Council to have that kind of experience, and if you have had that experience to share that, go back to the Committees and guide them. As far as being on for five years and then off one and back on again forces an individual to get other experience even it is for a year and heaven knows they might like it.
Chair Jago: And usually when we assign a Committee responsibility to an individual Senator we try to have that person on a Committee for at least two years. It shows less stagnation if we have people who have a variety of experiences on the Senate.
Robert Zambanini, Berks: A motion to send a resolution back to Committee supersedes the motion to vote, if so I would like to make a motion that we send this back to Committee pending the re-writing to include when the term limit begins.
Chair Floros: Is there a second for the motion? The Parliamentarian instructed that the debate is now over. The floor is now open for debate whether we should send it back to the Committee. Is there any discussion? No comments and no discussion. We are going to take a vote and if the vote is yes we send the report back to the Committee, and if the vote is no, then we will go back to the original report. Those in favor of sending the report back to the Committee say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed say Nay.
Chair Floros: I think the Nays have it, but we have to get a count. The Ayes please raise one hand.
Deidre Jago: And it is my understanding it would be to establish a date on which the clock would start.
Chair Floros: The Nays please raise one hand.
Chair Floros: The Nays have it and now we are back to the original report.
Deidre Jago: We can ask CC&R when they would like to start the clock, if it starts in the next year or if we look at individuals who have already been there. Jamie, do you have a question?
Tramble Turner, Abington: Did the Committee on Committee and Rules receive any information if particular units found it difficult to get more than one person to stand for election?
Deidre Jago: We did not ask whether it was difficult to find people to run, we were looking at the trend and most of the time the person is on Senate Council for about four to five years, and then they go off.
Deidre Jago: One or two individuals, it went back about ten years and it is a very limited number of people.
Chair Floros: Are there any other questions?
Deidre Jago: Consistency with the other term limits on Committees.
Michael Chorney: I am the Counselor for the Penn State College of Medicine; this is my third or fourth year and I am just starting to get the hang of what to say, when to say it, and what this is all about. I think that somewhere in this document there is some sort of power thing going on and those counselors who have been there greater than six years wringing their hands as they basically behind the scenes direct the Senate activities. I think that is all wrong; they are put forth by their unit based on their service, their interests, and their contributions to deciding what goes onto the floor. I have a great relationship with my 21 Senators and graduate student and they would gladly put me forward, but I think it should be up to the units. Thank you.
Deidre Jago: We have had the same kind of discussion in Committee as Jamie said a few moments ago. It was a very close vote as to whether or not it should go forward but we thought this should be something to present to the full Senate for discussion.
Chair Floros: This report has been brought to the floor by Committee and needs no second. Are we ready to vote? All those in favor of this report please say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed say Nay. We will have to count again, will you please stand up if you are in favor of the motion.
Chair Floros: The Nays have it and the motion does not pass. Thank you, Deidre. The next report appears on today’s agenda as Appendix E, entitled Revision to Senate Committee on Student Life, Standing Rules, Article II, Section 6 (m) 1 (iv) and (v). Chair Jago will present this report.
Revision to Senate Committee on Student Life, Standing Rules,
Article II, Section 6 (m) 1 (iv) and (v)
Deidre E. Jago, Committee Chair
Deidre Jago: Are there any questions about this report? It involves a change in the membership for the Committee on Student Life.
Chair Floros: This report has been brought to the floor by Committee and needs no second. Are we ready to vote? All those in favor of this report please say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed nay. The ayes have it. The motion passes. The Senate has approved this Legislative Report. The last report from CC&R appears on today’s agenda as Appendix F, entitled Revision of Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education, Standing Rules, Article II, Section 6 (n) 1 (iii). Chair Jago will present this report.
Revision of Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education, Standing Rules
Article II, Section 6 (n) 1 (iii)
Deidre E Jago, Chair
Deidre Jago: Are there any questions? This is very similar to the last report, change in the Committee membership on Undergraduate Education.
Chair Floros: This report has been brought to the floor by Committee and needs no second. Are we ready to vote? All those in favor of this report please say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed nay. The ayes have it. The motion passes. The Senate has approved this Legislative Report. Thank you, Deidre.
We have a few more reports that
probably will have a little more discussion than what has been preceded, and
please note that I am wearing an olive branch.
This was made by an artist in commemoration of the 2004 Olympics which
took place in
First-Year Seminar, Appendix G
Gregory Ziegler, Chair
that we agree on. First of all we want to do what is best for our students. Second, FYS does have value, and finally FYS does have some shortcomings. The Senate has been conducting an assessment of FYS since 2001 and if you look on the back of your door handout you will see a time-line of our major assessment activities. These activities have consistently revealed several problems with FYS. The most significant, as also pointed out by the Middle States Association are:
1. The lack of consistency and clarity in educational objectives
The limited access for some students, especially DUS students at
3. The difficulty in attracting tenured or tenured-track faculty as instructors in FYS
The Committee believes that these
problems have come about, at least in part, because of a failure to clearly
state the basic purpose of FYS. There
are persistent problems that arise from conflicting objectives. Is FYS to be a student orientation class
including social issues or an academic seminar?
It has been ten years since the Senate initiated this bold experiment we
call FYS. The Committee on Undergraduate
Education feels that this is a reasonable time to determine whether this is the
best we can do to help our students make the transition to college and the
academic life. The Undergraduate
Education Committee needs guidance from Faculty Senate before we can make any
progress towards making
Chair Floros: Are there any questions?
Greg Ziegler: I do want to make one clarification. We are not, and there is no intention to get rid of FYS. The vote we are taking today is whether or not it is a University requirement, not whether it exists.
Chair Floros: Are there any questions?
Caroline Eckhardt, College of the Liberal Arts: I served on one of the ad hoc committees that looked at this and we heard a lot of questions about DUS. Does your Recommendation number 1 which refers to students that start their studies in the respective college, make any assumption about students who start their studies in DUS rather than within a college?
Greg Ziegler: No, in this morning’s Committee meeting we recognized that this does not solve every problem that we have and there will be issues of implementation if a college does decide to make a requirement for DUS students and elect to go to that college.
Chair Floros: Any other questions?
Tramble Turner: Given what you just said, which was including the phrase “required,” I would like to ask for clarification or perhaps re-wording here. In the new resolution that we got, the recommendation says “individual colleges may continue some form of FYS”. The previous recommendation had “individual colleges may require or have it as optional.” So is that “required or optional” phrase still here? Can colleges, if this passes, still have it as a requirement?
Greg Ziegler: To some extent the Committee felt adding some of the other verbiage was redundant because if we say “they may,” that provides for the option to continue in some form and some form includes an optional one, a required one, which gives the colleges that flexibility.
Greg Ziegler: I believe four colleges offered FYS prior to the legislation and since the legislation a couple of the colleges that were not happy to put it in decided that it worked well and will probably keep this, so I would have to disagree with that comment and I think there will be plenty of options for FYS.
Michael Anderson, Division of Undergraduate Studies: With this current recommendation the colleges still have the ability to require the FYS for a degree. For DUS students who do not declare until their second year that puts us taking some FYS during our second year. You said that this is something you would consider, but it doesn’t seem to me that there isn’t any concrete solution for DUS students, and I do feel that students have had positive results with their FYS. The solution should be to re-evaluate the way that they are instituted and not to shoot them dead now and hope to resurrect them later. If this goes away now, I see it going away for good. Considering Recommendation Number 2 which requires an ad hoc committee to report back in a year, perhaps they can take a look at this and figure out how it can work for DUS and continue the requirement until next year.
Jean Landa Pytel: I find it interesting that you have a record of all the things that have been done in terms of looking at the FYS. With all the challenges and problems being brought forward has anyone ever tried a solution to any of those problems that have been identified? I have not seen any effort to solve those problems being brought forward, they have just been identified. There had been an ad hoc committee that looked at this, and where are those recommendations? They have identified some of the problems and some of the solutions but nothing has come forward.
Greg Ziegler: All of that information is on the Senate Web site.
Resham Patel, College of Health and Human Development: I just wanted to reiterate from a student perspective that I had a wonderful experience in FYS and I know that there are students that had both positive and negative experiences and I know that the Faculty Senate has gone through this process for the last six or seven years and evaluated FYS and came back with some feedback. You said that FYS was found to be a useful program and FYS is something that we should have. I was involved in the Jump Start which is a program for Health and Human Development and I know several colleges have alternative way of doing FYS and through that program I was able to meet students in my class before walking into the first day of classes, identify several faculty mentors, one of whom has served as my faculty mentor for all four years. The relationships that you build with faculty as well as other students, was more of a retreat situation, but throughout the class portion of the FYS you are reinforcing critical skills. I was excited about my FYS because I knew when I walked into my other classes I already knew people, and a few faculty members. I think the best thing is to find out which students are having a positive experience and enforce those. I don’t see what Substitute Recommendation 1 does except say the University won’t mandate FYS, the colleges can pick or choose, and if FYS is usual to have, why lift the requirement in the first place, keep the requirement and make it something worth while.
Greg Ziegler: One of the
solutions to this inconsistency would have Faculty Senate define what FYS is,
and there is zero will among both faculty and administrators to do that, to say
this is the thing. FYS has become more
orientation-wide if you talk about some of those student life skills and I
think many faculty do not feel comfortable or competent teaching those skills;
that is not what we are here for. There
are solutions and the question is whether there is will to act on these
solutions. The people who were in HHD would send their students to the
Eric White, Division of Undergraduate Studies: I want to respond to the issue of whether
our students need it more than any other students in the University. We do represent approximately 20 percent of
the freshman class, at least here at
It is good if we get a student to a seminar that makes sense for the student and helps them make a decision for a particular college, but when we find that we have to fulfill the requirement which is, the student must complete this requirement in their freshman year to shoehorn the student into any FYS simply to meet the requirement of the seminar. That is where we have the difficulties, and that is where the students come back and say “why did I take that, that was of no use for me.” I don’t know what the answer to that is, and I think that is a huge resource issue and we are doing everything we can to meet the letter of the law of the requirement and it is getting very difficult to do. This year we had a huge freshman class, and we had 1,300 students in DUS that had to be accommodated in other colleges FYS. They don’t distribute their interests in DUS based on the way they are distributed in terms of enrollment in the colleges. We have interests in particular areas that put to much pressure on the colleges.
Ricardo Torres, University Park Undergraduate Association
Representative: As a student I am
torn because I have had an extremely positive experience in my FYS. However in my FYS I wrote papers, and read
books. We didn’t do the scavenger hunt; we did not learn how you should not
drink until you are 21, and be careful how much you are partying. Based on what Eric White said I do feel that
by voting on Recommendation Number 1 and removing the University-wide
requirement from that transcript you are no longer forcing the DUS students to
take a course just for the sake of taking a course and completing that
requirement. The FYS can serve two
purposes; it could be an introduction to a different career path, or college
life as a whole. You have freshman and
first-year students that come into
Greg Ziegler: Our Committee never stated that we have that much assessment.
James Strauss: There has
been stated that there is no assessment showing that these are good things to
do, actually there is a lot of assessment that shows these are good
practices. I note in some of the charts
and graphs 93 percent of the
I will acknowledge that things are
not perfect with our current requirement and I will acknowledge that there are
issues with DUS students gaining access to FYS. I know our college stepped up
and tried to offer some additional sections targeting against those students,
and I am aware there is also an initiative in the
Greg Ziegler: That was a very selective reading of the literature that’s on the Web. There are quite a number of studies that show equivocal results that not much happens and in fact there is none of that data for those improvements at Penn State.
I think they should change what is
inside the FYS, if you want to do Math, Science and Engineering gear it more
towards the Engineering students if you are going to force them to take that
Engineering course which is a one-credit course. It was a really rigorous one-credit course
that I never want to repeat again. I
don’t want to get rid of the FYS for the sake that it did benefit. There is nothing wrong with having FYS it is
just that if you want to make it a one-credit course look at what you are putting
into that one-credit course. Other
three-credit courses here at
Chair Floros: Thank you. Rebecca Peterson from the Eberly College of Science has requested the privilege of the floor.
I could spend my time talking at length on various aspects of how I believe first-year seminar (FYS) courses improve student retention, graduation rates, content acquisition, et cetera. Yet today, I would like to focus my remarks on why I think the FYS courses enhance student success through their small class formats and specialized environments.
Back in 1997, when the Senate first discussed the prospect of requiring a FYS course for all students, it was noted that over half of our general education courses were provided to students in sections enrolling 100 or more. Therefore, the rationale for creating our FYS program, in part, was due to the belief that all students should have access to a small classroom experience in their first year.
Small class sizes provide students with not only closer physical proximity to a faculty instructor, but increased interactions with the faculty member teaching the course. I also believe strongly that it improves course attendance, perhaps because it is more difficult to feel anonymous in a class of 20 than it is in a class of 200. Although many of us who have taught a large class section will probably remark that we do “see” (and often recognize) any students in the back of the room occasionally peeking over their outspread copies of The Daily Collegian, the students’ behavior on the other hand suggests that they feel somewhat invisible and may even believe that the instructor would never miss them if they were not there at all. Since absenteeism is generally believed to be higher in sections with large numbers of students, the small class size of FYS encourages attendance and engagement by design.
As with other programming designed for enhancing students’ success (our honors program and LEAP programs to name a few) our faculties have embraced the belief that small classes, with high degrees of faculty-student and peer interactions, can engage students in the course more effectively. If we were to single out only the honors students and others who are willing to pay for this type of experience in our summer bridge programs, we are creating two populations of Penn State students: the ones who have a small classroom experience in their first year and the ones who do not. In short, “the haves” and the “have nots.” If we all agree that this experience is beneficial to students, how can we limit this access to only a small percentage of in-coming freshmen. Our FYS program in its current form demonstrates that we are consistent and that we believe in promoting success for all students.
Furthermore, I want to point out in particular to the campus representatives that it is not the small class size alone that makes the seminar unique. It is the environment, and the objectives of the seminars that are meant to “Engage students in learning and orient them to the scholarly community, bridge to later experiences in their chosen majors… [and] facilitate … adjustment to the high expectations, demanding workload, increased academic liberties, and other aspects of the transition to college life.” (From Baccalaureate Degree Curriculum Section F)
The FYS program has created a unique infrastructure that has inspired faculty innovation and creativity. Whether it is the professor who takes a photo of each student on the first day of class so she will know them all by name the second week, or the instructor who cancels class one day in order to meet individually with each of his students for 15 minutes, I believe that this program brings out the best in our faculty, our students and our Penn State community.
I also submit to you that this FYS environment, often aimed at clarifying the expectations of a particular major or career opportunity, also helps students to know early in their undergraduate careers if a major is not right for them. With so many students changing their majors throughout their tenure here, providing the FYS experience can be important to putting a student on the right track earlier rather than later. This is a result that might increase retention and graduation rates, especially for students from low-income backgrounds who may not be able to complete the major of their choice because they do not have access to the funding required to stay for another year.
I understand that critics of the FYS requirement have good reasons for questioning the degree of its success. Yet, I submit to you that these issues are addressable. Also, as to the suggestion that there is widespread dissatisfaction of seminars on the part of faculty and students, I also respectfully submit to you that I have seen little consistent data to support this assertion. In fact, I’ve seen a great deal of documentation in various colleges to refute it.
We delude ourselves if we believe these seminars will be all things to all students. Therefore, we must leave room for the measure of success to be that a FYS course will have at least one valuable element for each student. I agree that we need to find a better way to assess the seminars across the University, and I believe that this Senate can find the best way to achieve that goal if we just take the time to ask the right questions.
I know that many of the colleges will attempt to continue or require the FYS program even if the requirement is set aside because so many of us believe it is working for our students. Yet, we also believe that it should be for all students, and not just the “haves” who gain access to these colleges.
Finally, and on a personal note, as a product of another very large research institution, I know all too well what it is like to spend your first year in lecture classes with hundreds of other students. I know what it is like to feel anonymous, or like just another number in a sea of people moving through the halls of academia. Not all students land on our doorstep with a clear idea of their chosen path. Some need help, or just an experienced mentor who can show them the way. The FYS program, like many General Education courses, will not be the same for each student, but maybe some experienced mentors can be found within it to help show us all the way.
Provost Erickson: Over the course of the last decade I have watched the FYS evolve and have been closely associated with it in one form or other. I have visited virtually every campus, faculty, and student representative group and I have heard all of the varying reactions to the FYS. I have been convinced for some time that the problem really goes back to the original legislation and the fact that it was sufficiently loose and flexible that the FYS meant virtually anything to anyone. It has been very difficult for us as faculty and programs to deliver on the FYS promise. There was no general agreement on the first principles of what the FYS was to accomplish. It seems to me that what the Committee is asking for in Substitute Recommendation Number 2 is one last chance, and I among them would be one of the people who would say this probably is the last chance to go back to first principles and take a look at how we do this, where we do this, and how does this intersect with the first-year experience. I don’t think we ever came to grips with that issue, and consequently the FYS has become orientation to the University and in some cases become a very serious three credit seminar on a special topic. It has become too many things to many people to be successful for all of our students rather than half of our students. I have been around here long enough to venture to say that if you adopt Recommendation Number 1 and eliminate this as a requirement, it will disappear. I know what happens as resources get tighter and all good intentions aside I happen to believe our colleague in Communications hit the nail absolutely right on the head.
I would see this as a last resort for an opportunity to fix something that has success but it could be better. Are there alternate ways of doing it? Can we have smaller sections of existing courses where faculty meets with smaller groups of students in order to deliver an academic experience? Where they have an opportunity to interact with a faculty member in ways that they may not otherwise have in the context of a large university? We need to go back and take a look at how other campuses fit into this, and look at the whole first-year experience. The FYS relates to everything from freshmen testing to orientation and see this whole set of experiences that students have of which the FYS could be part of. I would see Substitute Recommendation Number 1 as giving up and throwing the baby out with the bath water and Substitute Recommendation Number 2 is one last chance for us to go back to first principles and take a look at what’s working and also see if we can find the proper mix of attributes of the FYS that will provide a successful first-year experience for most of our students.
Chair Floros: Thank you. The hour is late and I would like to continue the discussion, but for points that have not been made before.
Chair Floros: Thank you; we have a few more questions.
Michael Anderson: I will try to keep this short. I want to make sure we are considering the student side if this were to pass. I would like to emphasize the fact that if you make it optional for students then a lot of them will not take it thinking that it is not important. I know when I came in I had no interest in taking a FYS, but I was forced to do it and ended up having a positive experience as a result of that. A lot of students don’t find this to be important when they first come in but after taking it, look back at it retroactively and find it to have been a great benefit to them. As far as DUS students who have had bad experiences and shoved into classes that they were not interested in, and from my perspective that is a good thing because as indecisive as I am, and most other DUS students are, that having a course that didn’t go well is just one less major that we have to consider. And thanks to my lack of interest in my business seminar I am no longer stuck taking an Econ class this fall and I am able to focus on my Engineering courses. It is important for DUS to have this.
Ricardo Torres: I would like to say that from a student perspective I respectfully disagree with my fellow student colleague. I think that DUS students would benefit if the University-wide requirement were removed, because they would no longer have to be sent to a completely unrelated FYS. As to say this will completely fall and go away if it were to pass, I am sorry but there are three years worth of students that are still on campus and they will be telling the incoming freshmen classes to make sure they try to get into whatever is left in FYS. By passing this we are not eliminating all these classes from the curriculum, we are not telling the colleges that they are not allowed to make it a requirement within their own degree audits, we are just saying it is no longer an independent item in the degree audit.
Chair Floros: Giving the late hour, please raise your hand only if you have not spoken to this point and then we will come back if we have time for those who have spoken.
Dennis Gouran: Giving the number of different conceptions of a course that qualify as a FYS the question before this house is, not did someone have a good experience or others had a bad experience, but whether or not giving that breath in an idiosyncratic nature of what constitutes a meaningful first-year experience, are we to continue requiring that of our students. It seems to me that the answer to that question is no, we shouldn’t continue making that a requirement. If we are to defeat the First Recommendation from the committee and go to the Second Recommendation then I think that Senator Berkowitz’s observations are quite right, that in trying to fix what it is, that was ill-conceived and not very well defined in the first place. We are going to get back into the same problem but have a different kind of monster staring us in the face.
John Selzer, College of the Liberal Arts: It does sound good to make this an optional item. I agree with Provost Erickson, Rebecca Peterson, and others who predict its demise if we pass this resolution favorably.
Jamie Myers: The Education Caucus asked me to express their unanimous support for this Recommendation. I have had the great opportunity, thanks to all of you, to visit all the campuses and to meet with all the students and faculty in every campus and college and there is a common denominator in successful seminars that I intuited from all those discussions, and the common denominator was local faculty involvement. It was faculty guidance in developing a seminar that made sense in the local unit or in the major which students were working. And I think Recommendation Number 1 is the solution to the problem, and I am disappointed to hear that some colleges won’t support faculty who want to develop first-year experiences to bring their students into the academic interest in their major, and I hope every faculty group is interested in that kind of activity. That is why I support both of these Recommendations and I really wish that the committee had said that we are going to vote on both of these; because I think we need to vote yes to the first one, and put a time limit on the pain that we have been experiencing with this inconsistency in FYS. I also think we need the second one, to get involved in what the first-year experience should be like and how an academic component fits that experience. I don’t know if there is any way to vote on both of them, but that is the way I would support them.
Chair Floros: Jamie, are you making a motion?
Jamie Myers: No, I am not going to make a motion on that, I don’t know if there is any other parliamentarian way for that to happen, but I will call the question.
Chair Floros: Is there a second?
Chair Floros: Now we are going to vote on closing debate. All those in favor, please say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed say nay. Ayes have it. Now we are going to vote on Substitute Recommendation Number 1. All those in favor, please say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed say nay.
Chair Floros: We need to count. All the ayes please stand. All the nays please stand. The nays have it. Now we are moving onto Substitute Recommendation Number 2. All those in favor, please say aye.
Inaudible: Could we have a count of that last vote?
Chair Floros: Ayes, 73; Nays, 77.
Cara-Lynne Schengrund, College of Medicine: I noticed that a lot of seats have been emptying out as the debate went on, and I just wonder if the same results, since it was just a four vote difference, would occur had it been taken earlier in the day when the majority of the Senators were here. It brings to mind the order of the Senate meetings where we have discussions and presentations before we have items that are voted upon. Some people had to leave to teach class, so I think it might be good in the future when we have items that are very important coming before the Senate, and you have a lot of potential disagreement that they be brought forth in the agenda first, before presentations of general interest so that the majority of Senators are here for the vote. Thank you.
Chair Floros: The discussion is now open for Substitute Recommendation Number 2.
Robert Pangborn, Undergraduate Education: I will be very quick. We took a very bold step ten years ago in introducing the FYS. We have another chance to take a bold step in making it work for our in coming students; let us vote for Recommendation Number 2.
Chair Floros: Those in favor of closing the debate, say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed say nay. Thank you. Now we are going to vote on Substitute Recommendation Number 2. All those in favor, please say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed say nay. The ayes have it.
Greg Ziegler: The Committee on Undergraduate Education would like to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments.
Chair Floros: This Recommendation will be sent to President Spanier for his approval.
Door Handout from January 30, 2007 Senate meeting: Undergraduate Education First-Year Seminar
We have two Advisory and Consultative reports from the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs. The first one appears on today’s agenda as Appendix H, entitled Revision of Policy HR-21, Definition of Academic Ranks. Committee Chair Cynthia Brewer and Faculty Rights and Privacy Subcommittee Chair Zachary Irwin will present this report and respond to questions.
Revision of Policy HR-21, Definition of Academic Ranks
Cynthia Brewer, Chair
Zachary Irwin, Subcommittee Chair
Cara-Lynne Schengrund: I have noticed that more of our colleagues have left and I wonder if we could have the debate but postpone the vote until the next meeting, and is it permissible for me to make a motion. I think this is another issue where the House may be somewhat divided and it would be good to have a majority of Senators here for the vote. I move that we delay vote on this item until the start of the next Senate meeting. We have debate now, but it will be voted on at the beginning of the March Senate meeting when the majority of the Senators are present.
Cara-Lynn Schengrund: I’ll take that as a friendly amendment.
Chair Floros: The floor is open to discussion of postponing it until the next meeting.
Cynthia Brewer: I am ready to talk about it now.
Jamie Myers: I would like to support that motion to postpone, but maybe we have to think in the future that if there are certain items that we need to debate and vote electronically so that we can make sure that all members can have a voice and I think that is an important thing to consider.
Dennis Gouran: It seems to me that if we are making a motion to postpone taking action on the proposal before us and you postpone this specific date, which moves the consideration of the motion to that date. If we pass it we should not be debating it today, we should be debating it next time, is that correct, George? If we feel uncomfortable voting on it today then we shouldn’t be discussing it today.
Chair Floros: No we are not going to discuss it; we have a friendly amendment to postpone it altogether.
Chair Floros: The motion actually called for the report to be the first item of business for the March meeting. Are there any other questions? A vote is to end discussion. All those in favor, please say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed nay. The ayes have it. Now we are going to vote for the motion that was put on the floor to postpone this report until the next meeting. All those in favor, please say aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed nay. The ayes have it. Thank you very much.
The next report from Faculty Affairs appears on today’s agenda as Appendix I, entitled Revision of Administrative Guidelines for HR-23: Promotion and Tenure Procedures and Regulations. Cindy Brewer and William Brockman, Chair of the Subcommittee on Promotion, Tenure, Appointments, and Leaves will present this report.
Revision of Administrative Guidelines for HR-23
Promotion and Tenure Procedures and Regulations.
Cynthia Brewer, Chair
William Brockman, Subcommittee Chair
Cynthia Brewer: Appendix I is a Revision of Administrative Guidelines for HR-23 and it is specific to joint appointments. It repeats from the Administrative Guidelines about how joint appointments are reviewed. We are talking about people who are joined between two colleges and we added that the Deans of the two colleges also consult and are part of the administrative review process at the college level. We have the Committee discuss the candidate and the Dean evaluates the candidate, we are adding that to the Promotion and Tenure Procedures for these joint appointments.
Chair Floros: This report has been brought to the floor by Committee and needs no second. Are we ready to vote? All those in favor of this report, please say Aye.
Chair Floros: Opposed say Nay. The Ayes have it. The motion passes. The Senate has approved this report. It will be sent to President Spanier for his approval and implementation. Thank you, Cindy.
Annual Report on the Reserved Spaces Program.
This report describes reserved spaces for admission of freshmen who have special
needs or talents that cannot be met at
[Turnitin: A Tool to Assess
Student Plagiarism.] Turnitin.com is a Web-based plagiarism detection and
prevention system available to all
University Faculty Census Report for 2007-2008.
[2007 Yearly Costs of Healthcare Plans.] This report provides the yearly cost of
health care benefits and
Summary of Petitions by College, Campus, and Unit 2005-2006.
Chair Floros: Are there any comments?
Donald Rung: I have been off the Senate for about eight years so perhaps this happened before and it certainly didn’t happen in my lifetime, and that was something very interesting today, the debate on FYS in which the Provost played a central role in the debate. I find it very disturbing because I don’t know in what capacity he talks. Under the past Presidents we never had this participation, if there were some strong opinions they were generally given to Council or before hand and I was absolutely flabbergasted by what happened. Thank you.
Chair Floros: Thank you for
Chair Floros: May I have a motion to adjourn?
Senators: So moved.
Chair Floros: All those in favor, please say Aye.
Chair Floros: Motion carries. The January 30, 2007, meeting was adjourned at 4:10 p.m. The next meeting of the University Faculty Senate will be held on Tuesday, March 20, 2007, at 1:30 p.m. in Room 112 Kern Graduate Building.