Penn State Intercom......April 5 , 2001
Faculty Senate shows
|University, borough commit to prevent future riots|
In late February, President Graham B. Spanier was absent from a University Faculty Senate meeting, obliged to appear before the Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee to testify on behalf of Penn State's budget requests and face questions over recent controversial student-sponsored events on campus.
Four weeks later, he returned to the Faculty Senate floor, where he was greeted with a standing ovation and resolutions of support for both his representation of the University in Harrisburg and for the University's continuing commitment to free speech as the "foundation upon which academic inquiry rests."
One Senate resolution directly commended Spanier for "his recent articulate and reasoned defense of free speech." The other put a faculty stamp of support on the University's stand against any repression of Constitutionally protected speech, and encouraged the use of education as "an important antidote for speech that some might consider offensive, intolerant or uncivil."
"The solution to bad speech is good speech," said Senate Council member John Nichols, who read the resolutions before the Senate. "The solution is education, not regulation."
Spanier thanked the senators for their support and quickly switched gears to read a statement condemning the recent riot in downtown State College.
"The Penn State alma mater contains the words 'may no act of ours bring shame,'" said Spanier. "But once again, we have most unfortunately experienced a disturbance that damages the reputation of the University and the community that surrounds us.
"Penn State does not condone riotous behavior. Students who have been charged with criminal offenses will face disciplinary proceedings within the University's judicial affairs system, in addition to adjudication through the criminal justice system."
Consistent with those remarks, the Senate endorsed steps to clarify Penn State's disciplinary procedures and make the Code of Conduct more accessible and understood by students. An advisory report from the Senate Committee on Student Affairs aims to make students aware of the procedures when they broach the bounds of speech and expression with unlawful conduct, and outlines potential consequences.
"Obviously, student activism should be treated differently than student drunken disorder," said Bill Ellis, who presented the report on behalf of the committee.
Not all business on the Senate docket had such resounding support. A proposal to revise the University's promotion and tenure guidelines (HR-23) to include quality indicators in the criteria for research or creative accomplishment and scholarship was struck down by a 69-49 Senate hand count. Several senators expressed concern that the provision would open the door for subjective misinterpretation in the promotion and tenure process, especially in more obscure fields where the quality of publications and other recognition of work is less recognizable.
Other legislative and advisory items did earn Senate approval. In reversing a policy implemented in 1996, senators recommended that foreign language credits at the "001" level should be counted as baccalaureate degree credits. For the past five years, these courses taken to meet the foreign language admissions requirements of academic programs have not counted toward completion of the program.
Following up a discussion on courseware ownership from the previous Senate session, a revision to administrative policy AD-46, which governs copyright clearance, was confirmed. The change clears the way for faculty members to receive royalty payments on certain kinds of course materials, regardless of where they are produced.
"We believe this change is fair to the faculty, and expect that it will improve the quality of course material," said Louis Milakofsky, chair of the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs.
The Senate also approved the addition of adoption assistance benefits for faculty and staff that is in line with the current childbirth benefits offered by the University. The benefit will provide up to $4,000 in cost reimbursement per adoption and six weeks parental leave, regardless of the child's age.
The full agenda included a variety of informational reports on the re-certification process for general education, revisions to the Penn State travel program, and annual reports from intercollegiate athletics, the joint Senate Committee on Insurance and Benefits, and The Graduate School. In addition, the University's Commission for Women presented a comprehensive report on the status of women at Penn State over the past 20 years.
All actions and reports are available in the Senate Record and can be accessed online at http://www.psu.edu/ufs/.
Before the start of the session, the University's second-ever Rhodes Scholarship recipient, Zachary Battles, was introduced to the Senate. Battles, who is blind, expects to graduate this year with bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science along with another baccalaureate degree in mathematics and a minor in French -- all accomplished within four years.
"Life isn't built upon accomplishments, but rather upon others' investments in you. I've learned that in my life," said Battles, one of 32 students nationwide awarded two to three years of study at Oxford University. "I now have an obligation to pass on what's been invested in me and invest in others. I'm excited to be taking the next step and anticipating the steps that will follow after Oxford."
Tysen Kendig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Penn State administrators
and several State College Borough officials on March 29 committed themselves
to take extensive and immediate steps to prevent future riots in the so-called
Beaver Canyon area of downtown State College.
We are absolutely united in our determination to prevent this from recurring, said President Graham B. Spanier. What happened this past weekend is completely unacceptable, and we have agreed to take several steps designed to keep this from happening again.
The University already has begun the process of disciplining students involved in the most recent riot through its Office of Judicial Affairs. After the two previous riots, 38 Penn State students were charged with violating the Student Code of Conduct. Thirty-six of those 38 students were expelled or suspended from the University, or left voluntarily rather than face charges. The University has pledged to continue its strict approach to sanctioning rioters, to increase publicity concerning its zero-tolerance policy and to strengthen sanctions for other criminal behaviors.
State College Borough Council member Jean McManis expressed optimism that the borough can enact ordinances and make other changes to curb the prospect of serious problems in the future.
There is a consensus that we need to prevent students from gathering in Beaver Canyon at times of potential disturbances, as well as eliminate the possibility of bottles and other debris being thrown from balconies, said McManis.We plan to give the police greater flexibility in keeping crowds from gathering, or dispersing them if they do gather.
University administrators and borough officials agreed to pursue several initiatives. They will meet jointly with apartment owners and landlords to discuss preventative measures such as balcony control, advance warnings about potential disturbances and increased surveillance. There will be a strengthened police presence in the future. Students will receive clear guidance about what kinds of behaviors will be subject to police and Judicial Affairs sanctions. Those assembling in situations that could lead to a riot will receive indisputable warnings about the requirement to disperse.
The borough will consider a range of measures, including the possibility of a limited curfew. Borough officials agreed to accelerate the consideration of new ordinances. There will be increased cooperation between the state police, the State College police, and the University police.
Personally, I have no tolerance for such disturbances, said Spanier. Penn States reputation is negatively influenced by such actions, and we cant allow a small portion of our community to engage in behaviors that reflect so poorly on this great University, he added.