Faculty Senate takes up financial literacy, health care during March meeting

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – What role the University should have when it comes to teaching students life skills such as financial literacy, clarifications to student registration policies and recommendations on employee contributions to Penn State health care costs were a few of the items the Faculty Senate discussed Tuesday (March 17).

The discussion on “21st Century Student Life Skills” followed a presentation from the Senate Committee on Student Life about whether the University should pursue new avenues for promoting financial, health and legal literacies, among students.

Mary Miles, committee chair, said the report is in response to conversations about the “increasing complexities of student life in the 21st century.”

“Students are often looking toward student life services to help them with questions about finances, legal concerns and health care as it becomes more complex,” Miles said. “So, we want to be considering the extent to which we incorporate this into the curriculum, or formalize or codify it. Just what could the Senate do to take some steps toward making these services a greater part of the educational experience of our students?”

Ideas included working with student government, incorporating topics into general education, offering seminars and providing online information.

The report was forensic and the committee will use the feedback it received to continue to develop the topic.

The Faculty Senate heard several other reports, including an update on the activities of the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equity (CLGBTE). Marie Lindhorst, chair of the CLGBTE, highlighted recent changes such as the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the University’s nondiscrimination clause; the availability of same sex domestic partners benefits; and a sexual and gender studies minor.

As of March 1, Lindhorst noted, University health care benefits include gender confirmation surgery.

Other initiatives include helping implement recommendations to have LGBT liaisons at all campuses, and sponsoring, with the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity and Commission for Women, an annual promotion and tenure symposium to support tenure-line faculty from underrepresented groups.

The Faculty Senate voted to approve sending to President Eric Barron several recommendations on employees contributions to the University’s health care costs.

The recommendations come from a report by the Senate committee on faculty benefits and include:

-- capping employee contributions to health care costs so they don’t exceed the average of 20 percent for employees and 30 percent for dependents of the total estimated charges needed to provide health care to the Penn State group;

-- resetting employees’ health care contributions to an indexing plan similar to what was used in 2012 and 2013;

-- setting the University’s contribution rates to support employee premiums so it is the same for employees at the same income level, regardless of which health care program they choose.

The Faculty Senate also voted to approve:

-- changes to the Senate policy on student registration to clarify the process students need to follow to ensure registration is complete. The revisions are in keeping with the new approach the Bursar’s Office, Registrar and Office of Student Aid have developed.

-- a new standing subcommittee to review articulation agreements.

-- a procedure for Senate Council to review and place on the Senate agenda reports from  groups outside the Senate.

-- forwarding to President Barron proposed revisions to the conflict of commitment policy, “Engaging in Outside Professional Activities.” The changes clarify when faculty need to get prior approval before teaching at another institution.

-- the slate of nominees for Faculty Senate chair-elect, secretary, faculty advisory committee to the president and preferred candidate for academic trustee.

-- the slate of nominees for the Senate Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities, the Standing Joint Committee on Tenure, and  the University Promotion and Tenure Committee.

Last Updated May 10, 2016