UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Over the past year, outgoing Penn State Faculty Senate Chair Matthew Woessner has been a man with a plan — specifically, a three-part plan to improve shared governance across the University.
At the Penn State Board of Trustees’ meeting (May 4), Woessner provided a rundown on the success of this plan and the other work undertaken by the senate over the course of the 2017-18 academic year.
The three-part plan, Woessner told the board, focuses on making the University Faculty Senate more effective, efficient and responsive to the challenges, needs and goals of its membership, constituency and the University.
Woessner described the plan as a resounding success, and specifically called for the senate to foster greater cooperation with the Board of Trustees and University administration with a focus on mutual goals and objectives, such as policies like making Penn State a tobacco-free university and delaying fraternity and sorority rush for incoming students. The plan also aimed to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of the senate through implementation of new rules, best practices and amendments to the senate bylaws.
In addition to making committee meetings and plenary sessions shorter and more substantive, Woessner explained the senate has spent much of the past year working on internal procedures to strengthen the senate’s democratic process and make the body more independent and conducive to open debate, both at the University-wide level and within academic colleges and campuses.
These new measures include a change to the bylaws to permit senate members to write a minority opinion to be included in the official record alongside the majority opinion, and an update to electoral rules specifying that only elected senate members, rather than appointed members, can vote in senate officer elections.
Woessner also relayed findings from the senate’s tour of colleges and campuses across the University. Some of the feedback the senate heard during these visits are that employees are exhausted by the pace of system and software upgrades; that faculty and staff believe a balance must be struck across the University between cost-efficiency and quality of service and education; and that students continue to meet ongoing challenges “with hope and enthusiasm.”
Woessner, who was succeeded by current chair Michael Bérubé at the final meeting of the 2017-18 academic year, closed his report by noting his high hopes for the continued success of the Faculty Senate in the coming years.