UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — At a special meeting Friday, Aug. 13, the Penn State Faculty Senate passed two positional resolutions in response to the University’s COVID-19 mitigation policies and its plans for the fall 2021 semester.
The two resolutions, which are non-binding, are “Faculty Senate Resolution for Sequential Actions in Response to Penn State’s COVID-19 Policies” and “University Faculty Senate Response to the University’s Fall 2021 Plan.”
Below is President Eric J. Barron’s response to the Faculty Senate’s resolutions, as well as a response from the leadership of the Penn State Board of Trustees.
STATEMENT FROM PENN STATE PRESIDENT ERIC J. BARRON
This has been a challenging time for our world, country, state and of course our University. We understand there have been strong feelings expressed by members of the Faculty Senate, and appreciate the importance of faculty input. We are all aligned on the health and safety goals of achieving high vaccination and safety compliance rates, but differ with the Faculty Senate resolutions on the approach in some critical areas. I have addressed the University’s approach to vaccinations, testing, monitoring and enforcement. The data indicate our shared goal of achieving high vaccination rates is making strong progress in surveys and in the number of individuals who are uploading their vaccination status with the University.
We continue to monitor developments through our COVID-19 Operations Control Center and are prepared to adjust our plans when circumstances change, as we have done previously, and will continue to meet with Faculty Senate leadership on a regular basis. The efforts our University has undertaken to date have been extraordinary in scope and complexity, fast-moving, and ever-changing in some cases due to the nature of the pandemic.
We will consider the matters raised in the resolutions (and discussion) recognizing the continuously changing circumstances that we are facing. I reiterate: We have the same health and safety goals as expressed today.
STATEMENT FROM MATTHEW SCHUYLER, CHAIR, and DAVID KLEPPINGER, VICE CHAIR, PENN STATE BOARD OF TRUSTEES
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we have full confidence in President Barron and the administration’s approach to address the evolving pandemic. Throughout these tremendously challenging times, President Barron has strategically guided the University through the pandemic, from the rapid pivot in March 2020 to the phased return to on-campus work and learning this summer. He and his team crafted and executed a complex, large-scale health and safety program for our students and employees at campuses across the commonwealth and positioned the University to deliver on its educational mission, while also providing fiscal and job security for employees throughout this crisis. The entire administration has been open to, and has listened intently to, widely varying viewpoints. Now, they have developed a sound, pragmatic path forward for the fall semester that will allow the University to continue to deliver on our educational mission and return to more normal operations, while maintaining a rigorous program to help protect the health and safety of the community. It is important to recognize the plan has adequate provisions to adjust as conditions evolve.
Penn State is a large and complex enterprise. We understand that there are strong feelings about how the University has responded and is responding to the pandemic, and there are differing opinions. Nevertheless, we believe it’s important to acknowledge the complexity and unprecedented nature of the pandemic, and the fact that there are no easy solutions. An ongoing dialogue, with mutual appreciation for these challenges, is the most productive way to address any concerns with the planned approach.
In the midst of these difficult decisions, the board is unified in its unequivocal support for President Barron, his administration and their plans for the upcoming fall semester. We have every reason to believe we can navigate the coming months just as we have since the start of this pandemic. We look forward to seeing the University emerge from this semester stronger than ever before.