By Karen Trimbath
Penn State will present a strong case for adequate funding from the state Legislature to pay for not only educational and outreach initiatives across the Commonwealth, but also basic operating costs such as faculty salaries, which continue to be one of the most important areas of concern for the University, President Graham B. Spanier told the Faculty Senate during its Sept. 14 meeting.
Spanier noted that in recent years, faculty salaries have slipped in comparison to peer institutions.
"We're concerned about our standings and that's why faculty salaries are our single largest budget request," he said. "Our goal is to get as much money as possible for salaries, and the Board of Trustees have been very supportive of this."
Next year's appropriation request includes $343,546,000, an increase of more than $24.9 million over last year, which includes $12.5 million for the Making Life Better initiative and $12.4 million (a 4 percent increase) for basic operating costs. Next year's budget includes an overall increase of 3.6 percent for salaries, or $23.7 million.
The senate also debated a recommendation made by the provost's advisory committee that beginning in fall 2000, all full-time incoming students should own a personal computer or have immediate access to a computer owned by their family, household or employer. Currently, more than 80 public and private universities have some form of computer ownership and access policy.
At Penn State, 97 percent of students are using their access accounts, and 86 percent already use their own computers.
During the debate, the Senate committee on computer and information systems, which endorses this recommendation, asked senators for feedback on critical issues associated with implementing an infrastructure that can accommodate this increased technology, including:
n Encouraging and rewarding faculty to integrate the technology into their classes;
n Paying the increased costs to the University, since data from other institutions show that student ownership increases rather than decreases use of computer labs;
n Expanding computer support at all Penn State locations; and
n Ensuring that part-time students, exchange students and graduate students whose departments provide them with computers are not affected.
Robert Secor, vice provost for academic affairs, said that faculty should be encouraged to integrate computers into the classroom when it is relevant.
"A computer is a very important educational tool and is a necessary tool for today's workforce," Secor said. "Not every course needs computers, but we should find a way to integrate them into relevant courses."
In other action, the Senate voted to redefine overload conflicts in final examinations and listened to reports presented by the committee on admissions, records, scheduling and student aid.
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