Behrend Faculty Council Meeting Minutes
Monday, April 3, 2023
4:30 p.m. via Zoom
Call to Order – Lisa Jo Elliott, Faculty Senate Chair
- Approval of minutes from March’s Faculty Council Meeting
Charlotte De Vries; Lynne Beaty
- Approval of minutes from March’s Faculty Council Meeting
Update from Senators - any pressing initiatives
Matthew Swinarski: President Bendapudi is making sure that Penn State obtains its equitable share in terms of allocations as a land grant institution.
A video is available to listen to the president’s talk. The provost discussed the topic of controversial speakers on campus. The debate on free speech versus human rights was particularly interesting.
Legislative report: Extending or discontinuing majors. If a major is completely closed, Senate approval is needed.
Another interesting piece of legislation: Erie was well represented by senators. The asynchronous instruction on election day passed. However, there were some concerns. Restricted to the November election date, not any election.
Several elected positions are coming up. If faculty members have any interest in who is running for these positions and want senators to vote in a certain way, they need to look through the names and contact senators. Faculty members should go to the University website and the look for the March meeting; names will be listed in the report.
Updates from committees will be shared on Canvas.
Lisa Jo Elliott: 94% of non-tenure line contracts were renewed. All campuses honored on earlier contract dates than it was previously done.
Matthew Swinarski explains that President Bendapudi is pushing for even earlier renewals.
Lisa Jo Elliott: All of the members who can vote received a link that contain two documents: The chairperson’s preliminary final report for Faculty Affairs and a proposed constitutional amendment.
Faculty Affairs has been a very active group. The chairperson had to step down. Eric Robbins took over and completed the preliminary final report.
Chancellor Ford states that the administrators who are members of the Faculty Council have not received the report. Reports and information are shared at the Faculty Council.
Lisa Jo Elliott explains that the question is sensitive. She will share information after the vote.
Q: Why are we taking a vote on a report if this is just a summary? The Faculty Affairs committee is not proposing anything.
A: There were two different interpretations of the charges for Faculty Affairs. The charges were made in September. Faculty Council created new charges. Some of the discussions have been a bit controversial, which is not a problem, but it’s important to take a vote to understand how to proceed. In addition, some members of Faculty Affairs brought up questions related to workload for this committee.
- We can accept the report produced by Eric Robbins and ask the committee to recess until fall.
- We can reject the report and ask the committee to finish up their work with the original charges.
- We can reject the report and ask the committee to work on the revised charges that are listed in the report.
Voting members should take a vote. Eric Robbins is willing to provide more information if there are questions on the reports.
Q: There is confusion about the charges and what members are voting on.
Lisa Jo Elliott: Some of the charges were revised substantially. As a group, we should decide what we want the Faculty Affairs committee to do. Do we want them to work on the original charges or revised charges? There are three options: work on the original charges only, work on the revised charges only, or recess the Faculty Affairs committee for the rest of the semester. Michele Stine was consulted about the recess and had no problem with it.
Q Related to the old charges: Have these charges been completed?
Eric Robbins explains that yes, some have been completed. Robbins explains that the committee members were a bit surprised to learn that there were different sets of charges. In terms of workload, they met twice during the academic year. Robbins does not think that there has been excessive workload. The committee can take a break, but some members would like the opportunity to finish the work that they started working on and have been working on since December. A survey has been built; it’s just a matter of sending this survey and they were waiting for the “blessing” of Faculty Council before proceeding.
Q: Were the surveys included in the original charge?
A: Eric Robbins explains that the surveys were part of the revised five charges, but one of the surveys was simply asking faculty what they would like faculty members to do next year.
Lisa Jo Elliott: Two listening sessions were held to collect charges for all the committees; she will share input with the next chair of Faculty Council, Lena Surzhko-Harned.
Q: Revised charges. Was there a previous charge and Faculty Affairs changed the way the charge was worded or are those charges that Faculty Affairs created as a committee and thought it was in the best interest of the faculty?
Lisa Jo Elliott: These are charges that Faculty Affairs created as a committee and thought it was in the best interest of the faculty.
Q: The concern is that they created charges in the middle of the year?
Lisa Jo Elliott: Faculty Council was not involved in the creation of new charges. The Chair or Vice-Chair were not involved. This is problematic and a precedent, but the Faculty Council might have a different opinion or view on this process. Imposing some order in the process might be beneficial.
Q: So, it’s about the process. The new charges were not communicated. The new charges are reasonable, and we can work on the process. Are we voting on the process?
Lisa Jo Elliott: The Chair of Faculty Council will need to decide how to proceed next year. I urge the current Vice-Chair to try to establish the charges at the beginning of the year, and then stay with these charges. Procedure is very important.
Eric Robbins agrees that it is important to communicate well to negotiate and understand charges at the beginning of the academic year. He does not want to see work to be wasted. That is his only concern. He is willing to finish what the committee started, within reason. The process should be based on consultation.
Q: Does the Faculty Affairs committee, as a whole, agree with the charges? This is the process at the end of the year. The Faculty Affairs committee needs to agree with the charges. Agreeing that they continue working on the charges does not mean agreeing with the process that has been followed.
Eric Robbins: The last meeting of the Faculty Affairs committee was February 24. We did not discuss if members agreed with the charges. In November (Nov. 2) we met and discussed the charges with the former chairperson who later had to step down. We discussed the charges and made the notes which are included in the preliminary report, listing the original charges and where we thought things were with those. There have been two resolutions since then, added to these notes. The November meeting offered the opportunity to discuss the revised charges. Committee members were interested in these revised charges. One member is extremely passionate about charge number 1, for example. We had members passionate about a couple of charges; other members were not necessarily passionate, but not against the charges either. Nobody expressed concerns on the charges to me. As of November, everyone seemed to be onboard with charges.
Q: If we vote to accept the charges, can we also include a statement that explains that we accept the charges, but the right process was not followed? Revised charges need to be submitted to the Faculty Council. There needs to be clarity that the process needs to be followed.
Lisa Jo Elliott: Agrees with this last comment
Q: Could you write the questions in the chat?
- We can accept the report produced by Eric Robbins and ask the committee to recess until fall
- We can reject the report and ask the committee to finish up their work with the original charges
- We can reject the report and ask the committee to work on the adjusted charges that are listed in the report
Q: Are the Faculty Affairs members willing to work on the adjusted charges?
Eric Robbins: As far as I understand, yes. I know that someone wants to work on 1, for example. I know there is someone who still wants to work on charge 3. Another member wants to continue to work on charge 2. Charges 4 and 5 have been completed. They just need to send the survey out to faculty. The point is to simply provide information back to Faculty Council and then to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Chancellor just as awareness, that is all the Faculty Affairs committee members are trying to do: Provide information to decision-makers.
Q: They can still work on original charges too.
Lisa Jo Elliott: Correct.
The poll is posted.
Lisa Jo Elliott: We will ask the committee to work on their adjusted charges and I will send a message along the proper channels and include that procedure needs to be followed. Faculty Council makes all the charges. Members of administration also need to go through the Faculty Senate chair and Faculty Council to propose charges.
Chancellor Ford observes that the administrative members of the Faculty Council should have access to information. Usually, ex officio members have access to information and documents being discussed.
Lisa Jo Elliott shares the report with the remaining members of the Faculty Council at this stage.
Lisa Jo Elliott: A member of Faculty Affairs sent a request for amendments to the Constitution. This is another question to consider for the Faculty Council.
Q: Did you (Lisa Jo Elliott) share the file that contains the proposed amendment to the constitution with the Chancellor and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs?
Lisa Jo Elliott: No, because of a delicate situation involving Faculty Affairs.
Q: I don’t see anything in this document that explains why members of the Faculty Council would be excluded from looking at this document.
Eric Robbins: Comment on an adjustment being recommended: The process of replacing a chair. We waited 30 days before we knew who the new chair would be. We need to speed up this process. We lost days to work on our tasks because of the lag in this process. I don’t see an option to just accept the document that proposed amendments. I would not want another committee to experience the same problems we had.
Lisa Jo Elliott: According to the Constitution the next step is to form an ad-hoc committee to discuss the proposed amendments. There is no immediate accept. The suggestions included in the document require careful consideration.
Q: If this person resubmitted in August, the next step would still be to form an ad-hoc committee?
Lisa Jo Elliott: Correct
Comment: There are good ideas here. Making the charges clear is important. An ad-hoc committee would be useful to discuss the proposed amendments.
Lisa Jo Elliott: If that is what happens, Lena Surzhko-Harned will appoint an ad-hoc committee that would work on this task over the summer with the new Chair of Faculty Council to revise these and discuss in the first Faculty Council meeting in the fall.
Q: Do we start immediately or in the next year (August 2023)?
Lisa Jo Elliott: My preference is to start this process in the fall. Any member of the Faculty Senate can request an amendment. We can work on this in the fall. A Council vote is important to decide what is the best course of action.
Matthew Swinarski: Even if someone makes a suggestion, this does not mean the suggestion needs to be voted on automatically. The proposed amendments go to a committee and the committee reviews the proposed amendments. On the proposed change to 50 faculty members required to vote: When we run University Senate, we elect senators, and those senators represent us and vote. Maybe a way to adjust our system is to have the committees, which represent all Schools (around 80 members), vote. The majority would be 41 as opposed to 50. This might increase incentive to participate in committee work and Faculty Council. It is important that an ad-hoc committee discusses these proposed amendments. Then amendments need to be clearly presented to faculty for a vote. The process takes time.
Lisa Jo Elliott: The 20% of faculty is 72 voters, so we are pretty close to 50.
Pam Silver: The Constitution needs an overhaul. Rather than completing this task piecemeal, it would be wise to constitute a committee to take a thorough look at the Constitution, make the revisions, and consider the problems holistically because it has been six years since the Constitution has been examined.
After all this comments, the poll is relaunched.
Eric Robbins: The revision of the whole Constitution: Is this the option to resubmit in August-September or the option of forming an ad-hoc committee?
Lisa Jo Elliott: This is a separate question. I hear from the group that we do need to look at the Constitution again and form a committee regardless. The question is: Do we form this committee now or do we form it in the fall?
Lisa Jo Elliott shares results of the poll:
She will ask the faculty member who proposed the amendments to resubmit in August 2023. She will inform the faculty member that an ad-hoc committee is being formed to look at the Constitution and she will share the amendment document with the ad-hoc committee.
First Year Seminar ad-hoc committee
Lisa Jo Elliott reveals that only two people are willing to serve the ad-hoc committee for first-year seminar. Council advice is asked. The options are to table this or trying to obtain faculty members again.
Matthew Swinarski: Faculty indicated it was not worth their time. If we cannot appoint members, then we cannot move forward. The first-year seminar is important to retain students. Freshmen classes are essential.
Q: Can you share more information on this point?
Lisa Jo Elliott: We have a first-year seminar report from an ad-hoc committee last year; they had recommendations to be implemented. We needed a group of faculty members to help the administration to implement the recommendations.
Eric Robbins: Today was our accreditation visit. AACSB was here for a review. They were incredibly impressed with the first-year seminar program. This program is very important from a recruitment and retention perspective. I took 40 students to Pittsburgh for a business networking trip; they were really engaged. I have been noticing a good change. My suggestion: If this is something that administration wants to support at the college level, then the School Directors can form their own committees to work on first-year seminars.
Lisa Jo Elliott: The challenge is academic freedom. Not everyone who teaches first-year seminar might adopt proposed changes. Of course, our first duty is to our students.
Lynne Beaty: If you are looking for volunteers, this is the wrong time to ask now. Faculty members are exhausted. We can try again maybe in the fall.
Charlotte De Vries: Rather than have a committee, members of the teaching community can share ideas at informal meetings. Rather than coming up with a set of rules, we could share best practices.
Lisa Jo Elliott: I might reword the email in a way that is more enticing and clearer. We just need to implement the suggestions in ways that are palatable to faculty members.
Chancellor Ford: The changes in the School of Business have been impactful indeed. New practices in first-year seminars do not have to be mandated. What is important is to stimulate the discussion. We can invite faculty to meet to have conversations on practices for first-year seminars, and we need to consider that faculty might have different perspectives on practices depending on discipline. School Directors can be convenors in trying to help faculty get to those discussions. Faculty will find it beneficial to understand how to leverage the suggestions in different contexts.
Last meeting for the 22-23 academic year.
Lisa Jo Elliott: Thank you for participating.
I will share these documents with Chancellor Ford and Pam Silver as soon as this meeting ends.
Lena Surzhko-Harned will be the new Chair.
Chair reports are due May 15; they go to Lena Surzhko-Harned.
Matthew Swinarski; Charlotte De Vries