JCIB 2017-2018 Annual Report on the Status of Benefit Changes

Senate Chair Michael Bérubé encourages you to read the annual report prepared by the Senate Committee on Faculty Benefits; Joint Committee on Insurance and Benefits (See Link Below).


Please read the report and you may add your comments on this Discussion Forum by clicking on “Leave a Reply” above, entering your comments below and clicking “Post Comment.”

Concerns About Governance Of Intercollegiate Athletics (Past Chair John S. Nichols)

Intercollegiate Athletics Committee Oversight Concerns (Word)

The University Faculty Senate currently is not fulfilling its responsibilities in the shared governance of Intercollegiate Athletics, and failure to redress the problems could place the University and its excellent athletics program at unnecessary risk.  A serious re-examination of the Senate’s proper role in the governance of intercollegiate athletics and an updating of existing governance structures and policies are badly needed and long overdue.  An open letter to the Senate by Past Chair John S. Nichols is linked above (Clicking on the link will open a Word document).

Please read the letter and you may add your comments on this Discussion Forum by clicking on “Leave a Reply” above, entering your comments below and clicking “Post Comment.”

One Penn State: 2025

December 3rd Presentation to the Commonwealth Caucus
Renata Engel Vice Provost for Online Education and
Yvonne Gaudelius, Associate Vice President and Senior Associate Dean Undergraduate Education

A summary of the report outlining the vision and the five Guiding Principles for One Penn State 2025 and a Commonwealth Campus slide show are now available in BoardEffect. The report was produced by the Future of Online Learning and the Role of the World Campus Task Force.

Presentation from President Eric Barron at the Board of Trustees September 14, 2018 can be found here: https://www.psu.edu/ur/newsdocuments/One_Penn_State_2025.pdf

Based on goals articulated in the strategic plan, a new vision statement, “One Penn State: 2025,” maintains the University will be more integrated and flexible in providing its students a world-class education.

As this plan is in the early stages, we are seeking feedback and suggestions. You may add your comments on this Discussion Forum by clicking on “Leave a Reply” above, entering your comments below and clicking “Post Comment” or within the BoardEffect Discussion Forum linked above by clicking on “+ Reply” adding your comments and clicking “Submit”.

Academic Integrity Task Force Report

The Academic Integrity Task Force Report is now available in BoardEffect here: https://psufaculty.boardeffect.com/downloads/vfile/1601302

The report is being reviewed by six standing committees (ARSSA, Educational Equity and Campus Environment, Intra-University Relations, LIST, Student Life, and Undergraduate Education), but since it goes to the heart of our educational mission, every Senator should read it and offer feedback.

You may add your comments on this Discussion Forum by entering your comments below and clicking “Post Comment” or within the BoardEffect Discussion Forum linked above by clicking on “+ Reply” adding your comments and clicking “Submit”.

Additionally, we will schedule a forensic session at a plenary meeting as soon as possible.

Thanks for your attention to this critically important report.

Senate Chair Michael Bérubé

Undergraduate Football Student Tickets Concern


As stated in the eligibility requirements at


“Undergraduate students- Must be registered for at least 12 credits for the 2018 Fall semester…”.

As I do agree with this requirement for undergraduates, it raises a concern for me for students with special situations. According to Penn State, undergraduates are considered full time if they meet the minimum of 12 credits per semester. There are often special situations where students are considered full time from the Registrar’s Office, but do not meet the 12 credit window. This leaves them without an option to buy Penn State student season tickets.

An example of this special situation is students with an internship or co-op. There is a class that Penn State offers, ENG 295, that offers students to get credit for their work at their internship. If they take this class, they are offered between 1-3 credits for their work, but the University Registrar Office considers them full time even though they do not meet the 12 credit requirement.

My solution is to change the requirements policy for undergraduate students from needing 12 credits by a certain date, to being full time undergraduate students by a certain date. This will fulfill the current requirements while also expanding it to students with special situations that want to support their school.



Grade Distribution Discussion

Dear Senators:

I read with great interest appendix O from the Undergraduate Studies Committee on Grade Distributions.

After noticing that grade distributions tended to play an uneven role in faculty promotions across various campuses and colleges, I began to study the issue more closely. I’m hopeful that our Senate might take some time to further discuss and emphasize the following lines in the report:

“With respect to the role of grades in performance reviews, it is important to note that authors such as Millet (2016) caution against solely using grades as a metric to evaluate faculty members as this may have unintended consequences; for example, instructors may, in an attempt to improve their grading reliability scores, use GPAs to assign grades in a course.”

If instructors take seriously the guidance given to them by senate documents and significant administrators, they would find themselves facing what Gregory Bateson termed a psychological “double bind” (1956). They receive two contradictory messages from authority figures and find themselves unable to accommodate both without extreme measures. As Bateson, supported by R.D. Laing, explained, these impossible to reconcile standards produce environments that make it extremely difficult for those entrapped in them to maintain mental health and productivity.

I have begun working on an essay to analyze the impact of efforts to externally influence individual instructors’ grade distributions. It is very much a work in progress that I would prefer to further vet before sharing. It seems, however, that the issues are set to be discussed this month, so I’ll (with hesitation, given that I wish it were stronger!) present it now: http://sites.psu.edu/rclmiles/2016/09/13/editorial-grade-deflation-a-different-problem-not-the-solution/

In short, we really need to come up with some better solutions to the problem of grade inflation than expecting administrators to press their faculty into giving lower grades.

Senator Mary Miles

Professor Emeritus of Accounting

Support Graham Spanier
I was seriously appalled when former PSU executives Gary Schultz and Tim Curley pled guilty to charges of child endangerment after long-time denials. This threw former President Graham Spanier under the bus and caused irreparable harm to the University.
To provide background, there were two shower incidents on campus by Sandusky with preteen boys. The 1998 shower was reported to Penn State police, thoroughly investigated and reported to all relevant parties. This boy told Licensed Psychologist Alycia Chambers that Jerry played a squeeze your guts game where Sandusky yanked him tightly to his body. No legal action was taken, but the then DA and his computer later strangely disappeared.
In the 2001 incident, Mike McQueary happened by when Sandusky and his guest were showering. Mike could not see them, but heard slapping sounds and assumed possible sex. After Mike made noises, the boy peeked at him but showed no signs of distress. Shaken, Mike went to his parents’ home for advice. Family friend Dr. Jonathon Dranov was called. A mandated reporter, Dr. Dranov explained and questioned Mike extensively. He concluded that reporting to child welfare was not needed, but suggested that Mike report his information to Paterno, who properly passed it on.
Seven years later Lock Haven high school student Aaron Fisher with his mother reported his abuse by Sandusky to their local child welfare office. Sandusky was convicted of sexual abuse on June 22, 2012. Wrongdoing by PSU executives seems inconceivable to me. The Spanier jury was horribly mistaken. The University Senate should indicate its support for Dr. Spanier by endorsement of the above or a new resolution.
(Originally created for Centre Daily Times)

Why We Should Support Faculty Affairs Advisory and Consultative Report on Titles

Dear Faculty Senate Friends and Colleagues,

For those of you I haven’t yet met in person, I’ve served on Senate for almost ten years and Chaired multiple committees. It has been a great pleasure to work with all of you. Right now, I Chair our Liberal Arts Caucus and am in the Departments of English and History. I come from a Penn State family (Dad – also a Faculty Senator — and brother are both alumni and faculty). I graduated in ’94 (BA) and ‘97 (MA), then completed my PhD at Cornell before returning here to pursue an incredibly rewarding career off the tenure track. The vote on the Advisory Consultative Report from Faculty Affairs regarding Titles is probably the most important event that I have witnessed at Faculty Senate. I’m eager and anxious for a positive outcome. Please contact me, mcm114@psu.edu, should you have any desire to discuss these issues further.

Many of you have tenured positions. I admire you. You remind me of my professors. They were my heroes. Whether bringing the past to life for a college sophomore to mentoring an apprentice through pedagogical development, research, and endless exposure to the great theories and discoveries that shaped our discipline in the past and point us towards future avenues of investigation, they inspired and encouraged me. I wanted to do what they did and, for the most part, I do! They did all of this while creating pioneering works of research and scholarship, processes that made them even stronger teachers.

Speaking for myself and only myself (I know my non-tenure-track colleagues may have accomplished much more than I have), I hope tenured professors benefit from their hard work in their salaries, offices, and opportunities for distinguished and named titles. They took huge risks by starting the tenure track and worked hard. I made different choices and, if I’m honest with myself, some mistakes that I regret (again speaking only for myself and not for my non-tenure track colleagues). I did not discipline myself to hone in on high-tier publishing. I was unwilling to accept the uncertainties involved in a seven year “up or out” deal. I take full personal responsibility for that.

I, however, do research too. I wrote a dissertation, I publish articles and present at conferences. I create, develop, and teach courses at the university for college students in our classrooms, on-line, and in study abroad programs. I “profess” the knowledge, expertise, and lessons that my professors professed to me. For over fifteen years, I’ve been doing the job that the clear majority of educated secondary students and adults understand to be that of a “professor”. Unfortunately, my various proper titles lead to confusion: some extended family, friends, and students think I am a permanent teaching assistant or substitute teacher.

This simple change — having a title that suggests I have a “real” job — would add immeasurably to my life at no cost to others. The distinction between tenure track and non-tenure track faculty will remain crystal clear — no worries there! The university will not be “hiding” the fact that so many faculty are not tenured. If anything, title changes will provide units with MORE reminders and opportunities to articulate the precise differences between tenure-track and non — the emphasis on publication and the more precise, rigorous hiring process, for example. We will all continue to PROTECT TENURE as much as possible. Efforts to improve conditions for non-tenure track faculty will, as well, continue unabated.

Colleagues who already have access to robust titles off the tenure track will now be able to share this wonderful opportunity with their most vulnerable faculty friends and peers. The Medical School will run its own system, the Law School will identify its own terminal degrees, Smeal can continue to call its FT faculty “clinical”. Everywhere there will be opportunities to engage the new system in spirit and intent. If you do not have a terminal degree, you will still have access to professorial titles. A report such as this is VERY unlikely to come around again. This is our absolute best chance to see professorial titles in our lifetimes.

Part-time and FT2 faculty will not be forgotten. Anything that elevates the FT group generally is desirable for all of us. Now, the need to address concerns regarding benefits, raises, and promotions for part-time faculty can ascend to the top of the list.

I do not ask you to support this report, though, because it would make me happy. It would, of course, fill me with joy beyond measure, gratitude, and relief to finally be counted among my peers in the larger faculty as a functioning university professor. More importantly, however, I implore you to support our students, the whole faculty body, and the entire university by voting yes.

This proposal to set non-tenure track faculty titles is all about building a stronger Penn State faculty overall. For years, some units have hired non-tenure faculty ad hoc, on whims, and with minimal thought. Now non-tenure track faculty are a faculty majority, comprising many talented individuals, yet the group as a whole is an unorganized hodgepodge of random hires and titles.

If Departments and Colleges realize that their non-tenure track faculty will be represented on their websites as “Associate Professors of Teaching or Research”, for example (though distinguished from tenure-track faculty), they might begin paying attention to those faculty members’ areas of expertise and to future hires. With professorial titles for non-tenure track faculty, Penn State will attract the highest level of talented applicants (this has been irrefutably demonstrated by both the Smeal College of Business and the Medical School). Then we can use actual strategy to put together a coherent, dynamic, qualified non-tenure track faculty that complements the tenure track pool.

Of course, current Penn State non-tenure Faculty will benefit from being able to refer to themselves as “Associate Professors of Teaching”, for example, in their dealings with students, publishers, and grant offices. Even more importantly, though, it will behoove Penn State to attract ever increasing strength in all faculty areas and build the best possible faculty body that combines both tenure track and non-tenure track professors. No potential drawbacks outweigh this opportunity for exponential growth in excellence.

Thus, I beseech you from the depths of my heart and for all of the emotional reasons to vote yes. PLEASE, PLEASE consider it. Even more so, I urge you to follow so many of our peer institutions who have recognized that professorial titles foster a stronger, more stable, and more strategically cohesive faculty body of tenure-track and non, working in harmony.

Vote yes for yourselves, for your students, for the glory and — if you are so inclined — for me and others like me. Set us free from the daily stigma of being segregated from our tenure-track friends and peers and bearing the marker of that lower status in our very names, our labels. THIS MAY BE OUR VERY LAST CHANCE. Please, please don’t let it slip away.

With Respect and Affection,
Mary Miles

Moving Beyond University Expropriation and Control of Faculty “Outside Business Activities” –a Proposal for a Rule that is Simple and Fair

In “Just Because it is Legal Doesn’t Make it Right–The Extension of University Control of Employee “Outside Business Activity”” I have been writing about the way that the most pernicious aspects of the master-servant relationship tolerated in U.S. law has been creeping into the relationship between the university and its faculty. Three distinct aspects were noted: (1) Many research 1 universities have begun to seek to claim for themselves not just the fruits of the labor they paid for in hiring staff, but also to control and exploit all faculty productive capacity even beyond contract term periods. (2) At the same time, the university has begun to see in their faculty an extension of their brand–the objectification of the human being who serve as faculty..in a way that reduces them to factors in the production of university reputation ONLY, and thus amenable to control by the university at all times as if they were other sorts of property. (3) Lastly, the university sees in the aggregated work activities of faculty an enormous source of data that could be better exploited and thus view rules regulation work beyond that compensated through university contracts as a valuable information asset to be harvested.

These trends have not occurred in a vacuum. There is no disputing that individuals have taken advantage of the porous nature of the teaching-university relationship. These include multiple simultaneous full time teaching producing, in the most egregious cases multiple simultaneous tenured appointments. Outside consulting during the academic year can become so excessive that it interferes with compensated expectations for research, teaching and service. Outside activity might conflict with the interests of the university directly (I take as more hysterical, strategic, and overblown university efforts to create prophylactic rules that extend conflict beyond direct and substantial conflicts between faculty activity and university interests).

It has been in that context that universities have sought to protect their legitimate interests–and investment–in their faculty. And usually that has produced badly drafted and overblown regulatory efforts, usually drafted by lawyers or administrators with little experience regulatory drafting but enthusiastic to extend university authority to the full reach of the law. The result has been characterized by overreaching that at times might suggest that the now popular university ethics rules do not apply to its own regulatory activities. Worse, these regulatory efforts tend to become complex baroque affairs to collapse into incoherence by weight of their own overwrought cleverness–none of which provides real substantive benefit to the university. Compare typical variations on the conflict of interest, conflict of commitment and outside teaching and consulting policies: University of Georgia; University of Washington; University of Texas; University of Utah; University of Maryland; and Purdue University.

That is regrettable. But fairly easy to fix IF (the university is willing to take a reasonable position and faculty are willing to engage in outside activities judiciously and in good faith. To that end a simple rule that is easy to understand and easy to implement, a rule that is easy to monitor and apply might be the most useful mechanism to balance the interests of university and faculty- That simple rule ought to be respectful of the faculty’s right to employ his own productive forces when he is not rendering service to the university, while protecting the university in its legitimate expectation that its employees will not shirk. The easiest approach is to provide a simple safe harbor rule for faculty consulting and teaching outside the university, one that is entirely focused on those time periods when the faculty member is employed by the university (usually under a 9 month contract), but relinquishes control when the university does not pay its faculty for services. At the same time, such a simple rule ought to be generous in permitting the university to harvest data about such activity–to the extent that such data is shared with those contributing information.

I have produced a model that is geared for Penn State but is easily applicable to other major research universities. It follows. Comments and reactions welcome. For a variation See Michigan State University. For an alternative consider Harvard’s Statement.

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