Members of Penn State’s University Faculty Senate kicked off Tuesday’s meeting by engaging the newly-formed student Diversity Awareness Task Force in the possibility of implementing required diversity courses.
“Cultural awareness should be a requirement, and we need your help to incorporate a sustained education on it,” said Brian Aynardi, a faculty senate representative.
The task force presented senate members with additional ideas to increase diversity awareness on campus, such as re-evaluating existing diversity courses and increasing multicultural events.
Ayandari (graduate-plant pathology and environmental microbiology) added that this initiative isn’t a response to a single incident, but it is a response to the “lack of diversity” the university has experienced for years past. Senate attendees responded positively to the task force’s proposal and offered support in its current endeavor.
The lengthiest portion of the meeting focused on a review of the senate’s organization. Larry Backer, senate chair , presented the possibility of a re-structuring of the senate to better serve the university.
“Critical engagement is lacking from some, not all, senate committees,” Backer said.
Senate Parliamentarian Mohamad Ansari opened the floor to suggestions from senators on how to improve efficiency of the senate.
Suggestions included more communication through blogs and emails during the time between the monthly meetings to ensure members are in constant communication.
Ansari added that the University Faculty Senate previously held seven meetings in a school year but now holds six, and that could be a cause for why the senate isn’t achieving as much as it hopes to at each meeting.
A subcommittee of faculty senators has formed to address the structure of the senate. It aims to develop a more efficient process for accomplishing tasks in the senate. The subcommittee has sent out surveys to senate members and will use the results to re-organize senate structure.
Penn State’s World Campus is also looking to improve its services for the benefit of the university.
“We are looking to change the way people view World Campus,” said Wayne Smutz , executive director and associate vice president of Academic Outreach for World Campus.
Smutz said that often people view World Campus’ classes to be easier, but in fact, they use the same standards as many courses offered at University Park and at Commonwealth Campuses.
Smutz said the program has experienced great success over the past 15 years, since it first began, but it’s always looking to improve by offering more courses, utilizing every possible technology available and reaching out to more prospective students.
The presentation Smutz gave listed World Campus as offering more than 90 academic programs with more than 12,000 students enrolled.
Students apply to Penn State World Campus for convenience and flexibility, and now they are being offered more student involvement opportunities than ever before, which officials hope draws prospective students in, Smutz said.
While some Penn State programs are growing, others are looking to be replaced.
The Integrated Student Information System , which was created 30 years ago to record student information, will be removed to make room for a modern, more efficient system.
“ISIS is not serving the needs of Penn State today, and after thorough analysis, we have decided to adopt a new system,” Karen Schultz , university registrar, said.
The new system will allow for faculty to do more because of technology advancements that have been made since the current system, ISIS, was created in the early 1980s. Schultz said executive steering committees have been created to choose a vendor that will supply the university with a new system.
Along with executive steering committees, Schultz presented the senate with the possibility of project teams and faculty focus groups that would create a list of system requirements, design ideas, system functions and policy changes.
“We are not the school we were in 1980; we need to think about this change,” Schultz added.
The next senate meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on March 12.