Larry Backer, Chair of the Faculty Senate, told members of the Graduate Student Association that if they don't see him, that's a good thing.
"To a large extent, much of the most effective things [Faculty Senate] does are outside the formal structure of the senate meetings," Backer said. "The less you see or know me, the more effective I feel I know I am."
Backer, who was chosen as the guest speaker at Wednesday night's GSA general meeting, explained to members the role of the Faculty Senate, as well as the challenges and demands it faces this year.
"What we are really trying to do is take advantage of the hard-learned insights of the Sandusky scandal and use it to work through governance changes, one of them being transparency," Backer said.
In order to continue transparency in the senate, Backer said he created a senate chair website and blog to post information for everyone to see, including the Report of the Special Committee on University Governance, he said.
Backer said the nature of obligations for the university, as well as demands of the faculty are changing dramatically, so "it places a burden on the ability of institutions to be effective in a sustained way." But, Backer said student involvement, from both undergraduate and graduate students, is important.
"We don't operate well if you don't serve as a critical voice," Backer said.
GSA President Wanika Fisher said she was very excited to have Backer come and speak to GSA members.
"As graduate students, we work very closely with Faculty Senate because its members are our teachers and oversee our research," Fisher (graduate-law) said. "I thought it was good for us to learn the basics of how representative bodies and government works, and I thought he did a really great job."
Alan Janesch, director of the Penn State Grassroots Network, also spoke to GSA members about Capital Day, which GSA helps organize along with the University Park Undergraduate Association and the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments. Capital Day, scheduled for April 9, is a way for alumni and students to inform Pennsylvania legislators about issues that concern Penn State. Janesch said one of those issues is often funding from government for the school.
Janesch encouraged GSA members to participate because it helps keep the student voice effective.
"The more you can talk to legislators and make them understand your issues are his or her issues, the more effective you can be," Janesch said.
During the executive reports of the meeting, Fisher gave her President's Report on the upcoming Graduate Cup in April, which currently has 411 people signed up.
Fisher also let GSA members know of talks she had with Auxiliary and Business Services about more graduate student housing with meal plans. Fisher said Auxiliary and Business Services is interested in the idea for their 10-15 year projections, but added that there are limited resources and funding.
Later in the meeting, at-large representative Brandon Merritt explained to members a recent meeting with the State College Borough round table about increasing point values for noise ordinances in the borough.
Merritt (graduate-law) said there is currently a point system in place where residents receive a certain number of points for each noise violation they receive. Once a resident reaches 10 points, the city can ask to void the rental contract for the residents.
Merritt also added that some people are asking the point values to be raised in order to prevent students from making so much noise sometimes.
Merritt said this potential change would probably greatly affect fraternities and multiple-family housing.
"Everyone knows [noise violations] are an issue and people who spoke at the meeting, like property managers, are probably just as frustrated as we are," Merritt said.
After other executive and standing committee reports, the meeting was adjourned. The next GSA general assembly meeting will be March 27 at 6 p.m.