How to Bring a Concern to the University Faculty Senate

The University Faculty Senate is a body that represents all faculty at all locations. As a deliberative body governed by its Constitution and Standing Rules, it can take action on behalf of faculty formally through its Standing Committees or informally by acting as intermediary with administration.  In addition, the Faculty Advisory Committee can address concerns in its discussions with the President and other administrators.

Faculty across the university are invited to share their concerns with the Senators representing their unit.  Given the number of ways outlined above that the Senate can address faculty concerns, unit Senators have several options for bringing issues to the attention of Senate officers or other constituents or units.

Specifically, Senators may choose among the following options for action:

1. Ask advice from one of the following:

a. The Senate Chair, Chair-Elect, or Secretary
b. The head of the Senator’s caucus
c. The chair or vice chair of the Senator’s standing committee.

Names of these persons are available from the Senate webpage: <senate.psu.edu>.

Talking to a Senate officer is often a productive starting point because officers can provide advice on the most effective channel for the Senate to address specific concerns.  Several options are open:  legislative action, consultation with the administration, compilation of an informational report by a standing committee, forensic discussion on the Senate floor, or discussion by a standing committee. Officers can also help determine whether the concern is university-wide or local, and can provide advice for next steps in either case.

Consulting the head of the unit’s caucus or the chair or vice chair of a standing committee can also help provide direction for further action. Caucus leaders might suggest contacting a Senate officer or discussing the issue in caucus or in committee. After discussion, caucuses and standing committees may recommend that the Senate leadership take some action to address the issue.

2. Share thoughts and concerns with colleagues in the UFS Discussion Forum accessible from the Senate website,
<
senate.psu.edu>.

Blogging about a concern at the UFS Discussion Forum starts a discussion among fellow Senators. It is a good way to assess their opinions about the importance and urgency of a concern.

3. Raise the concern during the last segment of the plenary meeting, “Comments and Recommendations for the Good of the University,” either in comments or via motion or resolution.

Raising a concern at the Senate plenary puts it before the entire Senate and, if an issue is presented with a particularly cogent argument or is one of great concern, this strategy may move the Senate or the Senate leadership to address the issue. If the Senator chooses to introduce a concern in the form of a motion or resolution, and if it is seconded:

“It shall be laid on the table until the next regular meeting of the Senate unless the Chair calls a special meeting to consider this item before the next regular meeting” (Standing Rules, Article I, Section 7).

4. Where matters of special concern require immediate attention, and the usual procedures of the Senate will impede or unduly delay consideration, a Senator can call for a special meeting of the Senate to address the issue:

“The Chair shall convene the Senate in response to a written petition of at least fifty members of the University faculty to consider proposals of the petitioners stated in writing, providing the petition contains:

a. statement of purpose of petition and
b. names of five faculty members designated to meet with the Senate Council.

The five designated faculty members will review the issue substantively with the Senate Council before the special meeting of the Senate” (Bylaws, Article V – Meetings, Section 3).