Meeting Minutes

Undergraduate Education


October 17, 2017

Members Present at pre-meeting: J. Belanger, M. Stine, S. Suliman

Members Present: A. Ahr, G. Casper, T. Cios, D. Conti, J. Furfaro, Y. Gaudelius, D. Han, P. Heaney, V. Hewitt, P. Johnson, P. Linehan, K. Pollack, V. Prabhu, J. Safran, G. Samuel, B. Seymour, K. Shapiro, D. Smith 

Members Absent: K. Henninger 

  1. Call to order
  2. Approval of the September 12 minutes
    1. A motion was made and the minutes were approved.
  3. Report from Officers and Chairs
    1. Note, that additional items have been added to the Senate Committee Priority Form.
    2. The workflow between ARSSA, Curricular Affairs and Undergraduate Education are still being worked out.
    3. There will continue to be work this year on the professional pathways for fixed-term faculty.
    4. The Committee on Rules is looking at a broader vision for the Undergraduate Education Committee. The proposed new name is the Education Committee.
  4. Old Business
    1. Update on joint work with ARSSA. There are five items we will be discussing jointly.
    2. A-7, Academic Standing: Mary Beth Williams (chair of ARSSA), Beth Seymour, Yvonne Gaudelius, and David Smith will discuss.
    3. 42-27 Class Attendance Policy – changes addressing students in active duty military status
      1. A motion was made to approve the revised language. The motion was approved.
      2. 42-27 will move to the December Senate meeting for a vote.
    4. Discuss Senate Policy 34-20, Registration
      1. Risk Management suggested updates to this policy. Students participating in engagement activities for a course must be registered for the course.
      2. Broader issues were raised about permitting students, or adults, to sit in on classes without registering. Among these issues: students sitting in on classes to see if they are happy with the grade they would earn before paying for the class, students taking seats from other students who need the course to graduate, Go 60 students sitting in on classes because they are interested in the topic, but perhaps creating distractions.
      3. Yvonne will add phrasing to paragraph No. 2 to the effect, “… Students who want to register for more than 19 credits need permission from their academic advisor.”
      4. The group hoped for more of an explanation of the issues from Karen Henninger. What is the scope of the problem? What can LionPATH do and not do? How is the wait list functionality impacted?
    5. Committee to work on UE purview with respect to education – new vision
      1. Beth asked for volunteers to think about a broader Education perspective for the work of our committee, encompassing both undergraduate and graduate issues.
      2. David Han, Peggy Johnson and Keith Shapiro volunteered to serve on this committee.
  5. New Business
    1. Discuss Petition Report
      1. The Petition Report provides a summary of students who have petitioned to have academic decisions overturned during 2016-17. The process calls for three reviewers to read the student’s petition and documentation.
      2. The committee hopes to move to a digitized version of the process moving forward. It was suggested that the comments of the reviewers (the last page), should not be included when petitions are forwarded to each reviewer is able to make an independent judgment without seeing the comments of other reviewers. Furfaro recommended that the form stay as is, to allow reviewers to see the comments of the previous reviewers.
      3. An increase in the number of petitions submitted was noted. This increase was attributed to policy changes that came with LionPATH implementation.
      4. A motion was made to approve the report and the motion passed.
    2. Review existing policies
      1. The Graduate School (Michael Verderame) has been compiling a list of Senate policies that apply to both undergraduate and graduate students.
      2. The list of joint policies will be posted on the Graduate School web site. Policy for both undergraduate and graduates is delegated to the Senate on these issues.
    3. Exceptions to degree requirements, 82-60
      1. David Smith and Yvonne Gaudelius offered to look at this policy. Students switching majors find themselves short of credits. General Education credits that counted in the old major don’t count in the new major. Yvonne noted that Schreyer Honor’s College students already have this protection. The feeling is that other students should as well.
      2. David described this as the “move three concept.” When a student takes a sequence of courses in a particular General Education area to explore their interest in a particular area, they should have confidence that those courses will count in a major. Adjusting the policy to support students’ General Education choices would help to preserve the spirit of Penn State’s new General Education structure, instead of forcing students to use 3 credits of General Education to meet the missed degree requirement.
      3. Yvonne reminded us that the associate dean/director of academic affairs for the entering college would still have to approve these substitutions. In addition to the policy change, documentation of the process would also be needed to require that the proper notation is made in Starfish acknowledging that the substitution has been requested and approved.
    4. New agenda items
      1. Michelle Rice, Director of Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) at Penn State has shared the recommendations of the Task Force on PLA. PLA covers everything from Advanced Placement credits earned in high school to transfer courses brought in by returning adult students and courses that resident instruction students take at other institutions over the summer then transfer into Penn State.
      2. The recommendations include referring to both credit by exam and credit by portfolio as being part of a larger category of credit by assessment options at Penn State.
      3. The Task Force identified concerns with large numbers of transfer credits coming into Penn State as “general” as opposed to “direct equivalents.” The goal for the institution is to move more of these credits into direct equivalents on Penn State degree audits. When credits aren’t counted toward direct equivalents, students’ time and cost to degree is increased significantly.
      4. When the University moved into LionPATH from ISIS, the decision was not to bring in transfer credits that had not been evaluated in the last 10 years. A concerted effort was made across faculty disciplinary communities to enter these courses into the new database for evaluation. To date, 40,000 courses are in the database, but there is still a great deal of work to be done and the faculty play a crucial role.
      5. The PLA Task Force recommends that faculty reviewing these courses consider the 80/20 rule for content comparison and focus more on common learning outcomes rather than differing text book choices or pedagogy.
      6. Yvonne reminded us that 60 of a student’s last 120 credits still have to be complete at Penn State in order to earn a Penn State degree.
    5. Beth said that we will pick up the SRTE discussion as part of our spring agenda.
    6. There was some additional discussion about the Attendance/student absence policy, which is often misunderstood by faculty. Faculty can ask student if they have an excuse for missing class or an assignment, but they can’t require it. The policy clearly states that not all work can be made up. ACUE updated the process around this procedure to eliminate any confusion.
  6. Adjourned

back to top


September 12, 2017

Members Present:  A. Ahr, J. Belanger, T. Cios, D. Conti,  J. Furfaro, Y. Gaudelius, D. Han, K. Henninger, P. Linehan, K. Pollack, V. Prabhu, J. Safran, G. Samuel, B. Seymour, K. Shapiro, D. Smith, S. Suliman

Members Absent: G. Casper, P. Heaney, P. Johnson, M. Stine

Agenda:

  1. Call to Order
  2. The April 25, 2017 minutes were approved with minor modifications.
  3. Discussion of priority items for the year
    1. ACUE recommendation to consider the alignment of general education and major requirements with the year the student enters the University. Discussion: The ACUE discussion was explained that there can be a lot of confusion surrounding different requirements for degree, Gen Ed and University, as many degree requirements kick in with Entrance to Major rather than start of first year. We need to consider creating a system that allows for clearer and better planning for students. An additional consideration relates to accreditation requirements by state the state for some majors (nursing or engineering, etc.) LionPATH would need 6 months for any changes. Other considerations: What happens with change of major because students enter pre-major declaration. Possibly think of this as a contract with students. It affects the phasing in and out of courses. We agreed it was a worthy charge, and that we should coordinate with ARSSA. Timeline: possibly December.
    2. Consider amending Bylaws to clarify the jurisdiction of the Senate and the UE committee’s purview with respect of education. Discussion: We’ve been asked by Chair of Senate, to consider changing the purview of UE to include graduate education. The suggestion is to possibly change our structure, calling ourselves Committee on Education, with subcommittees possibly including Graduate education and online education. Other Senate standing committees are also expanding their reach into graduate education, including Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity. It was brought up how graduate education varies tremendously across the University, College of Medicine, the law schools, Graduate Council, professional masters. There is no committee currently that focuses on graduate education, and it is part of the University Faculty Senate’s purview. There are many areas where better communication and consultation with the various graduate schools and the Senate would help to facilitate the work of the University. The committee accepts the charge and will work with ARSSA. Timeline: this will take some thought and discussion, late spring.
    3. Consider drafting legislation (with ARSSA) revising Senate Policy 34-20, Registration Archive. Discussion: We are being asked to consider adjusting this policy out of concern for students sitting in a class while they are not registered. One possible issue is liability. The student is not officially auditing. One of the main reasons we are considering a change is because with we no longer have a distinction between scheduled and registered status. It was brought up that this might concern some liability concerns related to field trips or some kind of problem, lab issues, etc, that might occur in the classroom. Currently, if a student is not enrolled in the class, they are not on the LionPath roster. We then discussed the various reasons that students might have to delay scheduling, because they are waiting for money to come through, have a registration hold (immunization is a common one), so the student might ask to attend while they get their situation resolved. It was mentioned that students who are having trouble paying bill can still enroll, but if haven’t paid a past semester, can’t even enroll unpaid. We decided it was an important item, and to work with ARSSA. Timeline: December.
    4. Consider an advisory/consultative report that permits faculty above the rank of assistant professor or assistant professor of teaching to opt out of SRTE evaluations in every class, in every semester. Discussion: We decided to discuss it, possibly invite Angela Linse to present to the committee. We will need to consult with Faculty Affairs. Timeline: January.
    5. With Student Life, draft an informational report on best practices for aiding students who have three or more midterm exams in a single day. Discussion: Student Life has the lead on this one, it is a recommendation from UPUA, and we are being asked to consider it. Students experience a lot of stress when they have multiple exams bunched together during the semester. Timeline: December.
    6. Look at Grade submission deadline, particularly in reference to Academic Standing and Pre-requisite checking, 47-20 Basis for Grades, G-1 Grade Reporting, and 54-10 Good Standing. Discussion: There are a bunch of complications related to academic standing, pre-requisite checking, grade reporting timeline and running reports in LionPATH. While the Senate’s change of policy related to good standing were designed to help students, now that it is implemented it needs some fine tuning. With DF of NG, academic standing is calculated based on the grades they have to date. So students may be put into warning or dismissal AFTER the next semester begins. So we let them go another semester. They can dig a hole deeper and deeper. Form task force regarding what is student success? This seemed like a sticky problem, overall. A very complicated issue. We will work closely with ARSSA. Timeline: December/January.
  4. The committee was asked if there were other items left over from last year, or other items the committee should consider.
    1. Attendance Policy 42-27: This was worked on last year, but worked stopped over the summer. Student on active military duty may be deployed, and some instructors are willing to work with them, but sometimes they don’t when work just can’t be made up. Withdrawal already exists on case-by-case basis if they need to deploy, and they are reimbursed. D. Smith will find the policy and work with the chair to move this forward for committee review. Timeline: December/January.
    2. From last meeting, consider a place to house information or a syllabus template for faculty to help them address all of the Senate mandated syllabus items. Who would be responsible for keeping it current? And disseminating it to all? How do we best accommodate the goals associated with this? This is an item that needs more discussion.
    3. David Smith brings this item to the committee: 47-80 Repeating Courses. Some students are taking courses again and getting multiple As to help their entrance to major GPA requirement. 47-80 says they can retake if C or better, but they need permission of the advisor, but no one checks. Needs to be automatically checked and someone alerted so that students adhere to 47-80. If course can be used to meet multiple specific requirements, one attempt can be applied to one, and the next attempt applied to the other. Degree audit may be checking this, not sure. Entrance to Major, Smeal College requirements, etc. What about grade replacement option, newest attempt would stick? Highest attempt would stick? It was decided we would benchmark with other Big10 schools. Consult with ARSSA as well. Timeline: March.
  5. The chair then asked for volunteers to staff three subcommittees (Retention and Transfer, Writing, US/IL) for SCCA. There was some discussion about the amount of work required, and members wanted a description of Retention and Transfer sent out via email. The work is done online.
    1. Peter Linehan volunteered for US/IL
  6. Volunteers were requested for the University Advising Council.
    1. Jonna Belanger and George Samuel volunteered
  7. Adjourned at 10:30

back to top


April 25, 2017

Members Present: P. Bartell, K. Bieschke, G. Casper, D. Eggebeen, J. Furfaro, K. Pollack, J. Safran, A. Schmiedekamp, D. Smith, S. Suliman, M.B. Williams, M. Wilson, R.S. Young

Members Absent: A. Ahr, B. Barr, J. Barlow, D. Han,

Agenda:

  1. Call to Order
  2. The March 21, 2017 minutes were approved.
  3. Report from the Officers and Chairs – Matthew Wilson
    1. College of Liberal Arts strongly objects to dropping the report on grade distribution. There will be a motion on the floor to drop our second recommendation, which was to discontinue generating the report. It is helpful as a metric, for comparison, to refer students to who express concern that grading is too rigorous.
    2. Concern was that the report just confirms what we already know, nationally, grades are rising. The report has been generated for 20 years but is seldom used.
    3. Motion: change phrasing to retain the report, but provide added guidance on use until more meaningful analysis/data can be accessed.
  4. Assessment of General Education – Maggie Slattery
    1. Five goals developed for Gen Ed will be assessed. They are working on developing a timeline. The first goal was to complete initial review of courses. Surveys were sent to all Gen Ed students last week as an indirect measure. The survey results will be shared. The seven key learning objectives were defined by Barb’s office.
    2. Starting Fall 18 students, will fall under new Gen Ed requirements. Each disciplinary community will need to agree on common learning objectives. All new Gen Ed’s will have to go through curriculum certification process. Existing courses are expected to go through recertification in the next two years.
    3. Kathy Bieschke suggested more rigorous examples could be added. For example, peer review is a typical assessment strategy in social sciences.
    4. There are 400 Gen Ed courses out of 1200 that most students take. They are courses that offer many sections with large enrollment (Ex: Econ 102, 104; Chem 112). Many are prescribed for majors.
  5. Class Attendance Policy Revision: 42-27
    1. Will be on agenda for September
    2. Line 4 we should add: “Associate dean of appropriate enrollment unit?”
    3. David Smith will edit 42-27 for clarity and forward to Renee Thorton-Roop and Karen.
  6. Well-Being and Safety for First- Year (WS) Students:
    1. Committee members expressed concern about students having to keep track of, and meet, yet another grad requirement.
    2. The student representatives on our committee were in favor of it. It should happen early, in the first year.
    3. David Smith noted that we have to start with the capacity. We already have trouble coming up with enough ENGL 15, CAS 100, freshman seminar course sections to meet demand. The committee is in favor of the spirit, of a new WS category, but not the new requirement. As written, a 3-credit course containing 25% content on the WS topic would be sufficient.
    4. New student orientation (NSO) is jam packed. Not enough time or appropriate timing to cover the topic. The committee favors a multi-model approach: repeating the messages through NSO, freshman convocation, freshman seminar, web-based resources, etc. Build more of a grassroots effort as opposed to another graduation requirement.
  7. Suggested Senate Undergraduate Educations Discussion Items for Next Year:
    1. Student engagement.
    2. Academic warning policy/Student suspension policy – as a student success initiative rather than a registration issue.
    3. Joint Undergraduate Education / Curricular Affairs priorities.
    4. Joint: Undergraduate Education / Admissions Records, Scheduling, and Student Aid (ARSSA) priorities.
    5. A syllabus template that can be auto-generated in Canvas.

back to top


March 14, 2017 (Rescheduled for March 21, 2017)

Members Present: P. Bartell, K. Bieschke, G. Casper, R. Duschl, D. Eggebeen, J. Furfaro, Y. Gaudelius, C. Kelley, D. Lang, K. Pollack, J. Safran, A. Schmiedekamp, D. Smith, S. Suliman, M.B. Williams, M. Wilson, R.S. Young

Members Absent: A. Ahr, B. Barr, J. Barlow, S. Geisinger, D. Han, P. Koch

Agenda:

  1. Call to Order
  2. The January 2017 meeting minutes were approved.
  3. Report from the Officers and Chairs Meeting
    1. Matthew Wilson said that all committee reports will be due this Friday, March 24 in order to make the agenda for the last Senate meeting of the year.
    2. Today’s Senate meeting will include a continuation of the discussion on fixed-term faculty
  4. Standing Joint Committee on General Education
    1. Guest: Barb Masi, Associate Vice Provost for Learning Outcomes Assessment
    2. Barb shared that more than 80 percent of all Penn State programs did submit their learning outcome assessment plans, in keeping with the University’s Middle States Accreditation due date. Barb’s office will now be working with faculty on their recertification processes.
    3. Barb said she would like to like to bring her recommendations for General Education assessment to our committee for review. We agreed. Barb will attend our next meeting on Tuesday, April 25 at 9 a.m. in 110C Chandlee Lab.
  5. Discussion of Changes in Minor Policy
    1. The committee reviewed feedback from the Administrative Council on Undergraduate Education (ACUE) on the new policy on minors. The feeling was that while the intent of the new policy was good – to insure that academic minors are distinct in content from academic majors – that elective credits should be permitted to count toward both the major and the minor
    2. The question was raised, “Can LionPATH manage this?” The answer was yes.
    3. A motion was made to amend the Minor Policy to allow elective credits.
    4. The motion passed.
  6. Updates on Attendance Policy 42-27
      Guest: Renee Thornton-Roop, Office of Veteran Affairs
  7. We reviewed the proposed edits to 42-27, the Attendance Policy. The edits are intended to better explain what happens when military students get called into service during the academic semester. The military student who is called up should get a complete tuition refund if they are not able to make up the missed course work.
  8. Some additional suggestions were made to clarify the wording. Renee said she would incorporate the additional edits.
  9. Karen Pollack will forward the final edits to Matthew and the committee can vote on the revised policy in BoardEffect.
  • Special Committee on Engaged Scholarship
      Guests: Ann Clement and Martha Aynardi
  • Ann and Martha shared the draft report on Engaged Scholarship for the committee’s feedback. The report was put together in 45 days and was written to address President’s Barron’s imperative around Student Engagement.
  • After looking at the discussions and initiatives around engagement so far, the Special Committee on Engaged Scholarship came up with seven recommendations toward a University framework for engaged scholarship
    1. Define the activity as a partnership with the University
    2. Faculty disciplinary communities should decide what activities constitute “engaged scholarship”
      Create a Recognition Society
    3. Recognize not-for-credit experiences
    4. Create a course attribute for tracking (for example “ES”)
    5. Faculty disciplinary communities should evaluate and certify engaged scholarship
    6. Create a historical record of engaged scholarship and student engagement
  • We had questions about how disciplinary communities would be defined, formed and supported.
  • Martha and Ann said the hope is that the next committee charged to look at student engagement will focus on defining the process.
  • We asked if engaged scholarship would be a requirement for all students? Marth and Ann said, “Not at this time.”
  • We talked about the “ES” designation possibly being added to the “H” designation for honors courses that meet both requirements. Undergraduate research, for example, might carry both designations.
  • We questioned whether faculty would have to go through a curricular process in order to add the “ES” designation? The answer was yes. Students, also, would be asked to write a proposal about the project or research they would undertake before determining if it met the “ES” criteria. A phased roll-out has been recommended for the implementation of the new “ES” designation.
  • Special Committee on Well-Being and Safety for First-Year Students – Yvonne Gaudelius and Pat Koch
    1. This committee was formed out of the work of the President’s Task Force on Sexual Assault. They issues of drug and alcohol education and financial literacy were combined in one draft report for convenience. They are both aspects of student safety and well-being that are particularly important for first-year students.
    2. The report is divided into two parts. The issues of well-being and safety encompass both sexual misconduct and alcohol misuse as there is a recognized link between the two.
    3. The recommendation of the draft report is that the University should create a new Well-being and Safety (“WS”) designation and the undergraduate curriculum should be revised to require students to complete 3 credits of “WS” early in their college career and they should be able to double –count with other requirements. “WS” courses should be systematically reviewed and assessed to insure that courses with that designation have at least 25 percent content related to Well-being and Safety.
    4. With regard to financial literacy, there is a recommendation to offer more sections of MATH 34, The Math of Money, which would count as both a “GQ” (General education Quantification ) and “WS.”
    5. We talked about the importance of involving the parents of first-year students since many financial decisions are made jointly.
    6. Yvonne pointed out that the issue of sexual assault is not just a student on student issue. Some of the most disturbing incidents uncovered by the Task Force involved faculty and staff assault of students.
    7. David Eggebeen pointed out that there is a difference between knowledge gain and behavior change. Sharing knowledge with first-year students won’t necessarily change their behavior. In this case, he felt the emphasis should be more on behavior change.
    8. We talked about the challenge of adding and managing more curriculum requirements for the students, faculty and staff to manage and track. We talked about the possibility of adding a co-curricular requirement instead. Could this be covered in New Student Orientation (NSO)?
    9. A question was raised about why this new element did not fit within the existing Health and Wellness “HW” designation?
    10. We discussed the fact that many of the Penn State Commonwealth Campuses may not have the same issue with alcohol, if they are a commuter campus. However, they may have a greater need for education around the area of financial literacy.
  • Grade Distribution Report – Yvonne Gaudelius and Kathy Bieschke
    1. The Draft Report on Grade Distribution recommends that the University change the emphasis on grades as being something students earn, rather than something that is inflated and is a problem that needs to be addressed by imposing limits on the number of ‘A’ grades that can be earned in a class. The institution needs to recognize that a culture of GPA protection. Students have an understandable desire to want to maintain and protect the high Grade Point Averages that are necessary for them to enter and complete competitive majors.
    2. We agreed the issue needs to be considered at a local level/departmental level. Access to data is needed for faculty and students to understand the level of knowledge comprehension within a course.
    3. Perhaps we should focus more on a student’s GPA within their major in order to encourage students to explore more difficult subject matter. GPAs are going up all across the University and at other institutions as well.
    4. Any report produced by the Undergraduate Education committee should be a measure of learning across the University, as compared to stated learning objectives, not based on grades.
    5. A motion was made to accept the report and eliminate the annual Report on Grade Distribution. The motion passed. The report and recommendations will be sent to the Senate.
  • New Business – No new business
  • Adjournment – Next meeting on Tuesday, April 25 at 9 a.m. in 110C Chandlee Lab

back to top


January 24, 2017

Members Present: A. Ahr, B. Barr, P. Bartell, K. Bieschke, G. Casper, D. Eggebeen, J. Furfaro, Y. Gaudelius, S. Geisinger, D. Han, C. Kelley, D. Lang, K. Pollack, A. Schmiedekamp, D. Smith, S. Suliman, M. Wilson

Members Absent: J. Barlow, R. Duschl, P. Koch, J. Safran, M.B. Williams, R. Young,

Agenda:

  1. Call to Order
  2. The December 2016 meeting minutes were approved.
  3. Report from the Officers and Chairs Meeting
    –Matthew Wilson reported that today’s forensic session in the Senate meeting will focus on common titles and promotional paths for fixed-term faculty members.
  4. Class Attendance policy – 42-27 – Military short-term absence policy recommendations
    1. Guest: Renee Thornton-Roop, Penn State Associate Director of Veteran Affairs
    2. The committee recognized the benefit of providing faculty with more detail regarding the existing policy for students, who are U.S. veterans, who need to take a short-term leave of absence.
    3. The consensus was that the Class Attendance policy 42-27 did cover the situation, broadly, but could be tweaked to add the needed level of detail about the justification for a special refund policy for those students who are required to be absent from class due to their military service obligations.
    4. Karen Pollack agreed to work with Renee on some revisions to 42-27 and to circulate a draft to the committee for review and approval.
  5. Reconsideration of 43-00 Syllabus Policy – Requirement of stated learning objectives and goals
    1. Matthew said that the proposed revisions to Syllabus Policy 43-00 are important to the provost as part of our Middle States Accreditation report and our requirement, as an institution to identify and assess learning outcomes for all of our programs.
    2. Toward that end, Matthew wanted to propose the following language: “Syllabi should include course objectives and goals. Course objectives must reflect the most current course proposal that is on record. Course goals are unique to the course.”
    3. After discussion, the committee agreed to change the second word “should” to “must” in order to convey that this is a requirement for all syllabi and is not optional.
    4. There was some discussion about how accurate or up to date the course proposal on record would be. Matthew clarified that for the last four or five years, every course that went through the Senate Curricular Affairs Committee had to have objectives.
    5. The group decided to hold off on a vote until the next meeting. In the meantime, Matthew will consult with the Curricular Affairs Committee and will ask us to vote on the revised syllabus wording in BoardEffect: “Syllabi must include course objectives and goals. Course objectives must reflect the most current course proposal on record. Course goals are unique to the course. All courses must adhere to the 80/20 rule.
  6. Grade Distribution Sub-committee update (A7 from priority form)
    1. Yvonne Gaudelius reported that the Sub-committee hopes to have a draft report ready for our March meeting. The report will include a recommendation to focus on “grade distribution” and avoid the “inflation” language overall. The University has invested in more student interventions and learning resources such as Starfish and tutoring in the expectation that students would perform better as a result.
    2. Instead of students focusing on minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) pressures required to enter or remain in a major, we should encourage them to explore other courses and topics of interest on a pass/fail basis. Students generally don’t seem aware that this option exists.
    3. The University might also consider other ways of managing GPA requirements for majors, such as: looking at entrance to major GPA, GPA only for courses in the major – separate from General Education or elective courses. The Sub-committee will likely recommend that this examination of GPA requirements should occur at the department level, rather than a global University or central level.
  7. Senate Policy 47-70 – Student Progress Reporting (B2 from priority form)
    1. David Smith reported that his sub-committee members believe that any student doing poorly in a course should receive a progress report – not just first-year students. They are recommending that faculty give Early Progress Reports (EPRs) for all courses 499 and below. The EPR should be given early enough to allow the student the time to take corrective action, which would be between the start of the third and the end of the sixth week of classes. The revised 47-70 policy also suggests that any student who has less than a grade of ‘C’ should receive an EPR.
    2. We had some discussion about the appropriate timing of the EPR. Some concern was expressed that the third week is too early to have meaningful assessment. However, the group ultimately agreed that, in order for a student to take corrective action, before the late drop/add deadline, the time frame needed to be between the third and the sixth week of class.
    3. A motion was made and the revision was approved.
  8. Advising Policy changes – Policy 32-10 (B1from priority form) – We opted to defer on this item for now.
  9. Preliminary Discussion of Policy 54-00 – new item
    1. The University policies around academic difficulties – warnings, holds and suspensions – need to be updated to fit LionPATH. LionPATH has the functionality to monitor and respond to these policies. We have to now ask ourselves if we are still comfortable with these policies.
    2. The policy for academic warning held that a student with a GPA below a 2.0, after 19 credits were completed would be flagged for academic warning. The question was raised, “Is this in the best interests of the student?” The academic warning process triggers student interventions. The concern is that first semester students (typically less than 19 credits) would also benefit from some type of outreach or intervention.
    3. The concern is that the process eventually could trigger suspension from the University for two semesters. What are the implications of suspending students in their first year of study? David suggested that perhaps we should put students in warning sooner – their first semester, less than 19 credits – but trigger suspension later (after the second semester). Currently, a student who receives a warning two semesters in a row is then suspended. Could we change that for freshmen or first-year students to be three semesters warning in a row, triggers suspension? If a student received a warning in their spring semester, they may not have sufficient opportunity to raise their GPA during the summer, when students typically take fewer credits. We will come back to this discussion in our March meeting.
  10. Develop e-Bulletin Portal/Syllabi (A5 from priority form)  – UPUA offered to assist with this priority.
  11. New Business – No new business
  12. Adjournment – Next meeting on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

back to top


December 6, 2016

Members Present: B. Barr, P. Bartell, K. Bieschke , R. Duschl, D. Eggebeen, J. Furfaro, S. Geisinger, D. Han, C. Kelley, K. Manning, K. Pollack, J. Safran, A. Schmiedekamp, D. Smith, S. Suliman, M.B. Williams, , R. Young

Members Absent: A. Ahr, J. Barlow, L. Caldwell, G. Casper, Y. Gaudelius, M. Wilson

Agenda:

  1. Call to Order
  2. The October 2016 meeting minutes were approved.
  3. Report from the Officers and Chairs Meeting
    1. Keefe Manning reported that the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) is talking about instituting a freshmen forgiveness program that would offer students the opportunity to retake a course and earn a second grade that would be substituted for the previously earned grade.
    2. Keefe reported there have been many different categories of students that have been given priority registration status in the past (adults, military students, disabled students, upper division students, etc.). This list may need to be revisited and/or culled.
    3. The Senate plans to revisit the requirements for earning University minors and the updated policy that now requires that 6 credits be earned outside the major. There have been different interpretations of the new policy that need to be resolved. For example, can General Education courses count?
    4. The Senate wants to revisit the syllabus policy and is interested in including language about banning electronic devices during class, unless those electronic devices are related to the instruction of the course. There is concern among the faculty that electronic devices are becoming a significant distraction.
    5. Policy 42-27: Intercollegiate Athletics is recommending changes in our attendance policy.
  4. Petitions and Reports – Review and approval
    1. Keefe noted that the Summary of Petitions by College, Campus, and Unit Report for 2015-16 has been expanded. Tables have been added to show the breakdown of petitions by campus. Keefe asked a motion to approve the Summary of Petitions report.
    2. A motion was made and the revision was approved.
  5. Syllabus Policy (43-00) – Regarding learning objectives and goals further comments
    1. We revisited our discussion, from last month, about making learning goals and objectives a requirement for all course syllabi going forward. We talked about adhering to the 80/20 rule for common course content moving forward, per policy 42-10.
    2. A motion was made. The addition of learning objectives and goals on course syllabi was approved.
  6. Senate Policy 47-70 – Student progress and reporting
    1. David Smith updated us on the history of 47-70, which was written based on eLion, and the status of student progress reporting moving forward in Starfish.
    2. In eLion, Early Progress Reporting was focused, primarily, on providing feedback to first-year students only. Starfish now allows for more robust feedback. Now, any student can receive feedback on their performance from their instructor at any point in time.
    3. We discussed the necessary updates to 47-70 and talked about broadening the policy to focus on the opportunity to provide feedback to all students, not just freshmen. There was some concern expressed about the additional burden this would place on faculty. David talked about the ways in which the new systems, Starfish (and potentially Canvas down the road), could help automate faculty feedback to students and make the entire process more efficient. Other support/scaling strategies were discussed, such as having Teaching Assistants (TAs) help support faculty in providing individual student feedback in courses running with large section sizes.
    4. David Smith, Sam Geisinger and Mary Beth Williams volunteered to work on the necessary revisions. All agreed the revision should emphasize that the opportunity to seek and receive feedback on course performance is a “shared responsibility” – shared between the instructor and the student.
  7. Advising Policy Changes – David Smith (32-00) (B1 from priority form)
    1. David reminded us that academic advising is an important part of the university experience. A recent UPUA report on University advising made some recommendations, including the need for more advising capacity. Updating 32-00 gives us an important opportunity to revisit how the University Advising Council is organized, making it more representative of the various stakeholder groups.
    2. Updating 32-00 also give us the opportunity to require that advising conversation are documented in Starfish, maintaining continuity and better advising support for students who may, at some point, change majors or campus locations. We need to look for opportunities to simplify the process and maintain better/more consistent documentation of student advising notes.
    3. David said that he is interested in getting the right groups around the table to talk about University advising resources and what they should look like. We noted, again, that advising communication is a shared responsibility – between the advisor/faculty member and the student.
    4. We agreed that the University Advising Council structure and membership should be addressed first. (According to AAPPM, B-1, membership of the University Advising Council is specified by Senate policy.) The newly structured group can then meet to suggest policy changes to 32-00. Richard Duschl volunteered to serve as an additional faculty representative from the Undergraduate Education committee. Claire Kelley volunteered to serve as an additional student representative.
  8. Review Syllabi Requirement Regarding Assessment of Learning Goals and Objectives (A4 priority form)
    1. We opted to defer, for now, on pushing for course-level assessment of learning goals and objectives.
    2. The University and its faculty are working through the process of generating and measuring program-level assessments across all undergraduate and graduate programs. The group felt it might be best to let the process play out first.
  9. Develop e-Bulletin Portal/Syllabi (A5 from priority form)
    1. We opted to skip this item.
    2. Deferred for future discussion.
  10. Grade Inflation Sub-committee Update – Kathy Bieschke, David Smith (A7 from priority form)
    1. Kathy reported that the sub-committee has met several times. The sub-committee plans to re-name the report: “Grade Distribution Report” and look more closely at the data and understanding what the data means.
    2. The sub-committee is interested in looking at a course, or a discipline, to better understand the distribution of grades in that course or discipline across the institution. The committee would also look at how the course is taught across the institution.
    3. Mary Beth volunteered to join the committee.
    4. The sub-committee will make some suggestions about the report going forward: Should the report continue to be produced for Senate every year? How could the report be used? If students are avoiding taking more difficult elective courses, in the interests of keeping their GPAs high, should we allow students to take a certain number of courses pass/fail to encourage exploration without risking GPAs necessary to enter or remain in certain majors?
  11. New Business – Proposed military short-term absence policy (42-27)
    1. The Commission for Adult Learners has asked us to look at the military short-term leave process.
    2. David Smith asked, “What does active duty mean? Does it apply to international students, many of whom have compulsory military service requirements in their home countries?”
    3. Scott Young commented that U.S. federal policy already covers this.
    4. Paul Bartell asked, “How does the ‘W’ appear on the student’s transcript?”
    5. Karen Pollack agreed to follow up with Martha Jordan and the membership of the Commission for Adult Learners to better understand the current policy and the scope of the request for review or update as we would not want to narrow the policy to focus only on withdrawals if there might be other, better options for military students studying online—such as re-examining the deferred grade policy as it applies to military students.
    6. Scott said he would be happy to review the recommendations that Karen brings back from the Commission.
  12. Adjournment – Next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017

back to top


October 18, 2016

Members Present: A. Ahr, , B. Barr, K. Bieschke , R. Duschl, D. Eggebeen, J. Furfaro, Y. Gaudelius, S. Geisinger, D. Han, C. Kelley, E. Knodt, K. Manning, K. Pollack, J. Safran, D. Smith, S. Suliman,  M. Wilson, R. Young

Members Absent: J. Barlow, P. Bartell, L. Caldwell, G. Casper, M.B. Williams

Agenda:

  1. Call to order
  2. The September 2016 meeting minutes were approved.
  3. Report from the Officers and Chairs meeting
    1. Keefe Manning reported he will be stepping down from the committee. He has accepted a new position as associate dean of the Schreyer’s Honors College. Matthew Wilson will assume the role of committee chair, David Eggebeen will be our vice chair.
    2. Keefe reported that there is a proposal under discussion to create a smoke-free campus.
    3. The Senate is also interested in re-examining the amount of student tuition covered under grants.
    4. There is discussion about creating “gap insurance” that would bridge areas where employees are not covered under the two current health care options.
    5. The Senate plans to propose a renaming of fixed-term faculty ranks to be consistent across the University. Two categories were mentioned: assistant, associate and professor of practice; assistant, associate and professor of research. For faculty who do not have a doctorate, the categories of lecturer, senior lecturer may continue to be used. These changes will not affect the College of Medicine.
  4. Grade Inflation Sub-committee charged (Yvonne Gaudelius, chair)
    1. Yvonne said that questions are being raised about the number of ‘A’ grades that students are earning. There are more students earning ‘As’ now, but there could be good reasons. Many majors now require higher Grade Point Averages (GPAs). As a result, students may be less inclined to take risky courses that might lower their GPA. More courses now incorporate group work as an assessment strategy, which may result in stronger group member contributions pulling up the average of all students in the group.
    2. The sub-committee will look at the differences between grades in online and face-to-face courses. Padma Patil, from the Office of Institutional Research, has agreed to join the sub-committee. They hope to move to providing a bi-annual report that will provide more context to the data and might include benchmarks with other institutions and Big Ten schools. They expect to have their next report ready in mid-March. The sub-committee is opposed to enforcing any type of bell-curve methodology to grading at Penn State.
  5. Petitions report – Review and approval
    1. It was noted that the overall percentage of student petitions granted has remained relatively unchanged over the years. This would suggest that process is fairly consistent. Withdrawals have been steadily declining as students now have unlimited late drop credits. We would also hope that increased student support services, such as Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) might be effective in helping students coping strategies, enabling them to maintain their enrollment.
    2. There was discussion of the fact that students who are granted a withdrawal for all courses during a given semester should have a compelling reason. There was a suggestion that in future years, we might ask Anna Butler to break down, in more detail, the reasons given for student withdrawals. Joyce Furfaro and David Eggebeen agreed to follow up on this.
    3. The petitions report was accepted.
  6. New Member document
    1. Yvonne reviewed the existing New Member document with Rob Pangborn to bring it up to date and also to better understand the vision creating the Undergraduate Education (UE) committee.
    2. We discussed the desire to formalize the addition of a UE committee member from the Schreyer’s Honors College Faculty Advisory Committee.
    3. Karen Pollack asked whether the term “Independent Learning” should be included. (After following up with Renata Engel, we agreed to keep the term “independent learning” since the modality of instruction exists, though not in any particular college or delivery unit.)
    4. Yvonne agreed to collect our edits. Keefe will then call for a formal vote in our “BoardEffect” users group.
  7. Review learning goals and objectives statement to syllabus (A3 from priority form)
    1. Yvonne asked if the proposed statement will be interpreted by faculty to mean that all sections of a particular course can have their own learning goals and objectives? Or, should it reference policy 42-10, which states that the same course, taught across the University, should include a minimum of 80% of the core content and learning objectives described in the most current course proposal as approved by Faculty Senate? The hope is that disciplinary communities across the institution would come together and establish common learning goals and objectives.
    2. We discussed breaking A3 into two sections: a paragraph that would discuss the common required elements of all syllabi and a paragraph that would explain the rationale and reference the related policies and resources.
    3. Keefe said he would re-work A3 and call for a formal vote in our “BoardEffect” users group. He would then hope to get this on the December docket.
  8. New Business
    1. Senate Policy 48-40 and 48-50 potential changes (ARSSA): The language around the reporting of grades was vague and will be changed to reference a grade reporting deadline. It was sponsored by the Admissions, Records, Scheduling and Student Aid (ARSSA) committee and was approved.
    2. Senate Policy 47-70 (Starfish): The Student Progress Reporting policy needs to be updated. The current policy requires instructors to alert first-year students in danger of earning less than a ‘C.’ Starfish offers new options for earlier outreach to students so they have time to take corrective action. Packaged surveys offer early (3 weeks) and late (mid-semester) alerts to students. However, faculty can still go in, at any time, and set a flag in the system to alert students of potential academic progress concerns. Currently, the packaged surveys were set to all sections with a first-year student. For campuses the surveys go out to all undergraduate students. The University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) is working on a resolution with recommendations about the use of the packaged surveys and flags set in Starfish.
    3. Programs not accepting courses from campuses: This item was recently raised in conversation with several campus senators. We had a brief discussion of the history of this practice which comes up regularly in two sets of related programs. Administration of Justice courses taken at the campuses are not always accepted by the Criminal Justice and Criminology programs at the campus colleges, the World Campus and University Park. Similarly, the Bachelor of Science in Business courses taken at the campuses, campus colleges and World Campus are not always accepted by the program at University Park. This has been a long-standing issue, which challenges institutional concepts of curricular integrity and “One Penn State.” The Senate will encourage additional discussion.
  9. Adjournment
    1. Keefe reminded us to complete our October attendance record in “BoardEffect.”
    2. Keefe asked us to watch for the two voting items he would also be sending us through “BoardEffect.”

back to top


September 6, 2016

Members Present: K. Manning, M. Wilson , J. Barlow, B. Barr, K. Bieschke, G. Casper, R. Duschl, J. Furfaro, Y. Gaudelius, S. Geisinger, D. Han, C. Kelley, E. Knodt, K. Pollack, J. Safran, D. Smith, M.B. Williams, R. Young

Members Absent: D. Eggebeen, A. Ahr, P. Bartell, L. Caldwell, S. Suliman

Agenda

  1. Call to order
  2. Approval of the minutes of April 19, 2016 Meeting
  3. Report from the Officers and Chairs Meeting
    1. The meeting was held Thursday, Sept. 1
    2. Discussion centered on the scope of work for the coming year
  4. Review UE priority form
    1. Syllabus statement regarding mental health (review policy 43-00) and previous year’s statement (A-2 from priority form) – We hope to have this ready for vote in October. We will propose adding a short paragraph adding information about counseling services available at various campus locations. It was noted that the new name of the responsible unit is “Student Disability Resources.” This request was made by last year’s UE student committee members. It was noted that the statement would need to be customized to fit the available counseling resources at each campus location since they differ. A motion was made to approve the new statement. The motion carried.
    2. Syllabus statement regarding learning goals and objectives (A3 from priority form) Presentation from Office of Planning and Assessment – Barb Masi, 20 minutes with Q and ABarb has recently joined the Office of Planning and Assessment at Penn State. The request to add stated learning goals and objectives to the syllabi is a reflection of current University policy and to formally recognize that, “Learning outcomes are good.” There was some discussion about the 80/20 rule regarding course syllabi and learning outcomes. Courses with the same prefix and number at Penn State are expected to share 80 percent of the same learning goals and objectives. There was discussion about combining the motions to add the syllabi statements on Learning Goals and Objectives and the statement on Assessing Goals and Objectives. The decision was to take each one at a time, which was also expressed as the preference of Jim Strauss, Senate Chair. We discussed the importance of assessing the stated learning goals, for consistency, versus requiring common assessments.Barb reminded us that an undergraduate major, shared across multiple campus locations, should have the same learning objectives, but don’t have to have the same curriculum map. It was acknowledged that we should have an additional legislative item stating that all programs must have stated learning outcomes. This has been the University policy and practice as learning outcomes have been collected and reported for the past four years. It would follow that, having a legislation requiring program goals and objects, that courses would also have learning goals and objectives. Mary Beth Williams and Matthew Wilson volunteered to draft the statement.
    3. Syllabus statement regarding assessing goals and objectives (A4 from priority form)
      The decision was to postpone committee discussion about the Assessing Goals statement until the October meeting.
    4. Discuss Annual Grade Report (A7 from priority form) – This is an annual report produced by the committee. This year, Keefe Manning suggested we re-examine the issue of grade inflation and develop a report that provides more information and explains various trends with specific contexts (for example, the growth of controlled majors). Keefe will work on getting a copy of a previous report on the topic of grade inflation, which was referenced earlier by Jim Strauss. Several committee members also asked if some listing of the Senate archive of reports could be restored. Keefe will forward that request. The reports that were previously available were pulled down from the web site because, as PDF files, they were not ADA accessible. Yvonne Gaudelius, Kathy Bieschke, David Smith, Samantha Geisinger and Jesse Barlow volunteered to serve on this subcommittee.
    5. Discuss New Members document (A1 from priority form) – Keefe Manning will work on drafting this overview of the Undergraduate Education Committee for new members. He will pass it on to Yvonne Gaudelius and Matthew Wilson, who volunteered to look it over.
  5. David Smith Senate Presentation today (A6 from priority form) – David will present an update on Penn State’s Starfish implementation at today’s Senate meeting. One issue did come up over the weekend that had to do with automated messages going out to students as part of early progress reporting. Some faculty didn’t like the general message going out to their students and would have preferred to send a more personal message. Other faculty members have expressed concern about the volume of students they would need to reach out to in a given semester and might prefer a more scalable/automated response. David said the automated messages were crafted by a group of faculty. As the faculty learns more about the system and how to use it, there will be opportunities for them to choose their format for communicating with students.
  6. New Business – Keefe Manning encouraged the committee’s student representatives to bring their ideas and priorities to share with the group.  Also, the committee will look discuss the need to investigate the need for a Program Outcomes Policy.
  7. Adjournment

back to top