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Faculty Senate 101: An Introduction

The Penn State Faculty Senate held its first meeting of the year on Tuesday, August 31.

Unfortunately, this statement doesn’t mean much to the large majority of Penn State students–mainly because most students are too busy with classes, friends, and clubs to pay too much attention.

A very powerful University legislative body, the Faculty Senate represents virtually everyone at Penn State–55,000 full-time faculty and the students at all campuses, including specialty campuses like Great Valley, Hershey College of Medicine, and Dickinson School of Law. There are 232 elected faculty members on the Senate for this year, 22 appointed Senior Administrators, and 26 students who represent each academic unit.

This group of roughly 250 people is responsible for drafting and passing all academic policies at Penn State, including adding new majors or minors, changing prerequisites, and approving all course proposals. The Faculty Senate is led by this year’s Chair Elect, Dr. Jean Landa Pytel, an Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics in the College of Engineering.

Wil Santivasi, a senior majoring in Pre-Medicine, is the Eberly College of Science Student Senator and a member of the Senate Committee on Curricular Affairs (SCCA), one of the 15 Senate Committees.  In an interview, he stated that the August 31 meeting was “a good first meeting…Chair Pytel laid the groundwork for what promises to be a productive year.” He later spoke of the Committees, all of which, “[were] charged with exciting initiatives that will come to fruition in the future.”

When asked her thoughts on the meeting’s success, Chair Pytel stated that, “The meeting went very well and we accomplished all that we sought to do.”

The Senate plans to address many issues related to students this year, including academic freedom, the IT fee, grading policies, campus housing, and access to student policy for all students.

The next Faculty Senate meeting will be held on Tuesday, October 19.

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